Campus Speaker Legislation Taken ‘Off Notice’ in House

Two bills that were seeking to dramatically impact the process of bringing speakers to public institutions of higher education were taken off notice in the House Education Subcommittee this morning. Taking a bill off notice means that it will no longer be heard in committee unless the sponsor of the bill re-calendars it.

Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) and Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenior City), the house sponsors of the bills (HB2378 and HB2450), spoke to the committee today regarding their decision to take these bills off notice.

“The University understands the concerns of the General Assembly,” Lynn stated.  She went on to clarify that while these bills have been taken off notice this session, she will continue to watch the University of Tennessee closely.

Referring to the controversial UTK student-led program ‘Sex Week,’ Lynn did state to Committee members that she may pursue legislative action in the future.

“If they embarrass the University again in such a way… [the members] would come forward [with these bills] in the future,” she stated.

Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), the Senate sponsor of these bills (SB1608 and SB2493), has also agreed to take the bills off notice.

House Finance Members Hear Compelling UT Peds Presentation; Laud Successes in Childhood Obesity and Asthma

House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee members heard a presentation from UT Health Science Center, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital this week, outlining health advances made possible in part by a 5-year state funding commitment of $15 million.

Dr. Jon McCullers, Chairman of the UT Department of Pediatrics, and Dr. Larry Kun, St. Jude Executive Vice President and Clinical Director, were in Nashville to thank the General Assembly and Haslam administration for the State of Tennessee’s generous investment—an investment matched by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that is yielding positive results for Tennesseans.  Members were happy to hear that the investment has helped reduce childhood obesity and asthma, as well as assisted in recruitment of world-class staff, researchers, and physicians to treat Tennessee’s children.

Student Fee Legislation Filed This Week

Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) filed legislation this week addressing the use of student activity fees at Tennessee’s public institutions of higher education. His bill (SB1608) requires student fees used for student organizations’ paid speakers to be distributed “proportionally based on membership to student organizations requesting such funding.”

Legislative concern over the use of student activity fees arose last year during the “Sex Week” programming that occurred on the UTK campus. After a summer Senate Oversight Committee hearing on this topic (read more on that here), Sen. Campfield made clear his opinion that few resources were being allocated for “conservative” speakers.

The current process to obtain student fee monies for speakers on the UTK campus requires that student organizations apply for such funding. Decisions are not based on the membership numbers of the organization requesting funds, but rather a number of other factors, such as whether the program is available to all students, if the program will encourage broad student participation, and if the program contributes to the intellectual development of students.

It is important to note that this bill could easily be amended to take another form.  Much more will be known as the issue begins to make its way through the legislative process—stay tuned for more on this matter.


State Senator Douglas Henry to Retire

Senator Douglas Henry (D-Nashville)The longest-serving member in the history of the Tennessee General Assembly has officially announced that he will not be running for reelection in 2014.

State Senator Douglas Henry (D-Nashville), age 86, will continue to serve the remainder of his current term.  He represents the State’s 21st Senatorial District.

Beginning his legislative career in 1955, Henry served in the State House for one term.  He was later elected to the State Senate in 1971, where he served as the longtime Chairman of the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.  Senate Finance is widely recognized as one of the legislature’s most powerful committees.  He now serves as the Committee’s Chairman Emeritus, alongside Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge).

Senator Henry has been a tremendous advocate for public higher education over the course of his legislative career.  “He always had a keen interest in higher education and was always willing to sit and explore these issues.  Senator Henry was very interested in how he and his colleagues could help UT improve.  He wanted your advice and thoughts,” says UT President Emeritus Joe Johnson, commenting on Senator Henry’s service.  “He gave priority to the enhancement of higher education–public and private–in Tennessee.  The things I appreciate most about him are his availability and his thoughtfulness.”

In recent years, Senator Henry played leading roles in a number of education reforms, including the First to the Top Act and the Complete College Tennessee Act.  UT President Joe DiPietro reflects on Henry’s career, saying, “He was a great champion of higher education, and we appreciate his support.”

Please join us in thanking Senator Henry for his commendable service to the people and the State of Tennessee.