Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
Johnson City Press on driving during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend:
Don't forget to put on your seat belt before going "over the river and through the woods to grandma's house" this Thanksgiving Day. The long holiday weekend is one of the busiest periods for travel all year, which is why the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be on the lookout for drivers who are not wearing their seat belts, speeding, driving while impaired or texting.
Those who violate the state's seat belt law should remember that driving on Tennessee's highways is a privilege, not a right, and failing to obey the laws of the road could earn you a ticket.
Here's some more useful advice for drivers to follow when they are traveling interstate highways: Tennessee law requires drivers to safely move to the left lane or slow down when they spot public safety vehicles parked in the emergency lanes of interstates and dual-lane highways. Drivers who fail to yield can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $50.
Finally, don't be one of a growing number of distracted drivers on our highways. Distracted drivers are preoccupied by eating, texting and putting on makeup while they are behind the wheel. Distracted drivers ignore yield signs, fail to merge correctly and tailgate with sometimes deadly results.
Tennessee has a law expressly prohibiting drivers from texting while behind the wheel of a moving car. The law carries a $50 fine and an additional $10 for court costs.
Don't become a statistic this holiday weekend. Keep both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road and you will arrive to grandma's house safely for Thanksgiving.
The Commercial Appeal on the state's archives:
Tennessee State Librarian and Archivist Charles Sherrill has been touring the state to sound the alarm that the building that houses the state's archives is at a critical point in its 62-year existence: It is out of room.
During a visit with The Commercial Appeal's editorial board earlier this month, Sherrill said, "We're at the point now that we cannot ingest any more items."
Emphasizing his concerns, he said there is no room to store records from next year's legislative session, or records and documents from the administration of Gov. Bill Haslam when he leaves office in 2018.
Sherrill said a new library and archives building would cost more than $90 million. The state already has spent $20 million on the project in land acquisition and planning. That amount includes $5 million for an underground garage.
Sherrill fears a new facility will not be built unless Haslam includes funding for it in his fiscal 2016-2017 budget proposal, which he will unveil in his State of the State address next year.
Because of the importance of maintaining these vital state and county documents in a central place that — unlike the current eight-story building — provides easy access for visitors and researchers, the governor should consider including some amount of funding for a new library and archives building.
We urge that in the context of Haslam this year asking the legislature to put $120 million into a new Tennessee State Museum, which legislators approved. The governor is about to launch a $40 million campaign to raise the rest of what the museum will cost.
During legislative discussions about the museum funding, an effort arose inside the General Assembly to also provide funding for a new Tennessee Library and Archives.
Sherrill said a Senate committee approved financing for the new building, but there was never a floor vote. He said the House did not take up the issue.
The state library and archives holds an eclectic collection of documents and exhibits. Its most important function, though, is to maintain state records.
It also serves as the backup depository for records from the state's 95 counties, along with microfilm from all the state's newspapers.
The library's largest collection, Sherrill said, is 10,000 boxes of state Supreme Court cases.
An obvious question is: Why not launch a private campaign to raise the necessary funds?
Sherrill said the library has a small "friends" group, but it is unlikely it would be able to raise that much money.
We realize that there are other funding needs that, in the bigger context of limited funds, take a higher priority. But from a public access standpoint, it would be a shame if Sherrill is forced to start warehousing documents. Also, making sure those records are stored in buildings with the proper climate control will cost taxpayers more money.
If the entire $90 million is not available, we urge Haslam and the legislature to include enough funding to at least get the project moving.
The Jackson Sun on Gov. Bill Haslam's Insure Tennessee plan
As thoughts turn to the next legislative session, we encourage state lawmakers to reconsider Gov. Bill Haslam's Insure Tennessee plan.
Haslam's plan would bring health insurance to an estimated 280,000 working poor in Tennessee. It would be a blessing for people who now fall in the gap between those who can afford health insurance through their employer and those who already qualify for TennCare. This group includes thousands of people who work in the hotel industry, construction, maintenance, food service and more.
The plan would be entirely funded by the federal government at first. Our state's hospitals have agreed to pick up the remaining cost when the federal government reduces its share to 90 percent of the program.
Insure Tennessee was not given a fair hearing by the legislature this year. It never made it out of a Senate committee in a special session called to consider the plan. Later, it was passed by one Senate committee only to be spiked by another.
We believe the program has not been given proper consideration for one reason: It is tied to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. This newspaper is no fan of Obamacare, but it defies logic to turn down billions of federal dollars that could help hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans live a better life.
Each day, $2.5 million in federal money that could support this program in Tennessee instead disappears into the federal government or goes to other states. To date, Tennessee has missed out on more than $2 billion.
This is an important health care issue, but it is also an economic and a jobs issue.
Insure Tennessee would help develop a healthier work force in West Tennessee, making our region more attractive for industrial expansion and development. It would secure and save jobs with major employers such as West Tennessee Healthcare, Jackson-Madison County's largest employer. In fact, it would likely create jobs in the health care industry.
It would put hospitals, particularly small rural hospitals, on more secure financial footing because it would reduce the amount of indigent care they provide and increase the number of insured patients they see. We have already seen two hospitals close this year, one in Brownsville and another in Somerville.
Other benefits of Haslam's plan are that it would utilize private insurance providers and would encourage accountability among those who are insured. It would not just be a government handout.
The Tennessee Health Care Campaign hosted a forum on Insure Tennessee this month in Somerville that was moderated by Steve Coffman, executive editor of The Jackson Sun. Panelists described the impact of our legislature's failure to adopt Insure Tennessee from the perspective of a health care provider, hospital administrator, social worker, minister and more. We commend the Health Care Campaign for working to keep this issue top of mind.
Every day, the working poor are going without medical treatment because they don't have insurance and can't afford health care. Sooner or later, they will end up in hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units. And who will pay the bill then? Taxpayers and those who do have insurance.
State legislators should put politics aside and do what is right: Approve Insure Tennessee.