Preventing a repeat of the Connecticut school shootings may be better addressed through mental health services than new gun laws, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday.
Haslam, questioned by reporters about the murders, also said his administration will hold a conference on school security next month. He said the discussion could include having more people at schools trained in dealing with violent attacks, as proposed by state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.
Niceley said he is working on legislation that would require all Tennessee schools to either have a “school resource officer” for security – as most high schools do now — or train one or more staff members in use of firearms and dealing with violent attacks.
Haslam said he was sickened by the Connecticut slayings and expects them to trigger “a national debate (on guns) over the next three or four months.” But he was cautious about saying what his position would be in any such discussions.
“I don’t know that a lot of (gun-related) legislation I’ve seen so far that could have stopped what happened there,” he said. “I don’t know that I see a big need to change things.”
News release from state Comptroller’s Office:
Taxpayer money has been used to cover $2 million for travel expenses, meals and entertainment, mobile communications devices and subsidies for a training complex and resort property used by the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations has revealed.
Among other issues, investigators found that agency officials spent nearly $60,000 on an annual trip to Washington, D.C., more than $1.6 million to subsidize its training complex and resort property, $123,000 for gift certificates for training events, more than $100,000 annually on 160 mobile communication devices for employees, and thousands of dollars for extravagant meals and entertainment.
The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency serves 14 counties in the Cumberland Plateau region with a 63-member board comprised of various county and city mayors and derives the vast majority of its funding from state and federal governments.
Center for Child Welfare to Close
The governor’s budget would effectively kill MTSU’s Center for Child Welfare by ending a contract with the Department of Children’s Services next fiscal year, reports the Daily News Journal. The center, which is responsible for training social workers across Tennessee, employs nearly 60 people who are based at the Bank of America building in Murfreesboro. It runs social worker training with eight universities across the state through a $14 million state contract with the Department of Children’s Services.
Interim Director John Sanborn predicted 80 to 90 people would lose jobs if the contract is not renewed. It is the center’s main contract and makes up 99 percent of its work.
“We will no longer exist if this happens,” Sanborn said.
Under Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget proposal, the state would see a savings of $11.7 million, some $3.1 million of which would be from the state level, according to a state spokeswoman.
DCS would bring the training service “in-house” and hire several positions to replace those lost through the Center for Child Welfare, Suddarth said.
— Family Service Agencies Cut
Some local folks are decrying a cut in Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed budget that could mean the end for the Family Resource Center, which provides a myriad of important services for Sevier County residents, reports the Mountain Press. A letter-writing campaign is being mounted in support of the local agency, which is led by Kim Loveday, and the 103 other ones across the state in hopes Haslam or state lawmakers will be swayed to save the funding. If he doesn’t, it could slash a big hole in a safety net that protects at-risk children, provides education for new parents, allocates resources to help pregnant teens and watches out for the elderly.
Loveday, an eternally busy woman who speaks quickly and with deep passion about the cause she leads, says there’s no certainty what will happen if the state funding is lost. While the agency also gets money from county and federal coffers, it’s unlikely those sources would be able to step up to cover the shortfall, meaning she may have to close her doors.
“We just don’t know because there could be a way that it survives, but who has the money right now to make that up? Everybody is trying to keep their budgets tight,” she says. “Right now it looks like all the centers are likely to be closed unless something is changed.”