Tennessee Politics: Transportation invoice heads to Gov. Invoice Lees workplace | Free Press Chattanooga Instances

NASHVILLE — Tennessee lawmakers gave ultimate approval final week to Gov. Invoice Lee’s $3.3 billion Transportation Modernization Act, which amongst different targets would increase taxpayer-funded interstates in rural areas from two to 3 lanes, additionally offering authority to introduce new public however privately funded and operated toll or “alternative” lanes in Hamilton County and different congested city areas of the state.

“Tennessee wants a transportation technique match for the nation’s fastest-growing state, and our plan will put together rural and concrete communities for continued progress and financial alternative, all with out new taxes or debt,” Lee, a Republican, mentioned in an announcement . . I commend the Normal Meeting for its cooperation in assembly the transportation wants of our state.”

The governor first indicated that Tennessee wanted to behave on the evening of his November victory speech.

Lee and different advocates say the act would offer the assets wanted to resolve the state’s present and future “mobility challenges.”

This contains exploring the usage of public-private partnerships to protect state assets for rural infrastructure priorities, exploring Selection Lanes to cut back congestion and enhance financial impression throughout the state, and increasing various supply mannequin to save lots of taxpayer {dollars} and ship highway tasks extra effectively.

“Tennessee’s strategic transportation plan will equip TDOT with the assets wanted to construct and preserve roads in our rural and concrete communities,” Tennessee Division of Transportation Commissioner Butch Eley mentioned in a information launch. “We recognize the help of the Legislature and key companions as we pave the best way for Tennessee’s continued prosperity.”

Home Transportation Chairman Dan Howell, R-Cleveland, was among the many sponsors.

The governor’s proposal hit a tough patch within the Senate Transportation Committee from some Democrats, who symbolize practically all city areas, in addition to some Republicans like Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains, who warned the toll system can be run by overseas firms, since these firms function comparable methods in different states with particular fare congestion lanes, corresponding to Georgia.

Niceley additionally warned of a toll system in Indiana that went stomach up and needed to be offered.

“What occurs when this overseas firm nearly collapses?” Niceley requested. “Can we cease them from promoting to China?”

Eley and others argued that US-based firms are beginning to present curiosity after years of overseas funding. Eley was a co-founder and former co-owner of the personal for-profit infrastructure administration firm Infrastructure Company of America, which was later offered.

Niceley additionally mentioned that whereas language within the proposed invoice would enable Tennessee to retain management over its present freeway lanes, the state wouldn’t be free to construct extra ones in city areas — a restriction that additionally involved Sen. Heidi Campbell, D -Nashville.

However Lee, Eley, different advocates and a few specialists say Tennessee actually has few choices with a $26 billion undertaking backlog.

Baruch Feigenbaum with the libertarian Cause Basis not too long ago informed members of the Senate Transportation Committee that the appearance of electrical automobiles, mixed with rising good points within the gasoline effectivity of pure gasoline and diesel automobiles, are turning the once-trustworthy gasoline tax right into a “rock star on his farewell tour.”

Gasoline financial system good points additionally have an effect on highway funding, he mentioned.

Gasoline and car registration taxes are the biggest supply of funding for transportation tasks in Tennessee. Tennesseans and guests driving to the state who must refill right here pay 26 cents per gallon for gasoline together with 27 cents for diesel.

The Hamilton County faculty voucher invoice on the Home schooling panel

A Senate-approved invoice to maneuver Tennessee’s faculty voucher program to Hamilton County is up for a vote Wednesday within the Home Training Committee, the place the committee chairman plans so as to add Knox County to the prevailing legislation that covers solely Metro Nashville College and Shelby County College. methods.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, who launched the measure as Senate Invoice 12, which beforehand handed the higher chamber, is on board with it, as is Home Training Administration Chairman Mark White, R-Memphis , the invoice’s sponsor.

Nevertheless, some supporters of the state’s voucher program, generally known as Training Financial savings Accounts, have advised amending the invoice to make it statewide. White objects to this. So does Gardenhire.

The legislation, which continues to face court docket challenges, would offer households with an $8,200 voucher to pay tuition at personal faculties keen to simply accept the vouchers.

Pushed by Lee in 2019 throughout his first 12 months as governor, the invoice barely handed the Home after a number of GOP lawmakers, together with Gardenhire and most native Home members, eliminated their counties from the legislation.

Instantly, there have been allegations of vote-buying with provides of pork-barrel tasks, even an alleged provide to a Democratic congressman, a lieutenant colonel within the Tennessee Nationwide Guard, to advertise him to common to get the final vote to cross. Then-Home Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, denied the promotion declare.

Gardenhire, a longtime voucher advocate, and Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Sign Mountain, mentioned they eliminated Hamilton County from the invoice in 2019 partially as a result of Hamilton County faculty district officers assured them of a particular zone they have been creating for to spice up leads to precedence faculties was within the works. As a result of this system hasn’t labored, each lawmakers mentioned it is time to give native mother and father a alternative.

This system lastly launched final fall as a pilot program. It has survived many authorized challenges, however continues to face extra. It permits as much as 5,000 college students to take part within the first 12 months. However the state has permitted solely about 700 purposes for households now attending Memphis-Shelby County Colleges and Metropolitan Nashville Public Colleges.

In the course of the 2022 election, voucher teams spent closely in choose Republican Home primaries, the place they helped defeat voucher opponents. Among the many MPs who misplaced their primaries was the then MP. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville. He was defeated by Rep. Bryan Richey of Maryville. Richey is pushing to increase the voucher program statewide.

Senate approves ban on instructor charge deductions

The Senate final week handed an anti-Lee invoice, Senate Invoice 281, which raises the minimal wage for academics by ending computerized payroll deductions for dues paid to skilled instructor teams, the Tennessee Training Affiliation and its Skilled Educators Tennessee. Each teams symbolize academics and different Ok-12 workers.

Tennessee governors have historically raised instructor pay by the funds course of, not a stand-alone invoice.

Senators ended up splitting the query on the laws, leading to cut up votes, one to lift the minimal wage and the opposite to finish payroll tax deductions. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Republican Senate speaker from Oak Ridge, favored each.

Opponents say Lee was clearly concentrating on the Tennessee Training Affiliation and the Tennessee Skilled Educators, the previous of which have performed a key function in efficiently mobilizing opposition to a number of of Lee’s efforts.

The governor has proven little interest in ending dues withholdings for members of the Tennessee State Staff Union and Freeway Patrol troopers. Lee has opposed unionization efforts on the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. Final 12 months, the governor joined former Gov. Invoice Haslam, who’s anti-union, in a profitable marketing campaign to enshrine Tennessee’s right-to-work legislation within the state structure.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-285-9480.

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