- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

March 26

The Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on court-management software failure needing answers:

A growing Rutherford County has lots of uses for its tax revenue to provide basic services to its residents and to invest in its future.

The waste of $1 million at the Circuit Court clerk’s office does nothing to help provide those basic services or to invest in the future of the county.

Rutherford County taxpayers have invested that million dollars on implementation of a software system for court-management, and, so far, these taxpayers are seeing no return on their investment.

Efforts to develop such a court-management system show a desire to improve the quality of services in the community, but the personnel at the Circuit Court clerk’s office and the contractor for the project failed to develop and implement a workable system.

Efforts to develop and implement the new court-management system apparently were a factor in the defeat of Laura Bohling as Circuit Court clerk and the election of Melissa Harrell to the post.

Harrell, however, also has failed to bring the new software to the point of being a working system.

Currently the Circuit Court clerk’s office is using software from it previous contractor, but that court-management system is antiquated.

Apparently an antiquated system is better than one that doesn’t work at all.

That the state is facing a similar situation with a information-management system for its TennCare program is no consolation. While a million dollars is a large amount for most county residents, the state has lost $38 million on its efforts to implement its new system.

This software for the TennCare program could have expedited the ability of state residents to apply for insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

Apparently county and state officials need to take adequate time for selection and testing of computers and related software. Failure to do this only will compound the cost of providing adequate services and bring more losses of $1 million or $38 million.

Taxpayers deserve more answers about why these problems happened and what is being doing done, so they don’t happen again.




March 30

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on insuring state:

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, should do the right thing by showing leadership that would allow the governor’s TennCare expansion plan to be voted on by the full House and Senate.

Polls show that a majority of Tennesseans favor the expansion that would provide health insurance for 280,000 Tennesseans, most of whom are the working poor who cannot afford private insurance. These enrollees would have to pay a monthly premium based on income or meet certain conditions to qualify for the coverage, a fact that contradicts arguments by some expansion critics that the program would just benefit a bunch of freeloaders.

Realizing that the Republican-controlled General Assembly would never expand TennCare under the auspices of the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, GOP Gov. Bill Haslam painstakingly negotiated with the federal government for a waiver that would allow expansion under a different program. Tenncare, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor and low-income. He came up with Insure Tennessee, a two-year pilot program that would be funded by the federal government. The state’s hospitals agreed to cover any funding shortfalls.

While Haslam was negotiating with federal officials, the legislature approved a bill that called for legislative approval of any expansion of TennCare. Haslam called a special legislative session earlier this month to consider Insure Tennessee, but the program died in a Senate committee before the House could even consider it.

Six of the seven committee members, including Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, who voted to kill the plan, in our minds, took hypocrisy to a new level because they are participating in a publicly subsidized health insurance plan, which happens to be the vast majority of the General Assembly.

Their action may have backfired, if only temporarily. Tennesseans are taking a closer look at Insure Tennessee and some GOP lawmakers are expressing a change of heart. Insure Tennessee has been resuscitated in the regular session and has cleared some initial legislative hurdles.

The next big test is scheduled to take place Tuesday when the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee considers the bill. Sens. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis, and Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, are members of the committee. We hope they remember that more than 64,000 Memphis and Shelby County residents would gain health insurance under the program and that Fayette County is about to lose its only hospital. Many of Fayette’s uninsured residents likely will head to the Regional Medical Center, which already is burdened financially by a disproportionate amount of uncompensated care.

The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee is scheduled to hear the bill Wednesday.

There is more at stake for Tennessee than doing the right thing for the state’s working poor. Failure to approve the plan already has cost the state more than $1 billion in new health care revenue and stymied the creation of more than 15,000 new jobs. Not approving the plan also jeopardizes the continued operation of some hospitals, especially those in rural areas. The hospital in Brownsville already has closed.

The state’s business and medical communities support the bill. Even a conservative like former Arizona governor Jan Brewer pushed Medicaid expansion through her legislature.

Approval of Insure Tennessee is just plain common sense, Speakers Harwell and Ramsey.




March 31

Paris (Tennessee) Post-Intelligencer on shortage of water:

“Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.”

“The next big war will be fought over water, not oil.”

Sayings like these have been around for a long time, but they appear to be coming closer to reality.

Major parts of the American Southwest have begun to run out of drinking water.

How soon will the old West see its wells run dry? Studies suggest somewhere between 10 and 40 years. All the signs indicate that the demand for clean water will outpace the supply across the West.

The Ogallala Aquifer, an underground source that stretches through eight states, is already being depleted along the border between Texas and New Mexico.

The stopgap procedure for avoiding immediate crisis is to rob from Peter to pay Paul. Massive construction projects seek to divert water from remote valleys to drying-up centers like Las Vegas. These projects take time, and the costs run into the billions.

That’s no permanent solution. As the Associated Press reported, “Officials are struggling to finish large-scale water infrastructure projects while populations are growing, drinking water resources are dwindling, and federal dollars are diminishing.”

An example of the dilemma is a pipeline project designed to bring billions of gallons of water a year to eastern New Mexico. It might take another decade to finish that pipeline, but officials say some areas don’t have that long before wells dry up.

So do we abandon western cities? Or abandon rural areas so that cities might live?

That’s a terrible dilemma. One principle seems to be that you can’t win a fight with Mother Nature.



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