This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is expected to sign the wine in grocery stores bill this week. The governor’s office has the signing ceremony set for just after 11am Thursday morning. Voters will decide by referendum if they’ll allow the sales in their own towns and cities across Tennessee. In addition to allowing retailers and wholesalers to sell wine, liquor stores can sell beer and drinking related items such as mixers. WBIR-TV reports the bill-signing ceremony is listed on the governor’s public schedule. The change would not go into effect until July, 2016.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has received the Arbor Day Foundation’s 2014 Forest Lands Leadership Award. The award is given annually to an individual or organization that provides leadership in advancing sustainable forestry on public land. The TWRA was recognized this year for its bottomland hardwood forest restoration program in West Tennessee. Through that program, approximately three million trees have been planted on 6,800 acres of former row crop land. As the trees and shrubs grow into forests, they will provide habitat and mast in an area where it is critically needed.
Decision time is at hand for Tennessee lawmakers. With about a month to go in this year’s session of the General Assembly, the next two weeks could turn out to be the most eventful of the year, as a number of debates come to a head at last. The state Senate and House face big decisions on issues such as methamphetamine abuse and medical marijuana, school vouchers and Common Core education standards, free tuition for community college students and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. Legislative leaders hope to adjourn for the year in mid-April, and they already are beginning their final push toward the end.
This was supposed to be an easy year for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, with a relatively light legislative agenda and no major opponent yet in sight in his bid for re-election. But last week, during a chaotic floor session in the GOP-dominated House, an oddball coalition of hard-right Republicans, tea partiers and Democrats hijacked an education bill to ram through a two-year delay in Common Core education standards and new student tests for two years on an 88-11 vote. Haslam adamantly opposes such a delay and, before last week, House and Senate leaders had kept the attempt bottled up in committees. The final outcome of the House action is uncertain.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s agenda is falling on hard times with fellow Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly. A House vote last week to delay school curriculum and assessment standards was the latest defiance of the governor’s wishes. The GOP supermajority in the Legislature this session has also: — Ignored Haslam’s concerns over a bill to strip local governments of the power to impose blanket gun bans in local parks, playgrounds and ballparks. — Pushed the governor’s anti-meth proposal to the brink of failure because of a disagreement about how many cold and allergy medicines used to make the illegal drug should be allowed to be bought without a prescription. — Required House Speaker Beth Harwell to directly intervene to rescue Haslam’s proposal to create a limited school voucher program.
A proposal to prohibit students’ standardized test scores from influencing Tennessee teacher-licensing decisions has gained momentum as state lawmakers look to upend a controversial education policy of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration. A bill proponents have dubbed the “Educator Respect and Accountability Act” has garnered striking bipartisan support, clearing the Senate Education Committee by a 7-2 vote last week, one day after the House Education subcommittee voted 8-1 to pass its companion bill.
Missy Gaw’s 10-year-old daughter has to have a dose of insulin each time she eats. If no nurse is available to administer the dosage at the girl’s Nashville elementary school, then Gaw or her husband drive there to do so. Gaw’s husband is self-employed and she works from home, so they have accommodating schedules. But many other parents whose children depend on insulin aren’t so fortunate. “I personally don’t feel much of a hardship, but … there are a lot of other parents who don’t have as flexible jobs as my husband and I do,” Gaw said.
After a round of joking and some serious discussion, the House has given final legislative approval to a bill that would outlaw the use of drones to watch people who are “lawfully” hunting or fishing. “I would absolutely love for a drone to come by me while I’m hunting,” declared Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester. “They say you have to boil them a lot (for eating).” “What is the daily bag limit on drones?,” asked Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, at another point in the House floor discussion of SB1777. “It’s unlimited. They’re a nuisance,” replied the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma.
If it isn’t fermented in Tennessee from mash of at least 51 percent corn, aged in new charred oak barrels, filtered through maple charcoal and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof, it isn’t Tennessee whiskey. So says a year-old law that resembles almost to the letter the process used to make Jack Daniel’s, the world’s best-known Tennessee whiskey. Now state lawmakers are considering dialing back some of those requirements that they say make it too difficult for craft distilleries to market their spirits as Tennessee whiskey, a distinctive and popular draw in the booming American liquor business.
Local prosecutors want to implement penalties for women who bear drug-addicted babies, but also offer incentives that would allow the woman to receive drug treatment and not face prosecution. The state District Attorney General Conference is pushing to get a new law passed to allow prosecution of women who take drugs while pregnant and have drug-dependent babies. “Under this bill, the mother could enter a drug court or drug treatment and they would not be charged,” said Barry Staubus, Sullivan County district attorney general. “The incentive (is) to get into a program they wouldn’t otherwise do,” he said.
College admissions officers trumpet graduates’ success in finding well-paying jobs. But the schools often have a hard time getting solid proof. Boiling down employment outcomes to a single metric isn’t easy, many college officials say, since hurdles stand in the way of gathering meaningful figures and conveying them. Others say they are leery of tying the nuances of educational success to dollar figures. But with student-loan debt outstanding hitting a record $1.1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the issue of quantifying graduate success has become increasingly important as colleges come under pressure to prove the education they provide is worth the investment.
Tennessee’s legislative Republicans have made no secret of their revulsion to the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, especially when it comes to expanding the state’s Medicaid program under ACA provisions. But they took that loathing too far Thursday when the state House approved a bill to ban public schools from sending home to parents any information about the ACA. A Senate committee is scheduled to review a similar bill Wednesday. House Bill 2248 says schools “shall not include information on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act … in any school communication, written or electronic, to families of students concerning medical assistance, TennCare or the children’s health insurance program.”