Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Paris (Tenn.) Post-Intelligencer on early voting:
Early voting begins Oct. 17 for the Nov. 6 elections, and a legal squabble over the voter identification law suggests that it would be a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity.
On Oct. 18, the Tennessee Court of Appeals is to hold a hearing on the constitutionality of the state law that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls.
Tennessee allows voters to cast provisional ballots if they arrive at the polls without photo ID, but they then must appear at the local election commission office ... within two days after the election to have their votes counted.
One state senator is encouraging African-American women to vote early "just in case there is a problem."
A civil rights attorney said that if the court overturns the law in any manner, election officials could "just dump those (provisional) ballots in with the others. Then voters won't have to go back."
Tennessee is one of a group of states that have passed voter ID laws. So far, courts in four states have struck down new requirements or delayed their implementation. Tennessee's law has been upheld so far, but a federal judge questioned lawmakers' choices of the types of identification required of voters.
Data from the secretary of state's office indicate that fewer than one out of every 2,500 voters requested provisional ballots in the March and August primaries. That suggests two different reasons. One is that lack of identification is not really a major problem. The other is that many people stayed away from the polls because they feared they didn't have the right form of ID.
Keeping people from voting is not supposed to be the objective of the law. We rely on the courts to see that the law is fair.
Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel on TVA pension plan:
The city of Knoxville is asking residents to revise the municipal employees' pension plan that currently is underfunded and promises to drain taxpayer dollars for decades to come.
Knox County voters will decide whether to close the ill-advised and underperforming Uniformed Officers Pension Plan to new hires.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is taking a different tack with its underfunded pension plan — the federal utility is keeping its fingers crossed that market returns will be sufficient to replenish the fund.
TVA's approach does not appear to be a realistic response to nearly $2 billion in market losses the pension fund sustained beginning in 2008. Basically, the power producer has opted to gamble on the market rather than face the wrath of ratepayers, who would otherwise have to bridge the funding gap.
TVA has an obligation to cover the pensions of some 24,000 employees, according to a report in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Fully funded, the plan should have $11.5 billion. The plan totals only $7 billion, however, and that is after TVA has pumped almost $1.3 billion in ratepayer money into the fund.
TVA has not made a contribution in 2012, though the board approved a discretionary payment of $300 million. John Thomas, TVA's chief financial officer, told the Times Free Press that market gains during the next 10 to 15 years will make up the $4.5 billion gap in funding. He insists the fund is not at risk.
While it is nice to think that the pension fund will perform that well over the next decade or so, there are no guarantees. After all, it was the crashing stock market that dragged down the pension fund's value in the first place.
Fully funding the pension now, of course, would place the burden on TVA's 9 million customers. TVA blamed a $300 million payment into the pension fund as one of the main reasons for last year's rate increase that raised utility bills by 2 percent.
Adding more and more money into the pension, as TVA has done in the past and the city of Knoxville had to do this year, is not an attractive alternative.
But neither is sticking the utility's head in the sand. ...
A pension plan, like the national debt, is a long-term obligation that requires long-range planning, not wishful thinking.
The Tennessean, Nashville, on the national outbreak of fungal meningitis:
This nation runs on trust. And when people and institutions violate that trust, it is essential they do everything possible to regain our confidence and belief.
Where in this national outbreak of fungal meningitis, in which Tennessee is ground zero, do we see that urgency?
Patients have lost confidence in esteemed medical institutions.
Federal and state governments have failed at their responsibility to provide regulatory oversight.
It has an insidious uncertainty, this disease. While the number of patients confirmed sick is near 200 nationally, about 14,000 people received injections of the contaminated drug. Many of them may develop meningitis; many may not.
And in a most cynical way, we see, through the use of compounded drugs, how some people have devalued the cost of human life.
It has taken two weeks for officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with health officials in Tennessee, Massachusetts and other states, to begin to speak with one voice, and with a sense of urgency. The FDA says conflicting court rulings have hindered its ability to regulate centers such as New England Compounding. Why are we only now hearing this? ...
Apparently, our worst fears are not enough to rouse bureaucrats from their complacency. ..
Before this terrible tragedy goes much further, we know this: Lawmakers in Congress need to act, and soon, to clarify FDA and states' authority over these specialized pharmacies. Pain management providers should explain whether they knowingly took a risk by purchasing compounded drugs; and Tennessee health officials should close the door on the New England company whose handiwork has led to many deaths.
These patients trusted their care providers to ease their pain — not remove any chance of it.