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.
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.
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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.