March 25 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

Haslam addresses Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce (WSMV-TV Nashville)

Gov. Bill Haslam gave his annual address at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. Haslam’s key message was more businesses are looking at Tennessee as a destination and boosting education will help bring them here. At last month’s state of the state address, Haslam applauded the creation of 225,000 new jobs in Tennessee over the last four years. Tuesday, he said he recently spoke with two more businesses wanting to relocate here. “And within 30 seconds, both of those conversations when to, well here is my real concern,” Haslam said. “It is about the quality of the workforce. It is why we focus so hard on K-12 and it is why we introduced the Tennessee Promise.”

Haslam: Gas tax increase will happen in second term, just not this year (NBJ)

The governor said Tuesday an increase in Tennessee’s gas tax must happen in the next four years in order for the state to continue funding highway projects and public transportation. But Gov. Bill Haslam said such a hike to the gas tax will not occur this year. Speaking at an event hosted by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the governor was asked how the state will make sure localities have funding to address mass transit. Haslam reiterated a point he’s made before: more fuel-efficient cars are putting pressure on the state’s primary funding source for road projects, the gas tax. (Around half of the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s $1.8 billion budget comes from federal funding). “The challenge of basic funding is there,” Haslam said. “We decided not to do it this year. But at some point in time in the near future, it will happen while we’re in office.”

TCAT encouraging adults to sign up for Tennessee Reconnect (Leaf Chronicle)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Dickson & Clarksville Campuses will host an open house from 10:00a.m. – 2:00p.m. on Saturday, March 28, for area adults to sign up for the Tennessee Reconnect grant, a new program that allows Tennesseans to attend a technical college tuition free. The event is designed to encourage adults to enroll in The Tennessee Reconnect program, Governor Haslam’s initiative to provide eligible adults the opportunity to earn a diploma or certificate at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) free of tuition and mandatory fees. Tennessee Reconnect is part of the Drive to 55, an initiative focused on increasing the number of Tennesseans with a college degree or technical certificate.

Tenn College of Applied Technology Campuses to hold Scholarship Saturday (CO)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Dickson and Clarksville Campuses will host an open house from 10:00am – 2:00pm on Saturday, March 28th, for area adults to sign up for the Tennessee Reconnect grant, a new program that allows Tennesseans to attend a technical college tuition free. The event is designed to encourage adults to enroll in The Tennessee Reconnect program, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s initiative to provide eligible adults the opportunity to earn a diploma or certificate at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) free of tuition and mandatory fees. Tennessee Reconnect is part of the Drive to 55, an initiative focused on increasing the number of Tennesseans with a college degree or technical certificate.

TCAT Elizabethton offering sign-up days for Tennessee Reconnect grants (JCP)

The state has a new initiative to help adults who complete a postsecondary degree or credential. The program, called Tennessee Reconnect, is targeted at the 900,000 to 1 million adults with some college but no degree. Next week the Tennessee College of Applied Technology will be providing an opportunity for those adults to sign up for a Tennessee Reconnect grant. The program would allow those students to attend TCAT Elizabethton free of tuition and fees, beginning in the fall of 2015. The sign up days will be held March 27-28 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the campus located at 426 Tenn. Highway 91, in the Watauga Industrial Park across from the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.

Event set for TCAT grant sign up (Columbia Daily Herald)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Pulaski will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for area adults to sign up for the Tennessee Reconnect grant, a new program that allows Tennesseans to attend a technical college tuition free. The event is designed to encourage adults to enroll in The Tennessee Reconnect program, Gov. Bill Haslam’s initiative to provide eligible adults the opportunity to earn a diploma or certificate at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) free of tuition and mandatory fees. Tennessee Reconnect is part of the Drive to 55, an initiative focused on increasing the number of Tennesseans with a college degree or technical certificate.

Chatt State to host TN Reconnect Open House (Grundy County Herald)

As part of the Governor’s Drive to 55 by the 2025 initiative, the TN Reconnect Grant (TNRG) announced last month provides free tuition to qualifying adults attending a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) beginning fall 2015. On Saturday, March 28, the Amnicola Highway campus of Chattanooga State Community College will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. so that the community can explore the programs, labs and facilities available at the college. TCAT Chattanooga faculty and staff will answer questions about the 18 one-year programs and five certificate programs available. Potential adult students may apply to the college and complete the FAFSA form, then apply for financial aid and the TNRG grant all on the same day.

Open house set Saturday for TCAT Reconnect Grant information (C. Chronicle)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology Crossville will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 28, for area adults to sign up for the Tennessee Reconnect grant, a new program that allows Tennesseans to attend a technical college tuition free.  The event is designed to encourage adults to enroll in The Tennessee Reconnect program, Governor Haslam’s initiative to provide eligible adults the opportunity to earn a diploma or certificate at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) free of tuition and mandatory fees.

Campuses Participate In Event To Support Veteran Success (Chattanoogan)

Senior campus leaders, student affairs personnel and student veteran organization representatives from more than 50 higher education institutions joined the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs, Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Drive to 55, the Governor’s Veterans Education Task Force and Austin Peay State University at the inaugural Veteran Education Academy, an initiative to learn and share best practices in support of student veteran success in Tennessee.   The event is part of the larger discussion Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder are encouraging around the state to improve access to higher education for student veterans.

TCAT-Newbern to host Scholarship Saturday March 28 (State Gazette)

Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Newbern will host an open house from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 28 for area adults to sign up for the Tennessee Reconnect grant, a new program that allows Tennesseans to attend a technical college tuition free. The event is designed to encourage adults to enroll in The Tennessee Reconnect program, Gov. Bill Haslam’s initiative to provide eligible adults the opportunity to earn a diploma or certificate at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) free of tuition and mandatory fees.

Haslam encouraged by Insure Tennessee revival; Ramsey skeptical (A. Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he’s pleased to see his Insure Tennessee proposal revived in the Legislature, but the top Republican in the Senate called it unlikely that the measure will reach an up-or-down vote by the full chamber. The resolution sponsored by freshman Democratic Sen. Jeff Yarbro advanced to the full Health Committee with positive recommendation on Monday on a 3-2 vote. The measure largely mirrors Haslam’s proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans that failed in a special session last month.

Haslam encouraged by efforts to revive Insure Tennessee (News-Sentinel/Locker)

Gov. Bill Haslam told Nashville business leaders Tuesday that the surprise resurrection of his health insurance plan in a Senate subcommittee is encouraging, but it still faces rough going. He said will keep trying to ease concerns about it and encouraged the business executives to do the same. “The Senate health subcommittee passed it out 3-2, which is movement, and it will go to the full Senate Health Committee, where we think we have a good shot to have it moved as well. After that, the path gets a little trickier,” Haslam said at a breakfast meeting of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “I think our role is to continue to keep this discussion alive and to keep answering all the questions that come up.”

Revived Insure Tennessee still faces uphill battle (Tennessean/Boucher, Wilemon)

The resurrection of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal could be short-lived. Legislation to bring it back before the Tennessee General Assembly passed its first test Monday and has a decent chance Wednesday in a Senate committee hearing, but the two top officials in state government have doubts that a floor vote will ever occur. Haslam expressed his concerns Tuesday in a speech to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, where he got a standing ovation when he pledged to “keep trying to find a way to make it happen.” But he admitted the path will get trickier as it moves through legislative committees.

Ramsey: Full Senate vote on Insure Tennessee unlikely (Associated Press/Schelzig)

The top Republican in the state Senate is throwing cold water on an effort to revive Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville called it unlikely that the measure makes it to a full floor vote even though it appears to have strong prospects in a vote in the full Health Committee. The Senate TennCare Subcommittee on Monday voted 3-2 to give a positive recommendation to the resolution sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville. A Haslam spokesman said the governor supports the move to rekindle the measure that failed in a special legislative session last month. “I’m not sure it ever gets to the floor, to be perfectly honest,” Ramsey said after Monday’s floor session. “But again, there were those back in the special session that felt that I stacked the Health Committee, which was not true.”

Healthcare officials make push to revive Insure Tennessee (Johnson City Press)

One vote could tip the scales and send Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee to the Senate floor, and healthcare officials are working overtime to make sure those potentially affected are aware of what’s at stake. The governor’s original proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income citizens was laid low in February by an appointed Senate committee. But on Monday the Senate TennCare Subcommittee voted 3-2 to recommend a resolution by Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, that would allow the governor to implement the plan. The resolution is expected to be heard today by the full Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The full committee has a different makeup than the appointed panel that rejected the Insure Tennessee proposal in a 7-4 vote last month.

Haslam Lightly Fans Embers Left From Medicaid Expansion Rejection (WPLN)

Governor Bill Haslam calls the revival of his plan to expand Medicaid “an encouraging sign,” though he doubts the legislation will get much farther. The deal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans was shot down during a special session with the vote of just one specially-appointed committee in the state senate. But this week, a subcommittee of the Senate Health panel approved a bill from Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) that would allow Haslam to move forward. The vote was three to two. Tuesday morning, governor told the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce that there’s a good chance the full Senate Health Committee will also approve. But beyond that, the path “gets a little trickier.”

Tennessee’s incentive package for Warby Parker comes into focus (N. Biz Journal)

Tennessee is committing more than $650,000 worth of incentives for Warby Parker as the New York eyewear company establishes its Nashville office. According to documents provided by the state economic development office, Warby Parker is receiving two state grants for its new presence in Nashville, which is expected to bring at least 250 new jobs to downtown. The first piece of the package totals $263,000 and is designed for job training through the state’s Fast Track Job Assistance Program. This funding is made out directly to Warby Parker and is distributed on a worker-by-worker basis, not as a full lump sum.

Haslam says education funding lawsuit squashes further talks (TFP/Hardy, Sher)

Gov. Bill Haslam says a lawsuit filed by seven Southeast Tennessee school districts on Tuesday effectively shuts the door on future talks over the state’s funding of education. The Hamilton County Board of Education — along with school systems in Bradley, McMinn, Marion, Grundy, Coffee and Polk counties — filed suit Tuesday in Davidson County, claiming the state is not meeting its constitutional obligation to fund public schools. Rather than providing state-funded free public education as required by law, the lawsuit alleges, Tennessee has shifted the financial burden of operating schools to local boards of education, teachers and students, “resulting in substantially unequal education opportunities across the state.”

7 Tennessee School Systems Sue the State Over Funding (Associated Press)

Hamilton County and six Chattanooga-area school systems filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the state saying local schools are not being funded as required by law. The lawsuit was filed in the Chancery Court of Davidson County, the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/1y1S0NH) reported. The suit alleged the state has “breached its duty under the Tennessee Constitution to provide a system of free public education for the children of this state.” The lawsuit named Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell and other officials who serve on the Tennessee Board of Education. The suit claimed the state’s funding formula underestimates the cost of teachers’ salaries by about $532 million. It also said schools face an annual shortfall of about $134 million in classroom costs.

7 Tennessee school systems sue the state over funding (Tennessean/Gonzalez)

Hamilton County and six Chattanooga-area school systems filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the state saying local schools are not being funded as required by law. The lawsuit was filed in the Chancery Court of Davidson County, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported. The suit says the state has “breached its duty under the Tennessee Constitution to provide a system of free public education for the children of this state.” The announcement of the lawsuit prompted Metro Schools Board of Education member Amy Frogge on Tuesday night to announce she will bring a resolution in April asking the board to engage with independent legal counsel.

School boards in 7 counties sue over state funding (Commercial Appeal/Roberts)

A day after Gov. Bill Haslam reached out to talk to heads of the largest school districts in the state about school funding, seven school boards filed suit early Tuesday, claiming the state is not fully funding education and forcing schools boards and communities to fill the gap. The suit was filed in Chancery Court in Davidson County by school boards in Hamilton, Bradley, McMinn, Marion, Grundy, Coffee and Polk counties. “We appreciate the governor and the dialogue, and we don’t intend this to stop the dialogue, but we don‘t think inserting our legal claims precludes the discussion,” said Hamilton County school board member Dr. Jonathan Welch.

Governor Interviewing Candidates For Vacant Circuit Court Judge Position (G. Sun)

The process of selecting a Circuit Court judge to fill the vacancy in the 3rd Judicial District continues today when Gov. Bill Haslam and legal counsel will interview the three candidates for the job in Nashville. Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr., Greeneville lawyer Linda Thomas Woolsey and Morristown lawyer Beth Boniface are currently under consideration by Haslam for the position. Seven applicants were interviewed last month at the General Morgan Inn by the Governor’s Council for Judicial Applicants. After interviewing each candidate, the panel chose Bailey, Woolsey and Boniface as nominees. The panel forwarded its recommendations to Haslam on Feb. 11.

Gov. refuses to take sides on ‘Lady Vols’ vs. ‘Vols’ (News-Sentinel/Locker)

Gov. Bill Haslam says he won’t be getting involved in the controversy over removing the “Lady” from the name of the University of Tennessee’s women’s sports teams, the “Lady Vols.” During the question-and-answer part of Haslam’s speech Tuesday to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Paul Lyle asked whether there’s anything the governor can do on the name controversy and larger “management” issues the questioner didn’t detail. “There’s some things going on in our University of Tennessee. It fits into our hearts and I know into your family’s hearts as well. There are things going on there in terms of lawsuits, the management there,” said Lyle, a Nashville advertising and real estate executive and UT sports backer who said he’s a UT graduate and 51-year football season ticket holder.

TDOT official says green spaces result in green dollars (Times-News)

Toks Omishakin is Tennessee’s “Green Generates Green” salesman. He is selling the notion that public dollars poured into green spaces result in a measurable private return on investment in the 21st century. Just about every community in the state — including Kingsport — has been competing hard for those public dollars not just for the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, but also for the Millennial Generation. Omishakin, chief of Environment and Planning at the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), is making the case that public quality-of-life investment decisions can do everything from filling up hotel rooms to creating more shoppers.

State parks offer weight loss competition (Jackson Sun)

West Tennessee state parks are offering a way to get out and get in shape with the Get Fit with Tennessee State Parks contest. Scott Easley, a park ranger at Chickasaw State Park, said the contest will be modeled after “The Biggest Loser” TV show. Chickasaw, Pinson Mounds and Natchez Trace state parks will hold weigh-ins at their parks on Saturday. On June 27, the participant who has lost the largest percentage of his or her body weight will win two free nights in a cabin at Chickasaw or Natchez Trace. “It’s really about getting out and making an effort, and letting people enjoy these parks,” Easley said. He said the entire state is working hard to improve its fitness, and this is the parks’ way of contributing. “We said, ‘Why not get the public involved, who are in our parks every day?'”

TN AG wants court to set aside municipal broadband ruling (A. Press/Schelzig)

Tennessee’s attorney general wants a federal appeals court to set aside a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission to allow cities such as Chattanooga to offer municipal broadband beyond their normal service area. State Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in the filing with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the FCC had “unlawfully inserted itself between the state of Tennessee and the state’s own subdivisions.” Slatery had been among several prominent Tennessee Republicans who had urged the FCC not to override a state law that blocks Chattanooga’s electric utility from expanding its super-fast Internet network.

AG fights ruling allowing EPB to extend high-speed Internet (TFP/Sher, Malek)

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is trying to overturn the historic decision federal regulators made last month allowing Chattanooga’s EPB to offer high-speed Internet service beyond its footprint. The state’s chief attorney on Friday filed a lawsuit in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to essentially wipe out the Federal Communications Commission’s final order for the case in which EPB and the city of Wilson, N.C., successfully sought to strike down state laws barring them from expanding their broadband offerings outside their service areas.

Tenn’s top attorney may decide commissioners’ pay confusion (TFP/Brogdon)

At this point, Hamilton County commissioners have no clue what they should be paid. And the decision will likely be up to the state’s top attorney. Commissioner Greg Beck says he wants State Attorney General Herbert Slatery to say whether the commission should be getting paid under the same part of the law it has used for 37 years, or under another, little known, part of the law that says they have been underpaid that whole time. “If the law is as stated, then surely … it’s incumbent upon the Legislature to follow the law,” Beck said.

Tweaked guns-in-parks bill likely headed to House floor (Tennessean/Boucher)

A bill to allow handgun permit holders to take their guns to parks, despite any reservations from local governments, probably is headed to the House floor soon after another House committee approved the bill Tuesday. The House Finance, Ways and Means Committee voted 15-5 to approve the bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Harrison, R-Rogersville. The committee amended the bill so that the state or counties don’t need to actually remove the signs in parks that notify people guns are not allowed; the change means the bill doesn’t officially cost the state any money. Even if the signs stay posted, people with valid handgun permits could carry their guns to the parks, Harrison said.

Guns-in-parks bill headed for House floor vote (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Locker)

A House committee on Tuesday recommended approval of this year’s bill prohibiting towns, cities and counties from banning guns in their local parks — without an amendment sought by Gov. Bill Haslam that would have maintained gun bans in parks and greenways adjacent to schools. The governor had expressed concern about the bill’s impact on nearby schools only hours before the House Finance Committee reviewed the bill. Without the amendment — and when combined with a separate bill that won Senate approval Monday — the legislation would allow anyone with a handgun-carry permit to go armed in any public park, natural area, nature trail, campground, forest, greenway or waterway, including such spaces bordering schools.

Bill Would Allow Guns in Off-Campus Areas (Associated Press)

A proposal that would allow guns in off-campus areas used by schools has passed the Senate. The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville was approved 26-5 on Monday. Currently, it’s an offense to carry a weapon on any property owned, used or operated by any school, college or university. Green’s proposal would remove that prohibition. Democratic Sen. Lee Harris of Memphis was among the dissenting votes. He said such a measure would allow lawful gun owners to bring firearms to sporting events like football and baseball games. The companion bill in the House initially failed when it did not receive a second in the civil justice subcommittee. But Republican Rep. Debra Moody of Covington has put the bill back on notice for another vote on Wednesday.

Bill allows volunteer interpreters for deaf in abuse allegations (Tenn/Boucher)

A new bill would prevent law enforcement agencies from using a parent, a family member or an abuse suspect as an interpreter in any potential cases of sexual or domestic abuse involving deaf children. But there are components of the bill that trouble local deaf services and advocacy organizations. Law enforcement could use volunteer interpreters who aren’t trained in American Sign Language if the bill becomes law. “If a person communicates with American Sign Language, a qualified interpreter is needed. Period,” said Sallie Hussey, president and CEO of Bridges, a Nashville nonprofit that offers interpreting and other services for the deaf community in Middle Tennessee.

Anti-abortion bills advancing in state House (Associated Press/Johnson)

Proposals seeking to restore abortion laws that were struck down by a state Supreme Court decision advanced in the House on Tuesday despite criticism from opponents who say the measures could put more stress on women facing difficult circumstances. The two bills passed the House Health Subcommittee on voice votes. One measure is sponsored by Republican Rep. Matthew Hill of Jonesborough and would require a 48-hour waiting period before an abortion. The other, sponsored by Republican Rep. Susan Lynn of Mount Juliet, would require facilities or physician offices to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers if they perform more than 50 abortions in a year.

3 abortion bills advance in legislature (Tennessean/Wadhwani)

trio of measures that would impose new regulations on abortion clinics and women seeking abortions advanced in the Tennessee House on Tuesday. Members of the House health subcommittee voted to advance a bill that would impose a 48-hour waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion. The bill also would require so-called “informed consent” — providing a woman seeking an abortion with specific information about the procedure and the fetus. Lawmakers also voted to advance a separate bill that would require all clinics providing 50 or more abortions per year to be certified as an ambulatory surgical center, a designation that comes with detailed requirements for clinics that could force some abortion providers out of business. A fourth measure requiring women to obtain an ultrasound and to listen to a description of the ultrasound was temporarily postponed.

House panel delays action on Womick ultrasound bill (Daily News Journal)

Consideration of a bill requiring an ultrasound to be performed before any abortion in the state was delayed in a House subcommittee Tuesday afternoon. The legislation sponsored by state Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, was one of several bills tabled to another meeting by the House Health Subcommitee as they navigated through their final set of proposals. Womick told The Tennessean he planned to amend the original legislation when it reached the subcommittee, one of the first to be filed in this year’s General Assembly. If the amendment is adopted, women would be required to have the ultrasound but could choose not to view the ultrasound or hear the heartbeat of the fetus.

Bill allowing victim photos at trial advances (Tennessean/Barchenger)

Gail Chilton carried a picture of her teenage daughter Melissa into the bustle of Legislative Plaza on Tuesday. Melissa was smiling in her school portrait, her curly hair framing her 18-year-old face. Melissa and another woman were stabbed to death at Exotic Tan on Church Street in Nashville on Feb. 22, 1996, just months after the photograph was taken. The case went cold until last year, when Patrick Streater was charged with murder. He is awaiting trial. Chilton carried the photo into a hearing before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, hoping it would help draw support for a bill that would allow juries to see photos of crime victims taken before their deaths.

Bill would allow murder victims’ photo to be shown to jurors (WSMV)

Victim’s advocates in Tennessee are trying to change state law require judges to allow pictures of the victim to be shown in murder trials. That decision is currently at a judge’s discretion. The idea to allow at least one photograph of a murder victim as they appeared in life never made it out of subcommittee until Tuesday. “There is no justice in it,” said Gail Chilton, a mother of a murder victim. “Because they don’t see anybody but the crime victim. They’re going to see their body, bloody mess at the crime scene. That’s not fair, that’s not fair. And that’s why this was passed years ago, so I don’t understand what the negativity is, where we can’t allow because sympathy of the jury. Excuse me, the jury needs to see the person before they were murdered, not just after.”

Senate committee declines to act on proton therapy insurance bill (N-S/Locker)

After an almost two-hour hearing, a state Senate committee on Tuesday declined to act on a bill that would require health insurance companies to cover proton therapy treatment for cancer at the same levels it covers other radiation therapies. The bill is a high-stakes battle between providers of the therapy, including Knoxville’s Provision Center for Proton Therapy, and the insurance industry which opposes the bill. But after testimony from both sides of the issue, no member of the nine-member Senate Commerce and Labor Committee responded to Chairman Jack Johnson’s call for a motion to recommend approval. The failure to act means the bill will stay in the committee unless its supporters can persuade a majority of its members to vote the bill out.

Tennessee Senate Approves Bill To Seize Assets Used in Terrorism (WPLN-Radio)

The Tennessee Senate has unanimously voted to give state law enforcement the power to seize property used in terrorism. Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) said Senate Bill 180 lets police recoup the cost of investigations and could provide a pool of money for victims. “If you recall what happened in Boston, there were many people who were injured during the Boston Marathon, and for any of those assets that law enforcement is able to collect, those victims would have an opportunity to go back through civil action.” Muslims in Tennessee had objected to the bill, fearing it might be used to take mosques and other property upon the mere suspicion of terrorism. But senators amended the bill to require a conviction before police could seize assets.

Bill Would Keep Repeat DUI Offenders From Buying Alcohol (WTVF-TV Nashville)

A bill before Tennessee State lawmakers would prevent those convicted of three or more DUI’s from purchasing alcohol. The idea was put forward by freshman Republican Representative John Holsclaw from Johnson City. “When we researched it a little bit there were over 1,000 individuals last year convicted of a third DUI, so to me if we save one life out there this bill’s made a big difference,” Holsclaw said. If passed, anyone convicted of three or more DUI’s would have to have a special stamp on their license with the words “No Alcohol Sales.” The hope is to keep repeat offenders from getting behind the wheel drunk. “Currently what we’ve done is not working, so with this extra step so maybe if they get alcohol somebody else will drive and get it so they won’t be on the road to get it,” he added.

Slots and roulette in Tenn? Nashville lawmaker aims to allow casino games (NBJ)

A Nashville Democrat is proposing to allow casino gambling in Tennessee. Rep. Jason Powell’s proposed amendment to the state constitution ( HJR 87) would give the General Assembly the power to “authorize casino gaming to be operated within the state.” Should the amendment go into effect, state revenue from casino gaming would be reserved for public schools or gambling addition programs, according to the resolution. Powell told me Tuesday he wants the bulk of the revenue to go to K-12 education. “I’m always looking for any opportunity to generate more opportunity for K-12 education funding,” Powell said. “I think our state is losing a lot of money to states surrounding us who have casino gaming. I want to keep those tax dollars here in our state.”

Lawmakers take part in Ag Day on the Hill (WSMV-TV Nashville)

Tennessee lawmakers took part in Ag Day on the Hill on Tuesday. The festivities featured live animal exhibits, corn shucking contests and displays by various agriculture organization. Samantha Reese, a farmer, said there is a lot to be learned from these events. “One takeaway is everything is friendly,” Reese said. “So my cow is like my pet, like a dog.” Agriculture is one of the top industries in Tennessee, contributing more than $66 billion a year to the state’s economy.

Cows, Moon Pies, Corn-Shelling: Lawmakers Break Routine With Ag Day (WPLN)

Cows, tractors and crates of sweet potatoes lined the entrance to Legislative Plaza, and House and Senate leaders squared off for a corn-shelling contest in the General Assembly’s annual Ag Day celebration. A three-person team led by House Speaker Beth Harwell used an old-fashioned, hand-crank sheller to drop just over five pounds of kernels into its bucket in a minute’s time. That was a few ounces more than the Senate team — though, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a part-time farmer, tried to save face by claiming he’d gone easy on Harwell. The shelling contest kicked off the agriculture industry’s annual day of lobbying at the Capitol. Inside, 4-H groups, extension agents and dozens of other organizations handed out things like Moon Pies and home-baked cornbread, in a bid to promote the sector.

Weaver Unfazed by Reports of Unintended Consequences from Law (TN Report)

The threat of jail time may not be prompting drug-abusing pregnant women to seek addiction treatment, despite that being a central promise made last year by Tennessee advocates of the law. Doctors and addiction experts who opposed the Volunteer State legislation warned in 2013 that such laws not only disproportionately affect poor women, but would also have a chilling effect on women with drug problems seeking prenatal care. And according to a recent special report from Equal Voice for America’s Families, a news agency focused on family poverty issues, that’s exactly what’s happened. “The law is not only incarcerating a handful of new mothers but affecting many more women, as evidenced by months of interviews with women, doctors and health workers. Pregnant women are diving underground in an effort to avoid the fate they’ve seen in mug shots on the local news,” according to the report.

AT&T opposes municipal broadband bill (Tennessean/McGee)

For many rural Tennesseans, the bills that would allow municipal broadband providers to expand services is a step toward faster Internet. For the telecommunications industry, it is unwanted competition. AT&T Tennessee President Joelle Phillips has emailed Tennessee employees, encouraging them to reach out to legislators and oppose two bills filed in the General Assembly, versions of which have been killed in at least three previous legislative sessions. “Government should not compete against the private sector, which has a proven history of funding, building, operating and upgrading broadband networks,” she said in the emailed statement.

Cohen co-sponsors bill to cap fees, rates from ‘predatory’ lenders (C. Appeal)

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, introduced a bill in the House Tuesday that would cap the fees and rates applied by such businesses as payday and car title lenders. The bill would extend a 36 percent annualized cap on credit products to service members and their families, which was enacted in 2006, to all citizens. The so-called ‘predatory lenders’ include car loans, credit cards, overdraft loans, payday loans and car title loans. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pennsylvania, is co-sponsoring the bill. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Bipartisan Deal on Health Care Issues Hits a Snag Among Senate Democrats (NYT)

The deal is as politically remarkable as it is substantive: a long-term plan to finance health care for older Americans, pay doctors who accept Medicare and extend popular health care programs for children and the poor. It was cobbled together by none other than House Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the leader of House Democrats, who rarely agree on anything, with the apparent blessing of a majority of their respective members. Then along came a surprising impediment: Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, along with other Senate Democrats, objected to abortion restrictions in the bill and limits to an extension of a health insurance program for children.

States Tackle ‘Aging Out’ of Foster Care (Stateline)

Two and a half years ago, Jazmin Favela ran away from a troubled home life. She took off without a change of clothes, crashing wherever she could. When her picture started showing up on “missing” posters in her California town, she figured she’d better turn herself in. And that, she said, is how she entered the foster care system. Now, at 18, Jazmin is living semi-autonomously in a foster home, taking care of her 2-month-old baby and attending community college part time. She has dreams of becoming a preschool teacher and majoring in psychology. To make those dreams a reality, she said, her best option is to stay in the foster care system until she turns 21.

 

OPINION

Editorial: Lawmakers, give Insure Tennessee a second chance (Tennessean)

Congratulations to the senators who took the bold step of resurrecting Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee program during the General Assembly’s regular session. After an ignoble death in the third day of a special session last month, the proposal, which combines compassion, conservatism and common sense, has a chance to become law this year. The Senate Health and Welfare Subcommittee on TennCare on Monday recommended by a vote of 3-2 that Insure Tennessee be brought back for consideration — with a few tweaks. Such is the reality of legislating, where nobody gets everything he or she wants, but the point was to bring it back as whole as possible. That said, since an amendment now ties the proposal to the fate of the Affordable Care Act, it might never be enacted.

Guest columnist: Let businesses profit and benefit community (Tennessean)

Tennessee is a great state for doing business, but if we want to keep our reputation, we will need to keep up with the evolving goals of many entrepreneurs. This year, state lawmakers will decide whether Tennessee joins a growing number of states that allow the formation of benefit corporations, organizations that focus on social good and profitable enterprise. For-profit corporations formed in Tennessee are currently bound by law to one purpose: maximize financial return for shareholders. There is nothing wrong with the quest for sustainable profits, but this narrow requirement limits new ideas of how a business can operate. A benefit corporation is a new type of for-profit entity that gives businesses the choice of furthering a social cause in addition to making money.

Editorial: Senate should stop transferring outreach funds (News-Sentinel)

A dubious legislative practice is ending in the Tennessee House of Representatives but continuing in the Senate. State lawmakers have a long-standing tradition of helping each other out in re-election campaigns by transferring among themselves money intended for constituent communications. State Sen. Richard Briggs and state Rep. Martin Daniel, both Knoxville Republicans in their first terms in office, filed bills this session to ban the practice. Another bill, originally filed by House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick but now shepherded by Daniel, would expand the time limit on the use of the funds. The use of these public funds for what amounts to political purposes should end, either by legislation or, as House Speaker Beth Harwell admirably did late last week, by setting new legislative rules.

Editorial: Companies, local government should decide if they want firearms (CA)

The Tennessee General Assembly continues to be bipolar this session when it comes to proposed legislation regarding gun-carry rights. A House subcommittee last week killed a bill that, as it was amended in the Senate, would have allowed students to keep guns in their cars on public college campuses in Tennessee. Three other bills have failed, including one that would remove the background-check requirement for a gun purchase by permit holders. However, a bill giving permit-holding employees a right to sue an employer for sanctioning them for keeping guns in their vehicles on company-own property has passed. And a bill prohibiting town, city and county governments from banning handgun-carry permit holders from going armed in local parks is still in play. While we do not disagree with the right to go armed with the proper permit, it is unreasonable to deny a private company or local government the right to say whether it wants firearms on its property.