Tag Archives: legislatures

Meanwhile, in the Kentucky legislature

By Adam Beam, Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Democratic majority in Kentucky’s House of Representatives wants to offer free community college tuition to all of the state’s high school graduates, signaling a likely confrontation with new Republican Gov. Matt Bevin over state spending.

Bevin, who took office in December, has proposed slashing $650 million in state spending over the next two years, including cuts of 4.5 percent this year and 9 percent in each of the next two years for the state’s colleges and universities. Bevin wants to use the money to begin paying down the state’s $36 billion public pension debt, which he and other Republican leaders say could bankrupt the state if left unchecked.

College presidents have pushed back, promising tuition increases and academic program cuts if the reductions stay in place. On Wednesday, House Democrats said their budget proposal will take as much as $33 million from Bevin’s pension plan over the next two years and use it to pay the tuition for all Kentucky high school graduates who can meet certain standards. It is modeled after a similar program in Tennessee that was enacted by a Republican governor and state legislature.
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Haslam questions bill banning ‘religious doctrine’ teaching

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam is raising questions about a legislative proposal to ban Tennessee schools from teaching about “religious doctrine” before the 10th grade, saying it could have unexpected consequences.

For instance, the Republican governor said the proposal could prevent younger students from learning why the Pilgrims decided to leave Europe.

“I don’t know how you talk about the founding of America, and what became of the United States, without talking about religious doctrine,” Haslam told reporters last week. “Now, that’s very different than indoctrinating, or teaching that doctrine as truth.”

The bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Sheila Butt of Columbia would require the state board of education to review any religion mentioned in a middle school curriculum to ensure “the reference does not amount to teaching any form of religious doctrine to the students.” It would also require that any teaching of comparative religion in high school not focus more on one religion than another.
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Legislature poised to pass enhanced penalties for cockfighting

After decades of repeated rejection, legislation that would increase penalties for cockfighting in Tennessee seems poised for passage in the Tennessee General Assembly.

But some advocates for animal protection have again lost an attempt to reinstate state regulation of what they call “puppy mills,” large-scale operations for breeding dogs.

The bill to enhance penalties for animal fighting (SB1024) has already passed the Senate, as has similar legislation in the past. But this year the companion House bill has also cleared the House Agriculture Committee, which has historically been the roadblock to enactment despite the repeated efforts of sponsor Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, in recent years.

Counting that key committee, the measure now has been blessed by five House committees and subcommittees and is on the Finance Committee agenda Tuesday. Approval there would set the stage for a final vote later this week or early next week as the General Assembly moves toward adjournment of the 2015 session.

In pushing passage this year, Lundberg focused in his presentations to committees on a provision that was not part of prior efforts — one declaring that those bringing a child under age 18 to an animal fight will be subject to a minimum penalty of $1,000.

As Tennessee law stands now, a spectator at a cockfight only can be convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, which has a minimum fine of $50. Other provisions of this year’s bill would increase the penalty for general spectators at an animal fight to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 — though no minimum is set unless a child is involved.
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‘Parent advocacy’ group gives Harwell an ‘F’ on education issues

News release from Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence:
Parent advocacy group TREE – Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence – released a legislative report card ranking lawmakers based on votes on education-related isues.

Votes that made up the Report Card included:

Charter Authorizer. TREE opposed this bill, which passed.
For-Profit Charters. TREE opposed this bill, which failed.
Vouchers. TREE opposed this bill, which failed.
Charter Conversion a/k/a Parent Trigger. TREE opposed this bill, which failed.
Testing Notification. TREE supported this bill, which passed.
Teacher Pay Restoration: TREE supported this bill, which passed.
Elimination of School Board Representation. TREE opposed this bill, which failed.
Legislators were ranked from A+ to F based on their votes on the issues of importance to TREE.

Senators receiving top grades: Charlotte Burks (D-15), Lowe Finney (D-27), Thelma Harper (D-19), Jim Kyle (D-30), Becky Massey (R-6), Doug Overbey (R-2), and Ken Yager (R-12).

Of those, Senators Burks, Finney, and Kyle will not be in the General Assembly in 2015 due to retirement.

Representatives receiving top grades: Raumesh Akbari (D-91), John Forgety (R-23), Gloria Johnson (D-13), Bo Mitchell (D-50), Joe Pitts (D-67), and Mike Stewart (D-52).

TREE billed the release as a means of informing voters ahead of the November elections.

Note: The release doesn’t list them, but those receiving an ‘F’ grade include House Speaker Beth Harwell, Reps. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville), John DeBerry (D-Memphis) and Mark White (R-Memphis), along with Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown). Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey got a ‘D’.

Full list HERE.

Tennessee No. 1 on America’s Worst State Legislatures List

Mother Jones, a decidedly liberal publication, has declared Tennessee’s General Assembly the worst state legislature in the nation. Oklahoma finished second and New Hampshire third.
The full story from Mother Jones, aka MoJo, is HERE. And here’s a chunk of what’s said about Tennessee:
MoJo’s cutting-edge algorithm awards a 500-point bonus to any state legislature that inspires a news story with the phrase “gateway body parts” and “governor signs” in the same paragraph. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam accomplished the feat in May when he signed into law a new abstinence-only sex education program that critics warned would prohibit almost any discussion of sexual activity during sex ed. As Bristol’s WCYB dryly reported, “News 5 looked into the bill and learned its language has been mocked across the country…”
The gateway body parts bill was part of a new push to crack down on various other gateways, including gateway words, such as “gay.” GOP State Sen. Stacey Campfield’s bill sought to prohibit the discussion of homosexuality for grade schoolers.
….Things went downhill from there. The legislature passed a bill in April (later vetoed) to provide cover for teachers who question evolution and climate change in their classrooms, along with legislation that classified miscarriages as murder, and a bill cracking down on saggy pants. Democrats complained that the saggy pants bill did not go far enough. Although Haslam declined to sign a resolution, passed by the legislature in May, condemning Agenda 21, a spokesman emphasized that the governor did, in fact, oppose the 1992 UN action plan on sustainable development.
Comedy Central described New Hampshire’s state house of reps as “a bunch of part-time real-estate agents throwing monkey feces at a wall.” But that’s not entirely fair–some of them are lawyers too.
As impressive as the laws it passed were, though, the Tennessee legislature was perhaps defined by its individual acts of #fail. In January, GOP state Sen. Bo Watson introduced legislation designed to crack down on the scourge of transgender citizens, by introducing legislation that, per Think Progress, “would institute a $50 fine for anybody who does not use the public restroom or dressing room that matches the sex identification on his or her birth certificate.” In April, state Rep. Matthew Hill (R) introduced a bill to disclose the names of all doctors who perform abortions in the state, along with demographic information about patients that could possibly be used to identify them. In July, the Huffington Post reported that GOP state Rep. Kelly Keisling “emailed constituents Tuesday morning with a rumor circulating in conservative circles that President Barack Obama is planning to stage a fake assassination attempt in an effort to stop the 2012 election from happening.”


HT: Knoxviews

Efforts Underway to Unseat GOP Moderate State Legislators

By John Hanna, Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. — Frustrated by their inability to achieve some policy goals, conservatives in Republican states are turning against moderate members of their own party, trying to drive them out of state legislatures to clear the way for reshaping government across a wide swath of mid-America controlled by the GOP.
Political groups are helping finance the efforts by supporting primary election challenges targeting several dozen moderate Republicans in the Midwest and South, especially prominent lawmakers who run key state committees.
Two years after Republicans swept into power in many state capitols, the challengers say it’s time to adopt more conservative policies.
“If you don’t believe in that playbook, then why are you on the team?” declared Greg Smith, a Kansas state representative who’s running for the state Senate, with the goal of making it more conservative.
The push is most intense in Kansas, where conservatives are attempting to replace a dozen moderate Republican senators who bucked new Gov. Sam Brownback’s move to slash state income taxes.
The Club for Growth, a major conservative interest group, is spending about $500,000 in Missouri this year. That’s double the amount it invested two years ago. The anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity opened new chapters in Iowa, Minnesota and New Mexico. The conservative business group Texans for Lawsuit Reform spent $3.5 million on legislative candidates in the first half of 2012, more than double its total during the same period two years ago.

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