Tag Archives: bill ketron

Bill by legislature’s GOP chairmen criticized as ‘setup’ to kill fed-funded pre-kindergarten

The House and Senate Republican chairmen are pushing a bill declaring that — if and when a court finds there is discrimination in federal funding for prekindergarten programs in Nashville and Memphis to the exclusion of other areas of Tennessee — those programs will terminate.

The bill (HB159) follows approval last year of $70 million in federal funding for expansion of programs in Davidson and Shelby counties, allowing enrollment of students that would not be covered by the state’s limited pre-K program.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin won approval of the measure at the final meeting of the House Local Government Subcommittee meeting last week. Casada said he is fearful that, because the federal funding applies only in two counties, a judge will sometime decide that the state should match that funding for pre-K in other counties and order a statewide pre-K expansion.

If that happens, the bill declares the state will stop distributing the money to Davidson and Shelby counties — under the present law, the state accepts the federal funding, then distributes it back to the two counties — to avoid any statewide expansion of pre-K with state tax dollars.

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, said the measure amounts to a “setup to kill pre-K.” Passage, he said, will virtually assure a lawsuit is filed by people opposing pre-K programs generally — no such lawsuit has been filed now — and that voiding of the federal funding for Memphis and Nashville will follow.

Some Republicans also voiced misgivings about the proposal, including subcommittee Chairman Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, and Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna. But they went along with approval in the subcommittee after Casada argued the bill was “misunderstood” and can be clarified with further discussion in full committee, perhaps with an amendment.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, who hasn’t put it up for a vote yet.

Ketron resolution asks Congress to stop federal education intrusion

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers are turning to the federal government for help with a task that might seem self-contradictory – keeping the federal government at bay.

In one of several efforts to push back against what they see as federal overreach, Republican state lawmakers are pushing a resolution asking Congress, with its new Republican majority in the Senate as well as the House, to help put the brakes on Common Core education standards.

“Basically, it sends a message from the state of Tennessee that we do not want the dictation from the feds down to us,” said state Sen. Bill Ketron, a Murfreesboro Republican and co-sponsor of the measure. “It urges them to pass a bill that gives that authority back to the states.”

The resolution urges Congress in part to “end the decades of federal intrusion in state and local education policy decisions, and eliminate burdensome federal education mandates on states and local school systems.”

Ketron acknowledged the resolution takes aim at higher English and math standards, which became a hot button issue during the last legislative session and continue to be this year. Even before lawmakers convened earlier this month, a measure was filed in November to repeal Tennessee’s Common Core standards.

The standards, intended to provide students with the critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills needed for college and the workforce, have been phased into classrooms in Tennessee for the past three years. They have encountered growing resistance locally and nationally from conservatives and tea party supporters who say the federal government is attempting to take over local education.
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Fiscal Review names Rep. White as chair, confirms new XD questioned by Democrats

The Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee has elected Rep. Mark White as chairman and confirmed outgoing Chairman Bill Ketron’s nomination of Jeff Spalding — whose current position as leader of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has prompted questions from Democrats – as the panel’s new executive director.

White, R-Memphis, succeeds Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, as chairman in accord with recent tradition of rotating the chairmanship between House and Senate members of the joint House-Senate fiscal watchdog committee. Ketron becomes vice chairman – the position White held for the past two years.

On motion of Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, the committee also voted to make the rotating chairmanship part of the committee rules – and White raised the possibility of legislation being introduced to do the same thing.

In Thursday’s meeting of the panel, Sargent noted that the late Rep. Shelby Rhinehart, D-Spencer, served 22 years as chairman of the joint committee and said that formalizing the rotation of chairmanship between House and Senate members would avoid a recurrence of such a thing. Legislative attorneys noted that Sargent’s motion – basically to make rotation a rule of the committee – could be changed by a vote of the committee in a subsequent session. Still, Sargent’s motion was unanimously approved.

Ketron told the panel that he had invited Spalding to apply for the position of executive director during a dinner while attending a November gathering of Tennessee legislators in Phoenix, Ariz., hosted by the Friedman Foundation to promote its school choice programs.
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Bill calls for more law enforcement training in sex trafficking

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE — State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) have filed legislation to give law enforcement and other officials more training to identify, investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking in Tennessee. The bill calls on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to implement courses, which will also include information to help first responders and caseworkers find services to assist victims of the crime.

“We have seen far too many cases of human trafficking in Tennessee,” said Senator Ketron. “Our state has made great gains in combatting human trafficking, but we still have a lot of work to do. Training is essential to help us identify and prosecute this crime, as well as assist the victims.”

The General Assembly passed a series of bills addressing human trafficking after a 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report showed 78 of the state’s 95 counties have reported the crime within their borders. A follow-up to the report was released last year which showed that these statistics may be understated because first responders have not been trained to identify the crime. The original report also included a survey from top law enforcement, caseworkers and court officials who deal with human trafficking cases which revealed that 79% felt that their agencies were not adequately trained to recognize and identify the crime.

“Training law enforcement and other first responders in the identification and recognition of human trafficking victims is a high priority,” added Representative Sargent. “Unless victims are identified, they cannot be rescued or restored and those who are responsible will continue their criminal operations. That is why is so important that we have this training in Tennessee to truly address this problem.”

Senate Bill 16 calls for the training courses to be implemented by January 1, 2016 and includes the hiring of four additional TBI special agents. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) who has sponsored numerous bills strengthening Tennessee’s human trafficking laws.

Ketron interviewed on illness, issues and his future

The Daily News Journal has a question-and-answer transcript of an interview with Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, who recently announced he will undergo treatment for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

On upcoming legislative issues, the senator comes across as skeptical about Medicaid expansion, open to boosting gas tax revenue and believes Common Core is out, but “Tennessee Core” is coming. He’s coordinating with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander on the idea of giving “power back to the states on education” – Ketron sponsoring a resolution in the state Legislature, Alexander a bill in Congress – and has some ideas on a different school voucher “pilot program” after a trip to look at voucher schools in Phoenix, Ariz.

Here are excerpts on some more personal matters:

(Question) What are you doing to cope with difficult circumstances with your illness and the death of your mother?

Ketron: First of all, it’s surrounding yourself with family, friends, all the emails and text messages and phone calls from all of those conveying prayer and love offerings. It’s been overwhelming. That’s helping. Prayer and love go a long way in helping you cope. Staying positive, I think that’s the main thing, staying positive, and attacking this just like I do everything else in my life. Look forward and learn from the past. And use that. I think that’s what creates wisdom in all of us. And we stay forward thinking and positive.

….What other elected offices might you be interested in pursuing, be that for Congress, governor, Rutherford County mayor?

…I’ve made the decision that I don’t want to go to Washington. I always did most of my life, but you get to the point where you weigh those things out. And I don’t want to have to move up there and be away from my family and or my business…Governor, yeah, I’ve thought about it. I’ve had a lot of people encourage me. It sounds nice. Lieutenant governor, depends on what happens, you know if Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey decides to move on, yeah, that would be nice, but as long as he’s there, I’m behind him 100 percent. So the future’s there. As far as county mayor is concerned, there’s an old saying that you start at home, and you end up at home. So I’ve had people encourage me to do that when (Rutherford County Mayor) Ernest (Burgess) steps down. But for right now, I just got re-elected for the next four years. My oncologists told me yesterday the type of cancer that I have is a B-type Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I have a 95 percent success rate with this. So that’s my goal is to serve my constituency and work and do everything that I can do to be in that 95 percent, continue to be the senator that my constituents elected me to (be) and serve them the best way possible, and love my family and be a good public servant.

Sen. Bill Ketron diagnosed with cancer, schedules treatment

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) announced today that he has been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and will be receiving treatment for it. The Senator, who represents Senate District 13 in Rutherford County, said the cancer was discovered last month after he found a small lump in his neck.

“I will be receiving chemotherapy in the coming weeks and my doctors are optimistic the treatment will be effective,” said Senator Ketron. “While this will be a difficult journey, my faith in God and confidence in my doctors make me optimistic that there will be a good outcome. I also appreciate the prayers of others as I walk down this path.”

Senator Ketron said he is hopeful the announcement will let constituents in his district know first-hand about his condition. “Just about everyone knows someone who has cancer or has personally experienced it. I want to be up front with the people in my district about the challenges I am facing and follow in the footsteps of so many brave citizens who have brought awareness to this disease.”

Ketron said he does not expect to be away from his duties for more than a brief period during treatment. “I look forward to continuing to represent the people of Rutherford County in the Senate now, and for many years to come,” he concluded.

Senator Ketron was recently elected after being unopposed for a fourth four-year term.

Wine in grocery stores bill passed at last; on to referendums

The state Senate gave final legislative approval Monday night to a compromise bill authorizing local referendums to decide whether wine can be sold in some retail food stores, capping an eight-year effort in the General Assembly.

“I think members of this body and the house listened to the people who wanted to be able to buy wine in grocery stores,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, in a brief Senate floor speech. “Now they can vote it down or they can vote it in.”

The last legislative step was the Senate’s concurrence in a series of three votes on amendments that had been adopted in the House.

One revision says a store must have at least 1,200 square feet of retail space – the earlier version required 2,000 square feet – and another sets the cost of a retail wine-selling license at $1,250. Initially, the House version set the price at $850; the Senate at $2,000 and the amendment, Ketron said, “split the baby.”

The bill (SB837) now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam, who has been neutral on the legislation but is expected to sign it into law. The next step for retailers who want to sell wine will be setting up local referendums in cities or counties eligible under the bill – those that now allow liquor-by-the-drink sales or have liquor package stores.

To hold a vote, retailers or other supporters of wine in grocery stores must first get registered voter signatures on a qualifying petition from 10 percent of the number of people voting in the last gubernatorial election in a given jurisdiction. In Knox County, records show 103,777 people voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election, so 10,378 signatures would be required for a countywide referendum.

The bill authorizes referendums to be held as early as November, but no wine sales will be allowed until July 1, 2016. On the other hand, existing liquor stores can begin selling new items as authorized by the bill – including cigarettes, beer and snacks – starting July 1 of this year.

The bill also mandates that wine be sold at retail at a price at least 20 percent above wholesale price. Another House amendment, approved by the Senate Monday, delays the effective date of the mandatory markup from July of this year until July of 2016. That amendment was approved on a 23-4 vote. The other amendments were approved on identical 22-5 votes.

On earlier key votes, the overall bill was approved 71-15 in the House and 23-8 in the Senate.

Note: A comment emailed to media by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office:
“After years of hard work, I’m proud to see this issue finally settled in the legislature. This bill is a solid compromise that allows for the expansion of
consumer choice while protecting small businesses that took risks and invested capital under the old system. This bill puts the issue where it belongs: in the
hands of the people of Tennessee.”

And this from David Smith, press secretary for Haslam: “The governor will review the legislation in its final form before taking
action on it, but I anticipate he’ll sign it.”

Wine-in-grocery-stores bill passes Senate 23-8

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state Senate has passed a bill to allow local governments to hold votes on whether to allow wine sales in supermarkets and convenience stores.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro (SB837) was approved on a 23-8 vote after the companion bill was revived in the House this week.

The proposal would allow cities and counties to vote on grocery store wine sales as early as November, but wouldn’t allow supermarkets to stock wine until at least July 2016.

The Senate version would require convenience stores to have at least 1,200 square feet to qualify for a wine sales license, while the House version would set that limit at 2,000 square feet.

Under current law, supermarkets can’t sell anything stronger than beer.

Ketron’s new strategy: Strip amendments from wine-in-groceries bill

Sen. Bill Ketron, lead sponsor of the wine-in-grocery-stores bill in the Senate, tells TNReport that he plans to strip all amendments from the measure before seeking passage next session, leaving the basic bill to simply authorize local referendums on whether or not to permit wine sales in supermarkets.

As of mid-April, when the bill was last discussed before being shelved for the year, it’d picked up eight amendments through the Senate’s committee system.

Among the add-ons were stipulations on how the state will handle new tax revenues it collects through wine sales, descriptions of stores besides liquor retailers potentially eligible to sell wine, a loosening of regulations governing liquor-store ownership and an item-by-item listing of products in addition to booze that retail liquor outlets could in the future sell.

Ketron, the Senate’s Republican caucus chairman, told TNReport that stripping SB837 of amendment pulp will “get down to the nuts-and-bolts basics of that bill, which is to vote yes or no to allow people to have a referendum,” he said.

The “whole issue,” said Ketron, is the question of who decides. “It’s not about wine in grocery stores, but allowing the people to say they want to be able to vote.”

“If they want it, then they should be allowed to say that — for the same reason that retail stores are in place, through referendum in every community,” Ketron said. “And also, liquor-by-the-drink was by referendum. So that is how we got there on those two and this will be the third, wine in grocery stores.”

As to the extra items, some of which are conceived as trade-offs to help ease the transition for liquor stores, Ketron said he’ll advocate that lawmakers “decorate the Christmas tree on a second bill.”

Ketron said he’s pretty confident the “yes” votes are in place to pass a wine-in-groceries measure in both chambers of the Legislature, but the Senate is going to take the lead.

Sen. Bill Ketron, who is sponsor of the lead wine-in-grocery-stores bill in the Senate, is tells TNReport that he plans to strip all amendments from the measure before seeking passage next session, leaving the basic bill to simply authorize local referendums on whether or not to permit wine sales in supermarkets.

Note: See also Robert Houk’s weekly column, wherein the lead lobbyist for wine in grocery stores says Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, will continue to serve as House sponsor of the bill next year… and Houk offers some commentary.

Legislators going to real schools

From the Daily News Journal:

The Rutherford Education Association, which recently voted a position of no confidence in Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman, invited lawmakers to come be an “Educator for a Day” Thursday.

Sen. Bill Ketron, Sen. Jim Tracy, Rep. Mike Sparks, Rep. Dawn White and Rep. Rick Womick agreed to participate.

Ketron was the first of the delegation to visit a local school and stay the day in the classroom Wednesday because he was unable to schedule a Thursday visit.

He said he was both excited and surprised by what he saw in Burgess’ classroom at McFadden.

“It’s giving us an opportunity to see what actually goes on in the classroom,” Ketron said. “I think it’s gives a lawmaker a different perspective when they’re actually seeing what the children are being taught today. When we go back into session, we’ll have that perspective now to help make the laws that affect those kids.”

..Ketron also watched as students were required to log in on a computer and then log into a separate software program, Burgess said, and by the time the students had logged in, the students had five minutes of a 45-minute computer class left.

Burgess, who is also an REA member, said she wanted Ketron to see how long the process can take because of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing, which is required as part of Common Core standards.

“It’s scary to me,” Burgess said. “And it’s scary to other teachers. They’re pouring millions and millions of dollars into Common Core, and I just think some of it is really crazy — to require a third grader to type a paragraph instead of write it. Is it about how well they write or how well they have keyboarding skills? Just let them write.”

Burgess pointed out that Ketron saw the teaching day, but not the meetings, planning and getting ready for the next day.

“It can be an overwhelming amount of prep and paperwork now,” Burgess said. “Unfortunately with the new evaluation system and testing that’s required, it’s really gotten to be data overload. We’re kind of moving away from the children being human. Children are not a product for some company or business.”