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Tuesday, November 29 News Summary

Tuesday, November 29 News Summary

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Published by: The Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce on Nov 29, 2011
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TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2011Haslam has 'firm hope' to avoid 5 percent TennCare cut (AssociatedPress/Schelzig)
TennCare officials on Monday again proposed eliminating counseling services to hospice patients andtheir families if the state’s expanded Medicaid has to reduce spending by 5 percent, though Gov. BillHaslam stressed that it’s his “firm hope” that the deepest cuts can be avoided. The Republican governorhas asked each agency to plan to spend 5 percent less for the upcoming budget year. TennCare’sproposal would result in a cut of about $343 million, including ending hospice counseling services,reducing reimbursement rates to providers, cutting a $10 million grant and eliminating coverage forprescription-strength allergy medications. “In a list of a lot of really difficult decisions, none of them reallyare too appealing,” said TennCare Director Darin Gordon. Gordon stressed that no medical servicewould be cut to people in hospice care, through bereavement support would cease to be offered toadults.http://www.tennessean.com/article/20111129/NEWS0201/311290042/Haslam-has-firm-hope-avoid-5-percent-TennCare-cut?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|News
TennCare Budget Hearing Explores $343 Million Cut (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Monday night, the latest budget numbers revealed $343 million could be cut from TennCare, whichcould impact benefits for the 1.2 million people on the program, but NewsChannel5 has also learnedcuts talked about in the past could also be part of the future of the state-run Medicaid program. Thegovernor has asked TennCare and other departments to identify what a five percent budget cut planwould look like, but it turns out, additional cuts hinge on a key decision by hospitals across Tennessee.At the TennCare budget hearing at the State Capitol, TennCare officials explained what $343 million incuts would look like; $47 million could be saved by changing the requirements to get into a nursinghome. Another $55 million would be saved by cutting reimbursement rates to health care providers, and$43 million would come from getting rid of hospice support services. "Such as the emotional, social andspiritual support that these agencies provide to families and patients before and after the death of aloved one," said Dr. Wendy Long, Chief Medical Officer for TennCare.http://www.newschannel5.com/story/16140188/tenncares-budget-future
TennCare again targets hospice counseling for cuts (Associated Press)
TennCare officials are again proposing to eliminate counseling services to hospice patients and theirfamilies if the state's expanded Medicaid has to reduce its spending by 5%. A similar proposal wasaverted for the current budget year when lawmakers used 1-time savings to cover those costs. Gov. BillHaslam has asked each state agency to come up with plans to cut 5% from annual spending plans. Butthe Republican governor stressed at a budget hearing Monday at the Capitol that it's his "firm hope" thatthose reductions may be avoided. Reducing TennCare's budget by 5% would result in about $343million in cuts, including ending hospice counseling services, reducing reimbursement rates toproviders, cutting a $10 million grant and eliminating coverage for prescription-strength allergymedications.http://www.wkrn.com/story/16140140/tenncare-to-present-budget-proposal-to-haslam
Cuts to TennCare Could Hit Provider Rates (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
TennCare could cut into how much it pays healthcare providers if it has to trim its budget next year.That’s as Governor Bill Haslam wrapped up a round of budget hearings where he asked eachdepartment what a 5 percent cut would look like. TennCare officials say they’ve beaten the nationalaverages in terms of saving healthcare dollars and tamping down medical inflation. Even so, a lean
budget next year could slice into rates for group homes and mental health providers, and endcounseling for bereaved adults. TennCare Director Darin Gordon says Tennessee has handled theweak economy better than many states. But he says the continued slump has left few options but to cutthe rate providers get for seeing TennCare patients. “We were very fortunate – last year was the firsttime we had to actually touch rates. Five budget years into the recession. So I am sympathetic, Iunderstand – I’m running out of options to be able to live within the funding that we have available.”http://wpln.org/?p=31967
State Budgets Improve Slowly (Wall Street Journal)
After four years of recession-induced tumult, states are finally getting a handle on their finances. Butthey are in for more lean years. Overall, state budgets are slated to rise 2.9% to $666.6 billion in the2012 fiscal year, which started in July, according to a report to be released Tuesday by the NationalGovernors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers. That is the secondconsecutive annual increase but is still below the $687.3 billion states spent in 2008, their peak year.Spending cuts continue to be states' primary budget-balancing tool. To whittle down their 2012 gaps, 29states used targeted spending cuts, 18 states made across-the-board reductions, while 17 of themreduced aid to local governments, the report said. While revenue is projected to continue growing withthe economy, albeit slowly, the cuts will likely continue because states' costs—in particular their costsfor Medicaid, the state and federal health-care program for the needy—continue to outpace the growthin tax revenue.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204753404577066551396789984.html?mod=ITP_pageone_ 1(SUBSCRIPTION)
Gov. and Mrs. Haslam light Capitol Christmas tree (Associated Press)
Gov. Bill Haslam has lit the Capitol Christmas tree in a ceremony moved inside because of rain. He andhis wife, Crissy, lit the 27-foot-tall Norway spruce Monday evening in the first such ceremony for thegovernor, who took office last January. The tree was donated by Ed Mascolo of Nashville. The tree isdecorated in red, silver and blue with Tennessee flags. It features an oversized tree topper bow, whichwas handmade in the state. There are more than 3,000 LED lights on the tree. Two years ago, the stateChristmas tree toppled over at one point during high winds.http://content.usatoday.net/dist/custom/gci/InsidePage.aspx?cId=tennessean&sParam=38030545.story
Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady kick off "Christmas in the Capitol" (WVLT-TV)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam tonight hosted “Christmas at the Capitol”Monday night. The governor’s lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree kicked off the event which includedhot chocolate, cookies and cider along with a visit from Santa Claus. Rain moved the celebration inside.This year’s Christmas tree, a Norway spruce standing 27 feet tall, was donated by Bellevue resident, EdMascolo. The tree is decorated in red, silver and blue with Tennessee flags and features an oversizedtree topper bow, which was handmade in Tennessee. More than 3,000 LED lights adorn the tree. If youwant to see it, it stands on the south side of the capitol building.Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady kick off "Christmas in the Capitol"http://www.volunteertv.com/news/headlines/Christmas__134650058.html?ref=058
Haslam announces $500,000 infrastructure grant (Crossville Chronicle)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagertyrecently approved a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to assist in infrastructureimprovements in Crossville. “As we work to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast forhigh quality jobs, the proper infrastructure must support existing and future businesses,” Haslam said. “Iam pleased the state of Tennessee is able to partner with our local communities to make these projectsa reality.” The funds will be used for sewer system improvements. Funding for the $925,000 project willinclude $425,000 in local funds. The grant dollars were provided by the U.S. Department of Housing andUrban Development and were allocated under a procedure authorized by the Tennessee GeneralAssembly. “Community development is essential in growing the economy and creating a businessfriendly environment,” Hagerty said. “CDBG grants allow communities to take the steps needed that willultimately encourage existing businesses to expand and future companies to relocate and invest inTennessee.”
No Child Left Behind waivers require big changes fast (Stateline)
When New Jersey applied to the federal government for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law,Governor Chris Christie used the opportunity to tout elements of his education reform agenda that hadbeen languishing in the state legislature for months. “For a new accountability system to be effectiveand successful in benefitting children, we must have all of the tools that are provided for in thislegislation,” the Republican governor said in a statement released November 16. “It’s time for the NewJersey Legislature to step up with my administration, President Obama, Secretary Duncan and anational, bipartisan movement to act boldly and give every child the education they deserve.” Thelegislation Christie was referring to includes several bills. One would tie decisions about teacher tenureand pay to student performance on standardized tests. Others would authorize more charter schoolsand allow the state’s lowest-performing schools to convert into charters. New Jersey is among 11 statesthat recently applied for a waiver from the nearly 10-year-old federal education law. Another 28 say theyplan to apply for waivers in a second round next year. If approved by the U.S. Department of Education,those states will be exempt from some requirements of No Child Left Behind.http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=615751
Public invited to tourism forum (Mountain Press)
A committee tasked by the governor with rethinking the relationship between the state and tourism isholding a forum at the Sevierville Events Center from 9-10 a.m. Wednesday in hopes of getting inputfrom locals in that industry. The gathering, which will be led by board Chairman Colin Reed and TouristDevelopment Commissioner Susan Whitaker, has two goals: Educating members of the public aboutthe effort and inviting them to be part of it. It's only the committee's second meeting and its first outsideNashville, but Dolly Parton Productions President Ted Miller, who represents East Tennessee, thought itwas important to open this one to the public. "We really want this to represent the entire tourismcommunity, the industry across all three regions of the state, so we decided to make this a forum for thepublic," Miller says. "The goal of the open forum is to ensure input and transparency between the state’stourism community and the committee’s objectives. The committee would like to take this opportunity toupdate the public on its progress and answer questions regarding Tennessee’s tourism industry."http://themountainpress.com/bookmark/16582975--b-Public-invited-to-tourism-forum-b-
Whitaker fighting for tourism dollars (Mountain Press)
Tennessee Tourist Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker pleaded with Gov. Bill Haslam andstate budget officials last week to preserve her department's advertising budget as she faces apotentially devastating 75 percent cut. Whitaker was backed by local tourism industry leaders as sheaddressed the governor in a first-of-its-kind budget hearing at the University of Tennessee. It was part ofwhat amounts to a numbers-crunching road show as Haslam held sessions in Memphis, Nashville andKnoxville, rather than just at the Capitol. The East Tennessee gathering saw Haslam — flanked byFinance Commissioner Mark Emkes and Division of the Budget Director David Thurman — briefed onfinance requests from the Education, Veterans Affairs, Children's Services and Agriculture departments.The focus for the locals who turned out in number, though, was the effort to save a huge portion of thecooperative marketing budget for the Department of Tourist Development.http://themountainpress.com/bookmark/16583045--b-Whitaker-fighting-for-tourism-dollars-b-
Tennessee to plug its agriculture, forestry products(Tennessean/Marsteller)
Effort seeks growth in rural incomes State agriculture officials are exploring various ways to promoteTennessee farmers’ and foresters’ products as part of a broader effort to spur economic development inrural areas. Among the ideas on the table: targeting agribusiness recruitment efforts, marketing lesser-known commodities and seeking “green” certification for building products from Tennessee. Thoseconcepts are among the first to surface from a recently created working group within state government.The Tennessee Agriculture and Forestry Economic Development Task Force has met twice since it wasformed in October. “It’s primarily looking at things we can do or adjust to improve incomes in our rural

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