Speaker says legislature may take another look at Insure TN

Speaker Beth Harwell said the legislature may take a second pass at Insure Tennessee in January:

“I think we will revisit heath care again. I’m not telling you that Insure Tennessee has some magic bullet to be passed this year but I do think there will be continued discussion.”

Harwell said Republicans… have “legitimate concerns and I think if we’re going to see something passed, we’re going to have to address them.”

She said those concerns include caps on enrollment in the expansion program, designed under the federal Affordable Care Act to cover more uninsured working poor. “We were told it would be a program for about 280,000. The reality is there are about 400,000 people who qualify,” she said.

Oct 7, 2015 6:30 AM

Haslam says don't kill the Hall relying on one-time money

The governor smarts at the idea of repealing the Hall tax using surplus — he calls it "one-time" — revenue, instead he says the legislature needs to decide what they are going to cut commensurate to the lost tax revenue.

The income tax generated $303 million during the same fiscal year but only $189 million is retained by the state; the rest goes to local governments where the taxpayer resides. Kelsey’s bill doesn’t explicitly require it but he said the state should make up the revenue loss to local governments — effectively costing state government the full $303 million.

Oct 2, 2015 11:03 AM

Vanderbilt Pre-K study shocks with finding of sharply diminishing returns

This wasn't what they expected:

Not only did students who missed pre-K catch up within a year or two. But researchers found, on the whole, students who attended pre-K fell behind their peers by the time they finished third grade.

“We’re pretty stunned looking at these data and have a lot of questions about what might be going on in the later grades that doesn’t seem to be maintaining, if not accelerating, the positive gains, professor Mark Lipsey, director of the Peabody Research Institute, said in a statement.

The study (PDF here) followed more than 3,000 students — all of whom were eligible for pre-K under the existing economic guidelines and included students who were not enrolled in pre-K. Of those 3,000, 1,076, again split between pre-K enrollees and non-enrollees were given annual individual assessments. Vanderbilt said it is the first "rigorous controlled longitudinal study to be conducted on a large-scale state-funded Pre-K program," where as other studies focused on programs that were dissimilar to state pre-K.

Here's the takeaway:

The researchers concluded that TN-VPK clearly is not producing the positive effects on academic achievement in the later grades that its advocates and sponsors expected, despite relatively strong gains during the pre-k year. Though the challenges are great, the potential of pre-K to produce such effects cannot be entirely dismissed on the basis of this study. Some of the relevant considerations the researchers suggest be taken into account include:

Poverty is a strong indicator for future academic disadvantage, and there is a pressing need to find ways to boost the academic performance of children in poverty. High quality pre-K could be a vital part of the equation, but is unlikely to be sufficient by itself at even the highest quality levels.

Tennessee has done the hard work of creating a pre-K infrastructure involving large numbers of classrooms statewide and has commitment from parents and school administrators. It may be wise to work on improving the quality and consistency of the programs delivered through that infrastructure, and assessing their effects, before reaching any final conclusions about the benefits of VPK for Tennessee children.

Pre-K is not well integrated into the K-3 instructional sequence in many schools with the result that there is not always the continuity that might allow the gains made in pre-K to be sustained and further developed. For participating children, VPK is only one part of the critical K-3 learning period and greater attention may be needed to the challenge of supporting linked, cumulative learning throughout this period.

“Pre-K is a good start, but without a more coherent vision and consistent implementation of that vision, we cannot realistically expect dramatic effects,” said Farran. “Too much has been promised from one year of preschool intervention without the attention needed to the quality of experiences children have and what happens to them in K-12. There is much work to be done.”

Sep 28, 2015 11:38 AM

Add Transportation Committee chairman to gas tax opponents

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy says increasing the gas tax is a non-starter next year because any comprehensive plan would take too much time to put together and be considered by the General Assembly, he tells the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Sep 2, 2015 8:30 AM

AFP counting votes against gas tax

Four months before lawmakers resume business at the capitol, Americans for Prosperty counts 48 Republicans in the state legislature who have vowed to oppose a gas tax, according to the conservative group. The rest of the 132-member General Assembly has not responded to the AFP, and no members told the group they were in favor of the tax, should the governor propose it.

Sep 2, 2015 8:18 AM

AFP on president's visit (and Haslam and the gas tax)


President Obama will visit Nashville on Wednesday to pressure state lawmakers to accept Obamacare and expand Medicaid after the legislature voted twice to reject expansion.

"President Obama was out of touch with America when he jammed Obamacare through Congress and he is out of touch with Tennesseans as they have said repeatedly they do not want his big government interventions in our state," said Andrew Ogles, state director of Americans for Prosperity Tennesee. "We urge Tennessee lawmakers to continue protecting taxpayers by rejecting Medicaid expansion."

Americans for Prosperity Tennessee led the grassroots movement to stop the expansion of Medicaid in Tennessee despite support from Gov. Haslam.

"Like President Obama, Gov. Haslam is unwilling to recognize the enormous cost to Tennesseans that will come with Medicaid expansion, which is why he is traveling around to sell a gas tax. We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem and Gov. Haslam doesn't get it."

Jul 1, 2015 12:10 PM

Haslam doesn't perform many marriages, likely won't perform a same-sex one

The governor may perform weddings, but he doesn't do many (to date, it's been his children only). He says he's unlikely to perform a marriage for a gay couple.

Jul 1, 2015 8:20 AM

Happy New Law Day!

It's July 1, one of the days when new laws typically come into effect in Tennessee. Among them today are the new abortion regulations and a law requiring tigers to be microchipped.

Jul 1, 2015 8:17 AM

Governor won't meet with Obama

He has no public events on his calendar, but the governor won't be meeting with the president today.

Jul 1, 2015 6:55 AM