News briefs from around Tennessee at 1:58 a.m. EDT

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Democrats bemoan lack of Medicaid expansion

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - House Democratic leaders said Tuesday that Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision not to expand Medicaid in Tennessee eclipses his signature plan to cover tuition at two-year colleges.

The Democrats held a news conference to discuss the recent legislative session.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville said Haslam’s legislation to create a program that would cover tuition at two-year colleges for any high school graduate could have been his legacy, but “I think it’s going to be overshadowed by … not expanding Medicaid.”

Called “Tennessee Promise,” the legislation is a cornerstone of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” campaign to improve the state’s graduation rates from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025 to help improve overall job qualifications and attract employers to the state.

However, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley agreed that the governor’s inaction to expand Medicaid took attention away from his free tuition plan this session.

“I think the overall disappointment was the lack of the majority taking seriously the Medicaid expansion issue,” he said. “It was just sort of a flippant disregard … in what we had the opportunity to do.”

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Tenn. high court to hear faith-healing case

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal by a woman who tried to heal her teenage daughter’s cancer through prayer.

Jacqueline Crank was convicted of misdemeanor child neglect in 2012 and given a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, suspended to unsupervised probation. The conviction came 10 years after the death of her then-15-year-old daughter Jessica Crank from Ewing’s Sarcoma. According to court records, the cancer caused a grapefruit-sized tumor on the girl’s shoulder that appeared to give her severe pain.

Jacqueline Crank initially was charged with a felony. Those charges were later downgraded after doctors said that Jessica most likely would have died even if she had gone to a hospital right away. Jessica was eventually taken into the custody of the Department of Children’s Services and admitted to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

According to court records, pediatric oncologist Dr. Victoria Castaneda testified that while Jessica likely could not have been cured by early treatment, “it would have helped in dealing with her condition and symptoms and positively impacted the quality of her life.”

Jacqueline Crank has argued in court that a Tennessee law protecting some faith healers but not others is unconstitutional.

The law says that a child shall not be considered abused, neglected or endangered solely because the child’s illness is treated with prayer rather than surgical or medical care. But the faith healing must be performed “in accordance with the tenets or practices of a recognized church or religious denomination” and “by a duly accredited practitioner of the recognized church or religious denomination.”

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