A bill to strengthen the state’s anti-bullying law was sidelined for the year in a House subcommittee after a remarks by Rep. Roger Kane that are being criticized as insensitive.
Kane, R-Knoxville, read from a section of the bill (HB927), which would broaden the definition of bullying to include “any conduct that substantially interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, and that is based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, academic achievement, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or physical appearance of either the student or a person with whom the student has an actual or perceived association. ”
He told the sponsor, Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis, that he could see the broad language covering a 7th grader “wearing a Texas Aggie t-shirt” being the butt of jokes from other students. Kane recalled himself “being the tallest 4th grader and being picked on because my ears stuck out.”
“That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” Kane said.
The latter remark was cited by Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for gay, lesbian and transgender rights, in a news release declaring that Kane should be removed from the House Education Committee.
“He’s essentially saying that bullying is good for you because it toughens you up. Rep. Kane sends a terrible message to those Tennesseans who have forever lost a friend, a student, a son, or a daughter (through suicide after a bullying situation),” said Jonathan Cole with the Tennessee Equality Project.
Kane said afterwards that he was simply pointing out that the bill is overbroad. Kane said his mother was Jewish and his father Catholic, which caused him to be criticized as “a Jesus killer” as a child.
“It made me a better person – able to got to a better place because of it,” he said.
Several other members of the panel criticized the measure in lengthy debate. It was ultimately sent to to the state Department of Education for review with Kamper’s agreement. That means it will not be further considered this year.
Kane said he would work with Kamper on the bill “to refine it and make it better” for consideration next year.
— UPDATE: Asked for House Speaker Beth Harwell’s response to Kane’s comments, her spokeswoman, Kara Owen, sent this email: The Speaker takes the issue of bullying very seriously, as does this entire legislature, evidenced by the full discussion in committee on the bill. We are confident Representative Kane wishes to work toward good, solid policy on this very important issue.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Open your notebooks and sharpen your pencils. School for thousands of public school students is about to get quite a bit longer.
Five states were to announce Monday that they will add at least 300 hours of learning time to the calendar in some schools starting in 2013. Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee will take part in the initiative, which is intended to boost student achievement and make U.S. schools more competitive on a global level.
The three-year pilot program will affect almost 20,000 students in 40 schools, with long-term hopes of expanding the program to include additional schools — especially those that serve low-income communities. Schools, working in concert with districts, parents and teachers, will decide whether to make the school day longer, add more days to the school year or both.
A mix of federal, state and district funds will cover the costs of expanded learning time, with the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning also chipping in resources. In Massachusetts, the program builds on the state’s existing expanded-learning program. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy is hailing it as a natural outgrowth of an education reform law the state passed in May that included about $100 million in new funding, much of it to help the neediest schools.
A multi-site national park that would tell the story of the top-secret, history-defining Manhattan Project would seem like an easy sell in Congress, says Michael Collins. But in Washington, nothing is ever easy.
Thus, the plans were knocked surprisingly off course in late September when a bill establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park failed on its first vote on the floor of the U.S. House.
Supporters insist the setback is temporary and that they intend to push for another vote before the end of the year.
“There is going to be a concerted effort to get this and other important pieces of legislation to the floor,” said U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge, a centerpiece of the Manhattan Project.
The Republican-controlled House took up the bill in one of its final votes before lawmakers began their six-week, pre-election break. House leaders brought up the legislation under what is known as a “suspension of the rules” — a parliamentary procedure often used to pass noncontroversial bills.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, however, considered the proposal quite controversial. The Manhattan Project developed the first atomic bomb, and the famously liberal lawmaker argued that the proposal amounted to “a celebration” of nuclear weaponry.
Gov. Bill Haslam met with prominent Williamson County Republicans last week, not long after the Williamson County Republican Party adopted a resolution criticizing him for the hiring of a Muslim in the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Haslam said the critics don’t deserve much of his attention, reports The Tennessean. “I think that probably speaks to a pretty small survey of Republicans here,” Haslam said of the Williamson County Republican Party’s jabs.
Last week, Haslam received more than a handful of resolutions adopted by county-level Republican offices across the state skewering him for employing gay, Muslim and Democratic workers. In Williamson County, where Haslam received 79 percent of the vote in the 2010 general election, local GOP officials focused on Samar Ali, a Muslim-American attorney in the Department of Economic and Community Development.
On Friday, in a full-page advertisement in The Tennessean, a strongly worded letter to the governor warned him not to ignore their message. The ad was paid for by the Tennessee chapter of the 912 Project and championed the Williamson County Republican Party, among others, for having the courage to “break ranks” with party loyalists.
“We are not afraid and we won’t be intimidated,” the ad stated. “We declare our intentions to reclaim what is rightfully and Constitutionally ours, given by God and won through the blood of Americans. As of today, the choice is still in your hands. Choose the way of common sense while that option is still available.”
Some Republicans here are politely distancing themselves from the leadership of the party’s local chapter, being careful not to fuel further political infighting.
“I think the Republicans need to get on the same page,” Jack Walton, chairman of the county commission, said. “There’s a divide there and we need to have a summit or something.”
…It remains to be seen whether political relationships will be tested by this incident. Clearly, however, politicians are already being careful not to speak too forcefully for fear of alienating potential voters. Rep. Glen Casada said he is interested in learning more about local party members’ concerns, but also said he has no reason to suspect Haslam hired a woman bent on foisting Shariah law onto the state.
“On the surface, I don’t feel an enmity to her hire,” Casada said of the GOP criticisms. “My question is, does anyone want to implement anything that’s anti-American, and Shariah law is anti-American.”
Note: There seems to be little sentiment for adopting Haslam-critical resolutions in Sevier County circles, nor in Hamilton County.
The House has given final approval and sent to Gov. Bill Haslam a bill that makes nine counties part of a “pilot project” on enforcing laws governing the sale of alcoholic beverages.
The bill has bounced back and forth between the House and Senate for three weeks as lawmakers debated what counties should be included in the pilot project.
The final version of HB3633 includes Knox, Hamilton, Cocke, Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Union. With the House signing off on the latest Senate changes, the bill now goes to the governor.
The bill makes several changes in laws governing local beer boards, which issues licenses and enforces laws dealing with beer sales, and the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which issues licenses and enforces laws dealing with the sale of liquor and wine. The changes take effect on July 1 in the pilot project counties only and will continue for two years.
In general, the idea is to make the two agencies coordinate their efforts, said House sponsor Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga. In the past, a local beer board has occasionally suspended the license of an establishment violations, but the business – typically a bar — remained open because the ABC license remained – or vice versa.
Examples of other changes include provisions intended to block the practice of a bar operator closing after being charged with law violations, then having the establishment reopen immediately in the same location under a new name or new ownership; and a ban on operators charged with breaking the law voluntarily surrendering their license – a move that allows them to later receive a new license with no violation on their record.
News release from Department of Transportation:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer has completed the first annual statewide tour of projects in each of TDOT’s four regions. The week-long tours, which began in late June in Chattanooga, concluded last week in Roane County. The tours were designed to give local, state, and transportation officials an opportunity to view projects under construction in their areas and to learn more about future projects announced this year in TDOT’s Three Year Program.
“Not only was it important to me as TDOT’s new Commissioner to see the work we’re doing all over the state, but I wanted to provide the same opportunity to our state and local partners,” said Schroer. “This was also an excellent opportunity to hear concerns within communities and have productive discussions about improving Tennessee’s transportation system.”
Over the course of 16 days, the TDOT Projects Tour logged over 3,900 miles, making stops in 55 Tennessee Counties and viewing 134 projects either under construction or under development. Fifty-four city and county mayors joined the tour, as well as Governor Bill Haslam and 40 members of the Tennessee General Assembly, along with representatives from Tennessee’s Congressional Delegation.
“These tours were ambitious and required a tremendous amount of planning and coordination by TDOT staff,” added Schroer. “The excellent participation we had all across the state proves it was well worth the effort, and this is something I plan to continue during my tenure as TDOT Commissioner.”
Dates are not yet set for next year’s TDOT Projects Tours, but announcements will be made as plans develop.
News release from Department of Transportation:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer names Scott C. Black as the new Director of TDOT’s Project Management Division. In his new post, Black will oversee Project Management offices at TDOT Headquarters and in each of TDOT’s four regional offices. The Project Management Division is also responsible for implementing the State Industrial Access (SIA) Program that provides funding and technical assistance for highway access for new and expanding industries across the state.
Before joining TDOT, Black served as the Manager of Budget, Finance, and Administration for the Nashville Convention Center Authority. Previous to that post, Black served as Vice President of Development for the Bristol Development Group, a Brentwood based residential real estate company. Black’s experience also includes numerous project management positions with architectural and design firms.
“TDOT’s Project Management Division plays a crucial role in our efforts to deliver quality transportation projects on time and on budget,” said Commissioner Schroer. “Scott’s background in project management combined with his experience in overseeing large projects will be an incredible asset to the department.”
“I appreciate Commissioner Schroer’s confidence in my ability to lead the Project Management Division,” said Black. “I look forward to helping lead the department’s efforts in delivering successful projects.”
Black will assume his position with TDOT beginning October 31. A photo of Mr. Black is attached to this e-mail.
DETROIT (AP) — The Obama administration is launching a pilot program designed to spark economic growth in urban America by partnering federal officials with local decision-makers in six cities, the U.S Housing and Urban Development secretary announced Monday.
The idea, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said, is to create what he called Community Solutions Teams, which will include employees from several different federal agencies, and have them work directly with local officials in Detroit; Chester, Pa.; Fresno, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; Cleveland and New Orleans.
The federal staffers will in effect be embedded in the cities, working on issues the mayors have identified as important, such as developing transportation infrastructure, improving job-training programs and the like. In Detroit, Donovan said, up to a dozen “federal folks” will be in town for a year or two.
“Too often, the federal government has been part of the problem, rather than part of the solution,” Donovan said at a loft development, where he announced the tenets of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities plan.