- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014
Senate school voucher bill delayed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Senate version of a bill to create a school voucher program in Tennessee has been delayed to allow sponsors of the measure and a competing version to try to work out differences.

The proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown was to be discussed in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday but was delayed for two weeks.

The proposal is a competing version of legislation brought by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam that’s limited to students from low-income families attending the bottom 5 percent of failing schools. He had that measure withdrawn last year when Senate Republicans sought to expand to a larger number of children.

The measure now being proposed by Kelsey is still broader, affecting students attending the bottom 10 percent of failing schools.

Under that proposal, the program would also be opened to anyone interested if the entire number isn’t filled by students from low-income families attending failing schools.

Republican Sen. Dolores Gresham of Somerville is a co-sponsor of the bill and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. When asked if she or Kelsey had spoken with the governor, she responded: “Everybody is having a dialogue.”


Senate defeats proposal to elect attorney general

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Senate on Wednesday defeated an effort to change the Tennessee constitution to require the popular election of the attorney general.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet received 15 votes in favor and 14 votes against. Proposals need at least 17 votes - a majority of the 33-member chamber - to pass.

Beavers argued that the current system of having the state’s chief legal officer appointed to an eight-year term by the Supreme Court is “twice removed from the people” because justices don’t have to stand for contested elections.

Opponents of Beavers’ proposal argued that it conflicts with a resolution passed by the chamber last year that would give the Legislature the power to appoint the attorney general.

The sponsor of that proposal, Republican Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville, argued that making the attorney general an elected position would require candidates to seek heavy campaign contributions that could threaten the nonpartisan and independent nature of the office. Elected attorney generals, which are the case in several states, also often decide to run for governor, he said.

“Once they are taking money, it is a conflict of interest,” Green said.


House panel advances supermarket wine bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A measure that would let voters decide whether their cities or counties allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores is on a fast track to a full House vote after passing a budget panel on Wednesday.

The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol sailed through the House Budget Subcommittee on a voice vote. Language in a similar House bill was consolidated into Lundberg’s proposal.

“That was one of the quickest meetings we’ve had,” said Lundberg. “Frankly, it’s because … we’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months talking with various parties and getting it to the point where I think we’ve got a lot of support from a lot of legislators and we’ve got a lot of support from a lot of people in the state.”

The proposal would allow cities and counties to vote on grocery store wine sales as early as November, but wouldn’t allow supermarkets to stock wine until at least July 2016.

The measure is similar to a version that passed the Senate 23-8 last week.

One of the few differences is that the Senate version would require convenience stores to have at least 1,200 square feet to qualify for a wine sales license, while the House version would set that limit at 2,000 square feet.


Saltsman hired to run GOP races in Tenn. House

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican operative Chip Saltsman has been hired to run GOP campaigns in the Tennessee House.

House Majority Whip Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville said Wednesday that Saltsman was hired because he is “one of the best political minds in the state and in the nation.”

Saltsman is a one-time state Republican Party chairman and a recent chief of staff and campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga. He also ran former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign in 2008.

House Republicans are looking to protect their 71 seats and add to their ranks in the 99-member chamber.

Saltsman follows Josh Thomas, who held the position in the previous two cycles that saw Republicans make major gains in the House. Thomas left for a similar role in North Carolina.

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