Legislative Update, February 7, 2015

Tennessee General Assembly information, click HERE. For information on State Senators, including phone numbers and email addresses, click HERE; for House members, click HERE. For information on legislation, click HERE.
Don't forget that you can now watch the Senate committee meetings and floor sessions online by going HERE; House committee meetings and floor sessions online HERE.
Phone calls can go to the legislative Switchboard at 615-741-3011 or to the Toll Free number 1-800-449-8366+1 last four digits of office phone number (available online).


Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. - Winston Churchill

In the giant germ petri dish at the Plaza, some of our folks are already suffering from various colds, sinus, etc.  You will want to continue to pray for Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfressboro).  Yesterday he had this third of six treatments for non-hodgkin's lymphoma.  Once the immediate side effects of the treatment wear off, he is feeling pretty well.  Please pray for one of our staff members whose mother fell and evidently sustained pretty severe injuries. Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads) had surgery to repair his broken arm and is now healing.

ADAM'S CORNER: This past Tuesday Mrs. Patray and I attended the joint session House Committee of Insurance and Banking as well as the Senate Committee of Health hearings. These hearings were debating Insure Tennessee.  Well thought out questions were asked of those testifying before the committees.  Many people attended the meetings to voice their opinion on this issue.  Both hearing rooms were packed with supporters and opponents as well as various media outlets.  This definitely is quite the way to start the legislative session!  

LAUREN'S CORNER: My time at the legislature on Wednesday was a very different environment than I have ever experienced before. Governor Haslam's Medicaid expansion, or Insure Tennessee, was hanging thick in the air that morning and something that was on everyone's mind. The decision would drastically take Tennessee in a direction foreign to its history. Its ultimate death in committee was made by the pressured senators who were all being pulled in different directions by the people outside the door. Having the future of our state weighing heavy on their shoulders is part of the job I'm sure they don't enjoy very much but is something that they did not take lightly. I found them all with a look of rock hard determination on where they stood. For months I have seen the people around me, myself included, working hard to see this go in the right direction and to have it do so could not have made me more pleased. History was truly made and I was a privileged witness.

SB 0005 by *Tracy,(HB 0003) by *Forgety , Harwell, Lollar, Byrd, Kane, Love, Sparks, Johnson , Lamberth, Faison, Casada, McManus, Williams, Swann, Eldridge, Sexton C, Marsh, Wirgau, Rogers, Pitts, Keisling, Sargent, McCormick, Brooks H, Towns, Hardaway, Ragan, VanHuss
Education - As introduced, establishes standards review and development committees and advisory teams comprised of Tennessee teachers, higher education faculty members, and parents to propose world-class, highly rigorous K-12 English language arts and mathematics standards for use in public schools.
STATUS:  HB0003 is scheduled in the  Education Instruction & Programs Sub-Committee Wednesday at noon.
COMMENT:  We see this bill as well as SB0004 as 'conversation starters'.  The important concern is that any bill that advances does NOT just 're-brand' the Common Core Standards.  If we are going to do this, we want the ability to REALLY rewrite the standards and honestly HAVE Tennessee Standards. I will be visiting with the bill's sponsor and others to determine what is expected and what needs to be done to achieve our goals.


SJR 0080 by *Ketron , Gresham, Johnson, Tracy
Memorials, Congress - Opposes a "national school board" and supports passage of the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act. -

SB 0046 by *Haile , Kelsey, Bowling, (HB 0040) by *Lamberth
Adoption - As introduced, includes adoption as a positive option in family life curriculum. - Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 13.

SB 0013 by *Beavers
Abortion - As introduced, revives and reenacts the informed consent statute for abortion that was in effect prior to Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee, et al. v. Sundquist, 38 S.W. 3d 1

SB 0050 by *Green
Hospitals and Health Care Facilities - As introduced, requires a medical or surgical abortion to be performed in a licensed ambulatory surgical treatment center. - Amends TCA Title 68, Chapter 11.

SB 0010 by *Norris,(HB 0010) by *McCormick
Students - As introduced, requires students to pass the United States citizenship and immigration services' civics test with a score of at least 60 percent in order to receive a regular high school diploma. - Amends TCA Title 49

SJR 0017 by *Beavers
Constitutional Amendments - As introduced, proposes amendment of Article VI, Section 5 to provide for popular election of the attorney general and reporter for a regular term of four years.

SJR 0063 by *Beavers

Constitutional Amendments - As introduced, proposes amendment of Article VI, Section 5, to provide for popular election of the attorney general and reporter for a regular term of six years.

SJR 0075 by *Yager
Constitutional Amendments - As introduced, proposes amendment of Article VI, Section 5 to provide for appointment of an attorney general and reporter for the state by joint vote of the general assembly.


Haslam:  No attempt to raise gas tax revenue this year
Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that while officials "need to do something on the gas tax," he doesn't see pushing for any increase until next year when he can show lawmakers exactly how the new revenue would be used for state transportation needs, reports the Commercial Appeal.
Haslam told editors and publishers at the Tennessee Press Association's winter meeting in Nashville that his thoughts on whether to seek more funding were colored by several considerations.
"We need to do something on the gas tax," he said Thursday in response to a question at the Tennessee Press Association. "Our thoughts as to whether or not to do it this year were colored by two or three things: number one, were we ready to do it? Were we ready to carry the load in the legislative session?" he said.
"Obviously our thoughts were colored by the heavy lifting of Insure Tennessee," Haslam said, referring to his health plan for the working poor, which the legislature defeated Wednesday, as well as "some of the education issues, et cetera. Sometimes it almost becomes a manpower issue: do you have enough people to get your message out.


 During the various committee meetings, several legislators mentioned the testimony from the health-policy expert to Gov. Phil Bredesen.  He met with the lawmakers back in January.  I found the article and it is VERY instructive.  I don't see how anyone could have heard Blumstein's testimony and still voted for Insure TN.  No wonder it was DOA.  You will want to read every word of this important article.

Bredesen-Era TennCare Lawyer Recommends Legislature Demand Final OK on Medicaid Expansion
A health-policy advisor to a Democratic former governor said Tuesday that the Republican-run General Assembly should get the last word on whether to approve any deal the current governor strikes with the feds on Medicaid expansion.
"Legislative oversight is a critical part of the decision whether to expand coverage under the Affordable Care Act," James Blumstein, a constitutional law professor at Vanderbilt University, said during a state Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Blumstein was Gov. Phil Bredesen's legal expert on TennCare during the program's most tumultuous period a decade ago.
"I can say from the experience of 10 years ago that it is excruciatingly painful to ask people who have something to give that up," Blumstein said in reference to the Bredesen administration's decision to remove about 170,000 lower-income Tennesseans from the state-administered Medicaid system.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is now proposing the state take more than a billion dollars in additional federal Medicaid funding to use for financing private-insurance vouchers for 200,000-400,000 lower-income Tennesseans.

 We were REPEATEDLY told that Insure TN would not cost us ANY money.  And yet, we learn that it was projected to cost the state $15 million in administrative costs ANNUALLY!! Again.....it is no wonder that the Senators voted against it.

Insure Tennessee to cost $15 million a year to manage, report says
A new report from a state financial expert says Gov. Bill Haslam's controversial Insure Tennessee health plan will cost more than $15 million annually to administer, and it's impossible to definitively determine the potential economic benefits of the plan.
"The estimated fiscal impact to commerce in the state as a result of the proposed legislation cannot be reasonably determined due to a number of unknown factors," wrote Jeff Spalding, new executive director of the Tennessee Fiscal Review Committee.
Spalding issued the information in a fiscal note for Insure Tennessee, Haslam's plan to provide 280,000 low-income Tennesseans with federally subsidized health insurance.
Haslam has repeatedly said the plan won't cost Tennessee any extra money: the administration says the federal government covers 100 percent of costs in the first two years, then state hospitals cover a growing share that tops out at 90 percent in 2020.
But the fiscal note - a report attached to any legislative proposal that could have a financial impact if it becomes law - estimates more than $15 million in administrative costs annually.

Haslam frustrated, surprised and embarrassed in Insure TN effort
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Republican Gov. Bill Haslam insists he's not giving up on his Insure Tennessee proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income people in the state, though he says he doesn't have any specific plans for resurrecting the measure this year.
Haslam told editors and publishers attending a Tennessee Press Association luncheon in Nashville on Thursday that he was frustrated by the measure's defeat, surprised by lawmakers' level of mistrust of the federal government and embarrassed by the number of times he called U.S. Health and Human Resources Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell to hammer out the failed deal.
Despite broad support from hospitals, doctors, chambers of commerce and a popular governor coming off a landslide re-election win, Haslam said proponents failed to "move the needle" among fellow Republican lawmakers opposed to the plan.
"It's actually extraordinary what happened," Haslam said. "If you had told a political science class 10 years ago, 'Here's the situation,' they'd tell you you'd get that done easy."
A Senate committee voted 7-4 to kill the measure on the third day of a special legislative session on Wednesday. The two-year pilot program would have had state hospitals pay the $74 million state share to drawn down $2.8 billion in Medicaid money available under President Barack Obama's health care law.
Several lawmakers including Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said they were uncomfortable authorizing the governor to proceed without a written contract with the federal government.
"We could not in good conscience put our stamp of approval on a mere verbal agreement with the Obama administration," Ramsey said after the governor's plan was defeated.

NOTE: This is me standing in my chair screaming.  As a part of their compensation, lawmakers have the opportunity to sign up for health coverage.  It is a benefit for them and their families. I really do want to scream everytime this is brought up.  Legislators should just ignore this altogether.

6 of 7 who killed Insure Tennessee are on state health plan
Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
12:04 p.m. CST February 5, 2015
Six of the seven Republican senators who voted to kill Gov. Bill Haslam's proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans are enrolled in the state government health plan.
The state-insured senators include Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, according to records obtained by The Associated Press under state open records laws. During a committee debate, Gardenhire had declared that he uses private insurance.
The Senate Health Committee voted 7-4 on Wednesday to defeat Haslam's Insure Tennessee proposal that Haslam said would have brought $2.8 billion in federal money into the state at no costs to the taxpayer.
During the debate, newly-elected Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, suggested that lawmakers receiving government subsidies for their insurance should be more receptive to the governor's proposal to insure poor Tennesseans.
"Virtually every member of the Tennessee General Assembly receives some form of tax-subsidized health care," Yarbro said. "And before we make the decision to do nothing, I just think any members who are opposed or have doubts about this would offer some type of suggestion about what the governor's plan should be."
Those comments led to a rebuke from Gardenhire, who took to the microphone to declare that he was getting "resentful" of Yarbro's claims.