A group that advocates expanding TennCare to more of the state’s poor delivered a petition and stated its case to an aide to Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday, reports The Tennessean. A coalition that includes the Tennessee Nurses Association, Tennessee League of Women Voters, Tennessee Health Care Campaign and the Tennessee Justice Center said it has gathered more than 4,500 signatures for an online petition calling on Haslam to offer TennCare services to everyone making 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less.
The cost would be paid in full by the federal government through 2016 and in large measure until at least 2020.
Haslam put off a decision on TennCare expansion in March, saying he wanted to continue negotiating with the federal government for a plan that would let the state offer private insurance to new enrollees. He has said he expects to know whether those negotiations will pay off by the end of summer.
Don Johnson, Haslam’s assistant director for constituent services, accepted the petition on the governor’s behalf and met with several advocates. They argued that expanding TennCare would help those who currently do not have coverage as well as rural hospitals that face service cuts or closure.
Note: News release below.
Jim Balloch reports on new curiosities coming to light in a Pigeon Forge liquor-by-the-drink referendum that was decided by 100 votes with, reportedly,, 303 more people voting than were registered to cast ballots in city elections. It’s already inspired a lawsuit and now it appears the FBI is interested.
But the real curiosity is the apparent move by some companies to make people eligible – as property owners – by giving them an interest, temporarily, in property within the city limits. An excerpt Pigeon Forge City Hall is a split precinct. Besides city voters, many county residents who live outside the city vote there in countywide, state and national elections.
In sworn depositions, poll workers say they were instructed to allow nonresidents to vote in the referendum, that many who did not live in the city were given liquor by the drink ballots, and that there was a lot of confusion that day because different ballots were required for combinations of races.
“I’m sure that contributed to the problem,” Francis said. “I cannot disagree with (poll workers’ statements) that it was a chaotic and confusing day.”
Sevier County property records show some spurious land transactions that were the basis of votes cast by more than a dozen nonresidents who voted as property owners. The votes were perfectly legal, according to state election officials, even though the property ownership claimed by those voters was a 1 percent interest in extremely valuable commercial properties.
Those interests were given — for free — shortly before the election, by four Knoxville-based corporations with numerous links to developers and restaurant businesses in Pigeon Forge.
There are also questions about the validity of what are listed on voter rosters as residential addresses for some Pigeon Forge voters. These include mail drops, a vacant lot, and a building that houses a tattoo parlor and check cashing business.
The News Sentinel was unable to locate some of those individuals for whom those addresses were listed. Some others were found residing in Pigeon Forge residences, and said they used other locations as a mailing address that should not have been listed as their residences.
The News Sentinel has learned that two FBI agents from the Knoxville office recently met with about six members of Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge, a group that opposed liquor by the drink and has filed a lawsuit challenging the election.
The FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation, or even say if it has made a preliminary inquiry about a possible investigation
…”I was told that whoever came to my table, if their name was on my roster, they got to vote on the referendum,” even if they did not have a Pigeon Forge address or property, poll worker Mary Louise Beck said in a sworn deposition. She was one of four Election Commission employees subpoenaed to give depositions in CCCPF’s lawsuit challenging the election.
More depositions are being taken this week. Trial is set for Jan. 10-11.
The November election shows that the once-dominant Tennessee political species known as the “yellow dog Democrat” is not extinct, though confined to isolated areas, while the now-dominant species — let’s call it “yellow cat Republican,” though the phrase is not christened by tradition — is thriving in much broader geographic regions.
Exhibit No. 1 on the Yellow Dog Democrat (YDD) survival front: Mark Clayton, widely condemned and officially disavowed by the remnant state Democratic establishment for “extremist views” contrary to Democratic values. He nonetheless collected more than 30 percent of the vote statewide against Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. He got 704,708 votes and, if you counted only the votes in the Democrat-dominated habitats of Davidson and Shelby counties, would have defeated Corker.
That was roughly equal to the percentage performance of Democrat John Jay Hooker against incumbent Republican Don Sundquist in the 1998 gubernatorial election.
The state Democratic Party had urged the faithful to write in a candidate rather than vote for Clayton. Almost none did so. After the election, Clayton actually declared victory “in the race against the unelected bosses who waged a write-in campaign (against) their own duly nominated leader (Clayton) with unauthorized party resources.”
In short, the YDD faithful ignored the party advice and backed Clayton.
Exhibit No. 1 on the Yellow Cat Republican (YCR) front: U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais was re-elected with almost 56 percent of the vote in the GOP-dominated habitat called the 4th Congressional District, despite the disclosure that he had been a total hypocrite in his private life as compared to his political and public life declaration of opposing abortion. And that, as a physician, he had sex with patients other than his wife at the time. You might say that, in his personal life, he had exhibited extremist views contrary to Republican values.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais says he never intentionally misled voters about his past and stressed that he has no plans to resign over recent revelations that depict a private life starkly at odds with his public image as an anti-abortion, family values congressman.
Further from Michael Collins: In his first extensive remarks since the release of a court transcript from his 14-year-old divorce, the Jasper Republican conceded that he often used “very poor judgment” during his first marriage and the lengthy separation that followed.
But DesJarlais said he is not the same man who supported his first wife’s decision to have two abortions. The physician-turned-congressman said he also deeply regrets sexual relationships with multiple women, including two patients, three co-workers and a drug company representative while he was chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper.
DesJarlais, re-elected to a second term just two weeks ago, said he hopes voters will look at the job he has done while in office and will not judge him on his past.
“I am human,” he said during an hourlong interview with the News Sentinel. “I don’t think I ever put myself out there to be somebody that was perfect. I put myself out there as somebody who wanted to serve the public.”
He added, “I will serve as long as the people want me to serve.”
…DesJarlais said the charges of hypocrisy are unfair because, he said, his anti-abortion views have evolved over time but had not been formed when his wife aborted her pregnancies.
“I guess as a physician, I was a fairly objective person,” he said of his beliefs at the time. “I try not to be a judgmental person. (Abortion) was just not something that I put as much thought into as I should have, in retrospect. Going back, if I could change and do things differently, certainly I would.”
DesJarlais said his first wife’s abortions helped to eventually shape his anti-abortion views. Another factor in that evolution, he said, was his marriage to his second wife, Amy, a decade ago. Amy DesJarlais had gotten pregnant in high school, but chose to get married and have the child. Her husband died in a mining accident when the child was 3, and she later married DesJarlais, who helped raise her son, Tyler, now 17.
“I can’t imagine not having Tyler as my son,” he said. “That certainly had a major influence on my life and my beliefs.”
Regarding the phone conversation in which he was recorded urging a sexual partner to get an abortion, DesJarlais said he knew the woman wasn’t pregnant and that he was trying to get her to admit it. In his divorce transcript, however, the woman insists that she was pregnant, although she declines to give the outcome of that pregnancy.
Despite the woman’s testimony, DesJarlais insists that she was not pregnant. “She was not pregnant by me,” he said. “I don’t think she was pregnant period.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Davidson County election training session is coming under scrutiny for teaching poll workers to challenge voters they believe may not be U.S. citizens.
Davidson County Election Commissioner Eddie Bryan, a Democrat, told The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/R1l8yV) he believed the training was designed to block immigrants from legally voting.
But Republican election officials said it was designed to teach poll workers how to deal with a potential challenge.
Under the state’s Challenge the Right to Vote Act, poll workers may ask a voter to take an oath that they have the right to vote. Those refusing the oath cannot vote.
The training last month told poll workers that citizenship requires the ability to read, write and speak basic English, but it noted exceptions for immigrants over 50 and those with impairments.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
COALMONT, Tenn. — A GOP congressman’s discussion with his mistress about getting an abortion has stirred unease in his conservative, rural district, and his Democratic challenger is now trying to convert that disappointment into votes.
However, some in the 4th District are sticking by freshman Rep. Scott DesJarlais and dismissing the decade-old transcript of a phone conversation as a smear tactic.
Early voting ahead of the Nov. 6 election began Wednesday, a week after the district learned of the transcript of DesJarlais arguing with the woman, who had also been under his care as a doctor.
“It doesn’t affect my thinking,” said Alf Adams, 85, a retired lawyer from Beersheba Springs. “Because I think he’s done a good job — and I think it’s probably a smear attack.”
DesJarlais, who is seeking re-election on a conservative platform that opposes abortion rights, has acknowledged that the conversation happened and that he suggested traveling to Atlanta to get an abortion.
He explains it away by saying he used stark language to push the woman to admit she wasn’t pregnant. He claims now there was no pregnancy or abortion.
And while the transcript includes DesJarlais telling the woman he’s hoping to save his marriage, he says she shouldn’t be called his mistress because he and his wife had agreed they could date others while separated.
“I am not trying to justify my actions or say that I am without fault,” DesJarlais said in an open letter to supporters. “But I am not the hypocrite my opponents and some liberal media outlets are portraying me as.”
The Chattanooga Times-Free Press and the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal both have weekend stories on the 4th Congressional District races, including comments of voters reacting – or in some cases not reacting – to revelations about Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais’ conversation on abortion with a woman after a sexual encounter.
Sample from the TFP report: Staunchly Republican and socially conservative, Rebecca Miller of Cleveland, Tenn., is troubled by the revelation that Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais pressured a woman with whom he’d been sexually involved to get an abortion.
“It’s extremely hypocritical,” the 23-year-old said. “You can’t argue with that at all.”
Miller is finding it difficult to take the apparently abortion rights phone call made by the Jasper physician to the unnamed woman and square it with his staunchly anti-abortion stance in speeches and his voting record in Congress.
The result is that Miller is considering leaving her ballot blank in the Nov. 6 election when it comes to the 4th District race. She wants to take a look first, though, at the positions of DesJarlais’ Democratic challenger, state Sen. Eric Stewart.
…David Wasserman, who follows U.S. House races for The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan publication that analyzes and handicaps federal races, said on Friday that the revelations’ impact on DesJarlais is an “open question.”
“We weren’t expecting this [4th District] to be a competitive race, but we’re keeping an open mind,” Wasserman said.
Another interesting commentary comes from conservative blogger David Oatney, commenting on DesJarlais’ defense of his remarks in the transcript. An excerpt: Here is a newsflash for the good Congressman: Whether there was an “agreement” or not, he was a married man and he was quite obviously sleeping around. Whether he thought that was acceptable behaviour at the time is irrelevant to whether or not this woman was his mistress. He was married, and this lady was his extra-marital love interest. The traditional term for a female extra-marital love interest is that she is a man’s mistress.
DesJarlais further states that his primary reason for bringing up the issue of his mistress having an abortion and for pushing the issue in such strong terms is because he says he believed that his mistress was lying about her pregnancy. Since DesJarlais is a doctor, he certainly may have had reason to suspect if the woman he was seeing was lying.
However, the honorable thing to do would not have been to push the issue of having an abortion, but to push the matter of parental responsibility. Since he and his then-wife were divorcing, there should have been no problem with him demanding to be a part of his unborn child’s life, and pressing the matter even while the child was still in the womb. Certainly if this writer were in a similar situation, he would demand to have a role in the life of his unborn child. Scott DesJarlais certainly had the ability and the resources to press his claim hard, and if his mistress was lying about being pregnant and he expected that, then the lie would certainly be revealed in very short order.
Instead, we are left with a recording of Scott DesJarlais (one that he now says he didn’t know was being made) seeming to insist that his mistress abort his unborn child. What’s the problem with that in light of what Scott DesJarlais is now telling us? Because the one thing DesJarlais isn’t saying is that his actions were completely wrong and inconsistent with his belief system, and that he was and now remains truly sorry for his behavior.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, quoted by Jeff Woods from a speech at a state party executive committee meeting: “We’ve got a president up here whose color is not the right shade according to a lot of people, and they just hate him for that reason,” Turner said. “I was talking to a guy this morning at a filling station and it didn’t matter what Obama did, he’s not going to like it because Obama’s an African American. I told him, I said, ‘Look, he’s half-white. You ought to like half of him anyway.’ These people are dead set against him for that reason, and that’s unfortunate. That’s very unfortunate.”
Woodsie says Turner “managed to hand Republicans some new ammo for election campaign attacks” and suggested a yard sign for Democrats: ”Vote Obama. He’s Half-White.”
In a separate post, there are further Turner comments: Turner slapped political reporters for failing to cover the Republican-run state government the way Democrats would prefer, and he cited the media–along with all those mean Republicans, of course–as a major obstacle to his party’s return to power.
“We’re facing a press that has not really talked about what the Haslam administration has done,” Turner said, mentioning tax breaks for the wealthy, among other media omissions. “Some of the press would rather beat us up than attack Stacey Campfield and that bunch. So that’s discouraging.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee voters speak about Thursday’s primary election.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker coasted to an easy primary win on Thursday night over four Republican challengers.
— “He’s more liberal than I would normally vote for, but I think he’s informative and logical,” said Marge Tamberino, 68, of Nashville, who also voted for him in the 2006 election.
— “I just think he’s done a good job in office,” said John Cowden, 38, of Nashville, who described himself as self-employed.
In new ratings of state legislators on environmental issues for the 107th General Assembly, Tennessee Conservation Voters has given its highest score to Democratic Sen. Beverly Marrero of Memphis while three Republican senators tied for the lowest ranking. They are Sens. Mike Bell of Riceville, Mike Faulk of Church Hill and Jim Summerville of Dickson.
The ratings are based on action by legislators on 16 different bills in the 2012 session – in some cases on votes, in some cases on sponsorship of legislation the group either supported or opposed – a positive point for each action approved, a negative point for each action it opposed. There was a similar system for 2011.
Top score, a plus 13, for the two-year life of the 107th General Assembly went to Marrero followed by two other Democrats at plus 10, Sens. Andy Berke of Chattanooga and Eric Stewart of Belvidere.
The highest-ranking House members were Reps. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, and Mike McDonald, D-Gallatin, with a plus 7. One point back were fellow Democratic Reps. Jeanne Richardson of Memphis and Mike Stewart of Nashville.
The lowest scores went to Bell, Faulk and Summerville at a minus 4 for the two years of the 107th. Next in line was Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, the lowest rated House member at minus 3.
The best ranking for a Republican lawmaker was plus 4, a score shared by Reps. Bill Dunn of Knoxville, Jimmy Eldridge of Jackson and Judd Matheny of Tullahoma.
The lowest ranking for a Democrat was an even zero for Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville. Five other Democrats had a plus 1 (one), including Rep. Joe Armstrong, also from Knoxville.
The full scorecard is HERE.
The TVC news release is below.