The Senate Government Operations Committee easily advanced a bill recreating the state's Textbook Commission in light of concerns over liberal bias, but not before snubbing the governor's request for more appointments so that the legislature can keep more for itself. The bill now moves to the Education Committee.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman and U.S. Congressional candidate Jim Tracy wants to edit the the state budget to ban it from funding bus rapid transit projects on state highways.
Tracy’s self-described “tightly drawn” language would essentially ban the state from allocating any money for the Nashville Amp, a signature yet embattled project spearheaded by Democratic Mayor Karl Dean.
“What’s it called, Amp? Those signs that says, “No Amp,” or “Yes on Amp,” those? It would affect that… No funds can be used for that,” Tracy explained to North Nashville’s Sen. Thelma Harper in the Senate Transportation Committee Wednesday in explaining his amendment.
“No, no use taking no vote, Hell, if you already know what you’re going to do,” Harper replied.
Under the current plan, Nashville was seeking $35 million in state funds to go with $60 million from Metro as well as $75 million from the federal government.
Major Republican political contributor and financier of opposition against the Amp, Lee Beaman, was on Capitol Hill today, and other die hard opponents have walked the halls of Legislative Plaza for weeks making their opposition to the Amp project known.
Transportation Commissioner John Schroer had cast doubt the state would be willing to help fund the Amp project in November, a plan to run a bus rapid transit line along West End to East Nashville.
House Speaker Beth Harwell had also said she was unwilling to fund the project this year, which led to Gov. Bill Haslam saying he would follow the speaker’s lead.
A Senate bill originally designed to keep Tennessee from taking federal money related to the ACA now just requires the governor to get legislative approval before expanding Medicaid, which the governor said he'd do anyway.
A rare piece of bipartisanship:
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander led members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation in demanding action that would protect musicians and their property in flight.
Inconsistent airline policies fail to protect musical instruments, which are often lost or damaged when musicians travel from show to show. In 2012, Congress approved language meant to help musicians by requiring the FAA to set standards for the transport of guitars, flutes and other instruments. Suggestions included permitting passengers to stow their instruments in closets or purchase an extra seat for their musical cargo.
The regulations were to be completed by Valentine’s Day – this Friday. Citing funding issues, the FAA hasn’t even started the rulemaking process. In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, several Tennessee lawmakers said they understand the FAA’s challenges, but urged the agency to do more with less.
“We don’t expect our airlines to carry a tune, but we do expect them to carry our precious instruments safely,” Rep. Cooper said. “Any damaged guitar is a tragedy. As a banjo player, I believe the same is true of banjos (although some might disagree).”
“Musicians from Nashville and other parts of Tennessee fly all over the world to perform, and they shouldn’t have to worry about not being able to bring their instruments, or having them damaged along the way,” Sen. Alexander said. “I supported the law requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue regulations enabling musicians to bring their instruments aboard planes in 2012, and it’s time the federal government complies with that law.”
“It’s not always easy being a musician,” U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn said. “When flying away, musicians shouldn’t have to depend on a wing and a prayer with their guitars, banjos and ukuleles. I commend Congressman Cooper and Senator Alexander for taking the lead in resolving this issue.”
“For any consumer, damaged or missing luggage can be a terrible inconvenience,” U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen said. “But for musicians who rely on both their instruments and travel to earn a living, damaged or missing instruments can harm their ability to succeed and be detrimental to their careers. The FAA owes guidelines that adequately protect all passengers’ cargo to these hard-working individuals, and they are past due.”
Halfway through the state’s budget year Tennessee’s revenue collections are $222.7 million in the hole, the Department of Revenue reported Thursday.
Although the department says January has seen the largest growth in tax collections over the last 13 months, revenues fell short $51.6 million from the state’s expectations.
Tax collections for the state have struggled all this budget year, raking in more money for the state than last year but consistently falling short of projections the state built its last budget on.
Sales taxes were up $6.3 percent above expectations in January, reflecting holiday shopping from the year before.
But corporate tax collections remained in a slump, collecting $49 million less than expected in January. Officials have blamed the consistent drop on businesses over paying their taxes in the beginning of 2013 then compensating for the overage since then. In the last six months, franchise and excise taxes are under collected by $207 million, according to the department.
The speaker issues a statement of support for HJR548, which calls for a national constitutional convention to consider a federal balanced budget amendment.