Tennessee’s Department of Correction Commissioner says he’s pursuing the use of drugs that could be used to execute inmates on death row. The Volunteer State’s entire stock of a key lethal injection drug was confiscated by the federal government in 2011 over questions about whether the drugs were legally obtained.

Commissioner Derrick Schofield says his department is urgently working to secure drugs that could be used to execute inmates.

The Tennessean reports there are currently 84 people sitting on the state’s death row, with 67 of those inmates having been there for more than a decade. Since 2011, there’s been a national shortage of the drug thiopental, which was widely used by states during the lethal injection process.

Tennessee to Begin Tracking Babies Born Drug-Dependent

Dec 28, 2012

A new study showing a major increase in Tennessee babies born addicted to drugs has prompted the state Health Department to require hospitals to report that information. A health department working group found the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, has increased ten-fold over the past decade.

NAS can result from a mother’s drug use, including alcohol and withdrawal drugs like methadone. Henry County Medical Center's Rhonda Carnell says it’s important for healthcare providers to know the signs.

“A baby can’t report to you, ‘I feel bad in this way,’ y’know, like an adult can," says Carnell. "So we have different physiological and neuro-behavorial things that we look at if we suspect it.”

Symptoms include high-pitched cries, tremors, fever and vomiting. Drug dependent babies require more hospital care. For NSA babies receiving TennCare benefits, the cost was five times more than for other babies.

Tennesee Judge Acquits Three in Sex Trafficking Conspiracy

Dec 20, 2012

A federal judge on Wednesday overturned the convictions of three men on sex-trafficking charges in an alleged widespread conspiracy that prosecutors said spanned three states. The other six defendants tried in the case had been acquitted previously.

U.S. District Judge William Haynes said his decision to overrule the jury was based on the government’s failure to prove the men were part of a single, overarching conspiracy. The men had been convicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children.

The mass-killings last week in Newtown, Connecticut have begun a national dialogue about America’s gun laws. In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam says the killings will likely have an impact on proposed gun legislation set to be taken up next year in the Volunteer State.

Gov. Haslam says he believes schools and universities in Tennessee should be allowed to legally ban their workers from bringing guns to work. The Tennessean reports it’s a position that puts Haslam at odds with some fellow Republicans in the Tennessee legislature. Some lawmakers in the state are proposing legislation that would force employers to allow workers to have guns in workplace parking lots, as long as owners keep those firearms in their vehicles.

A poll taken for Vanderbilt University before Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown showed 53% of Tennesseans surveyed supported the so-called “guns in trunks” legislation.

Tennessee’s senior U.S. Senator is speaking out against proposed changes to the filibuster. Republican Lamar Alexander says efforts to limit filibusters would cost the Senate its historic function as a brake on legislation that otherwise might be rushed through the chamber.

The 72-year-old Alexander tells The Tennessean says without the filibuster the Senate would become “just like the House”, where a simple majority vote would win each time. When a Senator engages in a filibuster, it takes 60 votes to bring it to an end, so that the legislation in question can be considered for a vote.

Some Democrats are talking openly about changing Senate rules in January that would allow a simple majority vote to change the filibuster policy, as opposed to the 67 votes that have been the standard.

A new Vanderbilt University poll shows a strong preference among Tennesseans for a state-run health insurance exchange over one run by the federal government.

The poll of 829 registered voters released Wednesday showed 53 percent favor the state-run exchange, while 33 percent prefer the federal approach.

The results contrast with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's decision earlier this week not to pursue a state-run exchange. Vanderbilt officials said the governor was not aware of the poll results before Wednesday's release.

Gov. Bill Haslam has decided not to create a state-run health insurance exchange, leaving the operation to the federal government.

Haslam announced his decision during a speech Monday. The Republican governor, who had until Friday to decide, said the lack of information from the federal government was "scary."

The exchanges, part of the federal health care overhaul, create new online markets where consumers will be able to buy individual private health insurance coverage.

Tennessee's county health department clinics are now offering free flu vaccines to people of all ages until supplies are depleted.

The state Health Department reports that seasonal influenza is now widespread in Tennessee.

The Department urges all Tennesseans to get vaccinated now to help protect themselves and those around them from the virus.

The Health Department operates clinics in 89 of Tennessee's 95 counties.

Because vaccine supplies vary from county to county, residents are urged to contact their local county health departments for more information.

More Fungal Meningitis Cases Reported in Tennessee

Dec 4, 2012

The number of fungal meningitis cases in Tennessee is rising again. Four more infections related to a tainted batch of spinal steroids have been reported in the Volunteer State. The number of known fungal meningitis cases in Tennessee now stands at 88 according to data compiled by the state Health Department.

A tax expert is warning state officials that Tennessee would be among the hardest-hit states if federal officials don't resolve the so-called fiscal cliff. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports Dr. Stan Chervin updated Gov. Bill Haslam and other state officials, saying states that depend heavily on sales taxes for revenue would feel the most stress if tax breaks are not extended.

Members of the House Republican caucus on Monday unanimously nominated Speaker Beth Harwell for another term in charge of the chamber but ousted Rep. Judd Matheny from the No. 2 slot. Matheny, a Tullahoma Republican, was defeated by Rep. Curtis Johnson of Clarksville in a secret ballot.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has to decide by Friday his intentions regarding the setting up of a statewide health insurance exchange. The exchanges are required under the federal Affordable Care Act. States have to inform Washington by Friday whether they plan to establish their own health insurance exchanges, or whether they want the federal government to create an exchange for them.

Tennessee Democratic leaders say they plan to talk with Gov. Bill Haslam about expanding pre-kindergarten classes after the state's education commissioner said he doesn't plan to request funding for an expansion.

Tennessee's chief medical officer says the rate of new infections of deadly fungal meningitis appears to be declining in the state where it was first discovered. Dr. David Reagan said in an interiew that not everyone who received the contaminated medicine that caused the infections will get sick.

In Tennessee, More Fungal Meningitis Cases Confirmed

Oct 18, 2012

Tennessee is reporting another increase in the number of people diagnosed with fungal meningitis. A state health department spokesman says 63 people have been infected in Tennessee from a tainted steroid. The death toll remains unchanged at eight.