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.
SB114/HB1198 was heard in both the House and Senate committees this week. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) and Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), prohibits the granting of preference based on race, sex, or ethnicity when hiring to fill a position in state government. This bill impacts all state entities, including the University of Tennessee System.
The University of Tennessee System currently does not make employment decisions solely based on race, sex, or ethnicity. Doing so would be a violation of existing federal law.
While on its face the legislation seems to mirror existing federal law, it has notable differences that will surely lead to costly litigation for the University, the State, and Tennessee taxpayers. Additional factors that could lead to litigation include a lack of definition for the word “preference” as included in the bill.
The Senate Judiciary Committee adopted two amendments, one changing the language ‘gender’ to ‘sex’ and another changing ‘candidate’ to ‘applicant.’ While some testimony was heard regarding the ambiguity of the word preference in the bill, it ultimately was passed with 6 ayes. The bill now moves to the Senate Calendar and Rules Committee.
The companion bill, HB1198, was deferred to the next available calendar in the House State Government Subcommittee today, following testimony and a proposed amendment from the Tennessee Board of Regents that would further define the word preference. This attempted amendment route would eliminate the majority of litigation issues surrounding the current language of the bill. The bill will be heard next week, March 26th, in subcommittee.
To check the bill’s status, click here.
HB29 (Eldridge R-Jackson)/SB71 (Massey R-Knoxville) passed in the House State Government subcommittee today on a voice vote. The bill will designate the University of Tennessee’s botanical gardens as the official botanical garden of the state.
The botanical gardens contain over 4,000 annuals, perennials, herbs, tropicals, trees, shrubs, vegetables and ornamental grasses and are open to the public year round. The UT botanical gardens, located in Knoxville and Jackson, also feature a kitchen garden, rose garden, rock garden, bio-energy garden, shade garden, and in the coming year a children’s garden.
The bill will move on to the House State Government Committee. It has not yet been calendared in the Senate.
The President will offer his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress tonight at 9 pm ET. Live streaming and coverage of President Obama’s address will be featured on every major news outlet.
As the President enters his second term in office, his address will likely cover an array of domestic issues from immigration laws to looming legislative changes surrounding firearms. Following are a few areas to watch for throughout tonight’s address that impact higher education. We’ve also covered several general issues that will arise this year with the onset of President Obama’s second term in office.
STATE OF THE UNION
While there are limited specific higher education issues that are likely to be addressed in the State of the Union speech tonight, there are several issues that will have varied impacts on institutions of higher education nationwide. One of the major domestic issues that will play a part in the President’s address is immigration reform.
Coming off the recent discussion of the fiscal cliff, the President is sure to mention the sequester—a series of automatic spending cuts that will soon take effect throughout the nation. These cuts will undoubtedly have consequences on the amount of federal spending on higher education, including federally funded research programs.
Federal gun legislation may also be addressed in tonight’s State of the Union. The President recently signed 23 executive orders related to firearms, and mention of the President’s plan is sure to come up in tonight’s speech.
The President is also likely to address continued job creation throughout the country and the necessity for proper job training to ensure the maintenance of the American workforce.
While these domestic issues will likely take precedence in tonight’s State of the Union speech, international issues will also be discussed. With a host of foreign policy and national security concerns, the administration will likely address its initial foreign policy goals for Obama’s second term.
To view the week ahead in Congress, click here.