Press release from Sen. Lowe Finney; March 7, 2012:
NASHVILLE – Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney continued to oppose Wednesday an amended bill regarding lottery scholarship changes that are now virtually guaranteed not to take effect.
“The amendment on the bill means the legislation is unnecessary,” Finney said. “Rather than amend the bill, the measure should simply go away so as to ensure that over 5,000 Tennessee college students won’t find their scholarships in jeopardy unnecessarily.”
Senate Bill 2154, as originally written, would result in the reduction of 5,257 full HOPE scholarships due to changing eligibility requirements. The amendment passed Wednesday would trigger those reductions only if lottery proceeds did not maintain their current growth.
Annual net lottery proceeds are conservatively projected to increase $15 million over the next four years, on top of reserves that can fund the current level of scholarships for decades. Tennessee Lottery officials announced yesterday that February was the lottery’s best month in the program’s history amid a record-setting year.
“This bill never increased access to college, but at least now it doesn’t decrease access, either,” said State Senator Andy Berke. “We have a lottery surplus in this state, and an education deficit. It’s time to start talking about how to change that.”
Members of the House Education Subcommittee voted to delay the bill and the amendment on Wednesday, citing a request from some House Democrats for time to review the amendment.
“The important thing is that students will not lose their HOPE scholarships, whether this bill passes or fails,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “We would be better off now working to make sure there are jobs for our students when they graduate.”