Tuesday, December 8, 2015

TN GOP Supermajority...Whacky or Just Plain Mean?... Crockett Buzz

Who Needs Health Insurance? Haslam Says Do Your Jumping Jacks

Marsha Blackburn bashes Vanderbilt on Planned Parenthood question

Lawmaker's bill would defund UT office; Faculty Senate preps for meeting in support of chancellor

 As University of Tennessee faculty members prepared to meet in support of Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Vice Chancellor Rickey Hall, a Johnson City lawmaker announced he is sponsoring legislation to defund UT's Office of Diversity.
Republican state Rep. Micah Van Huss's bill divert the funding from the office to pay for any local or state law enforcement agency that would like to put the motto "In God We Trust" on their vehicles.
Members of the executive council and past presidents of the UT Faculty Senate are to hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to draft a resolution designed to support Cheek and Hall.
The resolution, which will be sent to UT President Joe DiPietro, comes in the wake of a number of federal and state lawmakers calling for Cheek's resignation over the UT Office of Diversity and Inclusion's workplace holiday party guidelines.
On Sunday some 20 department heads and leaders in the College of Arts and Sciences signed and sent DiPietro a letter in support of the chancellor and vice chancellor.
The letter states:

"Such an attack demonstrates the deep need for UT Knoxville’s initiative to respect and increase diversity and inclusion. Inclusion in this case asserts the willingness to welcome all traditions, and not to prioritize one over the other. A policy of inclusion serves the University and the State of Tennessee by welcoming and recognizing the talents and contributions of students, faculty, and staff of all religions and races. The Best Practices noted above are also entirely consistent with the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which refuses the establishment of a state religion. As a government entity, we firmly believe it is the duty of the University of Tennessee to stand for a position that recognizes no single religious observance over any other. We applaud Chancellor Cheek as he stands for diversity and inclusion."

Read: Faculty Senate's statement/news release
Van Huss's office issued a statement Monday about his intent with the defunding bill.
"My office began working on drafts of this legislation when the Office of Diversity proposed using gender-neutral pronouns earlier this summer. We had been trying to draft something that would leave the office in place, but bring more oversight. However, after this latest action, it is clear that this taxpayer-funded department in no way reflects the values of Tennesseans.  First, it was Sex Week, then the Gender Neutral Pronouns, now these recommendations to ensure that “holiday” parties have nothing to do with Christmas.  What else has the Office of Diversity been doing with our tax dollars?” the statement reads. WBIR

Marsha Blackburn bashes Vanderbilt on Planned Parenthood question

Tennesseans support the state funding many of the health care services provided by Planned Parenthood, even though the state doesn't do so, according to the latest edition of the Vanderbilt Poll.
The poll didn't specifically ask about the abortions provided by Planned Parenthood, though, and because it didn't, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., accused the university of trying to advance a political agenda.
"I am disappointed that an institute such as Vanderbilt is publishing a poll that has such a thinly veiled agenda. Vanderbilt has a responsibility to educate women, men and children about access to quality health care," Blackburn said in a statement to The Tennessean.
"Our community health centers provide the services mentioned and many more important health care services, including dental, mental health care, and coordination of health care — many of those services are provided at no cost or low cost to Tennesseans. Vanderbilt missed an opportunity here." Tennessean

Who Needs Health Insurance? Haslam Says Do Your Jumping Jacks

While our wacky Republican supermajority is coming unglued over UT's holiday party tips, the mayors of the four largest cities have been productively engaged in trying to improve the health of our citizens.

They've been writing newspaper op-eds and staging public events to encourage people to sign up for health insurance coverage during Obamacare’s open enrollment period, which ends Jan. 31. Nashville Mayor Megan Barry was scheduled to appear at one such event today at Swett’s.

“I firmly believe that everyone in Nashville should have access to quality, affordable health coverage, and I’m working to make that a reality,” Barry wrote in The Tennessean. “So don’t delay — quality, affordable health coverage can be a reality for you and your family, but you need to act today. Visit GetCoveredTenn.org to schedule a free appointment for enrollment assistance today.”

Tennessee is one of the nation’s sickest states, and this is probably the single-best way to change that. So it goes without saying that Republicans aren’t helping.

With his high profile, Gov. Bill Haslam could really spread the word. We asked his press office what he’s doing and they referred us to the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which didn’t respond probably because there’s nothing to say.
It’s not that Republican politicians don’t realize people need health insurance. They have it themselves, and it’s government-subsidized a lot like Medicaid. No, they realize that if they helped it might appear they don’t hate President Obama quite badly enough and might not gouge out his eyes if given the opportunity.  Nashville Scene

Federal Highway Bill Doesn't Solve Tennessee's Road Woes, Officials Say

Tennessee's transportation commissioner says the $300 billion highway bill passed last week by Congress won't solve Tennessee's road-funding woes.
He says it would take 50 years, at current construction rates, to address all of the state's needs.
Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said Friday that getting the long-awaited federal funding bill is a relief because it will let the state move forward with projects that otherwise would have been interrupted.
"It takes off some pressure because we now know that we've got five years of funding in play. So we can put that worry off, and that was a big worry for us."
But this won't be the end of the debate over whether to raise Tennessee's gas tax. WPLN

Tennessee Lawmakers To Drill Down On How Public Universities Are Managed

It's been a busy couple of weeks for higher education leaders in the state. Starting Tuesday afternoon, the Tennessee Board of Regents chancellor and University of Tennessee system president have two days of hearings with state lawmakers, and UT is still trying to figure out a response to a controversial blog post. Here are three things you should know about Tennessee higher ed this week.
1. Hearings With State Lawmakers
A Senate education subcommittee is holding two hearings with higher education big wigs on Tuesday and Wednesday. The official agendas are vague — for example,the first meeting focuses on system overviews of UT and TBR, with an expert from Colorado coming in to testify about "higher education governance."
While that phrase may not make you perk up, the context makes it more interesting: Just last week, the governor made the surprising announcement that he wants the TBR's four-year schools to break off from the system and each form their own governing boards. This would leave TBR to focus on community and technical colleges.
This was met with a mixture of excitement and hesitancy from the colleges. TBR’s chancellor has been especially skeptical, saying the system is doing fine as it is and clarifying to reporters that the proposal wasn't his idea.
2. Face Time With The Governor
On Thursday, the current governing board of the Tennessee Board of Regents is actually talking to the governor in person during its quarterly meeting. Given the week in the news, the proposal is likely to come up.
Also on the board's agenda: discussing what legislation it wants to pass (or block) and evaluating proposals from MTSU and Austin Peay to reduce tuition for some out-of-state students who live close to the state border. WPLN

Rep. Van Huss plans defund diversity bill

State Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, says he’s drafting legislation to defund the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion,according to the News Sentinel.
That’s in accord with a resolution approved by the Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee last weekend. (Note: Previous post HERE.) Van Huss says he’s been planning a lot longer than that
“My office began working on drafts of this legislation when the Office of Diversity proposed using gender-neutral pronouns earlier this summer,” he said in a statement. “We had been trying to draft something that would leave the office in place, but bring more oversight. However, after this latest action, it is clear that this taxpayer-funded department in no way reflects the values of Tennesseans.”
Van Huss also pointed to brouhahas over recommendations on using gender-neutral pronouns — such as “xe” “xym” and “xyr” — and the long-lamented Sex Week as reasons to worry about how the university is spending its money.
“What else has the Office of Diversity been doing with our tax dollars?” he said. “They are not celebrating diversity, they are wiping it out. It is the office of Political Correctness. Sadly, being a student with strong Judeo-Christian values, who wants to observe traditional celebrations, is no longer politically correct at UT.”
Meanwhile on Monday, clergy representing Episcopal-Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic and Seventh-day Adventist campus ministries, signed an open letter to legislators. Humphrey on the Hill

Gun violence: Is there no solution?

Last Sunday morning, outside a church in a peaceful eastside neighborhood, very near to where I attended elementary school, a pickup truck stopped suddenly in the middle of the street and someone fired a rifle a dozen times into a parked car.
The next night, on the far south side of town, a 3-year-old child picked up a handgun in his parents’ bedroom. The revolver discharged, wounding the child.
Obviously these two events were very different, but they had one ingredient in common: A gun that was in the wrong hands — one a violent offender, the other an innocent kid.
And that is but an aspect of the mixture of many issues surrounding guns and gun violence in our city and nation. The conversation about any of it, in turn, is a tortured discussion. More typically, it becomes a shouting match between advocates on either side of a great divide.
Positions have become hardened between the requirements of public safety in theaters, malls, and even churches anymore, on the one hand, and absolutist defense of the Second Amendment rights, on the other.
Is all this just about guns? No.
People die not only looking down the barrels of guns but on the wrong ends of cars and switchblades and tire irons, too. But death by gun seems to qualify these days as a method of mass homicide. And surely there are other issues that motivate the shooter — crime certainly but also irresponsible parents.
Not all who advocate for reasonable new restrictions on gun sales are enemies of freedom or of guns. Frank Daniels

Crockett Policy Institute

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