By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam denied Thursday that the state had lost a case in which a judge ruled that the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services must provide the public records of children who died or nearly died after the agency investigated reports they’d been abused or neglected.
The Republican governor told reporters after speaking at an annual meeting of The Associated Press and Tennessee Press Association that the state is simply adhering to a Nashville judge’s ruling last month that it provide the records.
“We’re doing what the chancellor asked us to do,” he said. “We did not lose this lawsuit. I want to be really clear.”
The department has been battling news organizations seeking information about how DCS handled some 200 cases of children. The Tennessean newspaper, The Associated Press and 10 other news organizations sued DCS in state court in December to obtain case records.
New, tougher work search requirements haven’t resulted in many jobless Tennesseans being kicked off unemployment yet, reports The Tennessean. Fewer than 800 people have lost their benefits because they did not look for work or provided no evidence that they did so as required, according to figures from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. That’s just 6 percent of the more than 13,000 verification checks the agency has done in the past three months.
Supporters are calling the effort an early success despite the low violation rate, citing state estimates that it has saved taxpayers at least $185,000 so far.
“They’re changing their behavior because of the law, and that’s a good thing,” said Jim Brown, Tennessee director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “We’re making progress.”
It and other business groups pushed for the work search rule and other jobless-aid restrictions last year, saying changes were needed to improve accountability and combat fraud and abuse. Tennessee legislators and Gov. Bill Haslam agreed, enacting several measures that tightened eligibility criteria.
A state legislator who once proposed banning nearly all advertising for the Tennessee Lottery now is trying a different tack: a warning label.
From The Tennessean: Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, filed a bill Thursday that would require all lottery advertising to prominently include this notice: “Warning: You will probably lose money playing the lottery.”
If enacted, it could make Tennessee the first state lottery with a warning label. Summerville said his goal is to make consumers more aware of their chances of winning.
“We have warnings on cigarettes, and we should have warnings about lottery tickets,” he said. “States that sponsor gambling should fully disclose the risks.”
The measure would require displaying the notice on all print, outdoor and point-of-sale advertising, including in foot-high letters on billboards, beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Those words also would have to be announced at the end of radio and television spots aired on and after that date.
At least six sitting Republican representative – including the chairman of the House GOP Caucus and the Education Committee – were defeated in Thursday’s primary elections and a couple of others had close calls.
On the Democratic side, four incumbents were also unseated, but that was the result of redistrictign that had pitted incumbent-versus-incumbent in four races.
The upset of the evening statewide was the defeat of House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville by Courtney Rogers, an Air Force veteran who benefited by more than $75,000 worth of spending by the National Rifle Association. The NRA’s Political Victory Fund targeted Maggart for attack radio ads and billboards after blaming her for failure of a so-called “guns parking lots” bill that would have allow gunowners to keep their weapons in locked cars, even in the parking lots of companies that ban guns.
House Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, was the second most prominent member of House GOP leadership to lose. He was narrowly defeated by Dale Carr, a Sevierville auctioneer who said the incumbent had lost touch with Sevier County voters.
Both Maggart and Montgomery had outspent their opponents overall by substantial amounts and both had staunch support from Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and other established state Republican leaders.
Also losing bids for reelection in the Republican primaries Thursday were Reps. Julia Hurley of Lenoir City, defeated by Kent Calfee of Kingston, and Dale Ford of Jonesborough, defeated by James “Micah” Van Huss, an Army veteran; Don Miller of Morristown, defeated by Tilman Goins; and Linda Elam of Mount Juliet, defeated by former Rep. Susan Lynn.
The only incumbent Republican state senator to face a serious challenger, Doug Overbey of Maryville, had a win of almost two-to-one over Scott Hughes. The win was tantamount to election with no Democrat on the ballot.