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Campfield Drops Welfare Bill After Senate Debate

After about an hour of impassioned Senate floor debate, Sen. Stacey Campfield today abandoned for the year an effort to enact legislation that calls for cutting welfare benefits to parents of children who fail in school.
Several Republican senators declared during the debate that they intended to vote against the Knoxville lawmaker’s bill (SB132). Campfield also acknowledged that Gov. Bill Haslam was opposing the legislation.
The senator acknowledged that critics of the bill had raised “good points” and the debate showed “we all have true passion to get parents involved” and “we have to do something.”
But instead of pushing for a vote – as he had indicated earlier he would do – Campfield said there should be a study of the legislation and other options to enhance parental involvement over the summer and fall. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said the study could be arranged.
Senators voicing objections to the bill – which had cleared Senate committees with unanimous Republican support – included Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville; Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville; Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville; and Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga.
Gardenhire said, for example, that he saw “unintended consequences” if the measure was enacted when children would be blamed for a loss of family welfare income and beaten.

Despite Haslam Opposition, Republicans Back Welfare Bill

Despite being told that Gov. Bill Haslam is now flatly opposed to a bill that would cut welfare benefits to parents of children failing in school, Republican legislators unanimously backed the measure in a House committee on Tuesday.
Luke Ashley, a Haslam legislative liaison, told members of the House Government Operations Committee that the governor “disagrees with the legislation and would consider vetoing it if it comes to his desk.”
Haslam’s new position marks a change of heart for his administration, which had previously declared itself neutral on the bill (HB261) through the Department of Human Services after it was revised with amendments.
The amendments, worked out with sponsors and DHS officials, say the reduction in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits can be restored if a parent signs a failing child up for tutoring, attends two parent-teacher conferences, attends an eight-hour parenting class or attends a special summer school session.
Ashley said Haslam now has “philosophical differences” with the bill, even as amended. He said the governor officially informed staff of the position change on Monday, the same day Haslam told reporters he has misgivings about the measure.