Legislature signs off on Amp roadblock

Via Pith, a compromise has taken banning center lanes off of the table, but Mayor Karl Dean's signature bus rapid transit project will still need approval from the General Assembly if it has any form of dedicated lane.

As for the final legislation pertaining to The Amp, Turner said it's bad, but better than the original Senate language that would have effectively killed the project as it's currently proposed.

"I'm not comfortable with the deal, no, because I think we're stepping in — we've set a precedent here," he said. "And I think it's going to get very burdensome for the state to have to do this if we starting having to approve individual projects across the state like that. It's worked fine the way we do it. They say this is a new type of project, of course that's not what this is about, this is a political thing. This is the best thing for Metro Nashville, best thing we could've done. It's the compromise we ended up with."

Mike Schatzlein, president and CEO of Saint Thomas Health Services and chair of the Amp Coalition, had the following to say this afternoon:

“We are satisfied with the outcome in the General Assembly today. This bill clearly defines approval levels of local and state participation in the transit project process. We look forward to our continued involvement in planning for Middle Tennessee’s urgent and growing transit needs. The Amp Coalition will stay committed to educating the community and region about the benefits of The Amp as the first step in a Middle Tennessee transit strategy.”

Apr 17, 2014 2:09 PM

Hall tax repeal dies in committee

Green said amendment would have adversely affected local tax bases
Apr 17, 2014 6:42 AM

Education reform bills melt down, then so does their sponsor

After a House committee yanked the life out of two of Rep. John DeBerry’s education bills, he snatched up his things, quietly stormed down the hallway to his office and slammed his heavy wooden door behind him.

The bang of the door and the crash of his things hitting the ground inside the small ground-level office of the calm yet emotional Memphis Democrat rang out in the hallway.

Moments before, no one on the 12-member Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee Tuesday would give DeBerry a motion to take up his bills. Beyond the procedural lack of the motion making an up-or-down vote on his bills impossible, members failing to offer a motion on a bill is one of the chief insults a committee can bestow upon a bill or its sponsor.

DeBerry finds himself politically straddling fences in the General Assembly. Last election cycle, he was the chief beneficiary of campaign contributions from education reform advocates that tend to find more allies on the Republican side of the aisle. That, and his support for education reforms like vouchers and school choice, put his political views fundamentally at odds with the vast majority of his fellow Democrats.

The lack of a motion meant the committee killed two of his bills in the hearing Tuesday afternoon. One would have allowed the school districts charged with turning around the state’s worst schools — which largely sit in Memphis — to recruit students outside their school zones. Another would have lowered the voting threshold needed for parents to turn around management or operators of their struggling schools. Both were controversial, although less so than other education bills up for consideration this year.

Although the bills were on their way to the Senate floor, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he wasn’t familiar with the legislation and isn’t surprised by the decisive move in committee to kill legislation when the legislature is looking to adjourn.

“We’re at the end of session where that’s what happens,” Ramsey said. “Bottom line is this is the time of year where stuff like that happens. That’s the reason why we have two houses, that’s the reason we have separation of powers, so nobody rubber stamps what the other person does.” 

Earlier in the morning, another bill DeBerry was rooting for also died. Noting a lack of support on the full Finance Committee, Rep. Bill Dunn withdrew a bill that would have allowed the state to pay private-school tuition for students attending the state’s worst schools.

Apr 15, 2014 2:28 PM

Here's what the Legislature will resolve before leaving this week

From student testing to ag gag to vouchers, there's a lot left on the General Assembly's plate
Apr 14, 2014 5:00 AM

McDaniel predicts open-carry will get disappeared; fears 'every gang-banger in Memphis' would go armed

Rep. Steve McDaniel doesn't think House Finance will let unpermitted open-carry see the light of day:

McDaniel said he doubted that the bill would ever reach the floor for a House vote as the legislature steams toward a conclusion early next week. “It’ll never get out of House Finance," predicted McDaniel, who said emphatically that he was personally disinclined to vote for the measure.

“Hell, no!” said McDaniel, who said that, if the measure passed, “Every gang-banger in Memphis will end up packing. Can you imagine?”

Apr 10, 2014 1:40 PM

Harwell challenger missed deadline by two minutes

Tennessee Republican Assembly president handed over qualifying papers at 12:02 p.m.
Apr 7, 2014 2:39 PM

5 takeaways from Haslam's budget cuts

With revenue down, governor shelves education plans
Apr 1, 2014 6:21 AM

Price for Cordell Hull repairs estimated higher

Architects have raised their estimate for repairs to the Cordell Hull building. Their new $76 million top-end number — up from a $40 million guess last year — is a worst-case scenario that includes a 20 percent contingency.

This time, an architectural firm did the examination. It found that a portion of the roof on the Cordell Hull needs replacing, as do the drainage structures around the foundation. But much of the work it calls for is about modernizing the sixty-year old building and bringing it up to current codes, like increasing the load-bearing capacity in elevator lobbies and removing asbestos-laden floor tiles.

Mar 26, 2014 10:29 AM

Haslam to biz leaders: Engage the legislature

'Your voice counts way more than you think it does'
Mar 26, 2014 6:46 AM

Harwell unsure on veto session

House Speaker Beth Harwell says she’s still weighing whether the legislature should come back for a veto session after their expected adjournment next month.

“I don’t know that I’ve made up my mind,” said Harwell who confirmed Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey brought the idea up to her. “This is not in any way a reflection that we have any disagreement with the governor. We don’t. We were just looking at what’s good government and the protection of the strength of the legislative body.”

The speaker, who said issues like cost and timing are worth thinking about, would not confirm whether she would consider a veto session for this year, saying she and Ramsey would make that decision together. Ramsey said the legislature should not let the governor's veto go unchecked and suggested lawmakers come back for one day a month after they adjourn to revisit any vetoed bills.

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters it’s the legislature’s prerogative if they want to come back to overturn vetoes he may make.

“There’s always a lot of speculation at this point in time in a session about what’s the governor going to veto. At this point in time, as I’ve said before, we’re still really early in this book,” he said.

Mar 25, 2014 6:59 AM