The House approved 66-29 on Tuesday a bill that revises rules for operating for-profit virtual schools and sent it to the governor, whose administration drafted the measure as part of the Haslam administration legislative package this year.
The bill (SB157) was approved after about half hour of debate, mostly devoted to the Republican majority killing amendments proposed by Democrats. One of them, offered by Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville, would have repealed the 2010 law that authorized operation of for-profit virtual schools in Tennessee, leading to establishment of Tennessee Virtual Academy in Union County by K12, Inc.
Another Stewart amendment would have prohibited operation within the state of a for-profit virtual school that is partly owned by a convicted felon. Stewart said that was aimed at Michael Milken, who owns an interest in K12 according to some media accounts.
The Democrat-sponsored revision attempts were all defeated on party-line votes.
The bill itself, sponsored for Haslam by Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, imposes a 1,500-student cap on enrollment on new virtual schools launched in the state. But the limit would not apply to Tennessee Virtual Academy, the only for-profit virtual school already in operation.
The bill also declares that a virtual school that has below standard student performance for three consecutive years, can be closed by the state commissioner of education. The commissioner would also have the option of imposing an enrollment cap on such a school. The existing academy had poor performance results in its first year of operation.
Brooks said the bill gives the commissioner options in pushing to improve schools and gives students and their parents options as well.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Legislation that would clear the way for cities to begin forming municipal school systems is needed to continue education reform in Tennessee, proponents of the measure said Monday.
The proposal was overwhelmingly approved 70-24 in the House before passing the Senate 24-5. The measure is headed to the governor for his consideration.
The legislation would lift a 1998 ban that forbids municipalities from starting their own school systems.
The measure would benefit six Memphis suburbs seeking to bypass a merger of the Shelby County and Memphis school districts and run their own schools.
The suburbs voted in August to create their own districts after the Legislature passed a narrowly crafted bill that allowed it.
The Senate Monday night approved, 30-1, legislation that will switch Tennessee’s wholesale beer tax to a levy on volume rather than on price.
The current system has left Tennessee with the highest beer tax in the nation, according to the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association, which has been pushing SB422 by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown.
The state’s present 17 percent wholesale beer tax amounts to about $37 per 31-gallon barrel and has increased 30 percent over the past ten years as beer prices have risen.
The bill effectively freezes the tax at current levels, avoiding future increases as prices rise.
“This bill will increase jobs in the brewing industry and help consumers by leading to a better selection at lower prices,” Kelsey told colleagues.
Who said the “traditionally we have taxed things in Tennessee based on their sales price” and questioned why beer should be treated differently.
Kelsey noted that beer is also subject to the state sales tax, which will continue to rise as beer prices increase, and said the legislation is needed to make Tennessee more competitive with other states in recruiting breweries.
He said the present system is particularly hard on microbreweries, which typically sell their brew at higher prices because of low volume. The tax now makes their products even more expensive, he said.
Campfield abstained on the final vote. The sole no vote was cast by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet.
The bill is up for a House floor vote on Wednesday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state House has unanimously approved Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to cut the state’s sales tax on groceries.
If approved by the Senate, the state’s tax on groceries would drop by a quarter percentage point to 5 percent. Lawmakers last year enacted a cut of the same amount.
The state’s sales tax on non-food items is 7 percent.
The tax reduction is projected to cost the state about $23 million in state revenue — or an average annual tax savings of about $3.56 for each Tennessean.
The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Finance Committee but is not expected to find much opposition.
Legislation requiring incoming students at the state’s colleges and universities to be have a vaccination for meningitis won unanimous approval of the Senate Monday night and now advances to the House, where approval is also expected.
The bill by Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, (SB93) is named in “the Jacob Nunley Act,” in honor of an 18-year-old Middle Tennessee State University student from Dyersburg who died of meningitis last year. It requires proof of vaccination to all students living on campus starting with incoming students next year, except for those who have a medical condition that make the vaccination dangerous or a religious belief that conflicts with vaccinations.
The House companion measure is expected to be approved by the House Education Committee today.
A private act restructuring Erlanger Health System’s governing board is on its way to Gov. Bill Haslam for his consideration, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “I wish them well,” said Sen. Todd Gardenhire, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, which passed the legislation 29-0 without discussion. “We’re going to do all we can to support them and make that thing hum and be the jewel of the city that it ought to be.”
The House passed the bill earlier this month. Local lawmakers hope the legislation will help cure a variety of financial and other ills they see plaguing Erlanger in recent years and a way to allay concerns the University of Tennessee’s College of Medicine was engaged in a power play to control the hospital.
The bill whittles the existing 12-member board down to nine trustees. While the board will be self-perpetuating, it gives joint veto power to the seven-member Hamilton County legislative delegation and the Hamilton County Commission over appointments.
To get the new board in place, the bill provides that local legislators, “after consultation” with Hamilton County’s mayor, will recommend to the full General Assembly initial appointees to the reconstituted Erlanger board.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill to overhaul the state’s civil service system won its first House vote Tuesday after a 5-4 vote to kill a Democrat-sponsored amendment.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner’s amendment would have left in place a provision of current law that requires makes seniority the deciding factor in layoffs, with less senior workers fired before those with more seniority.
The House’s only independent member, Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethton, joined all Democrats on the panel in voting for Turner’s amendment. All Republicans voted against.
Herbert Slatery, Haslam’s legal counsel, and Dunn, who is sponsoring HB2384, said the administration is working toward another amendment that may resolve some complaints about the measure. That amendment may be presented when the bill comes up next week before the full House State and Local Government Committee.
Democrats asked that the bill be held in the subcommittee until the amendment is unveiled, but Republicans rejected that idea.