Feds restore Medicare billing privileges to West TN doctor who had bipartisan backing

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has restored Medicare billing privileges to  Dr. Bryan Merrick, who was cut off last year over what appeared to be very minor paperwork errors. Tennessee Star has quotes from some political figures who got involved – notably including Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who had called for Senate hearings on the regulation used in cutting off Merrick, and former state Democratic Chairman Roy Herron, who was acting as the physician’s attorney.

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Overbey sworn in as U.S. attorney, resigns state Senate seat

Former state Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, resigned his Senate seat effective 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, Nov. 21, and was sworn in as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee at 3:30 p.m., reports the Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times.

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TDEC hides data on low-level radioactive waste from public

Excerpt from a Tennessean report:

Ten years ago, when Murfreesboro residents learned the state had approved the dumping of low-level radioactive waste at a local landfill, a fierce community backlash swiftly put an end to the practice.

Today, Tennessee citizens have no way to find out how much low-level radioactive waste is going into other landfills.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, has wiped that data from its website and said it is confidential.

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Opposition develops to new megasite in Montgomery and Robertson counties

Opposition has surfaced to plans for creating an new 1,800-acre industrial megasite in Montgomery and Robertson counties, reports the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. An online petition against the plan had garnered more than 230 signatures as of Wednesday morning.

One of the people behind the petition, Debra Moore, who lives “almost next-door” to the proposed megasite in Montgomery County, said residents have two basic concerns.

“The people out there are concerned about the impact on the farmland, which is some of the best farmland in our county, as well as the additional debt that (Montgomery) county would take on,” Moore said. “I guess we were all surprised … at why they had to skip-jump from Montgomery County’s existing industrial park (near exits 4 and 8 of Interstate 24), all the way out here.”

Residents who live near the proposed megasite chose the location because “they want to get away from the city,” Moore said. “They want the quiet lifestyle.”

… “We certainly respect the rights of residents in the area to voice their opinion, pro and con, on this development,” said Margot Fosnes, president and chief economic development officer with the Robertson County Chamber of Commerce. “This particular area has many qualities that make it attractive as a megasite, water availability and rail access being two critical assets. We are very cognizant of the importance of agricultural lands and their value to Robertson County and would work to make sure this project did not negatively impact these interests.

“This project could go a long way to providing more options for our farm families to keep their children and grandchildren working close to home.”

In an emailed statement, Robertson County Economic Development Board Chairman Roger Blackwood said the megasite is a realization of the board’s primary goal to create more, high-paying jobs for residents.

Note: The referenced petition is HERE.

ECD commissioner: Memphis Megasite needs another $72M in state funding

Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe says another $72 million in state funding is needed to complete work on the Memphis Regional Megasite, reports the Jackson Sun. That would push total state investment in the 4,100-acre site, so far unused, well past the $200 million mark.

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Pence PAC donates to six TN U.S. Reps — including Black, Blackburn and Duncan

Politico has a list of Vice President Mike Pence’s “first round of political contributions” through a political action committee he has established —  including donations of $5,400 each to six Tennessee members of the U.S. House – Reps. Marsha Blackburn, Diane Black, John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr., Scott DesJarlais, Chuck Fleischmann and Phil Roe.

Blackburn is running for the Senate instead of reelection to the House, but money donated to her House campaign can be switched into the Senate race. Black is running for governor and, under applicable rules, she cannot shift money from her congressional campaign account into her run for a state office.

Duncan, of course, is retiring and not running for reelection in the 2nd Congressional District.

The only Tennessee Republican congressman not on the list is freshman Rep. David Kustoff of the 8th Congressional District.

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TN Supreme Court: You can’t claim self-defense if ‘engaged in unlawful activity’

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Supreme Court of Tennessee clarified the law of self-defense when the person making the claim is engaged in unlawful activity at the time the need for self-defense occurred. This clarification is important because some trial courts have not allowed defendants to assert self-defense when it appeared they were engaged in unlawful activity at the time they used force to defend themselves.

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Haslam appoints Tidwell Circuit Court judge in Rutherford County

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Barry Ross Tidwell of Murfreesboro as Circuit Court Judge in the 16th Judicial District, which includes Rutherford and Cannon counties.

Tidwell’s appointment follows the death of Judge M. Keith Siskin in July.

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Harwell orders ‘active shooter’ training for House staff

House Speaker Beth Harwell has directed House staffers to attend mandatory classes on how to survive an “active shooter” incident and how not to commit sexual harassment, reports the Times Free Press.

The active-shooter training comes as legislative workers prepare to settle into their new Cordell Hull Building home, where handgun-carry permit holders will be allowed to go armed.

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Judge gets reprimand for granting jail sentence reductions for vasectomies

White County General Sessions Jud Sam Benningfied has been reprimanded by the state Board of Judicial Conduct for offering jail inmates 30 days off their time behind bars for getting vasectomies or birth control implants, reports The Tennessean.

Bennifield’s order authorizing sentence reductions for long-term birth control measures was issued in May and rescinded in July after protests. It has led to at least two lawsuits against the judge and the White County sheriff, who oversees the jail in Sparta.

A letter posted on the Board’s public website (HERE) says the judge’s actions threatened confidence in the judicial system.

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