The latest bill to grant special tuition discounts at state colleges and universities appears headed for passage over protests that such measures are driving up costs to others.
In a Senate floor speech, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, ran through a list of tuition discounts that began in 1957, when dependents of military servicemen killed in action were given a discount.
The bill at hand (SB208, as amended) says that 25 members of the Tennessee State Guard, a volunteer organization that supplements the National Guard in Tennessee, can attend one college course per year without any tuition. It also says that military veterans moving into Tennessee after an honorable discharge can receive lower in-state tuition rates.
While all discount beneficiaries, including children of state employees and teachers, are “worthy recipients,” Gardenhire said, the cumulative effect over the years has been to eliminate tuition revenue from the higher education system and drive up costs for others.
His sentiments were somewhat endorsed by Sens. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, and Jim Summerville, R-Dickson.
“Before you can subsidize one group, you have to plunder another,” said Niceley, quoting a French author. “I guess it’s up to us to decide who we’re going to plunder.”
Summerville lamented acts of “fiscal piracy” within the state budget process.
But Summerville and Niceley both voted for the bill, which sponsor Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, said was different from most tuition discount measures in that the State Guard free courses — estimated to involve about $37,300 per year after amendments — would be covered by general taxpayer dollars and not borne by higher education’s budget.
Gardenhire abstained. Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, cast the sole no vote, saying he did so because the bill didn’t go far enough. Those serving in the Tennessee State Guard, Henry said, should be entitled to just as big a tuition discount as those in “federal service.”
The House is expected to give final approval to the bill this week.
A bill from Sen. Todd Gardenhire that would let for-profit companies run and manage public charter schools failed to make the grade in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, reports the Chattanooga TFP. The bill failed, getting just two votes, including the Chattanooga Republican lawmaker’s own vote, while one colleague said no and three others abstained.
Gardenhire earlier told the panel the bill is intended to help charter schools, which are run by nonprofit groups but funded with tax dollars. Often, they are started by parents, teachers, churches or other groups.
“As you all know, when the charter school starts up, the hardest year is the first year and sometimes it’s not easy to get competent administrators or people who know how to do the mechanics of starting a school,” Gardenhire explained. “This would allow well-meaning people who set up a charter school to go outside and hire people to manage it. That’s not to say everybody’s not competent.”
While charter schools can contract out some services like cleaning or food service to for-profit vendors, they currently are not allowed to contract out management services to them.
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.
Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman William “Chink” Brown’s Senate confirmation vote for a new term on the panel may be dead in the water, according to the Chattanoga Times-Free Press.
Freshman Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, on Thursday “bumped” the confirmation of Brown, a Signal Mountain attorney and former judge, from a consent calendar. The consent calendar is a list of usually noncontroversial bills and resolutions that are passed en masse on any given day on the Senate floor.
Other nominees to the Fish and Wildlife Commission were confirmed. But Brown’s nomination was re-referred to the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Senators say at least five of the nine-member committee won’t vote to send Brown’s nomination back to the Senate floor.
…At least part of the opposition appears to come from residual resentment by some lawmakers over a two-year battle they fought with the TWRA and the-then Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission, which oversaw the agency.
Brown was chairman of the commission during the fight. The commission eventually was renamed and other changes made.
Gardenhire, elected to the Senate last fall after the flap, said Thursday evening he had warned a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency official, which the commission oversees, over a week ago that he wouldn’t be voting for Brown “but I wouldn’t do anything to cause attention to it.”
…Brown, a Democrat, was renominated by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.
Gardenhire said he warned an administration official last weekend that Brown’s confirmation was in danger but no one got back with him to discuss it.
Smuggling or possessing tobacco and tattoo-making equipment at a state prison or local jail would be a crime under legislation introduced by two Hamilton County lawmakers, reports the Chattanooga TFP. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, (HB1165) updates and adds to the list of items deemed contraband under state law. The legislation applies not only to prisoners but everyone coming into the facility.
Carter said Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, a member of the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association’s legislative committee, brought the bill to the lawmakers.
An attorney and former judge, Carter said he can see the need for the legislation and is happy to sponsor it.
“Cigarettes are the currency for corruption in jails,” said Carter, also a one-time top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey.
Hammond said current law needs updating to cover emerging problems.
“We stopped smoking a long time ago,” Hammond said. Prisoners are prohibited from using tobacco products in prisons and jails. “But you still get it as contraband. This will not only assist us in dealing with the prisoners but in the event — and I’m not saying it has happened anytime lately — we had an officer who was slipping it into the jail.”
Hammond said the “biggest issue for us lately is the tattoo stuff, homemade tattoo equipment where you sit around and tattoo everybody from A to Z.”
House District 13 Combat
In House District 13, one of the closest contests in the state, the state parties are weighing in with attacks on both Democrat Gloria Johnson ( Republicans, most recently, suggest she supports voter fraud ) and Republican Gary Loe (Democrats say he favors abortion in cases of rape and incest, for example> Story HERE. The Scene in Northeast Tennessee
The Johnson City Press, as part of a roundup of contests in Northeast Tennessee, includes a review of contested legislative races – though, naturally, Republicans are heavy favorites. Story HERE. Profiles Stories in Senate District 10
The Chattanooga Times-Free Press has campaign profile stories on Republican Todd Gardenhire and Democrat Andrae McGray.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey headlined a Chattanooga fundraiser Monday for state Senate Republican nominee Todd Gardenhire, reports Chris Carroll. In return for a $250 suggested donation, several Republican elected officials and a few dozen supporters heard speeches, rubbed elbows and enjoyed a multicourse meal at the downtown Mountain City Club.
The Gardenhire campaign didn’t fill up the dozen or so tables it reserved, but a staffer said the lunchtime meeting likely exceeded a goal of $10,000.
The fundraiser and public show of Republican unity stands in contrast to the situation Gardenhire’s 10th Senate District opponent finds himself battling.
Democratic nominee and Chattanooga City Councilman Andraé McGary in a Sunday Times Free Press story lamented the fact that the seat’s sitting Democrat, Sen. Andy Berke, won’t endorse him.
Major differences emerged between the men seeking Democratic state Sen. Andy Berke’s seat in a forum sponsored by the Chattanooga Voter Empowerment Group, the Chattanooga Times Free Press and NAACP, according to Chris Carroll. Asked how he would resolve a growing inner-city gun problem, (Todd) Gardenhire touted his endorsement from the National Rifle Association and said “responsible” gun owners shouldn’t be deterred by “the crazies” who obtain guns illegally.
(Andae) McGary quickly retorted that guns don’t belong in churches, schools, parking lots or the workplace. He blamed cuts in education for the city’s crime issues and criticized lawmakers who allow the Legislature to be used as “an open place for the NRA to declare war” on advocates for gun control.
When the questions ventured into education, Gardenhire came out in favor of school vouchers, an issue McGary said wouldn’t exist if “our schools were properly funded.”
After Gardenhire’s closing statement, McGary criticized its length and called it a “CPM” — what he later explained in a text message as a “colored people’s minute.”
“Gardenhire was supposed to limit his answer to a minute,” said McGary, who is black. “He took three.”
Race entered the discussion when Adams asked both candidates if Republicans were fair to minorities during the redistricting process.
“Whether somebody was being fair or unfair, it depends on what side you are,” Gardenhire said, drawing audible groans.
State Senate Democratic nominee Andraé McGary on Wednesday predicted his Republican opponent, Todd Gardenhire, “will campaign by putting forth lies” in the days before early voting begins Oct. 17.
From Chris Carroll’s report: Citing reports from “very reputable Republican sources” whom he declined to name, the 33-year-old Chattanooga city councilman declared that Gardenhire would paint him inaccurately as a liberal who supports a state income tax and accepts government assistance to provide for his wife and five young children.
Gardenhire and McGary are campaigning to represent Senate District 10, which includes portions of Bradley and Hamilton counties. State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, isn’t seeking re-election so he can run for Chattanooga mayor.
A former radio talk show host who quit his job to run for office, McGary also said he’s heard of a “whisper campaign” that he sells drugs to finance his “nice suits.”
Gardenhire has made only one of the statements — the income tax issue — but McGary denied even the hypothetical rumors, calling them “blatant lies” during a news conference at Hamilton County Democratic Party headquarters in Chattanooga.
Gardenhire, 64, declined interview requests. Campaign spokesman Nick Collins issued a prepared statement that slammed McGary’s aggressive media strategy.
“Focusing on real issues is the only activity Mr. Gardenhire is engaged in,” Collins said. “Attempts to drag this campaign in the mud will be unsuccessful.”
On Aug. 8, Republican state Senate nominee Todd Gardenhire pledged at least two debates with Democrat Andraé McGary, saying 10th District voters deserve a chance to examine their choices. Since then, reports Chris Carroll, Gardenhire has skipped several opportunities to fulfill his promise. A radio talk show host, a Libertarian group and the Chattanooga Voter Empowerment Movement on Wednesday said Gardenhire refused or ignored their separate debate requests while McGary quickly accepted all three invitations.
“We’re not waiting on this clown,” said McGary, 32, a Chattanooga city councilman and Democrat. “His language about being exuberant or excited about debating is a bunch of lies.”
Both men are seeking the soon-to-be-vacated 10th District Senate seat, which covers parts of Bradley and Hamilton counties.