Tennessee, Kansas Also Get Warning: Expand Medicaid or Risk Hospital Funds
Traffic camera bill survives Holt's jolt
Lawmakers still worked until almost 10 p.m. to finish with their duties for the session, but compromise dominated the night more than controversy.
Here's a look at some of the final bills to pass or die in the waning hours of the regular session: List of last minute bills at the Link
AP’s end-of-session-storyThe defeat of Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans set the tone for the 2015 session of the state Legislature.
Lawmakers adjourned the first session of the 109th General Assembly on Wednesday night that also featured the defeat of a proposal to offer in-state tuition to non-citizens, the passage of a bill to remove local power to ban guns in parks and the latest rejection of a perennial effort to create a school voucher program in Tennessee.
Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal failed in a special legislative session in February, was then revived during the regular session — only to be killed again in a Senate committee. LINK
Nashville Delegation Drops Ball On In-State Tuition For Undocumented ImmigrantsFalling short by one vote, the House of Representatives dealt a fatal blow to a bill allowing certain undocumented high school graduates to pay in-state tuition to attend college.
After about two hours of debate, when the clerk opened up the board for a vote, three legislators were missing, all from Nashville.
“I’m sorry I missed a few votes, but as a citizen legislator, you have to,” said Rep. Bo Mitchell who said he had a mandatory work meeting scheduled Wednesday morning in Hendersonville. “I just wish the vote count would have been better.”
The House voted 49-47 on the bill, on vote shy of passage, sending the legislation back to a scheduling committee with little chance of revival this year. However, the bill is still alive and can be take up next legislative session. The Senate approved the bill 21-12.
Also missing the vote were House Speaker Beth Harwell, a Republican from Belle Meade, and Rep. Darren Jernigan, a Democrat representing the far east end of Davidson County.
All count Metro Nashville Public Schools among their constituents. MNPS is one of the most ethnically diverse school districts in the state and has encouraged the state to expand in-state tuition and the Tennessee Promise free community college tuition to undocumented students.
Mitchell was in the Capitol Building early Wednesday morning for the beginning of the legislative session, but left around 9:30 a.m. for the work meeting. He returned shortly before 1 p.m. The bill came up for a vote late that morning.
He would have voted for the legislation, but his work as a state representatives is a part-time job, said the Nashville Democrat who represents the north and western edges of Davidson County. His full-time job is director of sales at Health Cost Solutions, a Hendersonville health plan management company. Mitchell said he hoped the sponsor would have delayed a vote on the bill until after he returned. LINK
Traffic camera bill survives Holt's joltFor most of this year's legislative session, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, have worked together on a bill aimed at local governments' use of automatic traffic cameras.
Consider the partnership severed, thanks to Holt's work to sabotage Gardenhire's bill granting in-state tuition rates to some undocumented Tennessee students to attend public colleges.
The tuition equality bill passed the Senate last week but failed by one vote in the House on Wednesday, with Holt voting no. Inside the chamber watching the debate -- and Holt -- was Gardenhire.
Upset over Holt's vote, Gardenhire returned to the Senate where he began an effort to recall the traffic camera bill, which had already passed the Senate and was awaiting House action. That drew Holt over to the upper chamber.
"He asked me what was going on and who was trying to kill his bill," Gardenhire said, adding that he made clear to Holt that the reason was "the vote tally on the in-state tuition." LINK
Harwell: Cordell Hull to be legislature’s new homeBy 2017, what is currently known as Legislative Plaza could become a parking lot and the once-forsaken Cordell Hull Building will be the new home for House and Senate legislators’ offices, committee rooms and the press suite.
That’s according to House Speaker Beth Harwell, who said the move will be more cost-effective than trying to repair problems in the Legislative Plaza.
“It’s a really neat building, and we’re going to try to restore it so it really looks good. The outside won’t look much different,” Harwell said.
According to Harwell, the Legislative Plaza and War Memorial Building need about $55 million worth of repairs, including replacing rusty pipes and locating hard-to-find parts to maintain the heating and air conditioning units that cost around $350,000 yearly in upkeep. According to staff, the Plaza lacks a proper sprinkler system and has flooding issues.
“Besides all that, it’s not a very nice facility,” Harwell said about the Plaza. “We’ve decided that it makes financially more sense. It’s only $44 million to relocate over there so it’s less money to do that improvement than it is to try to do the improvement to Legislative Plaza,” said Harwell. LINK
Compromise ReturnsWhat had impeded agreement on a nomination vote for Lynch was Republican insistence on adding anti-abortion language to another issue pending before the Senate, a measure to counter human trafficking — a noble and surely non-controversial goal in the pure sense, but one made complicated on the Republicans' insistence on attaching the so-called Hyde amendment, forbidding use of federal funding for abortions, to the bill.
Their argument was that a component of the bill deals with medical care for victims of human trafficking, conceivably involving the abortion procedure and therefore subject calling for the Hyde restrictions.
Democrats objected that funding for the bill's medical-care services was derived from private sources and hence inapplicable to the Hyde provisions. But until last week, the Republican leadership in the Senate was adamant: No Hyde amendment, no trafficking bill, and as a throw-in, no vote on Lynch's confirmation. It was the sort of blackmail that has been routine for years.
But lo and behold, the two parties agreed to some rthetorical tweaking of the bill — a bona fide compromise — that would change nothing substantial but allowed both sides to claim victory and, just as important, would allow both that bill and Lynch's nomination to come to a vote.
What happened in the Tennessee legislature was in a way even more amazing, because the GOP super-majority there has no real incentive to compromise for the sake of a future-tense election. The issue there was legislation, approved by Governor Bill Haslam, which in theory would substitute home-grown Tennessee equivalents for the much-abused national Common Core educational standards that a substantial part of the General Assembly's membership had sworn to throttle. The old standards have been tweaked, an "evaluation" committee has been appointed, and there's a new name to it all. Voila! A unanimous agreement, allowing serious educational standards to continue to exist. LINK
Technical College May Now Be Free In Tennessee, But Few Seem To Realize ItA new statewide program called Tennessee Reconnect will let anyone attend one of the state’s 27 technical colleges for free — but the state is facing obstacles getting the word out.
Tennessee Reconnect is part of the governor's initiative to help more adults obtain a degree or certificate. It's a similar initiative to Tennessee Promise, the program that lets graduating high school seniors attend community college for free. That one had rousing success: almost every eligible student in the state signed up before the deadline last fall. The state credits huge numbers, in part, to guidance counselors and teachers encouraging students to apply.
But with Tennessee Reconnect, eligible applicants aren't necessary in high school and don't have a guidance counselor advising them on their future. They could be anywhere in the state and may never have heard of a TCAT.
So the state recently launched a radio advertising campaign to try to reach more of those eligible adults. The commercial plays up the job opportunities that a technical degree could bring.
"I trained to become a welder, and my tuition was free," one enthusiastic voice says in the ad. "Now I make more than I ever thought I would." LINK
Tennessee, Kansas Also Get Warning: Expand Medicaid or Risk Hospital Funds
Failing to expand Medicaid could jeopardize funding for treating the poor, the Obama administration says.Add Tennessee and Kansas to the list of states that have been warned by the Obama administration that failing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act could jeopardize special funding to pay hospitals and doctors for treating the poor.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services confirmed Tuesday that it gave officials in those states the same message delivered to Texas and Florida about the risk to funding for so-called “uncompensated care pools” — Medicaid money that helps pay the cost of care for the uninsured.
The letter to Florida officials last week drew the ire of Republican Gov. Rick Scott who said the federal government should not link the $1.3 billion in uncompensated care funding with the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid. He has threatened a lawsuit against the Obama administration if it cuts off the funding, which is set to expire June 30. LINK
Crockett Policy Institute