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2 days 16 hours ago

The Koch Brothers and the Amp

Cass with a story of how Americans for Prosperity influenced the Amp debate on Capitol Hill.

Mar 31, 2014 7:13 AM

Megan Barry's six-figure pre-season bash

The election is more than a year off and she doesn't have any official opponents, so Megan Barry has the mayoral race all to herself at the moment, which explains, in part, why she can raise $100,000 in one night already.

Mar 31, 2014 7:11 AM

More tuition hikes on the way?

The funding recommendation for the state's colleges and universities is down $20 million and that may mean steeper tuition increases than originally suggested:

That could trigger tuition hikes at some campuses for the 2014-15 year greater than the 2 to 4 percent increases suggested last fall.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission in November recommended that the state allocate $29.6 million more funds to carry out an outcomes-based funding formula that came from the 2010 Complete College Tennessee Act.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed 2014-15 budget would deliver just $9.3 million in additional higher education dollars, enough to cover only 1 percent salary increases required for employees.

Mar 28, 2014 1:27 PM

Anti-Islam event confuses with 'Republican' label

The Tennessee Republican Assembly is hosting an event with some prominent anti-Islam activists. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the TNGOP, and that's caused some confusion (and some soft-pedaling from the TNGOP, which nevertheless reminds you they are trying to reach out to Muslims).

Mar 28, 2014 6:24 AM

The Forrester Insurgency

Is Chip Forrester trying to mastermind a coup?

There is currently a war going on over control of the Democratic State Executive Committee. A group of insurgents has already tried to oust the party chair, former state Sen. Roy Herron. Herron is pro-life and is considered too conservative by many Democrats. So former chair Chip Forrester is recruiting candidates to win more seats on the executive committee and oust Herron and install a new chair more in line with progressive thinking.

Locally, former Democratic state Sen. Bill Owen, who serves on the state executive committee and on the Democratic National Committee, is being challenged by former Knox County Commissioner Mark Harmon. When the coup was attempted to remove Herron, Owen sided with Herron. He is part of current majority of the committee that argues the Democrats lost three of five Congressional seats, seven of 14 state Senate seats, and 21 of 49 House seats during Forrester’s tenure.

Forrester supports Harmon.

Forrester denies he is seeking to return as chair, but if his slate wins control he will be able to influence who does get the job—and it won’t be Herron.

Mar 28, 2014 6:14 AM

The end of forcible annexation?

The Senate approved a measure stripping cities of the ability to annex by ordinance.

Mar 27, 2014 12:26 PM

Senate OKs restrictions on EBT card use

The Senate approved a measure banning ATMs near tattoo parlors, body piercers and bail bondsmen from dispensing cash off EBT cards.

Mar 27, 2014 12:25 PM

Senate passes Stop Amp bill

A Senate bill which would stop The Amp under its current design passed overwhelmingly today and the Stop Amp Coalition thanked (among others) Americans for Prosperity for their support.

[...] Amp supporters are pinning their hopes on the House version of the bill, which does not include the provision banning the center-lane design. They're betting that Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell, who has said the state shouldn't fund the project, is less willing to support such strict design regulations.

Mar 27, 2014 11:16 AM

Difference in competing voucher bills is five counties, 84 schools and low-income kids

The governor’s version of a school voucher program is on the move in the upper chamber, but it’s different from the one sources say is in jeopardy in the House. 

Lawmakers so far agree that up to 5,000 so-called “opportunity scholarships” covering tutition for public school students to attend private schools will would be up for grabs this fall under both proposals. The two measures are also focused on children zoned for the state’s lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, but the the main difference between the bills is who is eligible for the free ride and who can apply in a second round if any vouchers are left over.

Currently, 83 schools make up the state’s bottom 5 percent of schools and they sit in five counties: Davidson, Hamilton, Hardeman, Knox and Shelby.

Under the governor’s version of the bill carried in the Senate, only students at those schools qualifying for free or reduced price lunch can apply for a taxpayer-funded voucher. Any vouchers not used can go to other low-income students zoned for public schools anywhere in the district. That would mean collectively, more than 200,000 low-income students could be eligible to apply under that plan, representing about 1 in 5 students statewide.

The House version is smaller, but does not account for a student's income. The measure offers vouchers to all children at the bottom 5 percent of schools regardless of income. If vouchers are left over, students at schools in the bottom 10 percent of schools in the state — another 84 schools — would become eligible. That would extend the program to five more counties, including Carter, Fayette, Granger, Lake and Morgan. Between both rounds, some 70,000 students would be eligible.

More than two-thirds of schools in the bottom 10 percent statewide are in Memphis, followed by 24 schools in Metro Nashville.

The House version is parked in a committee and sources say the measure is just shy of the support it needs to emerge. However, House Education Committee Chairman Harry Brooks said he expects the House will adopt the Senate version, and that bill will "fly."

The Senate Education committee in its last meeting advanced the governor's voucher bill, along with the parent trigger legislation allowing parents to vote to change the direction of a school. The committeee also approved a measure allowing the Achievement School District to offer unused seats to students not zoned for that failing school and later shelved the bill prohibiting school districts from sending home information about TennCare, CHIP and the Affordable Care Act, despite the measure passing in the full House.

Mar 27, 2014 10:00 AM