- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015
Haslam wraps up Insure Tennessee tour, names Senate sponsor

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam has finally found a Senate sponsor for his Insure Tennessee proposal just days before the start of a special legislative session to take up the matter.

Haslam said Thursday that Republican Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville agreed to carry the measure after Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville declined his usual role of handling the governor’s legislation.

The state Legislature goes into special session Monday to take up the proposal that has been met with some skepticism among Republicans because it would draw down $1.4 billion per year in federal money available under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Under new estimates released Wednesday, about 280,000 low-income Tennesseans would be expected to enroll in the first year at an annual cost of about $4,700 each.

Haslam on Thursday wrapped up a statewide tour to promote his proposal. He began his day in Johnson City, followed by stops in Sparta and Murfreesboro. The governor earlier visited hospitals in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Clarksville, Memphis and Jackson to discuss his proposal.

The governor said he met with more than 100 lawmakers over the course of the tour.


Tenn. lawmakers asking Congress to keep feds out of schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee lawmakers are turning to the federal government for help with a task that might seem self-contradictory - keeping the federal government at bay.

In one of several efforts to push back against what they see as federal overreach, Republican state lawmakers are pushing a resolution asking Congress, with its new Republican majority in the Senate as well as the House, to help put the brakes on Common Core education standards.

“Basically, it sends a message from the state of Tennessee that we do not want the dictation from the feds down to us,” said state Sen. Bill Ketron, a Murfreesboro Republican and co-sponsor of the measure. “It urges them to pass a bill that gives that authority back to the states.”

The resolution urges Congress in part to “end the decades of federal intrusion in state and local education policy decisions, and eliminate burdensome federal education mandates on states and local school systems.”

Ketron acknowledged the resolution takes aim at higher English and math standards, which became a hot button issue during the last legislative session and continue to be this year. Even before lawmakers convened earlier this month, a measure was filed in November to repeal Tennessee’s Common Core standards.

The standards, intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills needed for college and the workforce, have been phased into classrooms in Tennessee for the past three years. They have encountered growing resistance locally and nationally from conservatives and tea party supporters who say the federal government is attempting to take over local education.


Federal judge allows mining permit challenge to go forward

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A federal judge in Knoxville says environmental groups can go forward with a lawsuit claiming two East Tennessee surface mines threaten endangered fish.

The suit claims federal agencies did not use the most up-to-date science when issuing mining permits at Zeb Mountain and Davis Creek. It claims runoff from the mines is high in dissolved salts, making nearby streams too salty for the blackside dace and Cumberland darter.

The federal agencies wanted the lawsuit dismissed. Among other things, they noted that National Coal LLC has ceased mining at Zeb Mountain.

U.S. District Judge Pamela Reeves said the case can move forward. She said the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement has jurisdiction at Zeb Mountain until reclamation is complete and can still order changes there.


Truck dumps hazardous material after slipping on roadway

MAYSVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A truck driver has been injured and part of a load of hazardous cargo dumped when the driver lost control on an ice-covered roadway in northeastern Kentucky and the truck turned over into a creek.

Kentucky State Police say 43-year-old Russell R. Leach of Duff, Tennessee, was northbound on Springdale Road in eastern Mason County delivering a blasting agent, ammonium nitrate fuel oil mixture. The Ledger-Independent said the delivery was headed to a lime and stone mine.

The newspaper said the driver suffered a broken arm and other injuries and was treated at a hospital and released.

Police said the Kentucky Department of Environmental Response was sent to direct cleanup. Springdale Road was expected to be closed into the night.

The truck was operated by Austin Powder Co. of Cleveland.

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