Legislature maintains momentum in its efforts to support education
by ERIC WATSON, State Rep.
Mar 19, 2013 | 506 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lawmakers continue push

to improve education

A proposal presented by Gov. Bill Haslam and House lawmakers to improve education in Tennessee easily cleared the full House Education Committee last week. House Bill 190, referred to as the “Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act,” would give low-income families with students stuck in the lowest performing schools the opportunity to seek educational options outside the traditional public education system.

If passed by the Legislature, eligible students would have the opportunity to receive a scholarship to attend the private school of their choice. The program would be capped in terms of overall statewide participation, beginning with an initial cap of 5,000 students in the first year and rising to 7,500 in the second, 10,000 in the third, and 20,000 in the fourth and thereafter. Only those students whose family income status qualifies them for free or reduced lunch and who also are zoned to a school among the bottom 5 percent in terms of student achievement would be eligible to participate in the program.

House Bill 190 will next be heard in the House Government Operations Committee.

And in case

you missed it:

Electronic Insurance Documentation: House Bill 478 passed out of the House Transportation Committee last week with full support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. As introduced, the bill allows insurance documentation to be displayed in an electronic format. Currently, state law provides that proof of financial responsibility be proven through a hard-copy, paper document only. HB 478, in contrast, opens up this language to also allow an individual to provide proof of insurance in an electronic format using a smart phone, laptop, or other electronic device. The bill will be heard in the House Calendar and Rules committee.

EBT Card Abuse: Last Wednesday, lawmakers on the House Health Committee gave approval to a bill designed to help curb abuse of purchases made using Electronic Benefit Transfer cards. House Bill 119, when passed by the Legislature, will prohibit use of a welfare recipient’s EBT card in liquor stores, adult cabarets, casinos and other gambling facilities. In addition, welfare recipients who use EBT benefits illegally would be subject to disqualification from the program as permitted by federal law.

Anti-Income Tax Amendment: A constitutional amendment designed to clarify that Tennessee’s Constitution prohibits an income and payroll tax easily passed the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee last week. The amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 1, specifies that the Legislature as well as Tennessee counties and cities shall be prohibited from passing either an income tax or payroll tax, which is a tax on employers that is measured by the wages they pay their workers. Once approved by the legislature, the amendment will be placed on the 2014 statewide ballot for a referendum vote by the people of Tennessee. If passed by referendum, the Tennessee Constitution will then be amended to officially ban a state income and payroll tax.

Crime Prevention: Lawmakers on the House Criminal Justice Committee last week passed a series of bills which continue the push for crime prevention in Tennessee. Included in the package of bills is HB 416, which adds “trafficking for commercial sex acts” to the definition of a criminal gang offense. In recent years, both national and local trends in human trafficking reveal that gangs are becoming more involved in the sex trafficking of minors. In order to help further identify and punish such gang activity, this addition to the definition of a criminal gang offense was requested by Tennessee law enforcement officials.

Tennessee Veterans Homes: The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs announced last week that U.S. News & World Report has named the Tennessee State Veterans Homes in Knoxville and Murfreesboro among the best in the country. U.S. News rated more than 15,000 nursing homes using data research on nursing home safety, health inspection, and staffing quality. The source of the data originates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In 2012, CMS issued five-star ratings to the Ben Atchley State Veterans’ Home in Knoxville and the Tennessee State Veterans’ Home in Murfreesboro.