The bill, which passed the House 81-9 and with strong bipartisan support, is the first piece of legislation passed this year to address issues raised with Common Core and student data collection privacy concerns.
A number of other bills relating to the same subject are currently making their way through the House committee process.
As passed, House Bill 1549 specifies that Tennessee is fully in charge of creating its own educational standards and ensures that none will be imposed on the state by the federal government in the future. The bill also requires that any data collected from the use of testing under educational standards can only be used for the sole purpose of tracking the academic progress and needs of students. In addition, any data collected by the federal government must be transparent and shared in an environment that is readily available for parents to view.
Heralded by proponents as a bill to correct fundamental problems with Common Core, supporters agree this legislation will go a long way in effecting change in the educational initiative that has drawn the ire of parents, teachers, school administrators and advocacy groups nationwide over the last several months.
Having already passed the Senate, the bill now travels to the desk of Gov. Bill Haslam to be signed into law.
lowest debt state
in entire nation
House Republicans joined with Comptroller of the Treasury Justin P. Wilson to report Tennessee’s total debt fell during the last six months of last year by $347 million — or more than a third of a billion dollars.
Of that decrease, the state reduced the debt on its general obligation bonds, which are used to pay for most of the government’s capital projects, by more than $95 million. That represents a two-year decrease of nearly $190 million.
Lower debt translates into lower interest payments on money owed, which in turn translates into substantial savings for Tennessee taxpayers.
The report from the Comptroller further enforces the fact that the conservative principles and sound fiscal policies implemented in our state are paying dividends for our taxpayers.
In addition, this news comes a few months after a report issued by Fitch Ratings, one of the country’s largest bond rating agencies, concluded that Tennessee’s debt ratio was the lowest in the entire nation.
Major business growth
in Middle and East
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development joined House Republicans to announce two major business expansions, one in Middle Tennessee and one in the East.
Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring manufacturer and largest manufacturer of ceramic tile in North America, will invest $180 million in manufacturing and infrastructure improvements, and create 320 new jobs in Dickson County and surrounding areas over the next four years.
On the eastern side of the state, Fresenius Medical Care will locate its new East Coast manufacturing facility in the Panasonic building in the Forks of the River Industrial Park in Knoxville. The expansion will result in 665 new jobs and a total $140 million investment.
The new Knox County facility will produce dialysis-related products which will be distributed to Fresenius Medical Care’s clinics and distribution centers located all over the eastern part of the United States.
Toward the middle of 2014, it will begin hiring for support jobs such as engineering facilities management, and in the fourth quarter of 2015, it plans to begin hiring for other positions such as supervisors, technicians, production line workers and maintenance. Job opportunities will be posted on the Fresenius Medical Care North America website located at http://jobs.fmcna.com.
The two major business expansions come after Republicans worked diligently during the last legislative session to cut taxes, remove bureaucratic barriers to business and create an overall friendlier, more business-oriented environment across the state to help spur job creation. The news also follows “Business Facilities” magazine, a national economic development publication, officially naming Tennessee as its “2013 State of the Year” for economic development, based on the state’s huge success over the last 12 months in recruiting new business and promoting economic development.
Cited in the magazine’s report were the state’s top five economic development projects of 2013, which created a total of 6,900 jobs, $3.2 billion in capital investment, and included seven expansions and three new recruitments.
House Republicans are optimistic additional expansions will be announced in the coming days as even more pro-business policies are put into place by the state Legislature.
Veteran academic support
bill passed by full House
Legislation allowing veterans who relocate to the state after military service to receive in-state tuition rates at Tennessee higher education institutions garnered full support from House Republicans as the bill passed the full House of Representatives.
The Veterans Education Transition Support 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 now awaits final signature from the governor before becoming law.
House Republicans move
forward with seeking
U.S. balanced budget
House Republican lawmakers passed legislation calling for a convention of the states to consider a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. The passage of the resolution follows several other states which have already passed or are in the process of considering the same measure.
While Congress remains mired in partisan gridlock with no end in sight, Tennessee needs to send a message that Washington needs to finally get its fiscal house in order, proponents of the legislation agree.
Twenty states have already passed a resolution calling for a convention to pass a federal balanced budget amendment. Once 34 states do so, Congress is required to call a convention and set the date and location. Subsequently, 38 states must then ratify any changes to the Constitution in order for them to take effect.
Those who wish to become citizen co-sponsors of the legislation can voice their support by visiting www.fixthedebt.us.
(Editor’s Note: This legislative summary has been submitted jointly 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.)