Pam's Points: The Delta Queen, tattoos and the BlueCross lobbying

Pam's Points: The Delta Queen, tattoos and the BlueCross lobbying

September 27th, 2013 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

The Delta Queen is moored to the bank of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga.

Photo by C. B. Schmelter/Times Free Press.

Delta Queen may yet launch

The Delta Queen, docked in Chattanooga, prompted the U.S. House of Representatives to do something that little other than the folly of a bogus repeal-Obamacare effort could accomplish.

House members on voted Wednesday to allow the vintage riverboat to leave its dock and float inland waterways again.

The Delta Queen has never been more than a mile from shore, but hasn't toured the Mississippi, Tennessee or Ohio rivers since 2008, when the exemption to the 1960 Safety of Lives at Sea Act that had allowed it to operate expired.

The new House bill would allow a new exemption from some fire-retardant materials construction requirements for vessels operating within the boundary line of the United States' inland waterways.

The boat, which needs painting and other maintenance work, came under scrutiny here recently when Chattanooga officials said it had to to be moved from the edge of Coolidge Park because its operators owe back docking rent and it impedes the view of Chattanooga's river-scape. The operators deny that back rent is owed.

Many Chattanoogans decried the mayor's order that the Delta Queen move on, pointing out that the boat, now used as a hotel and lounge, is a tourist attraction.

Natchez, Miss., officials apparently would be all too pleased to have the boat back along their river shore. Natchez Tourism Director Connie Taunton told reporters there that city officials have been keeping track of the Delta Queen's sailing exemption legislation since it was introduced.

Be all you can be, sans tattoo

Something most men received while doing time with the U.S. Army is now on the no-no list for Army recruitment.

Those looking to join the Army will still be able to have ink on their bodies, but they won't be able to sport any tattoo below their elbows, below their knees or above their necklines.

In other words: Don't ask, don't show.

BlueCross spends half million to lobby

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee tops the list of big spenders for lobbying state lawmakers, according to state-required reports filed with the Tennessee Ethics Commission.

BlueCross, during just the first six months of 2013, reported paying $450,000 in compensation to its eight registered lobbyists.

Some of that spending was to sway state lawmakers away from a bill introduced by West Tennessee lawmaker Rep. Vance Dennis, when he said he thought he'd found the "Achilles' heel" of Obamacare in that the federal law doesn't preclude states' authority to regulate insurance companies. Passing a law keeping state-licensed insurers from participating would thwart the exchanges, Dennis reasoned.

But the practical matter was that without other states doing the same thing, it would only serve to lock Tennessee-based companies out of the exchanges and hand all the business to out-of-state insurance companies.

The bill failed to pass -- even in a state where lawmakers have largely rejected the Affordable Care Act.