Legislature winds down
By: By Mark Maddox, State Representative
The House began their final days of session by passing sweeping lottery surplus legislation that provides students more academic breathing room by changing the retention grade point average to 2.75.
This will give Tennessee’s students a better chance to complete their college education and will encourage the taking of more demanding courses.
By helping more students retain the HOPE Scholarship, we can increase graduation rates and help students finish college without piling up mounds of debt.
The bill takes $350 million out of the Lottery Surplus Fund and places it in an endowment whose interest will go to funding this bill, allowing for the programs to be recurring and not a one-time event.
When we began the process of deciding how to utilize these surplus dollars, we did not want to throw it all away on one-time projects.
Through this endowment, we can continue to reap the benefits of these dollars for years.
Since the House and Senate versions vary on a number of issues, including the GPA retention change, the bills will be brought before a conference committee made up of representatives and senators later next week.
The House also overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging the United States Congress to take action to reverse Medicare rule changes proposed by the Bush administration that would cut $73 million from Tennessee Department of Children Services (DCS).
Families across Tennessee are suffering and I do not think the federal government should continue to put the financial burden on working and poor families by reducing funding to DCS.
Earlier this year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), with the urging of the Bush administration, put in place a rule eliminating federal Medicaid reimbursement for targeted case management, a service that coordinates medical and non-medical services for children under care of Tennessee’s DCS.
These cuts would cost Tennessee $73 million in federal funding, adding to the current $468 million shortfall projected for next year’s budget. Such a reduction would require the laying off of 160 employees, or 3 percent of the DCS workforce.
The House also unanimously passed a bill to implement safeguards on insurance practices in Tennessee to protect those with insurance claims from natural disasters do not suffer the same injustices that many in Louisiana suffered after Hurricane Katrina.
After the waters receded, many hard-working folks who paid their homeowners insurance bills every month found themselves denied any help and that was just wrong. People should be able to depend on their insurance companies to protect them when disaster strikes and not be cheated out of their hard-earned money.
The “Tennessee Unfair Trade Practices and Unfair Claims Settlement Act of 2009” defines and regulates “unfair trade practices” in the business of insurance under present law.
Under the new definitions, insurance providers will be required to follow stricter guidelines with regards to claims requests, approvals and denials and will be subject to greater scrutiny under the law for questionable denial practices.