Below is a summary of legislative outcomes impacting the University of Tennessee from the first session of the 108th Tennessee General Assembly.
Bill Number: SB142/HB118
Bill Status: Enacted as Public Chapter 0016; Effective July 1, 2013.
Description: While the legislative intent of the House and Senate sponsors remains in conflict, the law has been interpreted to allow employers to continue to set and enforce policies regarding weapons on company property (including campuses) for students and employees, regardless of handgun carry permit status. Based on this interpretation, these policies could be enforced up to termination or expulsion; but employers could not pursue criminal charges if the person in question is a valid handgun carry permit holder.
UT Botanical Gardens
Bill Number: HB29/SB71
Bill Status: Enacted as Public Chapter 152; Effective April 16, 2013.
Description: Designates The University of Tennessee’s botanical gardens as the official botanical gardens of the state.
Bill Number: SB543/HB283
Bill Status: Enacted as Public Chapter 345; Effective July 1, 2013.
Description: Allows retired teachers’ children who are under 24 years of age to receive a 25 percent discount at any state-operated institution of higher learning, provided that the parent retired with 30 years of full-time creditable service in Tennessee public schools or received disability retirement after a minimum of 25 years of full-time creditable service in Tennessee public schools.
Lottery Scholarship Program
Bill Number: SB36/HB21
Bill Status: Enacted as Public Chapter 483; Effective May 20, 2013.
Description: Creates the “Tennessee STEP UP” scholarship program for postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities.
Bill Number: SB538/HB1055
Bill Status: Enacted as Public Chapter 361; Effective May 13, 2013.
Description: Changes the definition of “home school student” for purposes of the Tennessee HOPE scholarship to require that a student be home schooled the last year of high school instead of the last two years of high school. This enables students who are home schooled only during their final year of high school to be eligible for the HOPE scholarship.
Bill Number: SB719/HB862
Bill Status: Enacted as Public Chapter 428; Effective May 16, 2013.
Description: Expands access to the HOPE scholarship. Requires that a student who is a Tennessee citizen and a dependent child of a headquarters staff employee who is on a full-time work assignment in a foreign nation be eligible for a Tennessee HOPE scholarship as an entering freshman, so long as the student meets all eligibility requirements for the scholarship.
Bill Number: SB545/HB599
Bill Status: Enacted as Public Chapter 167; Effective April 16, 2013.
Description: Allows the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, The University of Tennessee System, and the State Board of Regents to provide information on financial assistance available from net lottery proceeds for attendance at eligible postsecondary institutions in the normal course of their business of development and recruitment of Tennessee students. The passed legislation will enable The University of Tennessee to use the information described above in recruitment practices to offer more appealing scholarship packages.
Annual Coverage Assessment Fee
Bill Number: SB441/HB544
Bill Status: Enacted as Public Chapter 0250; Effective July 1, 2013.
Description: The General Assembly again passed the Annual Coverage Assessment Fee, which allows the state to assess a fee of 4.52 percent to certain hospitals’ net revenues. The funds generated by the assessment are used to draw down federal matching dollars at a rate of 2-to-1. In existence since 2010, these funds allow the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare, to avoid drastic cuts that would negatively affect providers and hospitals. Among other covered items, these funds help maintain hospital and professional reimbursement rates and continue funding of essential access and critical access hospital pools. For the University, the assessment fee provides funding of graduate medical education up to $50 million.
Advanced Medical Laboratory Licensing
Bill Status: Enacted as Public Chapter 0213; Effective July 1, 2013.
Description: Changes the state licensing regulations to allow more advanced degree personnel to perform testing in state-licensed laboratories engaged in advanced and emerging areas of laboratory science using technology not traditionally used in the clinical lab setting. Tennessee was one of only 10 states with restrictions on personnel type in place, and the purpose of the bill was to create an environment in Tennessee that would attract companies engaged in laboratory testing and diagnostics in advanced and emerging scientific fields. UTHSC originally had concerns with the bill as drafted because it appeared that these laboratories, which engage in cutting-edge research, could have been exempted from all state regulations, thus creating a patient safety concern. The University of Tennessee was successful in securing an amendment on the bill to state that labs must meet all other laboratory regulations.
On April 18, the House adopted SB502, paving the way for the Governor’s signature. The $32.9 billion measure provided for a number of improvements for UT and included full funding for the new Performance-based Outcomes Formula, as mandated by the Complete College Tennessee Act. Part of the agreement to secure full formula funding included TBR and UT leadership agreeing to hold tuition increases for the 2013-2014 academic year to no more than 6 percent. Non-formula units also received an increase. The UT Health Science Center and the ETSU College of Medicine both received a 3.5 percent increase in operational funding, along with the UT College of Veterinary Medicine. Meanwhile, the UT Institute of Agriculture’s Extension Service and AgResearch and the Institute of Public Service all received a 2.5 percent increase. The budget also includes funding to support a 1.5 percent salary increase (60 percent provided by appropriations), longevity, and a $50 401K match.
The budget included funding increases for various UT academic, research, and public service functions. They include:
- $3.5 million recurring for a pilot to expand the UT Knoxville College of Engineering to help leverage private gifts;
- $2.96 million for pediatric physician and scientist recruitment with a five-year commitment;
- $5 million toward the re-compete for the NSF/DoE Supercomputer with a long-term commitment for an additional $15 million;
- $500 thousand recurring (new item) to support the Institute of Public Service’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC).
Capital Projects and Maintenance
The University received funding to support the following (amount reflects total project cost, including state support and required private funds):
- $25.95 million for UT System-wide maintenance;
- $66.5 million for administrative renovations of the Crowe and Mooney Buildings and lab and classroom renovations of the Nash Building at the UT Health Science Center;
- $24 million for the conversion of the steam plant at UT Knoxville from coal to natural gas (no private matching funds required);
- $1 million for the expansion of the UT Martin Parsons Center to accommodate nursing program enhancements.
Other Notable Amendments
Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) included a requirement in the budget language that the UT Knoxville Chancellor report the use and allocation of Student Activity Fees for the 2012-2013 academic year as well as the proposed use of such fees for the 2013-2014 academic year.
Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) unsuccessfully proposed an amendment for a 1.5 percent reduction in UT’s overall budget.
Non-Regionally Accredited Proprietary Schools
Bill Number: SB1170/HB1091
Bill Status: Senate sent to Higher Education Oversight Committee for Summer Study; House Education Committee sent to Summer Study.
Description: Authorizes for-profit (proprietary) postsecondary education institutions (accredited by a body recognized by the US Department of Education) to award academic degrees. Under current rules promulgated by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, procedures for awarding these degrees are much more stringent for proprietary institutions that are not regionally accredited. Currently, if an institution is not regionally accredited, it is required to have transfer agreements with at least two regionally accredited universities in order to award academic degrees. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Stacey Campfield, requested that only representatives from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the for-profit college industry be present for the Senate study, which would exclude representatives from The University of Tennessee, Tennessee Board of Regents, and the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association.
Counseling, Social Work, and Psychology Programs
Bill Number: SB514/HB1185
Bill Status: Senate passed; House Education Subcommittee sent to Summer Study.
Description: Prohibits public institutions of higher education from disciplining, expelling, providing remediation to, discriminating, or taking any other adverse action against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services.
The impact of this bill likely would place accreditation at risk for counseling programs. The best possible education in this field requires students and trainees to learn to serve people of all backgrounds and belief systems. Students agree to do so through a “Statement of Training Values” upon enrolling in counseling programs. Very often, conflicts based on sincerely held religious beliefs do not occur until after a relationship already has been established between patient and counselor. Referrals, even if they are prompt, can be extremely stressful to patients and can cause harm. The existing professional code works. Current law works. In the classroom, students enjoy great religious and free speech liberties. As practitioners-in-training, students are given the best and broadest education possible in preparation for the workforce. Professional counselors do not discriminate based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or any basis prescribed by law.
UTK Legal Clinic
Bill Number: SB497/HB419
Bill Status: Taken off notice in Senate Judiciary Committee; Sent to Summer Study by House Civil Justice Subcommittee.
Description: Attempts to prevent potential conflicts of interest by preventing full-time law faculty members of state law schools from receiving compensation from lawsuits against the government.
Non-Regionally Accredited Proprietary Schools
Bill Number: SB546/HB969
Bill Status: Re-referred to Senate Calendar Committee;House Education Committee deferred to 2014.
Description: Defines “university.” Prohibits a postsecondary educational institution from using the word “university” in its name unless the institution meets the definition of university contained in TCA and has been approved by a regional accrediting body recognized by the US Department of Education. Allows postsecondary educational institutions to use the word “college” if certain conditions are met.
Higher Education Ombudsman
Bill Number: SB79/HB52
Bill Status: Taken off notice in House; Appropriation amendment passed (Statutory authorization not needed to create a Higher Education Resource Officer position within the Comptroller’s office).
Description: Within the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury, creates the Office of Higher Education Ombudsman. The bill establishes that each state higher education system shall appoint a person from existing personnel who shall serve as a contact person for the higher education ombudsman.
Bill Number: SB8/HB448
Bill Status: Failed in Senate Education Committee; Remains in House Education Subcommittee.
Description: Prevents institutions of higher education from granting preference based on race, gender or ethnicity to students, employees or contractors.
Bill Number: SB114/HB1198
Bill Status: Compromise not reached in Conference Committee; Bill failed. Sponsor has indicated intent to file again next year.
Description: Prohibits the state from granting a preference based on race, gender, or ethnicity when hiring to fill a position in state government (higher education institutions included).
Bill Number: SB46
Bill Status: Taken off notice in the Senate; No companion House bill.
Description: Prohibits any public institution of higher education from employing any person as a diversity officer or assigning the duties of a diversity officer to any employee. Under the bill, a diversity officer is an employee whose primary responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
(1) Promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion at the institution;
(2) Assuring implementation of policies with respect to and monitoring of compliance with:
(A) Federal laws on diversity and equality, including, but not limited
to, Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42
U.S.C. § 2000(d) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 respectively, Title IX of the
Education Amendments of 1972, codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., the
Americans with Disabilities Act, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.,
and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 621et seq;
(B) State statutes and regulations on diversity and equality, including, but not limited to
Title 4, Chapter 21; and
(C) Institutional diversity policies; and
(3) Addressing complaints of discrimination and violations of federal laws, state laws, and
Fairness in Ticketing
Bill Number: SB609/HB1000
Bill Status: Reset for Senate 2014 calendar; Withdrawn by House sponsor with intent to file again in 2014.
Description: Requires any person who is in the business of reselling tickets (defined as a person or entity that sells 60+ tickets per year) to athletic and entertainment events for more than the face value of the ticket to register with the Department of Commerce and Insurance as a ticket broker. The bill provides a layer of consumer protection to ticket buyers by requiring ticket brokers to disclose the face value of tickets, the location of seats, and their applicable refund policies. It also requires online ticket brokers to disclose whether a ticket offered for sale is in the reseller’s possession and available for delivery and, if not, the period of time when the reseller expects to have the ticket in hand and available for delivery. The bill requires the ticket broker to disclose the event’s status: whether it is sold out, etc. A licensed ticket broker who violates the requirements of this bill would be subject to revocation of the broker’s registration. A knowing violation of this bill by any person will be a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine. Additionally, this bill authorizes the Attorney General to investigate and remediate violations of this bill pursuant to the consumer protection laws of Tennessee. This bill does not prohibit the resale of tickets in areas designated by event organizers and venue operators. Additionally, this bill does not prevent event organizers and venue operators from utilizing any ticketing methods for the initial sale of tickets.
Bill Number: SB17
Bill Status: Referred to Senate Education Committee; No House companion bill.
Description: Creates a tuition waiver program for members of the Tennessee State Guard with at least one year of service and a tuition discount for spouses of those members.
Bill Number: SB70/HB321
Bill Status: Held in Senate Education Committee; Taken off notice in House Education Subcommittee.
Description: Requires that every child in Tennessee less than 24 years of age whose parent is a retired teacher, who retired after a minimum of 25 years of full-time creditable service, receive a 25 percent reduction on tuition to any state-operated technical-vocational school or institution of higher learning.
Bill Number: SB402/HB305
Bill Status: Failed in Senate Education Committee; House passed.
Description: Allows children of a director of schools of any LEA in Tennessee to receive a 25 percent tuition discount to any institution of higher learning.
Bill Number: SB426/HB320
Bill Status: Referred to Senate Education Committee;Taken off notice in House Education Subcommittee.
Description: Requires that every child in Tennessee less than 24 years of age whose parent is a retired teacher, who retired after a minimum of 30 years of full-time creditable service in the public schools, receive a 25 percent reduction on tuition to any state-operated institution of higher learning.
Bill Number: SB1164/HB887
Bill Status: Taken off notice in Senate Education Committee; Taken off notice in House Finance Subcommittee.
Description: Permits retired state employees to take one class without charge per semester at public higher education institutions. Allows the spouse of a state employee to receive a 25 percent discount on tuition at public institutions of higher education.
Bill Number: SB1265/HB1216
Bill Status: Senate passed; Referred to House Education Subcommittee.
Description: Allows any child of a public school teacher who is enrolled in a state institution of higher learning and receiving a tuition discount to continue to receive that discount if the student’s parent retires after 30 years of full-time creditable service while the child is enrolled.
UT Forensic Anthropology Center (Body Farm)
Bill Number: SB1187/HB1045
Bill Status: Failed in Senate Judiciary Committee;Taken off notice in House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee.
Description: Imposes a moratorium on the use of public or private land for the above-ground disposal of human remains for the purpose of studying decomposition of the human body. Requires that the moratorium last until the Commissioner of Environment and Conservation and the Commissioner of Agriculture file rules and regulations with the Secretary of State concerning permissible locations of facilities or tracks or land used for the above-ground study of the decomposition of human remains.
Bill Number: SB1194/HB918
Bill Status: Referred to Senate Education Committee; Taken off notice in House Education Subcommittee.
Description: Authorizes The University of Tennessee to guarantee obligations of up to $98,000,000 of an entity proposing operation of a Proton Therapy Center.
Lottery Scholarship Program
Bill Number: SB19/HB241
Bill Status: Taken off notice in Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee; Taken off notice in House Finance Subcommittee.
Description: Establishes the STEM stipend from net lottery proceeds for Tennessee HOPE scholarship recipients who are majoring in STEM fields. Specifies eligibility requirements for the STEM stipend and sets STEM stipend at $1,000 for full-time students for the 2013-2014 academic year subject to appropriation and sufficient net lottery proceeds. Note: THEC will conduct a summer study to provide insight into the potential of incentivizing such programs at higher education institutions across the state.
Bill Number: SB710/HB402
Bill Status: No action taken by Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee; Taken off notice in House Finance Subcommittee.
Description: Originally, this legislation changed the terminating event for the lottery scholarship to eight equivalent semesters; however, after much debate, the legislation was amended to establish the terminating event as eight semesters or completion of 120 hours, whichever event occurs last.
Bill Number: SB871/HB526
Bill Status: Senate passed; Sent to House Calendar and Rules Committee.
Description: Permits bona fide Tennessee residents who attend certain non-SACS accredited out-of-state boarding schools to qualify for Tennessee HOPE scholarships.
One of the most critical issues to The University of Tennessee Health Science Center was Medicaid Expansion. Because of the Supreme Court Ruling on the Medicaid portion of the Affordable Care Act, states could decide whether to expand their Medicaid population to those working families living in or near poverty, as defined by 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level or below, and have the federal government pay the states’ share for three years. On March 27, 2013, Governor Bill Haslam announced his decision to reject federal funding to expand the TennCare program. Instead, he elected to pursue an alternative proposal he developed, called “The Tennessee Plan.” This plan would use the federal Medicaid matching funds to purchase private health insurance for an estimated 175,000 uninsured Tennesseans; eligible families would obtain coverage through the new insurance exchange that will open in January 2014. As of now, the Governor remains in talks, awaiting clarification and approval from the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare regarding several features contained within The Tennessee Plan, such as premium assistance, cost-sharing provisions, the appeals process, and the inclusion of a “circuit breaker,” or sunset mechanism.
This issue is critical because a number of federal subsidy payments for uncompensated care for uncovered individuals were eliminated in the Affordable Care Act under the theory that everyone would have some sort of coverage, either privately, through an insurance exchange, or through Medicaid. Due to the Supreme Court ruling, hospitals still will have to treat those who are uninsured, but with no compensation. Both rural and teaching hospitals will be affected disproportionately, which could result in a negative impact to our educational programs should CMS not approve “The Tennessee Plan.”
In recent years the Senate Education Committee has chosen to exercise its option to conduct confirmation hearings for new appointees and reappointments to The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees and the Tennessee Board of Regents. The Senate Education Committee unanimously confirmed the UT Trustee appointments:
- Raja J. Jubran: Second Congressional District
- Vicky Brown Gregg: Third Congressional District
- Charles E. Wharton: Anderson, Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Lincoln, Moore and Warren Counties
- Shalin N. Shah: Student Trustee – UTC (Voting)
- Victoria S. Steinberg: Faculty Trustee – UTC (Voting)
In Washington, the University is focused on two key areas: Securing new partnerships with federal agencies to generate research opportunities and funding, and building understanding amongst lawmakers and agency officials of UT’s value to current areas of research. Although overall cuts to funding at the federal level are virtually unavoidable, the University hopes to protect funding for many of its key initiatives and activities.