- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Haslam’s free tuition proposal has familiar ring

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A popular Tennessee governor running for re-election wants to create a free community college program. Sound familiar?

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who is up for a second term this fall, proposed the change in his State of the State on Monday night. His Democratic predecessor, Phil Bredesen, made a similar pitch en route to sweeping all 95 counties in 2006.

Haslam’s “Tennessee Promise” proposal would cover a full ride at two-year schools for any high school graduate, at a cost of $34 million per year. That’s $9 million more than Bredesen’s proposal, which would have required the equivalent of a C average to qualify for free tuition.

Despite his landslide win, Bredesen’s proposal never gained much traction in the Legislature. A scaled-back version was included into a larger lottery scholarship bill that passed the House, but ultimately failed in the Republican-controlled Senate in 2007.

Bredesen said at the time that his tuition proposal was overshadowed by all the attention paid to a 42-cent tax increase that narrowly passed the Legislature that year.

He was unsuccessful in reviving the tuition proposal over the following three years of his time in office, despite his belief that 2-year college represents a “magic ingredient” for improving Tennesseans’ access to higher education.

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Magistrate who changed baby’s name replaced

NEWPORT, Tenn. (AP) - An East Tennessee magistrate has been replaced months after ordering a baby’s name changed from Messiah to Martin because she believes Messiah is a title held only by Jesus Christ.

Lu Ann Ballew was a child support magistrate, serving at the pleasure of the chief judge of Tennessee’s fourth judicial district. Judge Duane Slone terminated Ballew on Friday and appointed a new magistrate.

Slone did not immediately return a call, but another judge in the district, Rex Henry Ogle, said in a phone interview that it was a group decision by the local judges to replace Ballew. Ogle said Ballew’s decision to change Messiah’s names was a factor, but not the sole factor, in their decision.

Ballew, an attorney, still faces a March 3 hearing on accusations that her order to change Messiah’s name violated Tennessee’s Code of Judicial Conduct. Among other things, the code requires judges to perform all duties without bias or prejudice based on religion.

In a response to the Board of Judicial Conduct, Ballew has denied that her ruling was a violation.

The name change happened in August, when Jalessa Martin and Jawaan McCullough appeared before Ballew at a child support hearing in Newport about their 7-month-old son Messiah Martin. As part of the hearing, the father requested the baby’s last name be changed to McCullough.

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Bill to ban federal health care law delayed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Legislation that would ban new health insurance exchanges established under President Barack Obama’s signature law has been delayed after a fiscal analysis projected the measure would cost the state more than $6 billion.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet was delayed until next week in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Tuesday.

Beavers says she plans to talk with state officials to find out why the cost is so high.

The proposal seeks to prohibit any cooperation by the state or its agencies in implementing or administering the federal law.

So far, more than 36,000 Tennesseans have signed up for coverage under the exchanges.

In 2011, Beavers proposed and the General Assembly passed a bill that would allow Tennesseans to opt out of the federal health care law.

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West Tenn. under winter weather warning

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A winter weather warning is in effect for counties in West Tennessee.

The National Weather Service is advising residents of the effects of freezing rain and sleet that continues to fall Tuesday in the region.

Meteorologists are warning of ice accumulation on roads and highways, which could be a hazard to motorists.

In Tipton County, the sheriff’s office reports trees and power lines have fallen on roadways. A shelter has been opened to assist people whose homes are without power.

In Shelby County, the Office of Preparedness says ice has caused tree limbs to break in some sections of the county. Some street flooding also has been reported.

The winter weather warning is in effect until midnight.

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