Governor’s FOCUS Act Passes Senate Education Committee

Governor Haslam Delivers the Annual State of the State Address

The Focus on College and University Success (FOCUS) Act, Governor Haslam’s major higher education initiative, passed the Senate Education Committee this week on an 8-1 vote. The FOCUS Act restructures the Tennessee Board of Regents and increases the regulatory authority of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC). In addition to creating individual governing boards for the six four-year universities housed within the current Tennessee Board of Regents System, the legislation also grants THEC the power to issue binding tuition increase ranges for all of the state’s higher education governing boards.

Last week, Senate Education Chair Dolores Gresham opted to move an amendment seeking legislative appointing authority over six of the ten voting THEC members, although it was ultimately delayed after fellow Committee members raised concerns. Senator Gresham withdrew her amendment in this week’s Senate Education Committee, paving the way for the FOCUS Act to pass almost unanimously with a compromise amendment wherein the Governor would appoint seven of the ten voting THEC members and legislative leadership would appoint three in addition to the three legislatively appointed constitutional officers who also serve as ex-officio voting members of the Commission.

Both the House and Senate Finance Committees will next consider it. Although the Senate Finance Committee has yet to calendar the bill, the House Finance Committee has calendared it for consideration on Tuesday, March 15.

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