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Challengers doing well in Congressional races

Both Chuck Fleischmann and Scott Desjarlais are getting beat in the dollar game so far.

Apr 17, 2014 11:20 AM

Hemp bill goes to the governor

Industrial hemp could be grown as early as next season with the passage of state law authorizing its production, according to bill sponsor and friend of the vegan Frank Niceley.

Apr 17, 2014 7:15 AM

House goes along with one-year PARCC delay

Critics of a new student exam linked to controversial education standards won a small victory Wednesday when the House adopted a compromise putting off testing for one year.

The House of Representatives voted 86-8 in favor of a deal hammered out largely by leadership behind closed doors, although members acknowledge the agreement left open loopholes.

“Today is an example of the art of the possible,” said Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, who helped assemble the bill’s hijacking last month. “I know you don’t like this, but this is a win.” 

The governor’s office and Republican leadership would have rather the legislature leave the new standards alone, but say they support this plan.

“What has come out of this conversation is agreement that Tennessee should have higher standards,” said Alexia Poe, the governor’s director of communications. “This RFP process will ensure that everyone feels good about how we are testing those higher standards.”

A pack of House members made up the major opposition to Common Core and PARCC, short for the Partnership for Assessment in College and Career Readiness and the standardized test at the heart of the dispute. Members teamed with Democrats to seize an unrelated bill and install a two-year delay in the standards. Leaders in the Senate refused to go along. 

Although the governor’s office and Republican leadership in both chambers initially rejected any move to budge on the standards and test, they came to a compromise that would keep the current TCAP tests in place for one more year while the state puts the new testing contract out for bid instead of accepting the PARCC exam without competition.

“We just blew it with this language,” said Rep. Rick Womick, a Rockvale Republican opposed to Common Core and the PARCC test. He argued the compromise created loopholes, such as allowing the state to eventually contract with PARCC.  “I’m sorry, but it’s nothing more than lipstick on a pig.”

The Senate has yet to vote on the compromise but had favored leaving the testing and standards alone. Senate leadership expects the chamber to go along with the new language. 

Apr 17, 2014 6:49 AM

Haslam signs into law ending forced annexations

Via Sher, the law requires cities annex by consent of a landowner or through referendum votes approved by a majority of the landowners to be annexed.

Apr 16, 2014 2:48 PM

U.S. House Democrats open inquiry into VW union vote

Via Committee on Education & the Workforce:

Leading House Democrats today began an inquiry to assess whether Tennessee state officials may have violated or otherwise run afoul of federal law by undermining, or attempting to undermine, labor rights guaranteed to workers at a Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during the recent United Auto Workers union election.

Committee Democratic Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and John Tierney (D-Mass.), ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee, sent a letter today to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam seeking more information about whether any Tennessee state officials conditioned, or threatened to condition, state aid to Volkswagen on the outcome of workers’ efforts to establish a union and/or a works council at the Chattanooga plant.

Apr 16, 2014 2:40 PM

Electrocution bill passes House

Via Pith, the House passed the bill allowing electrocution if lethal injection drugs are unavailable. The Senate had already approved the measure.

Rep. Johnny Shaw told the bill's sponsor, Rep. Dennis Powers, that he couldn't support capital punishment because, citing the Bible, Shaw wasn't entitled to "throw a rock." Powers said he agreed with Shaw that only God could ultimately judge but that "it's our job to arrange the meeting."

Apr 16, 2014 2:21 PM

Haslam says Hall cut not a top priority

If it comes down to it, the governor would rather give raises to state employees instead of nixing the Hall tax.

Apr 16, 2014 12:50 PM

Shenanigans!

A resolution sponsored by Joe Carr regarding the constitutionality of the state's same-sex marriage ban has some unfriendly amendments from Democrats to fend off — including one that uses the phrase "softly and tenderly."

Apr 16, 2014 12:50 PM

Criminalizing flash mobs

The state is trying to curb flash mobs:

The House of Representatives voted 63-31 to create a new offense of "aggravated vandalism" that could be applied to the organizers of flash mobs that go awry. The legislation clearly unnerved some members, including state Rep. Vince Dean, an East Ridge Republican who copped to having flash mobbed just last weekend with his church.

The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, assured lawmakers that dancing flash mobs would not be criminalized. Nor would protests such as the Moral Monday crowd that gathered a couple of days ago inside the state Capitol.

Apr 16, 2014 11:46 AM