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2016 February 19 - 10:55 pm

Higher Education Changes Highlight Haslam’s 2016 Agenda

Tennessee Gov. Wants Board of Regents To Focus on Two-Year Schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam released his administration’s 42-bill agenda for this year’s legislative session that includes an effort to restructure higher education governance that led to the early retirement of the chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents schools.

The Republican governor wants to give more autonomy to the six four-year colleges to allow the Regents system to focus more on promoting graduation rates from the state’s two-year community and technical colleges.

Chancellor John Morgan earlier this month described the plan as “unworkable” in announcing retirement a year earlier than planned. Morgan said the changes would hurt would hurt oversight and accountability efforts.

But Haslam’s proposal is popular among lawmakers who would be able to tout more local control over regional schools in their home districts. Less popular is Haslam’s proposal to appoint all 12 members for each six university school boards, which would control budgets, tuition and the selection of presidents.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has said lawmakers should have at least some say who serves on the boards of Austin Peay in Clarksville, East Tennessee in Johnson City, Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro, Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee State in Nashville and the University of Memphis.

Other bills in the governor’s legislative agenda would:

• Increase sentencing requirements for serious crimes while taking steps to reduce recidivism by expanding services and drug treatment for offenders.

• Make handgun carry permits valid for eight years, up from the current five-year permit.

• Add reporting requirements for the disposal of human fetal tissue after abortions.

“The Fetal Remains Act strengthens accountability and transparency for surgery centers performing abortions,” Haslam said in the release.

Haslam announced earlier this month that he would not try to get lawmakers to approve the state’s first gas tax increase since 1989, avoiding what would have become a similar showdown with fellow Republicans that he faced with his unsuccessful bid to expand Medicaid in Tennessee last year.

Haslam’s sweeping effort to privatize the maintenance of state buildings is absent from his legislative agenda.

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