Roundup of some recent TN political reporting and opinions, 12/18/2016

Corker for governor?

In a talk with the Jackson Sun, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker reviewed dealings with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, the possibility of Russian involvement with the presidential elections and other topics of national interest reported elsewhere, HERE. He was also asked if he might run for governor at some point and “did not explicitly say yes or no,” but acknowledged “the fulfillment” he felt while serving in an executive capacity as mayor of Chattanooga.

“On the other hand I’m in a place right now where I’m affecting things not only in our state but also our country and the world,” Corker said. “So again we’ll look at that over the next several months and try to make what I believe to be the best decision as it relates to offering public service.”

Faison’s folly?

That part of the headline on a review of state Rep. Jeremy Faison’s crusade – despite the misgivings of some fellow Republican conservatives — to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes by Sam Stockard. Sample quote:

“The deeper you get into understanding the goodness of that plant the more you question why in the world we ever demonized it in the first place.”

Registry rebuked for not penalizing Stand for Children

Excerpt from a Nashville Scene article criticizing the Registry of Election Finance for dismissing a complaint that accused the Stand for Children PAC of coordinating its contributions to Nashville school board races last summer with candidates:

The registry does one thing well — it fines a campaign if it doesn’t file its disclosures on time. Beyond that, though, it’s a very mixed bag. After setting out a potential fine of more than $600,000 for Stand’s activities, for example, the registry did little more investigation than just asking for declarations and reading media reports. For a case as serious as this — Stand for Children pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into school board races through a PAC and an independent expenditure committee — there ought to be more digging, even if it’s politically unpalatable to the board. The attitude of the entire registry seemed to be that because Druffel had lost, the case was somewhat moot, never mind the fact that Stand for Children will be back in the next campaign cycle. The precedent that they’re setting is that short of hearing from a whistleblower, someone who was inside the campaign, nothing will move the registry into action.

Reviewing and remembering Ron Ramsey

Departing Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey was profiled in a comprehensive and generally flattering piece last week by Brad Schmidt (with sidebars), maybe the best of recent Ramsey remembrance reports. Excerpt:

“Whatever I do, I do it full blast,” Ramsey said in a lengthy interview with The Tennessean.

“But politics is not my life,” said the 24-year legislator, eyes brimming. “Family is.”

Robert Houk also revisits his Ramsey recollections in a Sunday column HERE.

Lingering wildfire questions

The News Sentinel reviews problems in notifying people and getting an evacuation underway as the Sevier County wildfires developed, ultimately causing 14 deaths and $500 million in property damage, HERE. Seems the Gatlinburg fire chief sent out a call for help to outside fire departments six hours before an evacuation was ordered.

Let rural hospitals become nursing homes?

In a Tennessean op-ed piece, state Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, says state law should be changed to let Tennessee rural hospitals with empty beds – seven have closed since 2010 because of declining revenues — offer nursing home care.

They already possess staff and basic treatment modalities necessary to provide nursing home type care. Lifting the CON process for rural hospitals to provide such care could be a hospital-saver.

Currently, TennCare pays an average of $187.93 per day per nursing home bed.  Skilled nursing in a hospital setting often pays even more. If these rural hospitals were able to average just 15 additional nursing home patients a day, that would produce an additional $1 million annually with hardly any increase in capital or fixed costs.

This added revenue could reverse their financial fortunes and allow them to provide the important emergency services these communities need.

Lamar’s ‘Christmas miracle’

In his latest op-ed piece, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander lauds the ‘21st Century Cures Act,’ recently signed into law by President Obama, as a “Christmas miracle.” HERE.

On Tennessee views toward Russia

Tennessee gets a mention in a Politico story on how Republicans are warming in their attitude toward Russia now that Donald Trump is president-elect. Here’s the excerpt:

Daniel Vajdich, a former foreign policy adviser on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, recalled traveling to Foreign Relations Chair Sen. Bob Corker’s home state of Tennessee just after Russia annexed Crimea and supported rebel incursions in Eastern Ukraine.

For the Corker constituents Vadjich met, “no other issue—not Iraq, Syria or Iran— topped the emotion or frustration about what the Russians were doing in Ukraine and the way the Obama Administration was failing to do anything about it,” he said.

Now, the Republican president-elect Trump has said he would consider recognizing Crimea as part of Russia.

“It is dizzying,” said Vajdich, who has worked on the presidential campaigns of Gov. Mitt Romney, Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ted Cruz, all of whom represented the decades-old consensus view of Russia.

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