By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A popular Tennessee governor running for re-election wants to create a free community college program. Sound familiar?
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who is up for a second term this fall, proposed the change in his State of the State on Monday night. His Democratic predecessor, Phil Bredesen, made a similar pitch en route to sweeping all 95 counties in 2006.
Haslam’s “Tennessee Promise” proposal would cover a full ride at two-year schools for any high school graduate, at a cost of $34 million per year. That’s $9 million more than Bredesen’s proposal, which would have required the equivalent of a C average to qualify for free tuition.
Despite his landslide win, Bredesen’s proposal never gained much traction in the Legislature. A scaled-back version was included into a larger lottery scholarship bill that passed the House, but ultimately failed in the Republican-controlled Senate in 2007.
Bredesen said at the time that his tuition proposal was overshadowed by all the attention paid to a 42-cent (cigarette) tax increase that narrowly passed the Legislature that year.
He was unsuccessful in reviving the tuition proposal over the following three years of his time in office, despite his belief that 2-year college represents a “magic ingredient” for improving Tennesseans’ access to higher education. Continue reading →
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle joined his House counterpart Wednesday in declaring disinterest in running for governor, even though he waged a brief campaign for the office in 2010.
“I haven’t thought about it,” said Kyle, D-Memphis, adding that he had hoped House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley would run. As for himself, Kyle said he is not really interested, though stopping short of absolutely ruling it out.
“I’ve thought more about ‘do I want to leave the Senate and become a judge or do I want to stay in the Senate.’ That is the decision I’ve got to make between now and the end of the year,” he said. “That’s what I’ve focused all of my energy on.”
Fitzhugh, who has toyed with the idea of running for governor since December, said earlier this week that he has decided to instead seek re-election to his West Tennessee House seat and another term as head of House Democrats.
Kyle ran briefly for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2012, then withdrew — along with three other Democrats who initially declared themselves candidates, including the party’s current chairman, former state Sen. Roy Herron. Dresden businessman Mike McWherter won the nomination, then lost to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.
The lone Democrat to voice interest in running against Gov. Bill Haslam for governor said he’ll stick to running for re-election to his West Tennessee House district instead, reports The City Paper. “I’m committed to continuing as leader and trying to run for my representative position again. That’s what I’m going to do, I believe,” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh told The City Paper.
“I certainly hope that we can find somebody who will step forward because I do think some of the things that are happening in our state are not going the way that they could,” he said.
Fitzhugh first raised the possibility of a run for governor in December. (Previous post HERE)
See also, The Tennessean story.
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Deputy to the Governor Claude Ramsey will retire at the end of August to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren in Chattanooga.
Ramsey has been integral to Haslam on several key initiatives, including civil service reform, economic development efforts, workforce development training and improved operation of state government.
“Claude’s experience at the state and local levels of government and his common sense approach have been invaluable assets to our administration, and I am incredibly grateful to him and his wife, Jan, for their time in Nashville and commitment to the state of Tennessee.”
When he joined the administration in January 2011, Ramsey agreed to serve as deputy to the governor for two years but has stayed on past his original commitment. Before joining the Haslam administration, Ramsey was in his fifth term as Hamilton County mayor, having played key roles in educational and economic successes in Southeast Tennessee.
“It’s been a true pleasure to work with the governor on the important issues of job growth, education reform and making Tennessee the best-run state in the country,” Ramsey said. “The governor is a man of integrity with a clear vision for the state, and I will do anything I can to help him in the future as he continues to serve.”
Ramsey, 70, was elected to the General Assembly in 1972 where he served four years. He was the assessor of property in Hamilton County from 1980-1994 and was a county commissioner for two years. He served 16 years as Hamilton County mayor.
Ramsey’s last day on the job will be August 31.
A Department of Economic and Community development memo, prepared while ECD considered state incentive grants to ProNova Solutions, pointed out that one of the company’s executives is a “personal friend” of Gov. Bill Haslam, reports Josh Flory. Earlier this year, ProNova Solutions — the local firm that is gearing up to create proton therapy equipment — announced plans for a new headquarters and research facility at Pellissippi Place technology park, in Blount County.
As part of that deal, the company is paying virtually nothing for 26 acres, and no property taxes for the first eight years after its phase one facility is completed. It will pay the full property tax rate only after 12 years.
But those local incentives aren’t the only ones on offer.
After the News Sentinel filed an open-records request, the state Department of Economic and Community Development confirmed this month that it has offered nearly $4.3 million in grants to ProNova, including $3.7 million for public infrastructure in the park and $525,000 for job training.
Clint Brewer, a spokesman for the department, said in an email last week that the project was working its way through the department’s approval process, and that the grant had not yet been contracted.
In addition, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has committed more than $1.5 million in State Industrial Access road funds for a road extension related to the project.
Like most such incentive deals, the package is based on the expectation that the state will reap plenty of rewards in terms of job creation.
ProNova is expected to invest $52 million in the project and employ 500 people by 2018, and ProNova CEO Terry Douglass has estimated that the company could have revenues of $3.5 billion by 2023.
The internal state documents provided an interesting look at the process, though.
A briefing prepared for ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty, in preparation for a call with a ProNova executive, noted that Douglass had previously met with Gov. Bill Haslam.
“Terry is a personal friend of the Governor’s,” the briefing added.
In an email, Brewer — the ECD spokesman — said the briefing was prepared in the spring of 2012. He said the notation about Douglass’ friendship with Haslam is not the sort of information that is typically included in such a briefing.
“The staff that prepared this briefing was trying to provide as much information as possible,” Brewer said. “The department’s decisions about incentives are based on the merits of a project and return on investment to the state. This information has no bearing on the department’s incentive process.”
Brewer said the commissioner never saw the briefing memo, which was prepared by staff no longer with the department.
Douglass said in an interview that he discussed ProNova with the governor about a year ago, although he said incentives weren’t discussed at that time.
Gov. Bill Haslam officially signed scores of bills into law last week, ranging from a $32.8 billion state budget. This week, he’s doing ‘ceremonial signings’ to spotlight selected legislation.
Here are some links to stories on signings, both regular and ceremonial.
On a bill lowering the sales tax on groceries from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, HERE.
On the ‘distillery bill,’ which changes rules for manufacturing liquor in Tennessee — perhaps most notably for Chattanooga whiskey and Gatlinburg moonshine. HERE.
On a bill imposing a 13-month moratorium on city annexations of residential and agricultural property. HERE.
Here’s a list of bills recently signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, as provided by his communications office on May 20, 2013.
Senate Bill No. 1292 (Tracy)
This bill specifies that physician-hospital organizations and any other provider may accept risk from an HMO provided that the HMO remains contractually responsible to its enrollees.
(Passed Senate 32-0; Passed House 85-0)
Senate Bill No. 1245 (Hensley)
This bill states that if a nursing home is more than 90 days delinquent in paying an installment of its annual assessment fee, the commissioner of Health shall initiate proceedings to suspend admissions to the facility.
(Passed Senate 28-3; Passed House 92-0)
A list of bills recently signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, provided by his communications office on May 16, 2013:
House Bill No. 848 (Ragan)
This bill authorizes the governor to call members of the state guard to active duty, with the member’s consent, for the performance of any official duty in connection with state guard activities.
(Passed House 93-0; Passed Senate 30-0)
House Bill No. 841 (Durham)
This bill amends the Freedom in Contracting Act.
(Passed House 67-27; Passed Senate 26-6)
Bills recently signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, as provided by his communications office April 26, 2014.
Senate Bill No. 145
This Administration bill for the Dept of Commerce and Insurance enacts the ” Standard Valuation Law.”
Passed House 96-0; Passed Senate 30-0
Senate Bill No. 151
This Administration bill for the Dept of Commerce and Insurance allows registered or exempt broker-dealers to execute purchase on behalf of their clients in securities that are unregistered for sale in Tennessee as long as the transaction is initiated solely by the client and the only compensation received by the broker-dealer is from the client.
Passed House 86-0; Passed Senate 32-0
Here’s a list of bills recently signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, as provided by his communications office:
House Bill No. 87
This Bill authorizes the county budget committee in Sullivan County to have between five and nine members, one of which will be the County mayor.
Passed House as Amended 96-0; Amended Bill Passed Senate 32-0
House Bill No. 1073
This bill states that an individual acting as an agent under the Tennessee Health Care Decisions Act or an individual designated as a surrogate may apply for admission to a public or private hospital or treatment resource for diagnosis or treatment of a mental illness of the person for whom the individual is acting as the agent or surrogate.
Passed house as Amended 91-0; Amended Bill Passed Senate 32-0
House Bill No. 1097
This bill states that beds in the Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded (“ICFMR”) may be filled after the existing patients pass away by persons from patients on the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities facilities’ home and community based services (HCBS) waiver waiting list, subject to the person’s freedom of choice.
Passed House as Amended 94-0; Amended Bill Passed 29-0