Corker blames GOP for highway stalemate
Haslam Says He Couldn't Legally Withhold Tennessee Lawmakers' Health Insurance Info
Burchett, Campfield, other ex-legislators still get subsidized health insurancereports the Times-Free Press.
“Congressman DesJarlais was proud to vote in favor of this legislation,” said his spokesman Robert Jameson, who added that DesJarlais has maintained a “100 percent pro-life voting record” during his five years in Congress and “has always advocated for pro-life values.”
DesJarlais’ support of his ex-wife’s abortions, which occurred before their 1995 marriage, was revealed after his 2012 re-election to Congress in a divorce trial transcript. The transcript also showed the physician had engaged in multiple affairs with patients, and pressured one of them to get an abortion after she told him she was pregnant. The outcome of that pregnancy is unknown.
…”Despite a fixation by his political opponents on the details of a previous marriage from the 1990s, the people of Tennessee’s Fourth District have shown they care much more about the Congressman’s job in Washington than the details of a divorce,” Jameson said.
Jameson declined to answer questions about whether DesJarlais’ ex-wife’s abortions occurred after 20 weeks of pregnancy. LINK
Haslam Says He Couldn't Legally Withhold Tennessee Lawmakers' Health Insurance InfoGov. Bill Haslam says his administration had no choice but to release information on lawmakers' health insurance, including how much the state pays for their plans and who's on them.
Some legislators and the Tennessee State Employees Association have called the release a privacy violation. But Haslam says administration lawyers, TennCare's lawyers and the Tennessee attorney general's office all determined the plans are public information under state law.
"We're bound to follow the law, OK? We don't get to decide what we want to follow and not."
Several news outlets, including WPLN, have requested details about current and former lawmakers' health insurance.
The requests came after supporters of Insure Tennessee questioned how lawmakers could vote against the governor's health care proposal and yet accept coverage that is largely subsidized by taxpayers. LINK
Merits, not politics, should be focus on Insure TNTennessee would benefit from hearing its legislators honestly debate these issues.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has many flaws, but also has brought some greatly needed reform to our health care system.
It has helped make insurance portable in a job market where companies increasingly hire and lay off workers. It has enabled Americans to obtain insurance even with pre-existing conditions and enabled children to remain on their parents' policies until age 26, again in a job market that is increasingly difficult. It has forced health care providers to cut costs by lowering reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid treatments.
And, by trying to push more and more Americans into getting preventive care, it started the slow process of creating a healthier population, which should lower health care system utilization and costs. LINK
Focus On Guns May Have Hurt Lawmakers' Standing With TennesseansGun bills have drawn an inordinate amount of attention in Tennessee in recent years.
A new Vanderbilt poll shows all of that firearms legislation may have affected Tennesseans' perception of state lawmakers.
This spring, the General Assembly passed a law allowing guns in all parks and another that protects people who store their guns in their cars while at work.
They talked about — though did not approve of — giving gun owners the same rights to carry as an off-duty cop and letting people carry without any sort of permit whatsoever.
And the state House of Representatives did vote to make a sniper rifle Tennessee's official state firearm.
Joshua Clinton, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University who co-directs its semiannual poll, says all these bills strike a chord with one voting bloc.
"The only group that's kind of overwhelmingly more supportive of the gun regulations that were actually passed by the legislature was the tea party."
Other Tennesseans, including Republicans, are less enthusiastic about the state's new gun laws, the poll shows. LINK
Corker blames GOP for highway stalemate
Congress is unlikely to agree on a long-term fix for the depleted Highway Trust Fund before a May 31 deadline, and Republicans are to blame, Sen. Bob Corker said Wednesday.
The Tennessee Republican said borrowing money for another short-term extension would be an affront to the GOP’s commitment to fiscal conservatism.
“I will be stunned if Republicans deal with the Highway Trust Fund responsibly,” Corker told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “It’s not going to happen.”
Congress last year shored up the trust fund with $10.8 billion, a temporary fix to allow state road and bridge projects to continue through May. The money did not come from new revenue.
Republicans gained control of the Senate in last year’s elections, but completing a full six-year highway bill and paying for it with something other than borrowed money has still been a struggle.
“We’re becoming a party (where) what conservatism means is spending almost the same amount of money, in some cases more, but not paying for it,” Corker said. “That’s conservatism today, it’s just not the conservatism that I grew up with.”
The Highway Trust Fund is running huge annual deficits because the gasoline tax, its primary source of revenue, generates less money as fuel efficiency improves. Also, the 18.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993 and has not kept up with inflation.
The estimated 10-year shortfall is about $169 billion. LINK
Retired Attorney Pushes for Answers in Civil Rights Cold Case of Elbert WilliamsIf the Civil Rights movement had a Mt. Rushmore, it would include faces like Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr. Some believe the face of a Brownsville, Tenn. man should be up there, too. This is the story of Elbert Williams and a push for justice 75 years in the making.
According to Jim Emison's research, Williams was murdered on June 20, 1940, which was 23 years before NAACP leader Evers was assassinated outside his Jackson, Mississippi, home by a white supremacist.
Emison is writing a book about Williams and lobbying the state's historical society to erect a monument near his grave. LINK w/video
Burchett, Campfield, other ex-legislators still get subsidized health insurance
More former and retired Tennessee state legislators are covered by the state employee health insurance program than are current members of the General Assembly — including some who have moved on to other public office, others who haven’t served in more than 30 years and some who were convicted of crimes, state records show.
State law allows anyone who has ever been elected to the state Legislature, regardless of how little time they served in office, to remain on the taxpayer-subsidized state employee health plan for life as long as they pay the required premiums — 20, 30 or 40 percent of the total cost of the insurance depending on length of service.
And 148 former and retired lawmakers are currently enrolled, compared to 116 current members who are enrolled, according to the state office of benefits administration. The Tennessee legislature has 133 members: 99 representatives and 33 senators. Current lawmakers pay 20 percent of the total cost of the insurance and the state pays 80 percent, the same level as full-time state employees.
But to continue their state health coverage after leaving or retiring from the state — a benefit more generous than most private sector employees receive — regular state employees must have at least 10 years of service at the state or other covered government entities.
Former legislators could, technically, be eligible to maintain the subsidized health benefit after serving for one day as long as they won election to the Legislature for one two-year House term, one four-year Senate term or for the remainder of an unexpired term. Longtime Memphis politician Sidney Chism is still enrolled in the state health plan although he served in the state Senate only 14 weeks and was never publicly elected. He was appointed by the Shelby County Commission to fill a vacancy in Senate on Feb. 15, 2005, and held the seat until a special election was held May 24 of that year.
The 14-week service was insufficient to qualify Chism for a state pension, but it was sufficient to allow him to remain enrolled in the state health plan for life as long as he pays a premium equal to 40 percent of the cost. The following year, lawmakers approved a bill sponsored by then-state Sen. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, requiring a member to be publicly elected rather than appointed to qualify for the lifetime health insurance benefit. LINK
Crockett Policy Institute