- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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March 30


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Johnson City Press on a fight between the state and counties over suing opioid manufacturers:

Appetites whetted by the multi-billion dollar settlement with Big Tobacco 20 years ago, counties across the nation are suing Big Pharma to recover costs associated with the opioid epidemic. But in Tennessee, Attorney General Herbert Slatery doesn’t want just a piece of that pie, but all of it.



Slatery, recently selected by a coalition of 40 states to spearhead their yet-to-be-filed suit, is attempting to shut down similar suits by counties, including one last year filed by Sullivan, Hawkins and Washington counties. It’s a money grab and the counties should fight it tooth and nail.

County district attorneys say Slatery sat by as the opioid epidemic decimated their communities and since that’s where the damage was done, that’s where any legal awards should go. It’s been nine months since the local suit was filed and now that he’s in charge of the national lawsuit where states will get any gravy, he wants local suits out of the way.

Slatery has filed a motion to intervene in the county suits, arguing that they don’t have authority to sue drug manufacturers, which of course, they do. He whines that the suits have been brought by the counties “on behalf of the state,” which they have not. And he claims counties may not obligate the state for the cost of outside counsel, which the counties are not. Assisting the local lawsuit is a Nashville firm which isn’t getting a dime. They only collect if the suit is successful.

The group of 40 states that Slatery is leading has not filed any suit against Big Pharma. Instead, it is negotiating in lieu of a suit. The counties which are bearing the brunt of the cost of the opioid epidemic are not party to those settlement discussions and if they lead to a settlement, would only be in line for whatever crumbs the state may sweep their way.

“We want to work with the attorney general,” said Sullivan District Attorney General Barry Staubus. “However, I believe that I have the authority to file this suit and this is the most effective way to seek redress through the courts - with our lawsuit in our county, where we live and where we reside and we see the problem. Not in Nashville.”

Says Slatery, “The office of the attorney general is in the best position both to represent the interests of the state and to obtain the best possible monetary recovery for key governmental stakeholders.” But as we’ve seen, the interests of the state and its counties may not coincide.

A 2007 settlement of 26 states and Washington, D.C., against Purdue Pharma yielded $19.5 million with Tennessee getting pennies on the on the dollar. Tennessee received $400,000 for attorney fees for the district attorney’s office, $175,750 for the state general fund, and $143,750 for consumer education projects to fund further investigations or litigation at the attorney general’s discretion.

Counties repeatedly asked Slatery to work with them, but his office would only say it was investigating the possibility of suing Big Pharma. In the wake of that intransigence, the counties acted on their own, as they should have. Slatery needs to step aside. His intentions are not what’s best for our local counties, nor for the state of Tennessee.

Online: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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April 4

The Daily Times of Maryville on a recent award for the Tennessee Valley Authority:

It was just Jan. 26 that the Tennessee Valley Authority Office of the Inspector General (OIG), headquartered in Knoxville, was presented an award for being one of the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” in 2017.

The award is based upon the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey conducted of federal government employees by the Office of Personnel Management. TVA OIG was ranked second among federal agency subcomponents, second among 339. This marks TVA OIG’s third consecutive year of being recognized as one of the best places to work in the federal government.

Can’t help but wonder, though, about next year’s Best Places to Work - and about the award presentation. We assume TVA won’t be offering IG office representatives a ride to D.C. on one of two corporate planes TVA bought for a total of $17.7 million. You know, the very same purchases deemed unjustified by none other than the TVA OIG.

We’re talking about perception. There’s a difference between purchases unjustified because they were wasteful, or unjustified because they weren’t properly documented. Toss in possible federal code violations raised by the internal audit and the whole thing looks bad.

Something else is worse. It wasn’t long ago that the Obama administration was talking about selling TVA. Reason prevailed. The Trump administration has talked about selling TVA’s transmission assets. As U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., noted, that’s a “loony idea.” In the current political climate, that’s less than comforting.

Recall that Congress and the president just passed a tax bill that dumps $1.5 trillion of debt on working Americans. What happens when those bills start coming due? This is no time to be low-hanging fruit.

We offer congratulations to the TVA OIG for its award. We also give thanks to the IG folks for uncovering questionable spending habits of the agency’s brass. But we’re under no illusion about what would happen to TVA if private entities picked off its prime assets. East Tennessee and Blount County would suffer the consequences.

TVA is under a microscope, and the agency’s managers had better start acting like they realize it. Sooner or later, the Gucci-shoed gang that strapped on blindfolds to blow up the nation’s debt will start swinging fiscal machetes. Unmasked, they’ll be on the hunt for shiny plumbs to dazzle their critics.

TVA, a blessing to the Southern Appalachians if there ever was one, does not need to be anywhere near that harvest nightmare. Keep your eye on the ball, TVA. The future of our valley and our mountains are at stake.

Online: https://www.thedailytimes.com/

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April 4

Cleveland Daily Banner on a newsprint tariff:

Like any product, newspapers rely on consumers to survive.

When a newspaper - metro, regional, midsize or small - goes to press, the next natural step is for subscribers to read it or for nonsubscribers to buy it out of the racks.

It’s part of the circle of life in news, a mutual dependency, if you will. Newspapers need readers. Readers need newspapers.

And now, this newspaper - the Cleveland Daily Banner, and hundreds more just like us around our American homeland - need our readers more than ever.

Here’s the ugly truth: The feds have not only placed tariffs on aluminum, steel and Chinese products, but also are targeting newspapers with a 33.3 percent tariff on newsprint imported from Canada, where most American newspapers get the paper they’re printed on.

This tariff - which is already in effect - will have devastating consequences for many newspapers, and frankly we need the help of our readers to try to end this foolishness.

It all started with a lone U.S. newsprint manufacturer in the state of Washington that filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission about international competition. The claim is that Canadian paper mills were “dumping” low-cost newsprint to buyers in America, thereby making it more difficult for U.S. manufacturers to compete.

Many contributing factors are at play, among them a desire by New York investors to gain while the rest of America - and American newspapers - lose.

As you read this editorial, the paper - in the industry we call it newsprint - you’re holding in your hands is the second-highest expense in the budget of this newspaper, and every other newspaper in America. It is second only to payroll and personnel costs.

This much-debated tariff threatens the viability of all newspapers. At the Cleveland Daily Banner, we estimate it would wipe out nearly 25 percent of our operating profit in one fell swoop.

Needless to say, like in any American business, this would be devastating.

In recent years, print-edition newspapers have faced an unprecedented number of challenges: Internet, social media, innovations in technology, slowed advertising revenue and limited circulation growth, among others.

Yet, every obstacle has been met with determination in remembering our purpose: To remain the most comprehensive source of hometown news in Cleveland and Bradley County.

We do it for a key reason: Newspapers are the lifeblood of any community, including ours.

Nobody else has the wherewithal to report high school sports like we do for Cleveland, Bradley Central and Walker Valley students, parents, families and supporters.

Nobody else can rival our intensity in keeping the news of local government activities flowing consistently and freely, and in spite of the bureaucratic red tape that lawmakers today seem to champion at every turn.

Nobody else can equal our balance between soft news, hard news, features, photographs and community events that define our people and the values that dictate our way of life.

Others have tried. Most have failed. It takes more than a decision to try it. It takes a commitment to do it.

This misguided tariff on Canadian newsprint will hurt you, the readers of the Cleveland Daily Banner, and other newspapers that serve as a glue for their communities.

Why? It’s simple math.

The additional financial burdens posed by these tariffs will force our newspaper to put all of our expenses under a microscope, along with circulation pricing. We’re already diligent in accounting for every dime and watching the flow of each dollar. But now, thanks to this tariff, we will be forced to intensify our efforts.

Only recently we raised our subscription rates for the first time in 16 years. Even then, ours was a reluctant decision. But reality served as its mandate.

The challenges facing the newspaper industry are unparalleled, and adding the burden of an unnecessary tariff on newsprint will make it even worse.

Not only is it crippling, it very well could become an unsustainable blow to our newspaper and our industry.

Online: http://clevelandbanner.com/

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