Thursday, February 12, 2015

Darwin Day Crockett Buzz

 Insure Tennessee deserves a do-over

Federal judge finds Jimmy Haslam, Pilot Flying J 'plausibly' knew of alleged fuel rebate fraud

Bruce VanWyngarden: The Republican Rift

Health Plan Not Dead?

Business groups say they're marching forward

The battle may be over, but according to Gov. Bill Haslam’s allies in the Tennessee business community, the war over Insure Tennessee has just begun.
Although the governor’s proposal to cover up to 400,000 working poor Tennesseans at no additional cost to the state was killed in a Senate committee last week, the Coalition for a Healthy Tennessee that was formed to back the plan is continuing to work.
“No is not an option. There are pretty serious health care problems that the state has and they still exist. The responsible thing to do is to solve the problem,” said coalition spokesman Joe Hall, a Nashville PR strategist who has often worked for prominent Republican causes.
Haslam also hinted Monday in his State of the State address that the issue was not dead.
“Last week, the decision was made not to move forward with Insure Tennessee. However, that does not mean the issues around health care go away. Too many Tennesseans are still not getting health coverage they need in the right way, in the right place, at the right time,” Haslam said in his address to top lawmakers.
“Last week, I talked about coming here not just to make a point but to make a difference. It’s about looking for answers, not just having an agenda. With great power comes great responsibility. So, though the special session has ended, I hope we can find a way to work together to address those problems,” he said.
Leading up to last week’s special legislative session, the coalition and the main opposition group, the Americans for Prosperity organization founded and funded by energy magnates Charles and David Koch, dueled in competing radio ads, campaign-style events, informational forums and in the media.
The Kochs bring substantial out-of-state money, airdrop organizers and often threaten lawmakers with primary opponents if they fail to follow the Koch anti-government line. LINK

Bruce VanWyngarden: The Republican Rift 

Anyone who's been paying attention knows that Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey's hand-picked Senate committee voted not to allow Governor Bill Haslam's innovative Insure Tennessee proposal out of committee. Seven Republican legislators — including local lightweight champion Senator Brian Kelsey — each of whom gets per diems, paid travel expenses, and government health care for their part-time jobs — voted to keep sending Tennessee tax dollars to other states and to keep 280,000 Tennesseans from being able to purchase affordable health care.
Those seven people voted to turn down funds that would have helped keep county hospitals open all across the state. They voted to make people have to travel farther for care. They voted to make the rest of us pay for uninsured Tennesseans' medical care. They voted to force more people to face medical-related bankruptcy. They voted to let thousands suffer and die from lack of medical care.
Why? Because most GOP legislators in Tennessee are owned by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch brothers' group that is fighting the Affordable Care Act all over the country. If a Republican dares to not sign the AFP pledge to fight "Obamacare," AFP runs ads in their communities linking them to President Obama. Oooh.
The legislators' decision is another indication of the growing rift in the GOP between the socially conservative, "shrink government," pro-gun ideologues and the business-friendly, common-sense-governing faction. The former group boasts our two local AFP toadies, Senators Mark Norris and Kelsey. The latter group includes Haslam, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, GOP members of the Shelby County Commission, and many others around the state. LINK

Federal judge finds Jimmy Haslam, Pilot Flying J 'plausibly' knew of alleged fuel rebate fraud

A federal judge has found that some facts in an ongoing civil lawsuit against Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam and his company "plausibly suggest" that some top company officials, including Haslam, may have know of the alleged fuel rebate fraud.
In an memorandum and opinion order issued on Wednesday by Federal Judge Amul Thapar, the judge found that some facts in the case "plausibly suggest that some of the individual defendants managed or knowingly carried out a fraudulent rebate reduction scheme."
The order also granted and denied a series of motions filed in the case on behalf of seven trucking companies that are alleging they were cheated out of millions in fuel rebates.
While motions regarding fraud were granted, others involving conspiracy were denied.
Wednesday's order allows the lawsuit to continue forward, but all of the allegations contained in motions that were granted remain to be proved in court. LINK

Lawmakers Tread Cautiously Around Common Core Repeal

Lawmakers described it as an "epiphany."
Just a few hours before members of a House panel were to open debate Wednesday on Common Core for the year, they abruptly changed course.
On the agenda was a bill, HB 3, that could give the legislature more say over the controversial education standards. Its sponsor, Rep. John Forgety (R-Athens), gave little explanation why he'd decided not to push it forward.
"I'm of the opinion that we need to end Common Core in a constructive — not a destructive — manner," he said.
Forgety was a little more forthcoming after the committee meeting. He said talks are under way with Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration on a plan to review the standards.
The governor says the job should be left to the experts — teachers and other educators. LINK

State Library Makes Journal on Desegregation Available

For Black History Month, the Tennessee State Library and Archives is making available online a new collection that traces the history of school desegregation.
Southern School News was the official publication of the Southern Education Reporting Service. According to the journal, that service was "an objective, fact-finding agency established by southern newspaper editors and educators with the aim of providing accurate, unbiased information" about desegregation after the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Members of the board included the presidents and chancellors of Fisk and Vanderbilt Universities and George Peabody College. Also included were editors of The Nashville Banner and The Nashville Tennessean.
The Southern School News Digital Collection is full-text searchable and comprises 11 volumes published from 1954 to 1965 in Nashville. LINK

Jon Stewart - The Importance of Accountability

The clearest and most sane response to the loopy, hypocritical and dangerous trends in politics and media for this century has come from Jon Stewart and The Daily Show (echoed and amplified by The Colbert Report).

I can barely imagine what our world might have become without it. The awesome weight and power of the satire provided via Stewart's company of comedians and writers was inescapable and palpable. In the stormiest of times, the calm of laughter and the presence of wisdom somehow made such storms endurable. LINK

Insure Tennessee deserves a do-over

Insure Tennessee deserves a do-over because it’s become clear that at least one of the seven senators who voted to kill it relied on inaccurate information as the rationale for his decision.
Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, in a column published online Monday on, explained that he voted no because the state was at risk of losing TennCare if Insure Tennessee’s two-year pilot didn’t succeed.
The problem with that argument is that the fate of one was never linked to the other. In short, Insure Tennessee was a separate program from TennCare and was never at risk.
TennCare uses Medicaid dollars to cover a range of low-income people, including pregnant women, children, elderly and disabled people.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal, on the other hand, would have used federal Medicaid dollars to provide coverage for 280,000 working-class Tennesseans who neither qualified for TennCare nor qualified for subsidies in the Affordable Care Act health exchanges. LINK

State employees get information about buyouts

The Tennessee Department of Human Resources has sent an email to all state employees about a voluntary buyout program.
Gov. Bill Haslam mentioned the program during a budget presentation earlier this week.
According to the email, only those employees determined eligible for the buyout will be invited to participate in the program. Each department and agency is working to determine what classifications will be considered eligible. LINK

Crockett Policy Institute

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