Tennessee

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

A Republican lawmaker wants a monument representative of the civil rights movement to be erected in the state Capitol.

Rep. Sabi Kumar, R-Springfield, told the State Capitol Commission Thursday that this is meant to unite Tennesseans who are divided over the Capitol bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

“Let us tell the full story so people coming to the Capitol will have an experience that is really a museum experience that tells the full story from Civil War to civil rights and the heroes on both side that we have,” Kumar said.

Chas Sisk | WPLN

Early voting for the presidential primary starts Wednesday in Tennessee.

Republican and Democratic voters will see multiple options on their ballots, but not all of them are still in the race.

GOP voters will have the opportunity to choose from President Donald Trump, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh. That last candidate dropped out of the race recently.

Republicans will also have the opportunity to vote for delegates for the national convention.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Democrats in the Tennessee General Assembly are calling on Gov. Bill Lee to increase the state’s spending on public schools.

They claim an increase in the school funding formula is the first step to improving literacy rates.

For years, public school advocates have pursued legal challenges to Tennessee’s school funding formula, called the Basic Education Program. They claim it’s outdated.

 


Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

More details are coming out as Tennessee prepares to launch the Education Savings Account program in Shelby and Davidson counties.

In a legislative hearing Monday, the state’s Department of Education said it’s using money from a dormant career initiative to be able to start school vouchers this year.

According to education officials, the money will pay for an outside vendor to be in charge of processing school voucher payments.

The amount charged by Florida-based ClassWallet is $1.2 million — twice as much as what was initially appropriated for the first year of implementation.

 


Blake Farmer | WPLN

Tennessee health officials haven’t been questioning many of the state’s highest opioid prescribers. Of the most prolific, half have never triggered an inquiry, and most have never been disciplined.

The state comptroller was asked by lawmakers to look into how the state Department of Health polices opioid prescribing. They found 62 prescribers that were far outside the standard practice of medicine, and only half were on the state’s radar.

Research analyst Kristina Podesta says their patterns might be explainable.

“The data that we’re looking at in black and white, unfortunately, isn’t that simple when you’re dealing with patients,” she says. “So I think there’s a lot more that goes into it than just the data.”

direct_relief via Creative Commons

It’s just a handful of pediatricians in Tennessee responsible for making Tennessee one of the highest prescribers of antibiotics in the country. A new study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Tennessee Department of Health finds 2% of pediatricians account for 25% of the antibiotic prescriptions in the state.

According to the analysis, published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the physicians tend to be older. Most left medical school more than 20 years ago, meaning they likely received less training on the risk of antibiotic resistance and the emergence of superbugs.

 


Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

The Tennessee Senate reconvened Tuesday and jumped into one of the most controversial issues left over from last year. 

Lawmakers approved a measure that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse child placements based on moral beliefs.  

Some lawmakers worry about the economic implications. Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, says he fears Tennessee will experience a corporate backlash over the adoption legislation, which he says discriminates against LGBT couples.

 


The impeachment of President Trump has revived interest in the first president ever to be impeached over 150 years ago, Andrew Johnson.

In Greeneville, Tenn., the site where Johnson's former home is preserved has seen a recent surge in visitors, similar to a spike around the time that former President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998.

WPLN News

Tennessee may soon have one of the most generous paid family leave policies in the country. Gov. Bill Lee made an executive order on Tuesday, offering new parents or an employee needing to care for a sick relative up to three months off with pay.

Like most employers, the state has to give people time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. But it doesn’t have to pay them while they’re gone, so most expectant mothers rely on saved-up sick time and vacation.

That’s what Sarah Tanksley, a spokesperson for TennCare, did when she was gave birth to twins in 2014.

 


Stephen Jerkins/WPLN

 Two Republican lawmakers want to give the legislature the power to decide whether refugees should be allowed to resettle in Tennessee.

The bill, filed by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, is the latest in a contentious debate between the legislature and Gov. Bill Lee.

The new proposal would create a two-step process. First, local governments would have to weigh in.

 


Flickr/Creative Commons/James Case

A new gun law that will take effect January 1, 2020 in Tennessee has raised some concerns — even among gun-rights advocates.

Many are calling the measure unsafe because it drastically cuts the training required to get a handgun permit.

Jim Mauth, a firearm instructor in Franklin, is one of them.

 


Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

There’s going to be a new debate next year about the future of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Tennessee Capitol.

The announcement came on Wednesday afternoon after pleas from activists — and some Republican lawmakers.

Tennessee Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, the chairman of the State Capitol Commission, committed to having a meeting before the end of February.

“There are varying and diverse and passionate opinions about this,” McWhorter said during a commission meeting to discuss unrelated matters. “So, for that reason it requires serious time and effort.”

Sen. Alexander's office

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander’s compromise to end surprise medical bills held together for only one day. Now, it has fallen apart as Congress prepares to take a holiday break.

In announcing the delay, Alexander took a swipe at the handful of physician staffing firms who’ve been working against him.

“The only people who don’t want this fixed are the people who benefit from these excessive fees, including the private equity groups which control three of the largest companies that handle billing and staffing for emergency rooms,” Alexander said in a written statement.

Blake Farmer/ WPLN

Nashville General is the city-funded, safety-net hospital. For a patient without insurance, this is supposed to be the best place to go. But its emergency room has been taking more patients to court for unpaid medical bills than any other hospital or practice in town.

A WPLN investigation finds the physician staffing firm that runs the ER at Nashville General sued 700 patients in Davidson County this year — roughly the same number as all the other hospitals and physician staffing firms combined.

They include uninsured patients like Sonya Johnson, a social worker and single mother from Antioch.


TN photo services

Now the block grant ball is in the federal government’s court.

Tennessee’s Medicaid agency has spent months redesigning TennCare, after the Trump administration asked for so-called block grant requests. The 50-page proposal, which could reshape a program that serves more than 1.4 million Tennesseans, was officially submitted Wednesday afternoon, though with some last-minute changes.

State officials acknowledged that nearly all of the roughly 1,800 comments received in recent weeks were from people concerned about cuts to existing benefits. That’s because the block grant concept has historically been intended to save money, and Gov. Bill Lee calls the negative response “completely understandable.”


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