Around the South for April 25th: GA, TN, & TX

Georgia: Trump talks opioid epidemic.  President Donald Trump was in Atlanta Wednesday to speak at the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit about the ongoing opioid crisis.  His administration has dedicated billions to fighting the epidemic, which claimed more than 42,000 American lives in 2017 alone.  Tennessee: School voucher bill passes House.  The controversial school voucher bill pushed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee passed the state House this week by the narrowest of margins – 50-48.  The bill would provide public money for parents who unenroll a student from their public school district and allow them to spend the funds on private school or other education-related expenses.  Democrats uniformly opposed the bill along with some Republicans, saying the legislation will gut funding for public schools.  Texas: Dems target one of their own.  The Justice Democrats, a left wing PAC that helped U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseat longtime Representative Joseph Crowley, are now targeting other Democrats across the country deemed to be not liberal enough.  First on their list: Rep. Henry Cuellar, one of the most conservative Democrats in Washington.  The group has already started running ads against Cuellar, but thus far has not found a candidate to primary...
Technology and Government: Tackling A More Efficient Medicaid for the States In the Trump Era

Technology and Government: Tackling A More Efficient Medicaid for the States In the Trump Era

    (Editor’s note: SPR is devoting a new segment to the ever increasingly important role of technology in helping make southern states more cost efficient and effective in delivering services. And the politics of those efforts. This week’s focus is modernizing Medicaid services in the South). With some states seeking Medicaid waivers and others searching for other ways to make programs more efficient and effective, the “rubber has hit the road” with state leaders zeroing in on technology as the primary way of achieving such goals. Numerous leaders of state departments and agencies are racing to meet new requirements set by CMS for Medicaid. The new rules seek to eliminate the old fashioned concept of taking the various services and lumping them into one large contract (known as MMIS for short). Instead the new direction is to create separate modular service contracts that encourage speedier response, efficiency, and an end to the domination by less than a handful of “megacompanies” who became notorious for endless change orders, up-sales, and bureaucratic inefficiency. Southern states are looking to their own, such as Virginia, who followed CMS requirements and have gone completely separately modular, including making the all-important “data warehouse” (the central nervous system of Medicaid technology) completely separate, which CMS considers essential to new systems.  Their moves are now a centerpiece in efforts by leading southern states as they race to transform Medicaid to a more efficient service as directed by the feds. And the political heat is on. The Trump administration expects results as we enter the 2020 election cycle. One insider tells SPR “Trump’s philosophy comes from his...

Around the South for April 18th: FL, AL, & SC

Florida: Crist named to DCCC leadership team.  U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., a former Republican, has been named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s leadership team.  The DCCC is tasked with spearheading on-the-ground campaign duties for Democrats nationwide, with a major emphasis, obviously, on 2020.  Crist left the GOP in 2010 before losing elections for the senate and governor, then defeated Republican Rep. David Jolly in 2016.  Alabama: Roy Moore leads GOP polling.  Disgraced former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore leads a recent primary poll in Alabama, shocking the national GOP establishment.  Moore holds a strong lead over other announced and unannounced candidates, including Rep. Bradley Byrne, Rep. Mo Brooks and Rep. Gary Palmer.  Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) defeated Moore in 2017 following reports that Moore had allegedly sexually assaulted and otherwise acted inappropriately with several women, including several who were minors at the time.  South Carolina: Graham, Harris bring in out of state money.  U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and 2020 opponent, Democrat Jaime Harrison, are already well into fundraising ahead of their eventual clash.  In 2019 Graham has already raised $2 million, but just 17% of it has come from South Carolina donors.  Harrison meanwhile has raised some $230,000, with just 20% of that coming from...

Around the South for April 11th: TX, VA, & TN

Texas: Leaders support raising sales tax.  Three of the most powerful men in the Lone Star State: Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, are all behind a plan to raise the state’s sales tax by one cent in an effort to reduce property taxes.  The Republicans are putting their weight behind a bill currently working its way through the state legislature.  Virginia: Northam approval down, Dems steady.  A new approval rating poll from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University shows that Gov. Ralph Northam’s approval rating has dropped nearly 20 points since December, a credit to the scandal that broke when pictures were found of him wearing blackface in medical school in the 1980’s.  42% of those polled said he should step down, but when asked which party they’d like to see hold a majority in the state’s General Assembly, Democrats led 46% to 42%.  Tennessee: Medical marijuana dead until 2020.  State lawmakers have effectively killed off talks on any medical marijuana legislation during the 2019 session, leaving supporters to look toward 2020.  The bill being pushed would have made it legal for residents to purchase the drug from registered stores if they suffered from a “debilitating medical condition” — including cancer, PTSD, HIV/AIDS or severe arthritis....
City of Atlanta launches task force to increase transparency

City of Atlanta launches task force to increase transparency

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ first year started out smoothly. She stayed away from the investigations swirling around her predecessor (and endorser) Kasim Reed’s administration, she hand picked her own well-regarded GM for Hartsfield-Jackson International airport, instituted a procurement reform process, and even created a new position in her cabinet titled a “transparency officer” that has the power to investigate Bottoms herself. But starting late in 2018 the wheels began to come off. First it came to light that shortly after Bottoms’ inauguration former City Councilman Kwanza Hall was hired as a ‘senior policy advisor,’ a cushy position making over $100,000 per year.  That move violated the city charter, which bans elected officials from holding “any compensated appointive office or employment with the city” for one year after leaving office.  Bottoms claimed ignorance. Then last month an investigation revealed that six of Bottoms’ former campaign aides had been improperly placed on city payroll, including Marva Lewis, who received a job as “deputy airport general manager” with an annual salary of $273,873 despite never having worked at any airport in her life.  The Atlanta City Council was alarmed enough to pass a resolution requesting an independent investigation – a request which Bottoms promptly vetoed. Now forced to answer questions about the ethics of her transition at town hall meetings, Bottoms and her team have created the Task Force for the Promotion of Public Trust, a group made up of a roster of highly regarded ethics and law experts who will hopefully keep an eye on goings on at City Hall and restore in it some of the trust the public seems to...