- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Sept. 29

The Commercial Appeal of Memphis on abortion in Tennessee:

Forty-four years after women’s reproductive rights were confirmed in the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, some notable progress is being made against the state-level guerrilla warfare aimed at undermining the decision.

The legal challenge to Tennessee’s demeaning 48-hour abortion waiting period, for example, is finally moving forward, two years after a group of clinics first filed suit.

The law, a clear attempt to make abortion more expensive and stigmatizing, is now being challenged by all nine Tennessee abortion clinics and the ACLU.

Defenders of the abortion option are optimistic that similar waiting periods in several states will not survive in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision.

That ruling struck down Texas laws that required the state’s abortion clinics to meet the standards of hospital-like ambulatory surgical treatment centers, and required doctors who perform abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Last April, that decision prompted Tennessee officials to stop enforcing similar provisions that had been enacted in Tennessee.

The same month, a federal judge prohibited Indiana from enforcing a new regulation requiring an ultrasound at least 18 hours prior to an abortion procedure, and another measure aimed at increasing the cost of abortion and creating logistical difficulties.

Tennessee would be well advised to revisit a recently passed measure that requires doctors performing an abortion to test for fetal viability after 20 weeks of pregnancy and to get a second opinion about viability from another physician, even in cases involving rape or incest.

Doctors performing abortions after 20 weeks would be required to be able to prove in court that the fetus is not viable and that the mother’s life or physical health is in substantial and irreversible jeopardy. Those found to have violated the law face a possible revocation of their licenses and up to three years in prison.

One of the law’s major flaws lies in the assertion by physician groups that there is no standard test for viability.

Such laws are part of a pattern of state-level resistance to federal court decisions in such areas as school desegregation, which some states managed to put off for decades, and same-sex marriage, which has prompted a slew of new state laws ostensibly aimed at protecting religious liberty.

Passage is often justified by purported interest in protecting women’s health, but clearly the real aim is to force the shutdown of abortion clinics and make it frightening and difficult for women to make their own decisions about reproduction.

If the most extreme of the state anti-abortion laws were to survive court challenges, they would risk returning to the days before Roe v. Wade, when women seeking abortions either had to travel to states where the procedure was legal, seek the services of illegal back-alley practitioners, or risk the uncertainty of a home remedy.

Surely even the most ardent opponents of abortion don’t want that.

Online: https://www.commercialappeal.com/

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Sept. 30

The Memphis Daily News on the Memphis Grizzlies’ noncompete clause for FedExForum:

The mantra has been clear since Graceland dramatically changed the plans for its proposed Whitehaven concert venue: Almost nobody in officialdom wants to touch the Memphis Grizzlies’ noncompete clause for FedExForum.

And it’s understandable, at least to some degree. The terms of the agreement state, among other things, that Memphis and Shelby County can’t build or provide incentives for an arena that seats more than 5,000 people. In exchange, the Grizzlies organization - not the city or county - takes on any red ink in the operation of the 19,000-seat Downtown arena.

The agreement is one of several factors that led to the 12,000-seat Mid-South Coliseum being mothballed in 2006 and to a series of proposals over the past decade to reimagine the now-50-year-old arena as something else.

Coliseum proponents’ latest pitch calls for a 4,999-seat multipurpose venue - one less than the magic number that would cause the Grizzlies to call foul.

But despite the best intentions of the noncompete clause, FedExForum does have competition.

It’s just outside Memphis’ southern border, at the Landers Center in Southaven - a 10,000-seat arena that Graceland itself originally booked for the annual Elvis video concert in August, according to Joel Weinshanker, managing partner of Graceland Holdings LLC.

Weinshanker told Shelby County commissioners in early September he decided to move the concert to FedExForum in a show of cooperation - “because we are Memphis-proud.”

Two weeks later, Elvis Presley Enterprises’ attorney, James McLaren, was standing before the EDGE board, making the surprise announcement that EPE was changing its venue plans - even though McLaren said both he and EDGE’s legal counsel took the position that the noncompete wouldn’t apply to the Whitehaven venue.

The Grizzlies growled, and Graceland stepped aside.

Some of this is show business, which by nature is competitive even with a noncompete clause. An arena lives and dies by how many people show up to an event. And the Grizzlies organization is on the hook if it doesn’t make money.

That said, the clause needs to be revisited. Part of the discussion should be a realization that FedExForum has competition it didn’t have when the agreement was signed more than 15 years ago and Memphis needs a venue to split the gap between the 2,300-seat Orpheum and the Forum.

Weinshanker’s decision to move the Elvis concert to FedExForum was an outlier. Most promoters who know they can’t fill a 19,000-seat arena will readily opt for a 10,000-seat venue 20 minutes away. And Memphis will continue to lose events - and the revenue they generate - to Landers Center until the venue gap is closed.

As Memphis’ landscape changes with efforts to grow the city from the inside out, other plans will emerge that get close to the 5,000-seat ceiling. It’s a vacuum someone has to fill. Which side of the state line will it be on?

Online: https://www.memphisdailynews.com/

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Sept. 25

Johnson City Press on Tennessee officials allowing a merger between health care providers:

Local business, government and education leaders said they were pleased to hear Tennessee officials have given the thumbs up to a merger of Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System. Press staff writer Zach Vance reported the joining of the two giant health care providers to form Ballad Health is being touted by many in the region as a monumental development.

“It’s been studied well, it’s been given more than ample opportunity for public comment and ultimately, I think, it’s going to be a good thing for our region,” Johnson City Mayor David Tomita said. “We would not want to see an outside buyer come in and take all that resource and jobs out of our communities in Northeast Tennessee. I’m pleased that it’s approved.”

Likewise, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said the creation of Ballad Health would have a far-reaching economic impact “from the standpoint of really putting us in a position to grow our local economy in a lot of different ways, and also to provide a degree of stability (by) realizing that health care (makes up) about 30 percent of the local economy of Washington County.”

Ballad Health has also pledged to contribute at least $85 million to local universities to grow academic and research opportunities and support post-graduate health care training.

“Our region’s health-care providers can now work together, leveraging their resources without undue duplication, to provide the very best in health care to the people of our region,” Milligan College President Bill Greer told the Press.

East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland called the state’s decision to green light the merger a “historic day” for his school and all of Northeast Tennessee.

“Through the power of this merger, the university - in conjunction with our two partners - will be able to direct our clinical, our research and our teaching operations toward meeting the mission of serving the needs of the region,” Noland said.

We want to know what you think. Is the creation of Ballad Health a good thing for the entire region?

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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