Press Releases

Harris Proposes Scholarship Funded by Red Light Camera Revenue

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; February 4, 2015:

Proposal would invest red light camera revenue in our students

NASHVILLE – Legislation filed today by state Sen. Lee Harris would create new scholarship opportunities for students to attend college paid for entirely by revenue from municipal red light cameras.

“Red light cameras frustrate citizens and distract from more important public safety measures,” Sen. Harris said. “If we can’t eliminate them altogether, let’s invest the revenue they produce in our students, not the bottom line of traffic camera companies.”

Sen. Harris filed Senate Bill 361 Wednesday to create the Drive to College scholarship, which invests all revenue generated by new red light camera contracts after July 1, 2015 in sending students to college.

In Memphis alone, according to a report in the Commercial Appeal, red light cameras have generated $3.1 million in camera-related fines, but the Arizona-based contractor earned $4.8 million.

“As a member of the Memphis City Council, I worked on and authored comprehensive legislation to make our streets safer for pedestrians and drivers,” Sen. Harris said. “Taking the profit out of red light cameras will keep us focused on more serious ideas, like speed bumps and traffic-calming devices.”

Press Releases

Haslam Signs ‘HOPE’ Scholarship Legislation

Press Release from the Office of Bill Haslam, Governor of Tennessee, June 8, 2011:

The new law will continue education reform in Tennessee

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed HB 2010/SB 1529 into law today, allowing students to use the HOPE Scholarship for summer courses.

“The HOPE scholarships retain the best and brightest students in the state, and working to ensure we have a highly-trained and educated workforce is the most important step we can take to attracting high quality jobs to Tennessee,” Haslam said.

Last year, the General Assembly passed the Complete College Tennessee ACT (CCTA) with the goal of raising educational attainment rates in our state by promoting and incentivizing college completion.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett), sponsored the legislation that passed the Senate in a vote of 27 to 1 and the House 96 to 0.

This new law will bring the state’s largest financial aid program into alignment with the goals of the CCTA in terms of degree efficiency and productivity.

“Extending summer eligibility makes the scholarship more user-friendly for students while allowing higher education institutions to better utilize their buildings and campuses throughout the course of the year,” Haslam added. “We worked hard to make this legislation as student-friendly and fiscally responsible while making sure we created the right incentives to improve time-to-completion and to graduate more Tennesseans.”

This law also provides for a 120-hour cap on the number of hours a student can use the scholarship money, excepting certain majors. It also applies to students who enrolled in the fall of 2009 but does not affect students enrolled before that time.

Education Featured News

Education Progress Report: Incomplete

Lawmakers have spent much of the year squabbling over education overhauls for how school systems, teachers and their unions operate in Tennessee.

Democrats and leaders with the state’s largest teachers’ union are fighting the GOP-driven proposals but lack the political muscle to pose a serious threat to Republicans who control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office.

Republicans have picked up some education bills and dropped others like hot potatoes. Some of those lawmakers have splintered off and opposed prime education reform bills, thickening the political plot as the legislation inches closer to passage.

Meanwhile, officials with the Tennessee Education Association say teachers feel beat up by this year’s line-up of bills targeting them and their profession.

Here’s a progress report on where the key education bills are in the legislative process:

Leaders Say They’re Done Bargaining Over Collective Bargaining (SB113/HB130):

After four substantial rewrites, the newest version of a bill to do away with teachers’ collective bargaining privileges is now facing a vote on the Senate floor. House Speaker Beth Harwell and House sponsor Debra Maggart — who originally sided with Gov. Bill Haslam in favoring a scaled-back collective bargaining bill — now say they’re both happy with the latest version because it melds drafts from the two chambers and completely bans unions from negotiating teachers’ contracts. Haslam has yet to weigh in on the newest version. The Senate passed the bill on Monday, 18-14.

Teacher Tenure Revamped (SB1528/HB:2012):

Check this one off the list. Haslam signed into law a series of changes to teacher tenure, chiefly by giving schools the ability to take away tenure from under-performing teachers as defined by a new evaluation system. Democrats said they generally agreed with the bill but bitterly fought to delay its implementation until schools can give the newly designed teacher evaluations a test run. Republicans forged ahead anyway and the bill will kick in for the next school year.

Charter School Expansion A Slow Grower (HB1989/SB1523): Haslam is a huge proponent for charter school expansion, but his plan to open up enrollment and lift the cap on the number of charter schools is moving slowly through the Legislature. When we last left this bill, both versions had made their way out of the education committees, however they still face the two Finance Ways and Means committees, scheduling committees, then votes on the chamber floors.

Vouchers Go To Summer School (SB485/HB388): This bill went largely unnoticed until it landed on the Senate floor last week and narrowly won a majority vote. The bill would allow students to switch to a private, parochial, charter or another public school via a state-issued scholarship. Less than a week later, House Republicans kicked the bill into a summer study committee, essentially killing the measure for the rest of the year.

Managing the Memphis Merger (SB25/HB51): The Legislature kicked off this legislative session by passing a bill slowing down the merger between the Memphis City Schools system and Shelby County Schools after Memphis officials decided to disband the district. Democrats loathed it, Republicans loved it, and Haslam has already signed it into law.

Dues Deduction Dead, For Now (HB159/SB136): On top of pushing bills attempting to marginalize the Tennessee Education Association, Republicans also attempted to ban teachers’ automatic payroll deductions to pay their union dues. There’s not enough time to push that bill this year, according to Rep. Glen Casada, who was carrying the bill. The Franklin Republican said he missed the deadline to take up the bill in a subcommittee but vows to bring the measure up again next year.

Political Contribution Confusion (HB160/SB139): A proposal pitched earlier this year that would have banned unions — like the TEA — from giving money to political candidates has since morphed into a bill that allows corporate campaign giving. Casada, who is sponsoring this bill, too, said he backed off the original plan in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a federal ban on corporate contributions. Instead of imposing a ban on unions, like he originally planned, he wants to lift restrictions on corporate giving and allow legislators and the governor to accept political contributions during the legislative session. That measure is still making its way through House and Senate legislative committees.

TEA Serving on Retirement Board (SB102/ HB565): A measure to take away the Tennessee Education Association’s guaranteed seat on the state’s Consolidated Retirement Board has already passed the Senate and is on its way through the House. Like many other education bills, the Senate vote fell on party lines. The measure allows the Senate and House speakers to appoint any teacher they want to the board, regardless of his or her union affiliation.

Press Releases

Haslam Points to ‘KnoxAchieves’ As Best Practice

Press Release from Bill Haslam for Governor; April 29, 2010:

Recognizes Similar Programs Across the State, Praises Locally Grown Efforts

KNOXVILLE – Republican gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam today highlighted the work of “knoxAchieves,” a last-dollar scholarship program in Knox County that he has helped lead since its inception in 2008.

Mayor Haslam praised the work of knoxAchieves and similar locally-driven programs across the state that have increased access to community college for many Tennessee students. This year knoxAchieves will provide an opportunity for 500 graduates of Knox County public schools to receive scholarships of up to $3,000 to attend area community colleges.

“The knoxAchieves model is unique in that it is volunteer-driven,” Haslam said. “It’s completely privately funded, and it relies on volunteers from the community to serve as mentors and counselors to students. Scholarship recipients also give back to the community by volunteering a certain amount of time each semester.”

“I’m proud of the work of knoxAchieves and its focus on first generation college students,” Haslam continued. “Not only does this program provide unique opportunities to students who otherwise may not have gone to college, but it benefits the entire community in a number of ways. If we’re going to bring more and better jobs to Tennessee, we’ve got increase the level of educational attainment across the state.”

Mayor Haslam conducted a three-week, statewide Jobs Tour in March, and the concern expressed most often by small business owners was the shortage of properly trained and educated workers. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that in coming years 90 percent of jobs in high-growth industries will require at least some postsecondary education or training. In an effort to address that challenge, Mayor Haslam has been traveling the state assessing workforce development strengths and weaknesses, and most recently, discussing the status of our K-12 education system.

“If you look across the state, there are similar locally grown scholarship programs that are increasing access and helping develop the local workforce,” said Haslam.

“From the regional effort of Southwest Tennessee Educational Pathways, to the award-winning Educate & Grow, a public/private partnership in Northeast Tennessee, to Shelby County’s STEP program and the Ayers Foundation Scholars in Decatur County, communities and regions across Tennessee are finding innovative ways to improve college access,” Haslam said.

“These efforts will be critical to our effort to make Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs,” Haslam continued. “That’s why I’d like to see these best practices shared with communities looking to find their own unique solutions for increased educational attainment and improved workforce development.”

Bill Haslam is the two-term Mayor of Knoxville, re-elected in 2007 with 87% of the vote. A hardworking, conservative public servant, he led Knoxville to become one of the top ten metropolitan areas for business and expansion, while reducing the city’s debt, tripling the rainy day fund, and bringing property taxes to the lowest rate in 50 years. An executive leader with a proven record of success, he helped grow his family’s small business from 800 employees into one of Tennessee’s largest companies with 14,000 employees. His combination of executive and public service experience makes him uniquely qualified to be Tennessee’s next Governor. Haslam is the right person at the right time to lead Tennessee.

Bill and Crissy Haslam have two daughters, Annie and Leigh, and a son, Will, who resides in Knoxville with his wife, Hannah.

For more information on Bill Haslam, please visit

Press Releases

Sen. Kyle Wants Action On Lottery Scholarship Funding Issues

Press Release from Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis; April 6, 2010:

Senate Committee Failure To Plug Gap Threatens Future Scholarships

NASHVILLE – Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Jim Kyle of Memphis is calling on lawmakers to address an insolvent lottery scholarship fund after a Senate committee failed to plug a $13 million funding shortfall that threatens scholarship availability.

“This is the first step to reducing scholarships and denying accessibility for thousands of Tennessee students who depend on the lottery scholarship as their sole opportunity to attend college,” Kyle said. “This inaction threatens the ability to keep our promise to these students. The time to act is now.”

The Senate Education Committee voted 4-4-1 Wednesday on Senate Bill 3343 along party lines: Democrats for, Republicans against with one Republican abstaining. The bill would have transferred between $56 million and $91.4 million in lottery funds for energy efficient school projects to the scholarship fund.

Wednesday’s tie vote effectively kills the legislation unless the committee chair recalls the bill. The committee closed Wednesday evening.

Currently, the lottery scholarship fund will require the use of reserve money for a second straight year to cover existing scholarships. The continued use of such reserves could lead to a decrease in interest income that funds lottery scholarships – and a subsequent decrease in scholarships.

Kyle is urging lottery scholarship recipients to contact their state lawmakers to tell what they want done to shore up the scholarship fund. If the Education Committee doesn’t reconsider the energy efficiency funds transfer, Kyle will call for it when the 2010-11 budget legislation comes up for a vote.

“On our current course, we are going to leave state education officials no choice other than raising academic requirements and cutting both the number and amount of lottery scholarships,” Kyle said. “Lawmakers are crippling our children’s futures by sitting on their hands.”

Press Releases

Ramsey Names Woodson Co-Chair Of Lottery Stabilization Task Force

Press Release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, March 30, 2010:

(Nashville) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today named Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville) Co-Chairman of the recently announced Lottery Stabilization Task Force. The task force will make recommendations to keep the scholarship program viable over time. Its initial focus will be to limit the use of lottery reserves and ensure the scholarships are there for students who earn them.

“Speaker Pro Tem Woodson has devoted her legislative career to improving the quality of education and access to education in Tennessee,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey (R-Blountville). “Her work on lottery scholarships, BEP 2.0 and the Race to the Top reforms make her the perfect Co-Chairman for the Lottery Stabilization Task Force.”

The Hope Scholarship is funded through lottery revenues and helps thousands of kids pay for college. Demand for scholarships has increased in recent years while lottery revenues have not kept pace. The state is using reserves to fill the hole now, which is expected to be more than $100 million in three years. The stabilization task force will look for ways to keep the program strong.

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