Blake Farmer (Nashville Public Radio)

Capitol Hill Reporter and Assistant News Director at WPLN in Nashville

The Tennessee General Assembly may have gone too far with cost-cutting when it wiped out oversight committees looking out for children.

Governor Bill Haslam was asked whether he supports a push by Democrats to reestablish the panel that looked over the troubled Department of Children’s Services.

Who can sell alcohol and where. The debate dates back to liquor laws hashed out at the end of prohibition. Expanding wine sales to supermarkets and corner stores has been the controversy of late. Consumers favor the convenience by big margins, and this year’s proposal looked more promising, until it didn’t. Tennessee Capitol Reporter Blake Farmer talks about the politics of wine in Tennessee with Nashville Public Radio's Bradley George.

Motorcycle enthusiasts in Tennessee could soon ride helmet-free, so long as they have enough insurance. Several bills have been proposed this year, and one has now begun moving forward in the legislature.

Much of the debate is about cost, not safety. Representatives from TennCare point to accident victims with million-dollar medical bills.

Tennessee’s liquor laws could become even more complex as a compromise emerges to allow grocery stores to sell wine. Liquor stores see the writing on the wall and are now at the bargaining table. They want permission to have more than one location and sell more than just wine and liquor.

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A Republican-led push to use college IDs to vote was held up on the floor of the Tennessee Senate today. Another GOP senator says there’s no need to expand the state’s voter ID law.

This legislation comes from a Rutherford County lawmaker, home to the largest undergraduate student body in the state. And while Senator Bill Ketron refused to accept student IDs when the law was passed two years ago, he’s now had a change of heart.

Senator Stacy Campfield of Knoxville has not.

“You know, I hate to say it, but possibly in my younger days I may have known a person or two who had a falsified college ID,” she said.

Previous naysayers are coming around to the idea of expanding Tennessee’s Medicaid Program. Even while criticizing the Affordable Care Act, they say pulling more poor people into TennCare could have some upsides.

Students in the state’s counseling programs could refuse to see patients on the basis of their religious beliefs. The proposal passed its first test last night with little resistance, except from professional counselors.

An overhaul of the state’s workers compensation system began moving forward in the Tennessee legislature today. It would remove judges from the process, which is worrying some opponents.

House Speaker Beth Harwell single-handedly kept an effort alive that would allow grocery stores to begin selling wine. In a rare move, today she broke a tie in a legislative subcommittee. 

The speaker can vote on any of the committees. And for the first time this year, Harwell chose to do so. She says it’s time to find a compromise that would still be agreeable to the state’s 600 liquor stores, which are the only places wine can be sold now.

“We don’t want to hurt those liquor stores, and we want to do everything we can to make this as palatable to them as possible," she said. "This brings everyone to the table to discuss it.”

In the Senate, Speaker Ron Ramsey has played a critical role in moving the wine-in-supermarkets legislation, admitting he structured one committee with the bill in mind.

State lawmakers are threatening to pull the rug out from under Vanderbilt University’s police force of 90 sworn officers. It’s a roundabout way to overturn a controversial non-discrimination policy on campus.