- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Haslam asks feds for Medicaid counterproposal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he has asked U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to make a counterproposal to Tennessee’s efforts to carve out a special deal for Medicaid expansion.

Haslam told reporters he had met with Sebelius twice during a Washington visit, and that she was aware of the state’s requests to use the federal money to subsidize private insurance and promote healthier lifestyles through a series of incentives.

The governor last year declined to accept the Medicaid money without special arrangements for the state. Negotiations have so far been fruitless.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about what won’t work,” Haslam said. “And I said, ‘You know what we need to make a plan work. Why don’t you come back to us with a proposal that you think will work?’

“So that’s where we left it,” he said.

The Haslam administration has said expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law would cover about 180,000 uninsured Tennesseans.


Bill shields school religious displays from suits

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A proposal that would protect schools from lawsuits for allowing traditional winter celebrations, or religious displays, has passed the Senate.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville was unanimously approved 30-0 on Monday.

The legislation says schools can display scenes or symbols associated with such celebrations on school property, if the display includes more than one religion, or one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol. Messages that encourage adherence to a particular religious belief are prohibited.

The proposal also allows students and school staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, such as “Merry Christmas,” ”Happy Hanukkah” and “Happy holidays.”

Campfield says some groups have threatened to sue over such displays and greetings, and his bill would protect schools.


Health aide charged in Tenn. girl’s death in court

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The lawyer for a home health aide charged with murder in the case of a disabled Tennessee girl who died from gangrene and infected bedsores said Monday he will dispute his client’s liability in the death.

Chasara Jones cried as Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Bobby Carter told her Monday that she could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the neglect death of 12-year-old Andrea Ruth.

The Millington girl died in November 2012. An autopsy revealed she died from sepsis from gangrene, and prosecutors say her caregivers were to blame.

The girl’s father, Errol Johnson, and her mother, Raven Ruth, also have been charged with first-degree murder. All three defendants also face aggravated child abuse charges.

Johnson, 42, and Jones, 41, were being held without bond Monday in Shelby County Jail. Ruth is awaiting extradition in Louisiana, where she was arrested last week.

Prosecutors did not say during Jones’ hearing whether they will pursue the death penalty in the case. Some of Jones’ relatives who attended the short hearing also had tears in their eyes during the proceedings.


Ex-player gets probation for racial threats

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A former Nashville-area high school football player has been sentenced to three years’ probation for making racially motivated threats to an African-American assistant coach at the school.

The U.S. attorney’s office says 20-year-old Jonathan Caine was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Nashville. He was charged with a misdemeanor hate crime and pleaded guilty to interfering with a federally protected right in November.

Prosecutors say Caine made repeated anonymous threats to the victim and other school officials.

The victim and the high school where he works were not identified.

The plea agreement also requires that Caine be placed on home confinement for two months, complete a comprehensive substance abuse and treatment program and complete 520 hours of community service directed at needy minority communities.

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