Blake Farmer (Nashville Public Radio)

Capitol Hill Reporter and Assistant News Director at WPLN in Nashville

The former commander of Fort Campbell is back on post this week preparing to help the Army slim down. He says some who thought they’d make a career of the military will have to leave.

The Army is already marching its numbers down to fewer than 500,000 in uniform. And further budget cuts being considered could chop another 100,000 from the ranks.

An adult online degree program called Western Governors University officially opens in Tennessee on Tuesday. Lawmakers and even some higher education administrators have had to warm up to the concept.

Legislators were hesitant to spend $5 million to open an office of Western Governors University or WGU. After all, Tennessee’s existing public colleges could have started a similar program, targeting people who have some college credit and never finished a degree. But with prodding from Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, it was decided WGU could do a better job.

There was a time when hymns were used primarily to drive home the message that came from the pulpit. But then came the praise songs.

The public meeting in Manchester, Tenn., about 70 miles from Nashville, was supposed to address and tamp down discrimination toward Muslims there.

But instead it turned into a shouting match.

The Tennessee Senate has signed off on a compromise plan to allow teachers with a law enforcement background to carry a gun to class. But several Republican lawmakers objected, calling the proposal “neutered.”

Bills that would have broadly allowed teachers to go armed failed to get support.

Governor Bill Haslam says he was as surprised as anyone that FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents locked down the headquarters of his family’s company Monday.

“They came in looking for certain records, and that’s all I know,” Haslam told reporters at the state capitol.

The governor remains a primary shareholder in Pilot Flying J, which produces $20 billion in annual revenue. He stepped down as president of the company in 1998 to pursue another business venture and eventually enter politics.

nhandler, Wikimedia Commons

The Tennessee legislature is wrapping up its session. Most of the high-profile issues have been settled for the year, but minor skirmishes remain -- one dealing with animal cruelty.

A bill would require that activists go to the police immediately if they uncover evidence of abuse. But those activists say it’s a sham.

A.Davey Wikimedia Commons

Would Jesus expand Tennessee’s Medicaid program? That’s the question a left-leaning clergy group is asking the General Assembly, and they believe the answer is yes.

Pastors and priests delivered baskets of bread loaves and paper fish to each legislator. The attempted biblical parallel is to the miracle of feeding the 5,000.

Wikimedia Commons

A proposal meant to put more armed guards in Tennessee schools has begun moving forward in the General Assembly. It offers money for schools to hire retired police officers and allows teachers with law enforcement backgrounds to carry a gun to class.

Whether a retired officer hired part-time as a security guard or a teacher already on the payroll, both would have to go through at least 40 hours of special training.

Republican lawmakers who’ve tried for years to divert public education money to pay private school tuition say they won’t give up. Wednesday Gov. Bill Haslam yanked his proposal from consideration because legislators wanted to expand it.

The governor’s bill would have started small, limiting school vouchers to poor students in failing schools. Others have been looking at something many times larger for middle class families. Sen. Brian Kelsey has led the voucher push. 

“This was definitely a minor set back and disappointing that the governor pulled his support, but I am fully committed to helping these low income children get the quality education that they deserve. There are other vehicles out there that are available,” he said.