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Lawmakers pass Haslam free tuition plan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam's signature proposal to create a program that would cover tuition at two-year colleges for any high school graduate is headed to his desk after passing the House on Tuesday.

The 87-8 approval comes a day after the Senate approved the legislation 30-1.

Called "Tennessee Promise," the legislation is a cornerstone of the Republican governor's "Drive to 55" campaign to improve the state's graduation rates from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025 to help improve overall job qualifications and attract employers to the state.

"The governor is grateful for the General Assembly's overwhelming support of the Tennessee Promise," Haslam spokeswoman Alexia Poe said in a statement issued after the vote. "It is a bold promise that will make college a reality for more high school graduates."

After graduation from the two-year colleges, students who choose to attend a four-year school will be able to do so as juniors. Florida, Mississippi and Oregon are considering creating similar programs.

Haslam wants to pay for the program, expected to cost about $34 million annually, by using $300 million in excess lottery reserve funds and join it with a $47 million endowment. The state has about $400 million in reserves.


Panel makes Common Core compromise proposal NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A special committee of lawmakers on Tuesday recommended that the testing component of Tennessee's Common Core education standards be delayed for one year.

The House and Senate will now vote whether to accept the conference committee report before it heads to the desk of the governor, who has said he'd rather not delay the testing.

Last month, a broad coalition of Republican and Democratic House members passed a bill that sought to delay further implementation of the new standards for two years. It also sought to delay the testing component for the standards for the same amount of time.

The committee's proposal would only affect the testing component.

Currently, the tests developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers are scheduled to begin statewide in the school year that begins in August.

Under the committee's proposal, the state Department of Education would put out a "request for proposals" for alternate testing. The state's current testing program, known as TCAP, would continue in the interim.


Tenn. House votes to express regret for slavery NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state House has voted to express "profound regret" for slavery and segregation in Tennessee, but stopped short of an outright apology.

The chamber voted 97-0 in favor of the resolution sponsored by Democratic Rep. Mike Turner of Nashville.

The measure decries what it calls the "fundamental injustice, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and the discrimination that was slavery's legacy."

The Republican-controlled chamber removed language from the original resolution that sought to offer "profound apologies" for slavery.

The slavery measure followed the unanimous approval earlier in the session of a resolution expressing regret for the forced removal of more than 15,000 Native Americans in the 1830s.

The Trail of Tears resolution was later approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday.


Tenn. Senate approves governor's anti-meth bill NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam's anti-methamphetamine legislation has been approved by the Senate.

The Senate voted 23-8 on Tuesday for a 4.8-gram month maximum and an annual cap of 14.4 grams of allergy and cold medicines like Sudafed that could be bought without a prescription.

Over-the-counter remedies that include pseudoephedrine are used to make methamphetamine.

The Senate version is different than the House version, which sets a 5.8-gram monthly cap and annual limit of 28.8 grams. The House passed that version 80-17 earlier this month.

Lawmakers must now work out the differences before the legislation heads to the governor's desk.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 1,685 meth labs were seized in Tennessee last year.

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