Blake Farmer (Nashville Public Radio)

Capitol Hill Reporter and Assistant News Director at WPLN in Nashville

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Education
1:19 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Tennessee College Counseling Programs Under Fire from Fowler Bill

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.

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Politics
4:16 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

First Vote on TN Workers Comp Overhaul Reveals Party-Line Divide

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.

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2013 TN General Assembly
1:27 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Harwell Breaks Tie to Save Wine in Tennessee Grocery Stores

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.

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Politics
5:49 am
Wed March 6, 2013

TN Bill to Strip Police Powers ‘Unbelievable’ to Vanderbilt

Credit wikipedia.org

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.

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2013 TN General Assembly
4:07 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Democrats Call Statewide Charter Authorizer ‘Death Panel for Public Schools’

The idea for a new state-level panel that could authorize charter schools to operate anywhere in Tennessee is moving ahead, while facing bi-partisan resistance. The House Education Committee gave its blessing Tuesday, though two Republicans voted against it.

The GOP lawmakers opposing what is seen as an end-run around local school boards are educators themselves. Rep. Jim Coley teaches in Shelby County. 

“Increasingly we’re taking those decisions away from local education associations, and I don’t think that’s right.”

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Politics
7:18 am
Tue March 5, 2013

TFA: TN GOP ‘Will Pay’ for Passing Restricted Guns-in-Trunks Law

The Tennessee Firearms Association is again looking for a fight. The organization is unhappy with Republicans who passed a more restrictive guns-in-trunks bill than the TFA would have liked.

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2013 Tennessee General Assembly
7:13 am
Tue March 5, 2013

TN Democrats Decry School Voucher Ad Buy

Credit wikimedia.org

The Tennessee Democratic Party is crying foul as advocacy groups begin running TV spots promoting school vouchers. The ads target certain lawmakers without mentioning specific legislation.

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2013 Tennessee General Assembly
7:09 am
Tue March 5, 2013

TN House to Consider Broadening State Charter Authorizer

Credit iStockPhoto

The Tennessee state House will consider creating an entirely new panel for authorizing charter schools at the state level. It’s part of a compromise set to be heard in an education committee today.

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2013 TN General Assembly
7:49 am
Thu February 28, 2013

Democrats Make 11th Hour Push to Amend Guns in Trunks Bill

A proposal allowing handgun carry permit holders to store firearms in their cars nearly anywhere they are parked is headed for a final vote this morning. Democrats are making a last ditch effort to water down the bill.

Democrats want to make schools, long-term parking lots and unemployment offices off limits. 

The bill’s sponsor has said he is not interested in exemptions. But Nashville Democrat Mike Turner says they should at least be considered, like one allowing any employer to opt out.

“If I’m a business owner, I probably don’t want you carrying on my property and I at least want to have the choice to deny you that right if I want to,” he said.

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2013 TN General Assembly
7:43 am
Thu February 28, 2013

Nullification Bill Rejected in Tennessee Senate After Testy Hearing

A shot at nullifying federal gun laws in Tennessee died in the state Senate Wednesday. A vocal committee chairman sped along debate and ultimately cast the deciding vote.

Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown is a lawyer by training and the newly appointed chair of the Judiciary Committee. He took a personal interest in blocking legislation that would make it a felony for agents to enforce federal gun laws. To make his point, he laid out stark terms.

 “This is a bill that says our individual sheriff’s deputies will be going out and using deadly force of the law of Tennessee to potentially shoot and kill federal authorities for enforcing U.S. Supreme Court decisions,” Kelsey said.

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