Veterans academic support bill moves forward; lawmakers also address Medicaid, transparency
Feb 23, 2014 | 727 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
(Editor’s Note: This legislative update which highlights last week’s work of the Tennessee House of Representatives has been jointly contributed by state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, who represents the 24th Legislative District, and state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, who represents the 22nd Legislative District.)

A bill that allows veterans to receive in-state tuition rates at Tennessee higher education institutions has garnered support from House lawmakers this week as the bill continues to move through the legislative committee process.

The Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act encourages enrollment of veterans at Tennessee public colleges and removes many of the burdensome hurdles associated with veterans reentering the academic world after serving in our nation’s military.

Currently, discharged veterans who choose to relocate back to Tennessee after service must pay out-of-state tuition rates until residency is formally established. Under the VETS legislation, veterans enrolling within 24 months of discharge immediately receive Tennessee’s in-state college tuition rate.

The Act also creates a “VETS Campus” designation to recognize and promote schools that make veteran enrollment a priority. Higher education institutions that satisfy veteran-friendly criteria, such as specialized orientation and the availability of mentoring programs, can receive the designation.

The bill is set to next be heard in the House Education Committee. Once approved there, the bill will quickly move to the floor where it will be considered by the full House of Representatives.

And, in case you missed it:

n Medicaid Expansion: Legislation to prohibit the expansion of Medicaid in the state unless first authorized by the Tennessee General Assembly passed the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee and is scheduled for a full House floor hearing later this week.

n Tennessee Blue Books: The 2013-14 Tennessee Blue Book was officially released earlier this month by the Secretary of State. The Tennessee Blue Book, published every two years, is the definitive manual on Tennessee state government, with detailed information about all three branches of government, including biographies of all members of the Tennessee General Assembly. In addition, the Blue Book contains information on the federal government, Tennessee history, election statistics and much more.

This year’s Blue Book is dedicated to former Tennessee Lady Volunteers Coach Pat Summitt. In her 38 years of coaching the UT Lady Vols basketball team, Summitt received hundreds of honors. Her teams won more than 1,000 games, 32 Southeastern Conference championships and eight national championships. Her players who completed their playing eligibility at UT had a 100 percent graduation rate. And, since being diagnosed with early onset dementia a little over two years ago, she has led a foundation that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund Alzheimer's research.

For more information on this year’s publication of the Tennessee Blue Book, visit http://www.state.tn.us/sos/pub/index.htm.

n Three Stars Award: Legislation to create the “Three Stars of Tennessee Award” for peace officers, firefighters and medical first responders killed or injured in the line of duty is set to be heard in the House Government Operations Committee later this week. The award, which consists of an official medal, a certificate and a ribbon suitable for wearing on a uniform, aims to recognize the heroic and brave sacrifices of first responders who give their lives or suffer a career-ending injury protecting and serving the public.

n Transparent Tennessee: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced the launch of “Transparent Tennessee,” an overhaul of the state’s transparency website to offer more user-friendly information online to Tennessee taxpayers.

Transparent Tennessee is a one-stop shop for searching public data on how state dollars are spent. The site includes a searchable checkbook with more interactive data related to state agency expenses, vendor payments and travel reimbursements.

Transparent Tennessee includes the new checkbook function along with an interactive financial overview of where state dollars come from and where they are spent. The site has a public opportunities section that links to public meetings, open records information and a page for feedback.

Visitors to the website will also see quick links to state audits and the state salary database.

Transparent Tennessee can be found at http://tn.gov/opengov/.