Tennessee

Flickr/Creative Commons/Carl&Tracy Gossett

A proposal to make the Bible the official state book of Tennessee is advancing in the state House despite constitutional questions raised by the state attorney general's office.

The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station was advanced on a 2-1 vote by the State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday. Rep. Bill Sanderson, the subcommittee's chairman, said a formal legal opinion has been requested from Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

But Sanderson said preliminary word is that the state's top attorney said the measure could be constitutionally suspect.

The Tennessee Constitution says "no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship." Similar proposals to make the Bible the state book failed in Mississippi earlier this yearand in Louisiana last year.

Legislation that would give parents the option to move a child from a failing public school to a private school is scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor Thursday.

The proposal is sponsored by Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga.

It's similar to a measure Republican Gov. Bill Haslam proposed last year that failed. The governor also failed to pass voucher legislation in the previous session.

Under Gardenhire's proposal, eligibility would be opened to low-income students in districts that have a school in the bottom 5 percent.

Haslam's proposal was approved in the Senate last year, but the House version was unsuccessful because it sought to expand eligibility to the bottom 10 percent of schools.

Opponents of vouchers say the money should stay with public schools and improve them.

Pretty soon, going to community college in Tennessee may become absolutely free. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled the proposal in his annual State of the State address this week.

Haslam is trying to lift Tennessee's ranking as one of the least-educated states. Less than a third of residents have even a two-year degree. But a community college free-for-all has been tried elsewhere, though not sustained, and there's always a nagging question.

"So I know you're wondering," Haslam said. "How do we pay for this?"

"Guns In Trunks" Bill is Now the Law in Tennessee

Mar 15, 2013

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill that would allow people with handgun carry permits to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked. The measure gained the nickname "guns in trunks" during the legislative session.

The signing comes despite questions about whether the legislation affects employment law in Tennessee because the measure would allow workers to store guns in their cars while parked in their employers' parking lots.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville and four fellow Republican co-sponsors on Thursday submitted a letter for inclusion into the Senate Journal elaborating on their legislative intent for the measure.

While the letter states the bill does not seek to alter the state's "employment-at-will doctrine," it notes that businesses could run into trouble if they seek to enforce a gun ban on their property.

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is scheduled to update lawmakers on progress toward keeping track of child deaths. But Democrats say they don’t expect enough tough questions.

Two years ago, the legislature proudly abolished all of its joint committees as a way to cut $850,000 out of the budget. One of them had direct oversight of DCS – the select committee on children and youth.

Without this special panel, Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville says there are few experts on child abuse and foster care at the capitol.

“They don’t know how the department works. They don’t know what’s been going on, so they can ask a couple of minor questions, and then pat the commissioner on the back.”

Previous naysayers are coming around to the idea of expanding TennCare. Even while criticizing the Affordable Care Act, they say pulling more poor people into the state’s Medicaid program could have some upsides.

Other Republican-led states have taken the leap, even as Governor Bill Haslam continues to weigh the pros and cons.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick says at first, all he could see was that after three years, the state would have to start picking up part of the tab.

“There are some other facts that have come to light since then that would offset some of those expenses. That’s why I have an open mind about it.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he will make up his mind on whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program by the end of the month. He says he’ll leave time for the state legislature to consider his decision.

There’s no pressing deadline except that the state legislature intends to wrap up work in April and Haslam needs lawmakers to sign off either way. If he does go along with the Affordable Care Act and expand the state’s Medicaid program, it could take a lot of convincing.  

“If the decision is no, then their discussion is short I think. If the decision is yes, then I think they’ll need a decent amount of time to discuss that,” said the Republican Governor.

Two Republican lawmakers are still trying to advance bills that would bar the state from expanding Medicaid. They argue the state still can’t afford it even though the federal government pays the bill for the first three years.

Flights to and from Nashville International Airport are being canceled as the threat of Hurricane Sandy looms along the east coast. Several flights to and from Nashville are already affected, and more are sure to follow throughout the week.