Friday, April 24, 2015

Guns in Parks in Haslam Hands...Crockett Buzz for 4-24-15

Haslam to Decide This Week on Tennessee Guns-in-Parks Bill

Tennessee on notice after feds threaten Florida with potential billion-dollar loss

The GOP’s epic money-groveling campaign has officially begun

Haslam touts education gains as Dems blast GOP priorities

The new education funding is good, but it's not nearly enough and comes too late, said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville. Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, agreed with House Democrats' assessment that there was little accomplished "in terms of major legislative objectives," which he termed "astonishing."
Haslam said 98 percent of the bills requested by his office or other departments in the administration were approved by the General Assembly. One that did not arguably received more attention than the ones that did: Insure Tennessee. The plan to provide hundreds of thousands of low-income Tennesseans with federally funded health care died in a special legislative session before the start of session, and died again when it was resurrected during the regular session.
"With big, tough legislation like this, it often doesn't happen in one year," Haslam said.
Democrats say they plan to ask the governor to call them into a special session again this year to take up Insure Tennessee. Haslam recently told The Tennessean it was "way preliminary" to discuss another special session, and that he'd have to have an indication some lawmakers had changed their minds on the plan before he would consider bringing everyone back to Nashville.
Lawmakers also quashed the latest iterations of bills that would legalize a limited school voucher program and allow undocumented immigrant students who live in Tennessee to pay in-state tuition prices at colleges and universities. Haslam and Ramsey supported both measures, and both passed in the Senate.
But both died in the House in some of the final moments of session. LINK

Tennessee on notice after feds threaten Florida with potential billion-dollar loss

Both states have resisted Medicaid expansion, but Tennessee isn't quite to Florida's level yet.
The state, led by former HCA exec Rick Scott,has announced plans to sue the federal government. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently sent Florida a letter suggesting its decision not to expand Medicaid to cover those within 138 percent of the poverty level could result in the end of $1.3 billion in federal funding for uncompensated care at hospitals, known a the Low-Income Pool, which is slated to run out of money June 30.
Tuesday, Kaiser Health News reported that Tennessee and Kansas, two states that have also chosen not to expand the program, were at risk of losing uncompensated care funding. Tennessee has a total pool of $750 million for uncompensated care, according to an e-mail from TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson. The federal share of that is approximately $500 million, she wrote. LINK

Haslam wary of feds using 'heavy hand' to force Medicaid expansions

Gov. Bill Haslam said he’s sensing additional pressure from the federal government to expand Medicaid, and he doesn’t like it.
Haslam this year failed to convince the legislature to go along with his Insure Tennessee plan to expand Medicaid to 280,000 people in the Volunteer State, but he said a recent phone call from the federal government to the Department of TennCare gives him pause.
“Obviously, I believe Insure Tennessee is the right thing to do,” Haslam told reporters. “My sense is... the way they’re approaching this feels awfully heavy handed. 'OK, well, if you don’t do that, then we’re going to restrict that, the pool money that we give you for indigent care.’”
The federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services called TennCare Director Darin Gordon last Thursday to check in on the Volunteer State’s soon-to-expire TennCare waiver, according to a department spokeswoman. The call came around the same time other states like Florida and Texas received warnings that CMS could withhold funds from health care providers if Medicaid is not expanded. Haslam has asked Gordon to dig further into the federal government's messages to other states. LINK

Despite Differing Partisan Claims, the 2015 Legislative Session Was Neither a Grand Success nor a Total Flop

Two sets of post-mortems on the 2015 session of the Tennessee General Assembly were held Thursday morning in the state capital — one by Governor Bill Haslam and the Republican leadership, another by the leadership of the Democratic legislative minority.

Haslam, flanked by House and Senate Speakers Beth Harwell and Ron Ramsey and by House and Senate majority leaders Gerald McCormick and Mark Norris, all sitting at a table in the old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol, opened up this way:

“The primary constitutional obligation of the General Assembly and the Governor is to present a budget that balances. This actually was an extraordinary year; not only did we do that, but if you think about it, the hardest time to govern is when you actually have extra money." An A grade, all things considered.
Half an hour later, over in the Conference Room 31 of Legislative Plaza, it was the turn of House minority leader Craig Fitzhugh, standing primus inter pares among some 18 of his party members from both chambers (the total number of Democrats in both is 30, out of a total of 132).

Said Fitzhugh, by way of starting up: “We legislated quickly, and we passed a budget. That’s about it.” Inasmuch as the veteran Leader from Ripley was among the many in both parties and both chambers who had felt rushed by the session’s hyped-up pace and among the few who could not bring themselves to vote for the budget, that was a failing grade.

In fact, both Haslam and Fitzhugh were exaggerating. 
The Governor actually made the claim that “all of what you would call Governor’s bills were passed,” when his most important initiative of all, his Insure Tennessee Medicaid-expansion plan, was blocked in both the special session that began the legislative year and in the regular session.

And, while Fitzhugh made a point of naming the failures of Insure Tennessee and of a late tax-relief bill to benefit veterans as reasons for his displeasure, it was also true that several measures opposed by Democrats were blocked as well, and by a bipartisan coalition. LINK

Haslam to Decide This Week on Tennessee Guns-in-Parks Bill

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that he will decide this week whether to sign a bill to allow people with handgun carry permits to be armed in city parks near schools.
The bill would allow permit holders to be armed in any state park – including greenways, playgrounds and sports fields.
The proposal was eventually stripped of a provision to allow permit holders to be armed at the state Capitol complex, a provision Haslam adamantly opposed.
However, the governor still expressed concerns about the proposal not being clear on how close a permit holder can be to a school activity.
Haslam got the bill on Tuesday and has 10 days to decide whether to sign, veto or allow the measure to become law without his signature. He told reporters Thursday that he plans to make a decision by the end of the week.
"We are looking at it and we'll have a decision sooner rather than later on it," Haslam said. "We'll have something this week."
Opponents say the final version of the legislation that both the Senate and House agreed to is still confusing in the case of school proximity. LINK

The GOP’s epic money-groveling campaign has officially begun

The entire 2016 field is cozying up to billionaires for a chance at winning the White House

If there’s one thing the Republican field’s disgusting groveling for cash should show us once and for all, it’s how much money it takes to buy a nomination. This “donor primary” is shaping up to be as hard fought as any down-and-dirty local election between a hard core Tea Partyer and an old school main-street conservative. The amount of money being collected is going to be breathtaking. The main question now is whether or not the candidates can even find enough places to spend it all. (One imagines that political strategists and campaign operatives will be happy to stash some of it in their pockets.)
Still, it is a bit startling to see a hardcore rightwing firebrand like Ted Cruz cozying up to gay New Yorkers, even if they are billionaires:
[O]n Monday night, at a reception for him at the Manhattan apartment of two prominent gay hoteliers, the Texas senator struck quite a different tone. During the gathering, according to two attendees, Mr. Cruz said he would have no problem if one of his daughters was gay. He did not mention his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying only that marriage is an issue that should be left to the states. The dinner and “fireside chat” for about a dozen people with Mr. Cruz and his wife, Heidi, was at the Central Park South penthouse of Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, longtime business partners who were once a couple and who have been pioneers in the gay hospitality industry. “Ted Cruz said, ‘If one of my daughters was gay, I would love them just as much,’” recalled Mr. Reisner, a same-sex marriage proponent who described himself as simply an attendee at Mr. Weiderpass’s event. Mr. Reisner and Kalman Sporn, who advises Mr. Cruz’s Middle East team and served as the moderator for the evening, said that the senator told the group that marriage should be left up to the states.
It seems like only yesterday that he was saying gays were waging “jihad” on good God fearing Christians. Well, actually it was two weeks ago:

[T]he GOP hopeful told a crowd of homeschooling activists to beware “the jihad that is being waged right now in Indiana and Arkansas, going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” “We need to bring people together,” Cruz said, adding that Republicans and Democrats used to be in agreement about religious liberty and, he implies, condoning discrimination.
At that nice dinner party in Manhattan he went to some lengths to point out that one of his best donors is gay, the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, so that’s nice.
Why any gay people, billionaires or not, would be attracted to someone like Ted Cruz remains a mystery, but perhaps the tax accountant wants what the tax accountant wants. According to the article, the gay billionaires believe that gay marriage is a done deal, and now that the messy business is taken care of they are free to be conservatives again. LINK

Crockett Policy Institute

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