News release from state comptroller’s office:
It will soon be possible to report suspected cases of fraud, waste and abuse of public funds in Tennessee over the Internet. Beginning today, you may electronically alert the state Comptroller’s office about suspected government misuse of public funds by visiting: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/shared/safwa.asp
The Comptroller’s office has provided a toll-free telephone hotline for reporting fraud, waste and abuse of government funds and property since 1983. During that time, the hotline has received more than 17,000 calls.
In the 2012 legislative session, the Tennessee General Assembly expanded the Advocacy for Honest and Appropriate Government Spending Act so government employees and citizens can report allegations of fraud, waste and abuse online as well.
“In this day and age, it makes sense to give people the option to send us fraud reports online,” Comptroller Wilson said. “This is another tool to help ensure that public money is being spent properly in Tennessee. I encourage people to take advantage of this new service if they have reason to suspect fraud, waste or abuse has occurred.”
Similar to the telephone hotline, the online reporting form will allow individuals to make reports anonymously if they wish. The information will be transmitted to the Comptroller’s office over a secure connection.
Individuals who make reports are asked to provide as much detail as possible about their allegations. They may also attach files with supporting documentation that may help those who review the allegations.
Information received over the Internet will be reviewed by the Comptroller’s staff and investigated or referred to the appropriate agencies or departments when warranted.
News release from Sen. Bob Corker (posted belatedly):
WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the committee’s ranking member, released an official committee report that offers a comparison of international approaches to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care.
The report examined five countries–Australia, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States–and their approaches to diagnosis, treatment and long-term care options for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their family members. The other countries were chosen because they have similar economies to the U.S. and highlight different aspects of the Alzheimer’s challenge for policy makers.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a growing national concern and we must commit to addressing it in the most comprehensive way possible. There are enormous costs, both personal and financial to this disease,” said Chairman Kohl. “We urgently need to prepare for the increasing number of Alzheimer’s diagnoses, and how to curb this mounting epidemic.”
“My father had Alzheimer’s, so I understand the emotional and financial difficulties facing families dealing with this devastating illness. I hope this report will help inform the debate in our country over how to provide the best care possible given the significant budgetary and health care challenges presented by increasing cases of Alzheimer’s,” said ranking member Corker.
This report highlights the global efforts to coordinate research and early detection interventions. It also underscores an increasing trend to keep Alzheimer’s patients in their homes for as long as possible, while developing more specialized environments for those who need intensive around-the-clock care.
The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) estimates that in the next 40 years, the cost of Alzheimer’s disease to all payers, including governments, insurance companies and individuals, will total $20 trillion. AA also estimates that 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, valued at $210 billion. In 2012 alone, Alzheimer’s patients and families spent an estimated $33 billion in out-of-pocket costs. Furthermore, in the last year, Alzheimer’s disease cost $104.5 billion to Medicare and $33.5 billion to Medicaid. These expenses are expected to rise 500 percent over the next four decades.
Since its inception, the Senate Special Committee on Aging has focused on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as critical public health problems. The committee has held a series of hearings on the disease and has heard testimony from prominent voices, such as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, on the importance of continued research, vigilance and appropriate care.
Note: The full report is HERE.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A task force on child protection wants more consistency in how reports of abuse are investigated and decisions about criminal charges are made.
The Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice/Child Sexual Abuse is putting finishing touches on its report to the governor and legislators. The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/TOAnx3 ) reported the group met Thursday to talk about how forceful and detailed the language of their final report should be if they expect to get results.
The task force has about 40 members that include Department of Children’s Services officials, doctors, law enforcement representatives, attorneys and child advocates.
The proposal includes dozens of recommendations.
“When it comes to the plan, everybody (here) already agrees with it, so the legislators are more likely to support it,” said Bonnie Beneke, task force chairwoman and executive director of Tennessee Children’s Advocacy Centers.
The consistency the group is seeking relates to Child Protective Investigative Teams. The teams exist in each county and include a detective, a prosecutor, a DSC staff member and a juvenile court representative. The task force found enforcement varies widely from county to county.
“There is a huge need for them to be attending trainings at the same time,” said Emily Cecil, CAC training coordinator. “We have this law that it has to happen, but there’s nobody to enforce it, and there’s no penalties if it’s not done correctly.”
A draft of the report due next month states there must be better communication between DCS and law enforcement and community service organizations across the state.
The department has begun a program called “In Home Tennessee” which is aimed at improving communication between DCS and community service agencies. There are 12 DCS regions and seven have initiated the program. The quarterly meetings of the task force have also given the department an avenue to update others on ongoing efforts.
Marjahna Hart, a DCS director in the Office of Child Safety, relayed DSC Commissioner Kate O’Day’s request for additional funding to hire more caseworkers and raise caseworker salaries.
Many Tennessee counties have been spending more money than they take in as revenue, according to a new report from the state comptroller’s office.
An excerpt from the report (full text HERE):
Total revenues for all Tennessee county governments totaled approximately $11.65 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011. In contrast, total expenditures for the same period were approximately $12.14 billion. Therefore, counties spent approximately $490 million more than they received in general and operating revenues.
County governments have seen sluggish growth in revenues over the last five years, as expenditures have exceeded revenues in each year over this time period. The slow growth includes years in which counties received federal money from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This trend indicates that either debt was increasing during the
same time period, or fund balances were decreasing, or both.
Total county-related debt in Tennessee increased almost $1.41 billion from 2007 to 2011. This indicates that many county governments are deferring debt prinicipal payments and other obligations to future years. Audits conducted or reveiwed for the fi scal year ended June 30, 2011, disclosed fund defi cits totaling $110.29 million in governmental funds in 14 counties. Audits also refl ected net asset defi cits totaling $83.24 million in enterprise and internal service funds in 14 counties.
Tennessee counties have avoided the bankruptcy crisis seen elsewhere around the nation as a result of the economic
downturn. Although bankruptcies have been avoided to date, concerns remain. Along with the substantial increase in long-term debt, liabilities continue to grow for other post-employment benefi ts, such as health insurance premiums, awarded to government employees after those employees leave public service. In addition, new accounting standards will require the recognition of signifi cant long-term pension costs. These costs, which previously have not been recorded on the fi nancial statements when they were incurred, will dramatically impact large and small governments alike.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam today received a report from the Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships, outlining recommendations for a potential program to expand educational options and improve achievement for low-income students in Tennessee.
The report comes a year after Haslam appointed the nine-person Task Force–made up of state education leaders, legislators and representatives from public and private schools–to consider a program to offer publicly funded scholarships for low-income students to offset tuition costs at participating schools in Tennessee.
The Task Force was not meant to evaluate the merits or disadvantages of a scholarship program. Instead, members spent months studying the public and private education landscape in Tennessee, as well as opportunity scholarship programs in other states, to determine potential design elements that would best fit within the broader context of the education reform work taking place in Tennessee. The report outlines various options for the governor’s consideration.
“I want to thank the members of the Task Force for the time and effort they spent researching and deliberating what an opportunity scholarship program could look like in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “I look forward to reviewing the Task Force’s recommendations ahead of the upcoming legislative session.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s high school graduation rate is up and assessment tests taken by elementary and middle school students improved last year, according to data released Thursday by the Education Department.
The figures show the graduation rate for the class of 2012 increased from 85.5 percent to 87.2 percent, and that elementary and middle school students grew in 23 out of 24 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program measures.
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said he’s pleased with the improvements, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“We feel good about our progress last year, but we also feel there is a long way to go before we would feel close to satisfied by the way things are going,” Huffman said.
For instance, he said many school districts did not successfully narrow achievement gaps, and there were declines among particular student subgroups.
Huffman said one gap he plans to focus on closing this year is the one between students with disabilities and the students who are in special education, and their peers.
SHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee saw the number of homeless public school students increase by 74 percent between 2007 and 2010.
That number was well above the national average of 38 percent, but the true number may be even higher.
According to a report from the state Comptroller’s office, several neighboring states have a larger percentage of homeless students. That could be a clue that Tennessee’s numbers are an undercount.
Also, some districts in Tennessee with high foreclosure and jobless rates did not identify any homeless students.
The comptroller’s report says the dramatic increases in Tennessee — from 6,565 in 2007 to 11,458 in 2010 — may be a consequence of job losses and the economy. They may also be the result of some school districts’ improved efforts to identify homeless students.
“The Colbert Report” targeted U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais from Tennessee Wednesday night, lampooning the pro-life congressman’s abortion scandal, observes Chris Carroll.
The satirical political show on Comedy Central featured revelations that the Jasper, Tenn., physician urged a patient with whom he had a sexual relationship to get an abortion a dozen years ago.
Show host Stephen Colbert recognized the congressman as the show’s “Alpha Dog of the Week,” highlighting a statement on DesJarlais’ website which says “all life should be cherished and protected.”
“DesJarlais recently proved his flexibility by lifting his leg,” Colbert said, “and peeing on his own position.”
…”Shocking!” Colbert said. “A conservative Republican congressman was caught having an illicit affair — and it wasn’t with a man.”
Note: Link to the Colbert Report critique of DesJarlais is HERE.
News release from state comptroller’s office:
Shelby County’s administrator of elections failed to properly plan for redistricting, which led to errors in the August elections, a report by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations has revealed.
Federal, state and local legislative district boundaries must be updated every 10 years to account for population shifts reflected in new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. However, for several months, the Shelby County Commission was stalemated on approval of a plan for redistricting at the local level.
In January, the county’s administrator of elections initiated a process for redrawing the county district lines based upon a plan that had been discussed by the commission, but not approved. The county’s elections staff continued work on that process until mid-May, still with no commission-approved plan in place.
The number of obese Tennesseans could double by 2030, reports WPLN.
The Annual “F as in Fat” report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust For America’s Health looked at data from the last two decades to predict future trends. By the year 2030, the study says more than 63 % of Tennessee residents will be obese. That would make Tennessee the fourth fattest state in the nation.
Jeff Levi is one of the authors of the report. He says the future numbers are based on how many Tennessee children have serious weight issues now.
“You know, this is an estimate of adult obesity. So, 20 years from now, kids who are five years old will be in that adult category. Kids who are 15 years old will be in that adult category.”
Levi says adulthood is when most people start to feel the consequences of obesity, including hypertension and diabetes.
According to the model used in the report, Tennessee could be number two in the nation for diabetes by 2030. Just last week, state officials were touting a slight decrease in the number of Tennesseans who are overweight and obese. However, the drop is mostly due to a change in the method used to track the conditions.