Monday, March 16, 2015

Crockett Buzz: TN Republican Cat Fight over "Padding Expense Accounts" and MOre

TN speaker's survey shows 6 out of 10 support Insure Tennessee

Cooper questions Haslam, lawmakers on Insure TN failure

Tenn. Republicans Hit Each Other on 'Social Hour,' Expenses

Protesters targeting senators who voted no on Insure TN


At least four of the seven state senators who voted to kill Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee program have been targets for protests by activists supporting expanded health care coverage, reports the Times-Free Press. Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, appears to have been on the receiving end of protests most often.
And that’s expected to pick up on Wednesday when advocates launch a nearly 70-mile, four-day walk across the Southeast Tennessee district of Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, one of the senators voting no.
Advocates are calling it the “Insure Tennessee Journey for Justice” and say the governor’s proposal “must be passed before the close of this legislative session.”
The same day, activists plan a “pray-in” at the state Capitol in Nashville during what they’re calling a “Moral Day of Action.”
“Two dozen Tennesseans die every month, over 50 hospitals are at risk of closing, and yet we have the opportunity to receive $1 billion per year of assistance,” Pamela Weston, who is involved in the march in Bell’s district, said in a statement. “Why would we ever refuse that?” LINK

Cooper questions Haslam, lawmakers on Insure TN failure

But most recently, he's been frustrated with the Tennessee General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Specifically, with their work on Haslam's controversialInsure Tennessee.
As Tennessee Democrats at the state level eventually did, Cooper publicly supported Insure Tennessee, the plan to provide federally funded health care to as many as 470,000 eligible low-income Tennesseans. And he wrote what he considers one of the most scathing editorials of his career after the plan failed.
There were signs both the governor and legislators didn't have high hopes for the plan before it officially died in a special Senate committee, he argued.
"I was very discouraged when I went to the governor's inauguration and he didn't even mention the special session that was coming up in two weeks. The prayer that opened the special session denounced the governor's own plan. When they stacked the committee against the governor's plan: those are pretty outrageous and unusual steps for Tennessee," Cooper told the Tennessean.
"We don't have a constitutionally strong governor here … but we've had governors with strong personalities who usually got their way with the legislature, and this was a very different case."
Noting a recent article in Forbes magazine that listed Haslam's personal wealth at $2 billion, the congressman also said Haslam's position as potentially the wealthiest politician in U.S. history was "largely unused power though on his part."
Cooper's criticism of Haslam's leadership style is not new attack: Haslam readily acknowledges and waves off criticism that his affable personality in some way inhibits his effectiveness as a politician. LINK

Tennessee state politics harm the least among us

If the Tennessee General Assembly’s activities so far are any indication, this will be a legislative session when the least among us were forgotten.
While emotion and legislative activity in Tennessee have revolved around gun rights, education standards and red-light traffic cameras, there are still hundreds of thousands of working poor people who are uninsured, more than 6,500 intellectually disabled people who are on a waiting list for TennCare services and $30 million in cuts to mental health services.
It’s not too late to bring back Insure Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam’s innovative program that would have used federal Medicaid dollars to cover 280,000 working poor people, requiring them to take responsibility for their health and not adding to the state budget.
The proposal died unceremoniously in a special Senate committee last month without even a vote of the full Senate or House of Representatives, but there’s no reason cooler heads can prevail and lawmakers can do the right thing.
Results from a survey released this past week by House Speaker Beth Harwellshowed that 59 percent of her constituents support Insure Tennessee. LINK (Subscription)

Tenn. Republicans Hit Each Other on 'Social Hour,' Expenses

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormickdrew hoots and hollers of agreement from his colleagues when he suggested that members of the Senate had met during recent winter storms in the interest of padding their expense accounts.
Now fellow Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is firing back in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, suggesting that House members aren't concerned with completing legislative business in timely fashion.
"I am certain that Tennesseans prefer legislators who use their work time productively rather than adjourn committees early to partake in social hour," Ramsey said.
Even while Ramsey professed "no interest in fanning the flames of inter-chamber discord," the heated words are the latest example of the two GOP-controlled bodies chafing over priorities and pace.
Legislative sessions normally get off to a late start following elections years, but a special session on Medicaid expansion and the recent winter storms have added further delays.
While the House took off several days because of the weather, the Senate plowed ahead. And Ramsey still wants to conclude the session by mid-April. That's causing some heartache among House members, who worry that their proposed legislation may fall by the wayside if their companion bills don't get a chance to be heard in the upper chamber. LINK

FBI investigates Tennessee road building giant for fraud

The FBI raided the offices of a Williamson County construction company as part of an ongoing investigation into nine Tennessee Department of Transportation and two Metro Nashville Airport Authority contracts.
The agents seized payroll records, contract files, work orders and computer hard drives from the College Grove offices of G&M Associates. Jones Brothers, one of the largest road contractors in the Southeast, and two of its affiliate companies are implicated in the investigation, according to a search warrant.
Jones Brothers and the two affiliated companies, Mountain States Contractors and Hot Mix Asphalt, were allegedly involved in a scheme to fraudulently land government contracts intended for companies that promise to subcontract a certain percentage of the work to women- or minority-owned small businesses, the search warrant documents state. LINK (Subscription)

Pat Nolan: Capitol View Commentary

The Haslam administration has raised concerns about at least 11 of the pending gun bills. The Governor says local governments not the state should have final jurisdiction over the parks and other properties they own. He adds he sees the guns in parking lots, on playgrounds and near playing fields to be issues related more to property rights, not gun rights. As for the need to pass such legislation before the NRA comes to town he opined: “… a short term circumstance is not a good reason to drive long term policy.”
State Senate Democrats would seem to agree with the Governor, They say lawmakers should spend much more time on issues other than guns such as health, education and children living in poverty. Those are areas Senate Democrats claim where Tennessee ranks much lower in national rankings than we do on gun issues. The Senate Democratic Caucus even sent out an e-mail video about it this week, featuring Nashville Senator Jeff Yarbro.
Despite their very small numbers in the Senate (holding just 5 out of 33 seats) the Democrats are being much more aggressive this year in criticizing (and even seeking to shame) the Republican Super Majority on issues or bills where they disagree.
Of course that effort doesn't really change any votes in committee or when the roll is taken on the floor. But when they call out GOP committee members (as they did this week) for not even moving a autism-related bill in committee so it could be debated, and for not allowing a mother with a child with autism to speak to Senators after she came all the way from Memphis thinking she would be allowed to testify, it sure can make the members look bad.
By the way, the bill involved would allow insurance coverage for a promising therapy for children with autism. Its failure to move upset the sponsor of the measure, Senator Sara Kyle from Memphis. LINK

TN speaker's survey shows 6 out of 10 support Insure Tennessee

A new survey conducted by the office of House Speaker Beth Harwell shows nearly six in 10 respondents favor Gov. Bill Haslam's now-doomed Insure Tennessee health proposal.
Harwell, R-Nashville, never publicly stated whether she definitively opposed or supported the plan to provide as many as 470,000 low-income Tennesseans with federally subsidized health care.
In the hours before the plan officially died Feb. 4, she told reporters she didn't think there were enough votes in the House for the proposal, and reiterated those comments Thursday.
"I hadn't taken a position on it. We were continuing to gain information. There were lots of good points," Harwell said in a phone interview with The Tennessean. "Ultimately, the legislature had long-term financial concerns, as well as not having an in-writing commitment (from federal health officials)."
But in mid-January, roughly two weeks before the start of the special session devoted to Insure Tennessee, Harwell told reporters she wanted to gauge the interest of her district on the issue.
"I'm going to send out a survey to my district. We've already devised it. And we'll send that out, we'll hear from folks," Harwell said Jan. 13.
"To be honest with you I haven't heard from a lot of citizens. ... I have had hospital administrators talk to me about it, so we'll wait and see how that survey turns out, and you're welcome to see it."
Harwell's office released the results of the survey this week. The speaker cautioned that the survey wasn't scientific and although the survey was mailed to people in her district, it also was available to anyone online. She said she knows advocates for Insure Tennessee had supporters weigh in on the survey. LINK

Crockett Policy Institute

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