The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is scheduled to update lawmakers on progress toward keeping track of child deaths. But Democrats say they don’t expect enough tough questions.
Two years ago, the legislature proudly abolished all of its joint committees as a way to cut $850,000 out of the budget. One of them had direct oversight of DCS – the select committee on children and youth.
Without this special panel, Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville says there are few experts on child abuse and foster care at the capitol.
“They don’t know how the department works. They don’t know what’s been going on, so they can ask a couple of minor questions, and then pat the commissioner on the back.”
Previous naysayers are coming around to the idea of expanding TennCare. Even while criticizing the Affordable Care Act, they say pulling more poor people into the state’s Medicaid program could have some upsides.
Other Republican-led states have taken the leap, even as Governor Bill Haslam continues to weigh the pros and cons.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick says at first, all he could see was that after three years, the state would have to start picking up part of the tab.
“There are some other facts that have come to light since then that would offset some of those expenses. That’s why I have an open mind about it.”
A Republican-led push to use college IDs to vote in Tennessee was held up on the floor of the state Senate Thursday, as a disagreement has broken out between GOP lawmakers over the issue.
The legislation comes from a Rutherford County lawmaker, home to the largest undergraduate student body in the state. And while Senator Bill Ketron refused to accept student IDs when the law was passed two years ago, he’s now had a change of heart.
Senator Stacy Campfield of Knoxville has not.
“You know, I hate to say it, but possibly in my younger days I may have known a person or two who had a falsified college ID,” said Campfield.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he will make up his mind on whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program by the end of the month. He says he’ll leave time for the state legislature to consider his decision.
There’s no pressing deadline except that the state legislature intends to wrap up work in April and Haslam needs lawmakers to sign off either way. If he does go along with the Affordable Care Act and expand the state’s Medicaid program, it could take a lot of convincing.
“If the decision is no, then their discussion is short I think. If the decision is yes, then I think they’ll need a decent amount of time to discuss that,” said the Republican Governor.
Two Republican lawmakers are still trying to advance bills that would bar the state from expanding Medicaid. They argue the state still can’t afford it even though the federal government pays the bill for the first three years.
The Tennessee House will consider creating an entirely new panel for authorizing charter schools at the state level. It’s part of a compromise set to be heard in an education committee Tuesday.
The original bill is a direct response to the repeated rejection of Great Hearts Academies by Metro Schools last year. It gives the state board of education power to OK charter schools and oversee them.
But the state board has concerns about possibly taking on the job of managing privately-run, publicly financed schools. Rep. Mark White says he now hopes to create a completely separate board appointed by the governor and speakers of the House and Senate.
“Now with this panel, this will be something that shows we’re serious about this. We want good charter applications to come to this state, but we’re going to do it right,” said Rep. White.