- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

Gov. Bill Haslam spoke to The Associated Press about a range of issues in an interview in his office at the state Capitol this week. Here are excerpts of some of the topics discussed:

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GUNS AT CAPITOL

The speakers of the House and Senate want to allow handguns to be carried at the legislative office complex.

“That’s their work environment. If they decide they want to do that, I’m willing to have that conversation. But we feel really strongly about the Capitol not being that way. “

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TUITION FREEZE

Lawmakers are proposing to place heavy restrictions on tuition increases at state colleges and universities.

“It’s a really good conversation to have, but we should look at the whole equation, and that includes what it costs them to operate, what tuition is and how much money we put in.”

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COLLEGE BOARDS

Haslam is proposing the creation of separate governing boards for the six Board of Regents universities and a stronger role for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, or THEC.

“Any time you make a change, there’s always some questions, and there’s some legitimate ones about this. … How will we stop all those different entities now from being in a free-for-all in terms of lobbying for things? That’s one of the reasons THEC will have a strong role.”

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OUTSOURCING

The governor has a team of staffers and consultants working on a “business justification” for privatizing the maintenance of more state-owned buildings.

“There’s been a lot of controversy about what people call our privatization or outsourcing idea. What we’re saying is in a really difficult environment, let’s see if there’s one other tool to look at to control costs.”

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TRANSPORTATION

A proposal to boost transportation funding, most likely including the first state gas tax hike since 1989, has been punted until at least next year.

“Doing something about infrastructure is something I would like to see while I’m governor. It’s really unfair to leave that on the new governor’s table for his or her first year. We’re willing to do it and see it as something that needs to happen… Next year we need to seriously address it. If not, the state’s going to be in a bad position.”

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PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Unlike four years ago when he was a prominent supporter of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, Haslam has not yet endorsed in this year’s GOP primary.

“I was waiting to see what happened out of Iowa and New Hampshire to see if there’d be any more clarity. And there’s not. … Romney appeared much earlier like he was on the path to winning. I don’t think there’s a lot of Tennesseans waiting around saying, ‘I wonder who the governor thinks I should vote for?’”

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