Bill to give veterans a tuition break was scuttled earlier this year

While a newly-filed bill to give veterans a break on college tuition in Tennessee got some Veterans Day media attention, Robert Houk was writing instead on similar legislation that was quietly scuttled earlier this year.

The older bill (HB123) is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, and passed the Senate 30-1 on April 11, according to the legislative website. The new one (HB1372,Note: Press release posted HERE) by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and House Speaker Pro Tempore Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville.)

The bill’s primary sponsor in the House, state Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, told me last week he is going to need all the help he can get to move the Military Education Assistance for Tennessee Act to a floor vote.

The following is an exact description of the measure as worded in House Bill 123/Senate Bill 208:

This bill limits the amount that may be charged for tuition and fees to a veteran enrolled at a public institution of higher education to no more than the maximum tuition reimbursement provided under the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for eligible Tennessee residents; provided, that the veteran:

(1) Was honorably discharged from a branch of the U.S. armed forces or the national guard;
(2) Is eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits; and
(3) Enrolls in a public institution of higher education after satisfying all admission requirements within 24 months from the date of honorable discharge.

…Ragan, who is one of 20 veterans now serving in the 132-member Tennessee General Assembly, said his bill ran into trouble in the House when it received an unfavorable fiscal note that estimates the measure could cost the state an additional $493,800 annually.

As a result, Ragan said the bill was placed behind the budget — which meant it stalled in the House Finance Committee.

That is where Ragan hopes to resurrect it when lawmakers return to work in January.It won’t be easy. Ragan said he will need to pull off a number of difficult parliamentary maneuvers just to get the bill out of committee.