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MONDAY, MAY 21, 2012 Haslam defends making records confidential (Associated Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam says its not easy to strike a balance between efficiency and transparency in state government. In several cases this year, the Republican governor has sided in favor of making information confidential. Haslam has signed measures to make confidential the names of all but the three finalists for leadership positions in state colleges and universities, and to prevent parents from finding out the evaluation scores of teachers. Haslam in an interview with The Associated Press last week also continued to defend his failed effort to close off information about companies, including the identities of their owners, that receive cash grants from the state. Ultimately, its a balancing act between whats doing best for the state and protecting the publics right to know, Haslam said. http://www.jacksonsun.com/article/20120521/NEWS01/305210009/State-briefs-Haslam-defends-confidentialrecords-poll-says-Obama-Romney-near-tie-Tennessee

Tennessee GOP boasts of tax cuts approved in latest session (TFP/Sher)


Tennessee's Republican governor and legislative leaders are touting an estimated $164.1 million in tax cuts set to take place by 2016 through phasing out the state's inheritance tax, eliminating the gift tax and lowering the sales taxes on groceries from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent. "We cut taxes really three times," Gov. Bill Haslam said, noting that last year lawmakers also trimmed the Hall income tax on interest and dividend income. "This year it was fairly significant." But while giving breaks with one hand, lawmakers are taking some of that money back with the other. For example, lawmakers passed legislation requiring Amazon.com to begin collecting state and local sales taxes in 2014. The Internet retailing giant has three distribution centers in Tennessee, including two in Hamilton and Bradley counties. Lawmakers also approved Haslam's legislation tightening definitions of "intangible" expenses corporations can claim against state franchise and excise taxes. Those expenses include payments on items like patents and trademarks to separate but affiliated out-of-state companies. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/21/tenn-gop-boasts-of-tax-cuts-approved-in-latest/?local

Lawrence Man Charged In Giles County On TennCare Fraud (WKSR-Radio Pulaski)


A 30 year old Lawrenceburg man has been charged with TennCare fraud. Authorities say Mitchell Looney sold prescription drugs in Giles County that were obtained by using TennCare benefits. Loony is accused of obtaining a prescription for the painkiller Hydrocodone and planning to sell a portion of his prescription which was paid for by TennCare. He was being held in the Lawrence County jail on unrelated charges and was taken to the Giles County jail where he was served the indictment. D. A. Mike Bottoms said TennCare fraud carries a sentence of up to two years in prison. http://www.wksr.com/wksr.php?rfc=src/article.html&id=30526

State auditors review required college changes (Associated Press)


The Complete College Act of 2010 changed the formula for how Tennessee's universities are funded, rewarding them for graduating students, not just enrolling them. W ith the change the Tennessee Higher Education Commission is being asked to do more than just take a college's word about graduation rates. It should find a way to verify them. The recommendation comes from state auditors, who have been tracking implementation of the Complete College Act. The auditors also say public universities still haven't made it easy to transfer credits from two-year to four-year schools in every degree program. Education Commission director Richard Rhoda told WPLN-FM (http://bit.ly/KjFJdc) universities have tried to comply with the law, but some majors like nuclear engineering just don't lend themselves to a pre-major at a community college.

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/may/21/state-auditors-review-required-college-changes/

Medicaid primary care pay: The next SGR? (American Medical News)
Reid Blackwelder, MD, a family physician in Kingsport, Tenn., said primary care physicians in his state would benefit immensely from a federal proposal raising Medicaid payments to equal what Medicare pays for the same services. TennCare, the states Medicaid program, currently pays him only 60% of Medicare rates, Dr. Blackwelder said. If TennCare had paid 100% of Medicare rates for the previous 10 months of billing, from July 2011 through April 2012, we would have made an additional $400,000 in our three residency programs, said Dr. Blackwelder, a professor of family medicine at East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine. Medicaid beneficiaries make up nearly 40% of the residency programs patient base. Nationally, the average Medicaid payment rate is only two-thirds of what Medicare pays, and primary care physicians in most states will benefit from having the rates equalized. The proposed rule, which was issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on May 9 under a provision of the national health system reform law, will pay Medicare rates to primary care physicians for the primary care services they provide to Medicaid beneficiaries for 2013 and 2014. http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/05/21/gvl10521.htm

Tennesseans show 'bittersweet' reaction to health law in Vandy Poll (TN/Wilemon)


Majority like kids provision but still want act tossed Mothers never stop fretting about their children even when they become adults, but Louise Hardaway worries less now that her 21-year-old son is back on her health insurance. A mandate of the Affordable Care Act allowed the Nashville woman to put him back on her employerbased plan. He didnt give it a second thought, but I was concerned and hoped for the best during that time, Hardaway said. Even though he is young and healthy, anything could happen at any time. The provision of the law that allows parents to keep coverage for their children until the age of 26 gets a resounding 73 percent approval by state residents, but that doesnt mean they like what opponents have dubbed Obamacare. A majority of Tennesseans have an unfavorable view of the law and want the U.S. Supreme Court to find all or portions of it unconstitutional, according to a poll conducted this month by Vanderbilt University. In the Vanderbilt poll of more than 1,000 state residents, 50 percent said the court should throw out the entire law, while 12 percent wanted only the provision that everyone buy health insurance overturned. Just 26 percent of respondents said the law should be left as it is. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120521/NEWS01/305210018/Vanderbilt-poll-Tennesseans-bittersweethealth-law?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Vanderbilt poll: Obama closes gap with Romney (Tennessean/Cass)


President Barack Obama has pulled into a virtual tie with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in traditionally conservative Tennessee, according to a new Vanderbilt University poll. The poll also found that Tennesseans werent thrilled with the Republican-led General Assemblys frequent focus on social, cultural and religious issues this year. But Republican Gov. Bill Haslam managed to remain above the fray, winning approval from 61 percent of poll participants. Tennessee is clearly a red state, said John Geer, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt. But these data show that the public is much more moderate than our state legislature. The poll of 1,002 Tennessee residents who are 18 and older found 42 percent would vote for Romney and 41 percent for Obama if the election were held now. The survey, conducted May 2-9 by Princeton Survey Research Associates International for Vanderbilt, had a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Geer cautioned that the registered voters among the poll participants favored Romney by a larger margin, with 47 percent saying they would vote for the former Massachusetts governor and 40 percent for Obama. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120520/NEWS/305170107/Vanderbilt-poll-Obama-closes-gap-Romney? odyssey=mod|newswell|text|News|s

At Vanderbilt, all-comers policy and athletics butt heads (CP/Greenberg, Boettcher)


On a public stage in a packed lecture hall in January, Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers quietly raised his hand and took the microphone. W hat followed was a bold declaration of belief as one of the schools most 2

notable athletes took three of the universitys top officials to task about the universitys newly clarified allcomers policy. The fact that this is restricting who is able to be a leader completely undermines the mission, our vision, and the direction of every single one of these organizations, Rodgers said. If someone that doesnt share the faith is teaching, then whats the point of even having these organizations? Vanderbilts all-comers policy (see below), which requires student organizations to allow any member of the student body to join the group and run for leadership, has faced heavy criticism from some Christian groups on campus. They say the policy discriminates against religious groups by allowing nonbelievers to run for leadership positions. Rodgers, who was representing the campus chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, made his speech more than two hours into the meeting. When Rodgers wasnt afforded a response to a statement, roughly 20 students exited the meeting in a huff. http://nashvillecitypaper.com/content/city-news/vanderbilt-all-comers-policy-and-athletics-butt-heads

Tennessee dental health among nation's worst (Times Free-Press/Martin)


Tennessee's dental health can be measured in so many ways: Twenty percent of adults ages 18-64 have lost six or more teeth because of decay, infection or gum disease, twice the national median, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, a health care advocacy group. Only 66 percent visited a dentist or dental clinic in 2010, according to a Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 53,000 visited a hospital emergency room for dental care in 2009, with about 24,000 of those visits for a preventable dental condition, according to a Pew Center study. Alabama ranks even lower in most measurements than Tennessee. Georgia has better numbers but still ranks about 25th in the nation in many factors. And the numbers are not just about teeth -- gum disease has been linked to heart and lung disease, diabetes and low-birth-weight babies. Tooth decay and infection cause pain, missed work and even death. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/21/tennessee-dental-health-among-nations/?local

League of Women Voters backs Knox schools' $35M request (News-Sentinel)


The Knoxville-Knox County League of Women Voters has endorsed the $35 million funding increase proposed by the Knox County school board for 2012-13 that is not included in County Mayor Tim Burchett's $673.7 million budget. The organization says its support is based on facts that include Knox County has not increased its $2.36 property tax rate in more than 12 years. In a statement, the League also cites as facts that only 47 percent of third-graders scored proficient or advanced in reading under new state standards and that the graduating class of 2011 had only 19 percent reach four ACT benchmarks, a nationally recognized indicator of college and workforce readiness. The League says its analysis shows the budget is based on the schools' first five-year strategic plan, considered a road map to investments needed to improve school performance. "We consider the $35 million the equivalent of a permanent raise. It is a bold plan to advance the schools quickly and ensure that more children succeed," the League said. The budget is now in the hands of County Commission. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/may/20/league-of-women-voters-backs-knox-schools-35m/

Memphis VA participating in seismic monitoring (Associated Press)


The Memphis VA Medical Center is participating in a seismic monitoring system that will help engineers to learn what happens to buildings during earthquakes so that they can build safer hospitals in the future. The Memphis VA was recently equipped with 36 sensors in two buildings that will provide real-time information to the U.S. Geological Survey in the event of an earthquake. Nationwide, over 70 VA medical centers are part of the monitoring project that will give the USGS a better understanding of how building act during shaking and how damage occurs. The USGS has similar monitoring projects for other parts of the nation's critical infrastructure, including fire stations, major bridges and nuclear power plants. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/may/21/memphis-va-participating-in-seismic-monitoring/

Summer program helps Knox 8th-graders prepare for high school (N-S/McCoy)
District already has success in first year Knox County Schools says it's seeing results in a summer program designed to help struggling eighth-graders before they start high school. Last summer, about 200 students participated in the district's Summer Bridge program. According to school officials, 74 percent of the students completed the program, and of those who did 77 percent had passing grades in three or more classes after their first semester of high school. "You have to keep in mind when you look at 74 percent, these are your most at-risk students. For us to have 74 percent of those students being successful in that program, that's a huge accomplishment," said Clifford Davis, supervisor of secondary education for the school system. Davis said the 3

eight-week program is designed to help eighth-graders who have struggled academically either they have failed in math and language arts or are not proficient in those areas on the TCAPs before they enter the ninth grade. This year seven high schools will be involved in the program, which also serves as an opportunity for students to get familiar with their school. This year's session begins June 4. The Summer Bridge program is something that both high school and middle school principals showed interested in, Davis said. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/may/21/summer-program-helps-knox-8th-graders-prepare/

Turning around academics at middle schools (Jackson Sun)


Raising achievement scores at Jackson-Madison Countys five middle schools was the goal of many School Board members earlier this year when they asked Superintendent Buddy W hite to research a plan of action. But budget limitations have forced school officials to prioritize and come up with creative ways to make improvements while waiting for money to become available. School officials estimated that giving principals everything they asked for in their proposals for an academic turnaround at all five middle schools would have cost $4 million. Northeast Middle cleared the first hurdle with the boards recent budget approval, which includes $240,000 for the school in the 2012-13 school year. The districts budget request must now be reviewed and approved by its funding body, the Madison County Commission, by July 1. If cuts are made, Northeast Middle Principal Jimmy Bailey said some of his proposals for next year that are dependent on money wont happen, but the work to improve will continue. Baileys fellow middle school principals echoed a similar sentiment at the news that they wouldnt receive additional money to kick off their improvement ideas for the upcoming school year. http://www.jacksonsun.com/article/20120520/NEWS01/305200014/Turning-around-academics-middle-schoolsPrincipals-explore-ideas-including-alternative-schedules-training

Unified school system sees daunting task requiring creative financing (CA/Kelley)
An aggressive drive toward greater efficiency and some persuasive lobbying could help close a projected multimillion-dollar funding shortfall for the unified school district. Such an approach will be required to build the world-class educational system that architects hope to produce from the merger of Memphis City and Shelby County Schools. That's the message behind a set of potential recommendations being studied by the Finance Committee of the Transition Planning Commission, the 21-member group that is closing in rapidly on a plan for the unified district. A degree of "muscular management" more common in the world of business than of education will be required to make financial goals work, the Boston Consulting Group's J. Puckett told the Finance Committee. The challenge is certainly daunting, and it could get even more so if suburban municipalities are successful in efforts to avoid inclusion in the unified system. Suburban leaders hope to persuade voters on Aug. 2 to authorize the formation of new municipal districts, a move that would diminish the unified district's economies of scale. http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/may/21/schools-eye-creative-02/ (SUBSCRIPTION)

Hawkins County report cards delayed for grades 3-8 (Times-News)


Hawkins County students in grades 3-8 wont receive their report cards as previously scheduled because T-CAP state achievement test results havent been returned to the schools yet. Ordinarily school systems wouldnt expect to receive their T-CAP achievement test results until well into the summer break, but this is the first year that the state achievement testing results were to count as 15 percent of a students final grade. Only grades 3-8 take the annual T-CAP tests. Today is the last day for school in Hawkins County. Director of Schools Charlotte Britton told the Times-News on Sunday she doesnt know exactly when the report cards for grades 3-8 will be available, but she doesnt anticipate a long delay. Report cards for those students will be mailed to their parents. These (T-CAP) scores are needed to calculate the second semester average grade as required by Tennessee state law, Britton said. http://www.timesnews.net/article/9046868/hawkins-county-report-cards-delayed-forgrades-3-8

Wisconsin: Democrats' Wisconsin Worry (Wall Street Journal)


Some Fear W alker's Surviving Recall W ould Boost GOP's Chances in November With little more than two weeks until Wisconsin's gubernatorial recall election, some Democratic and union officials quietly are expressing fears that they have picked a fight they won't win and that could leave lingering injuries. Recent polling and a head start on fundraising by Gov. Scott Walker have some Democrats concerned that the Republican will survive the June 5 recall election. The election has taken on significance beyond Wisconsin state politics: Organized labor 4

sees the battle as a major stand against GOP efforts to scale back collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers, as Mr. Walker did after taking office in 2011. Some Democrats now fear mobilizing Republicans to battle the recall could carry over to help the partyand Republican Mitt Romneyin November's presidential election. The latest polls show Mr. Walker building a small lead over Democrat Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, with few voters remaining undecided, adding to the Democrats' concerns. Mr. W alker led 50% to 44% in a Marquette Law School Poll last week in a survey with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304791704577416630331447396.html?mod=ITP_pageone_0 (SUBSCRIPTION)

OPINION Free-Press Editorial: Sketchy claims (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)


No, it wasn't Tennessee leading the charge on the constitutionality of the health care mandate, but our state's attorney general did lead the charge -- against fat-burning sneakers. In an increased effort of the Federal Trade Commission to address false or unfounded claims, a California sneaker company, Skechers U.S.A., Inc., will pay $40 million in a settlement in a case led by Tennessee and Ohio. This follows last year's FTC suit filed by Ohio against Reebok that resulted in a $25 million settlement. Addressing claims that the $100 sneakers would increase "muscle activation" by up to "85 percent for posture-related muscles" and "71 percent" for one of the muscles in the buttocks, attorneys general from Tennessee and Ohio were the tip of the spear in the 42-state effort that marks the largest pool in history resulting from an advertising substantiation case. Consumers who purchased the "rocker-bottomed" shoes may be eligible for a refund during an eight-month window. Jeff Hill, senior counsel with the Office of the Attorney General in Tennessee, remarked, "Consumers should receive approximately $20-$30 in restitution ..." Skechers will pay an additional $5 million to the states. While the sneaker makers are being chastised for their exaggerated claims, let's hope that consumers lace up whatever brand they have in their closets and commit to activity, not gimmicks, for health. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/21/sketchy-claims/?opinionfreepress

Free-Press Editorial: Et tu, Tennessee Tech? (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)


Vanderbilt University took some well-deserved lambasting for its ludicrous policy forcing virtually all student groups on campus to let any interested student join and seek a leadership position -- meaning students of similar ideology or faith, for example, are in effect denied freedom of association. They suffer forfeiture of their campus space and loss of their Vanderbilt affiliation if they don't obey. Still, as a private institution, Vanderbilt has the right to set those types of bad policies. Not so at publicly funded Tennessee Tech, and a recent federal appeals court ruling is a first step toward setting things right at the Cookeville school. There is a public perception that college and university campuses are free speech free-for-alls, with pretty much any kind of expression not only permitted but heartily fostered and encouraged. But Tennessee Tech established a rule that set that notion on its head. It mandates that anyone who intends to speak on campus must let the school know that two weeks in advance and tell the school what he plans to discuss. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/21/et-tu-tennessee-tech/?opinionfreepress

Editorial: Students can't learn if they can't get to school (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
Public officials in Tennessee have bragged about recent policies they deem as education reform, as they have reminded us of the need to train a work force for the challenging jobs of this century. Amid all that, they 5

apparently forgot one of the basics: Students have to be able to get to school in order to learn. No public school system in Tennessee should have to ground its buses the last weeks of the term. What has happened in Union County should serve as a reminder to all school board members, county commissioners, county mayors, state lawmakers and the governor that Tennessee has a long way to go to achieve anything significant in education if it can't provide money to keep buses running for the entire school term. The Union County school system suspended bus transportation beginning last week, except for special education and pre-kindergarten students. The school board had to make cuts worth $750,000, and suspending bus service was part of those cuts. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/may/21/editorial-students-cant-learn-if-they-cant-get/

Editorial: Don't let failing seniors slip by (Commercial Appeal)


Getting that diploma is important: Education officials should stay on parents to make sure failing seniors make up course work. The push to better evaluate the competency of teachers has produced a predicament for high school seniors who expect to graduate this month. Some in Memphis and Shelby County will march down the aisle in their mortar boards and gowns not knowing how they did on end-of-course exams. As a result, they will not know whether they have passed courses required for graduation. Given the emphasis here and statewide on increasing the high school graduation rate, it would be good policy to create a process that strongly encourages all of those who failed, to complete the course work and receive their diplomas. This would be a system that would go beyond a single phone call or letter notifying parents that their child failed, with an explanation about how the student can make up the work in summer school. This is the first year teachers' evaluations are tied to test scores. To encourage students to take the tests seriously, the results count as 25 percent of their final grades, up from 20 percent last year. http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/may/21/editorials-dont-letfailing-seniors-slip-by/ (SUBSCRIPTION)

Gail Kerr: Council's tax foes need to reveal what they'd cut (Tennessean)
A handful of Metro Council members are already putting as much distance as they possibly can between their political careers and Mayor Karl Deans proposed property tax hike. None of them has answered the obvious next question: What are you proposing to cut? The jobs of 200 cops? Library branch hours? The number of firetrucks that respond to an emergency? Pothole filling? The citys charity hospital? Teacher pay? Or what? Four councilmen are running for the legislature: Robert Duvall, Darren Jernigan, Bo Mitchell and Jason Potts. Duvall is an anti-tax-of-any-kind conservative, so it was no surprise that he voted against both the mayors budget and the tax hike when it went to the council on first reading last week. But Jernigan, Mitchell and Potts showed themselves to be political chickens. Jernigan and Mitchell abstained on the budget vote. Potts voted against it. In a separate vote on the tax hike, Potts and Mitchell joined Duvall in opposing it. Jernigan abstained again.. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120521/COLUMNIST0101/305210011/Gail-Kerr-Council-s-tax-foes-needreveal-what-they-d-cut?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|News|p

Guest columnist: After years of cuts, Nash. needs revenue to handle growth (TN)
I had the honor to serve on the Metro Council for eight years, under two different mayors. For the last full term of my tenure, each year at budget time, we focused on cutting the budget within Metro government. This was done with an eye toward maintaining basic services while confronting the harsh economic realities of the city and nation. The year I was Budget and Finance Committee chairman was no different. As we adapted to reduced revenues, we made tough decisions, including layoffs, hiring freezes and thoughtful budget cuts. As gas prices rose (sound familiar?), our public transportation participation increased, meaning we had to balance budget cuts with growing needs. In the end, our budget still provided basic services to all Davidson County residents, but we as council members knew that such a trend couldnt continue forever. This year, the council faces that reality. Nashville and Davidson County have grown remarkably over the last decade faster than every Tennessee county but one, in fact. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120521/OPINION03/305210004/After-years-cutsNashville-needs-revenue-handle-growth?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Opinion|p

David Cook: The meaning of Weston Wamp (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)


The day after he turned 25, and thereby old enough to run for Congress, Weston Wamp stood on the second floor of the Hunter Museum of American Art, staring at one of the most recognizable images in all of American photography. Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother." You've seen the photo. The black-and-white image is the face of the American Depression. A mother suffering in untold ways stares off into a horizon drought of hope, as her 6

children bury their faces in her shoulder. Wamp looked at the plaque on the wall. "She looks a lot older than 32," he said quietly. So true. Age can be tricky, can't it? Since declaring his candidacy, Wamp's bandwagon has been hit with two main criticisms (but no flat tires): his age and his dad. The son of former Rep. Zach Wamp hasn't had any life experience -- his opponents say -- and is hoping to inherit the seat from his eight-term father. It would be easy to believe this if he were running an immature and cocky campaign, but he's not. If Wamp -- confident, intelligent, not divisive -- were 43 and had a different last name, he'd win November's election by a landslide. But he's 25 -- and his father's son. Wamp, more than anyone, forces us to make a decision. It's the Dirty Harry dilemma. Do we feel lucky? Is W amp who he says he is? http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/21/david-cook-the-meaning-of-weston-wamp/?opinioncolumns

Times Editorial: A postal reprieve (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)


The U.S. Postal Service processing and distribution center on Shallowford Road, initially on the agency's short list for closure, will continue to operate a bit longer -- probably until spring 2014. That's a positive development for workers at the facility and for area postal patrons, whose delivery times would have been negatively impacted by the closure. The news is not so good for workers and residents in many other places. The USPS said that 140 centers around the nation will be closed by February 2013. The Chattanooga facility is among 89 facilities to be closed in 2014. The closing and consolidation of centers is part of a cost-cutting plan designed to save the agency about $1.2 billion annually. The cuts, painful as they might be, are necessary. The Postal Service is hemorrhaging dollars and money must be saved wherever possible. Even so, there's no guarantee the current plans will work in the long-term. The Postal Service's losses are staggering. During the first two quarters of the current fiscal year, which ended March 31, the agency says it lost more than $6 billion. Clearly, it will take more than the savings engendered by closing the centers -- estimated at $1.2 billion a year when fully implemented -to erase that deficit. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/may/21/times-a-postal-reprieve-chattanooga/?opiniontimes ###