Friday, January 30, 2015

The Buzz for 1-30-15

A country drowning in student loan debt

Lawmakers Hear Stories of Uninsured As Haslam Wraps Up Insure Tennessee Tour

Cursive To Be Taught Once Again In Tennessee Schools

‘Two or three’ House Democrats said reluctant to back Insure TN


“After studying this waiver, listening to our constituents and meeting yesterday in caucus, House Democrats are overwhelmingly prepared to support the Insure Tennessee plan. It is not perfect; our members have many questions, but the time has come for Tennessee to address this issue once and for all,” House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said in a statement set for release Friday.
…In early January, Haslam said he needs every Democrat in the General Assembly to vote for his plan for it to survive next week’s special session. Even with every Democrat, Haslam will still need a substantial number of Republicans to back the plan for it to pass in the House and the Senate.
“I don’t think Democrats will be the problem when it comes to Insure Tennessee,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville. LINK

Lawmakers Hear Stories of Uninsured As Haslam Wraps Up Insure Tennessee Tour

Janet Lowe knows firsthand what it’s like to treat people with life-threatening conditions and no money.
The nurse practitioner at the Hope Clinic in Murfreesboro tried to share that perspective with state lawmakers on Thursday, as Governor Bill Haslam wrapped up a tour to promote his Insure Tennessee health care proposal. “In some cases, it’s almost like telling my immediate family member, in essence, you are going to die because there’s nothing else that I can do for you," she said.  "So imagine telling that to somebody who you are very close to.” Seven lawmakers, all Republicans from Middle Tennessee, took part in an hour-long session led by Haslam. In all, more than 90 legislators have taken part in the nine-stop tour, which the governor hopes can change a few minds before legislators take up Insure Tennessee at a special session that begins Monday. “I think the reality is -- if everyone you know has insurance coverage and you think other people can go to the emergency room and get an emergency taken care of -- you think, 'What’s the real need?'" he said. "It helps to understand, in reality, what happens in those situations.” Lowe said she and others at the clinic rarely turn away people who lack insurance. But the costs of out-of-pocket treatment means their patients often have to delay critical procedures until they can find a charitable provider or become so sick they qualify for Medicaid.  LINK

A country drowning in student loan debt

“Our nation’s economic recovery has not kept pace with the ever-skyrocketing costs of higher education, and the Tennessee General Assembly has failed to support Tennessee students or families with its continued education cuts and refusal to increase the HOPE Scholarship or the ASPIRE Grant,” says Cohen, a Memphis Democrat who formerly served in the state Senate and fought for years to pass legislation legalizing a state lottery, which funds the lottery scholarship program.
In addition, he says Gov. Bill Haslam “raided” $300 million from the lottery fund that could have helped low- and middle-income students and funneled it to more affluent students through his Tennessee Promise program, which provides free education at the state’s technical and community colleges.
“These and other problems have contributed to a ballooning student debt problem,” Cohen says, pointing out there are no signs of the trend reversing.
“Our state and our country must do more to ease the burden of student loans on our citizens.”
State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh agrees that the level of student loans “absolutely” has an effect on the economy statewide and nationally.
The Ripley Democrat points out that the Legislature previously provided about 70 percent of college funding, compared to 30 percent paid through tuition and fees.
Over the last few years, however, the Legislature has reversed those figures, funding 30 to 40 percent of higher education in the state budget and putting 60 to 70 percent of the burden on students, Fitzhugh says.
Passage of the Complete College Act in 2010 “exacerbated” the situation, Fitzhugh contends.
Instead of funding universities based on enrollment, the act rewards universities for reaching student retention and graduation benchmarks.
Yet the Legislature hasn’t fully funded the act each year and, as a result, the state is $20 million to $25 million short on the Complete College Act, Fitzhugh says. LINK

Fitzhugh Statement on Insure Tennessee

"For the last two-years, House Democrats have fought hard to extend health care coverage to the 330,000 Tennesseans who fall in the Medicaid gap. These are able-bodied, working men and women who make too little to qualify for a subsidy on the federal exchange, but earn too much for our traditional Medicaid program. 
After 349 days and $872,500,000 lost, Governor Haslam put forward Insure Tennessee as a conservative counter-proposal to traditional Medicaid expansion. Churches and hospitals, business leaders and community activists, chambers of commerce & workers organizations have all expressed their support for this plan.
Insure Tennessee is not traditional Medicaid expansion. This approach is much less generous in terms of coverage and benefits than House Democrats would prefer, but we understand the numbers. While members of both parties still have concerns, we feel strongly that they can be alleviated by giving this legislation a full and fair hearing. Whatever political differences may exist, we can all agree that the lives of the 200,000 Tennesseans this plan covers far outweigh any objection raised by special interest groups.
After studying this waiver, listening to our constituents and meeting together on Thursday, the overwhelming majority of House Democrats are prepared  to support the Insure Tennessee plan. It is not perfect; our members have many questions, but the time has come for Tennessee to address this issue once and for all. 
Next week our state will mark a sad anniversary as we pass the $1 billion lost mark; the lives lost tell an even greater story of our moral failure to protect the least among us. It is our hope that all members will put aside politics and answer instead to a higher power. That is our prayer and the goal toward which we will work—together with Republicans—over the next week." LINK

Will "Insure Tennessee" get enough support from Republican lawmakers?

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam's statewide tour to tout a plan to provide health insurance to more than 200,000 low-income Tennesseans made a stop in the Tri-Cities Thursday.
Governor Haslam detailed his plan, called “Insure Tennessee” to local health professionals at a meeting in Johnson City.
But the question remains, does the governor have enough backing to get his plan passed, even from members of his own party? The majority of local representatives say they're not sold on the governor's plan.
“How are we going to pay this if the hospitals back out, how are we going to dis-enroll these people after two years, what about if the federal government defaults and decides not to pay these things? I have a lot more questions. I've made a big ole list,” Representative Matthew Hill told a group of constituents at a town hall meeting he organized in Jonesborough.
Representative Bud Hulsey said he too has questions. “I don't have enough information, and I haven't heard from enough people to really decide what is the right thing to do, and I want to do the right thing.”
Representatives Timothy Hill and David Hawk are also undecided, as is Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey.
State Representative John Holsclaw told News Channel 11, he'll vote yes on Insure Tennessee. But Representative Jon Lundberg said he is opposed to the measure. LINK

Cursive To Be Taught Once Again In Tennessee Schools

 In a time where technology is emphasized in schools, an old-age skill is coming back to Tennessee schools.
Starting in the fall, Tennessee students will be learning to write in cursive again.
Since teaching cursive is not a requirement under national Common Core standards, many schools have stopped teaching it.
Last year, Tennessee became one of several states to pass a law requiring that it be taught.
The reason, many teachers said, is that writing in cursive has been shown to increase brain function, improve language skills and boost memory.
Because more young people use keyboards instead of writing, many were concerned that the skill would be lost.
Teachers will be addressing the topic through a meeting this weekend with a handwriting education expert. They will learn more about the importance of cursive and how to teach it creatively. LINK

Crockett Policy Institute

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