Tennessee editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

Dec. 3

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tenn., on texting while driving arrests come rarely:

Since 2010, it’s been illegal in Tennessee for motorists to engage in text-messaging by cell phone while driving.

Traffic experts agree that driver texting is hazardous. Accident statistics back them up: Texting is dangerously distracting.

Yet ticketing for texting remains pretty rare. The Tennessean in Nashville surveyed records for 15 Middle Tennessee law enforcement agencies and found just 389 tickets issued since the law took effect. That’s an average of about six or seven arrests per year for each agency — about one every two months.

A large part of the reason is that it can be tough to catch a motorist in the act and to make a charge stick. The driver can always say he was only dialing, which for some reason isn’t against the law.

Sometimes the officer can write a ticket instead for violation of a state law that requires motorists to provide the proper amount of attention to the road while driving.

What’s clearly needed is a better way for the traffic cop to know for sure whether a motorist is texting. Perhaps technology will someday offer a solution.

Meanwhile, it’s a life-and-death matter, and it’s not just about personal freedom. Statisticians estimate that a driver distracted by cellphone use is 23 more times likely to have an accident.

That puts those who don’t text at risk.




Dec. 2

Jackson (Tenn.) Sun on Haslam must do what is best for all Tennesseans on Medicaid:

Gov. Bill Haslam’s refusal to expand Tennessee’s Medicaid program (TennCare) will cost Tennesseans dearly. Haslam has yet to offer a sound explanation for turning down billions of federal dollars and putting the future of hospitals, jobs and health care services at risk. His attempt to get the federal government to approve his Tennessee Plan has proven to be dead-end street.

The only motivation we can see behind his lack of action is politics. While we are certainly not fans of the Affordable Care Act, it is time to put partisanship aside and do what is best for Tennesseans. We urge Haslam to approve TennCare expansion and to lobby state lawmakers to do what is right based on the economic facts at hand.

According to an analysis by the Tennessee Hospital Association, the state would receive $32 for every $1 it invested in TennCare expansion in the first five years. Those are dollars that would help keep hospitals open to treat patients. It also would help sustain hospital services to people who live in rural areas, protect health care jobs, and funnel much needed dollars into local and state economies.

For the first three years, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the TennCare expansion cost. That eventually would be reduced to 90 percent. States could opt out of the program if they choose to. The billions of dollars Tennessee would receive are not a windfall. They are dollars Tennesseans already have paid in taxes.

The consequences of not expanding TennCare include reduced medical services, potential hospital closings, lost jobs, hindered economic development, lost local tax revenue and reduced consumer spending because of lost wages.

It is time to put partisan politics aside and do what is right and best for all Tennesseans. It makes no sense to walk away from billions of dollars, and endanger jobs and health care services in the name of partisanship.




Dec. 1

Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel on Iran nuclear deal an opportunity that requires follow-up:

Proponents of the Iran nuclear deal are calling it “a victory for diplomacy.” That very much remains to be seen; certainly it is a premature judgment. The same is true of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dark prophecy that the deal is “a historic mistake.”

The real significance is that the deal was done at all, thanks to the relentless diplomacy of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his ability to keep our fractious allies in this endeavor — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — on the same page.

Of only slightly less importance is that the U.S. and Iran talked substantively for the first time in decades, thanks in part to the departure of its bellicose former president, Mohammed Ahmadinejad, and his replacement by Hassan Rouhani, who claims he wants to end Iran’s pariah status.

The deal reached last weekend is an interim arrangement that the parties could easily end at any time; however, it does buy six months during which the parties can begin the much harder task of reaching a long-term treaty.

Reaction on Capitol Hill was mixed, with members of both parties expressing concerns that the interim pact would allow Iran to continue to enrich any uranium in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

“In my view, this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program for the relief it is receiving,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said. “Given Iran’s history of duplicity, it will demand ongoing, on-the-ground verification.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who is the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, has introduced legislation that would require Iran to fully comply with the interim agreement and would prevent Obama from waiving additional sanctions unless Iran meets certain conditions for an acceptable final agreement. Corker said skepticism is widespread and Congress should hold the administration’s “feet to the fire” to ensure the interim agreement does not become permanent.

The deal could collapse if Congress, goaded by Israel, passes tougher sanctions during the life of the interim agreement. Such action would be premature. The interim pact is neither a diplomatic victory nor a grave error; it is an opportunity.

If Iran thumbs its nose at the world and violates the agreement or fails to negotiate in good faith toward a permanent pact, the administration and our allies will need to restore all sanctions and perhaps take further action. In the meantime, all parties should give diplomacy a chance to work.



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