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State Rep. Mike Carter, left, and Sen. Todd Gardenhire, right, discussed their positions on fully funding the Basic Education Plan at a Times Free Press sponsored legislative roundtable. JoAnne Favors is at center.

NASHVILLE -- A bill tightening restrictions on Erlanger Health System aimed at the public hospital's trustees for meeting secretly to award $1.7 million in executive bonuses died in the House State Government Subcommittee today.

Other Tennessee public hospitals that would also have been affected had launched an offensive opposing the measure.

Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, said he took the bill off notice, after subcommittee members shot down an amendment basically rewriting the bill.

"They voted on the amendment. They killed the amendment. The amendment was the bill," Carter said.

He said panel members "felt like the actions of Erlanger and actions by the statute to correct Erlanger would be punishing the innocent for the acts of the guilty. And they voted it down."

Carter, an attorney, said he doesn't see himself bringing the measure back. But he issued a warning.

 "The trouble is all we got is an attorney general's opinion saying that [Erlanger trustees] did wrong. An attorney general's opinion is an attorney general's opinion. I wanted a statute saying you cannot do these things so that the next time suit could be brought and damages could be given."

Frank Gibson with the Tennessee Press Association said Erlanger is by no means alone in violating both public trust and the law.

"There's more than Erlanger where this law has been violated. They tried to sell a hospital in Unicoi County."

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