bill haslam

TN leads nation in students seeking federal aid for attending college (73% of high school grads)

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the state has set a new record and for the third year in a row has led the nation in the number of students filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Nearly three quarters of all Tennessee high school seniors—73.5 percent—filed the FAFSA for the 2017-18 academic year, a requirement for Tennessee students to be eligible for both federal and state aid, including Tennessee Promise and the HOPE Lottery Scholarship.

The FAFSA filing rate is important because it is a key indicator of the number of students planning to enroll in postsecondary education as the state pursues the Drive to 55, which aims to have 55 percent of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025.

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University of Tennessee President Bill Haslam?

Victor Ashe speculates in his latest column that Bill Haslam might follow in the footsteps of Lamar Alexander in becoming president of the University of Tennessee as a first job after leaving office as governor.

Current UT President Joe DiPietro, who celebrates his 66th birthday today (Wednesday) is under no pressure to retire, Ashe says, but he recently bought a home in the Chicago area, where he has family. And when Haslam leaves office, DiPietro may be less than enthusiastic about dealing with a new governor, a new state House speaker and hostile legislators — a part of the UT president’s job.

(S)peculation is already starting as to what Haslam may do when he retires in mid-January 2019. He turns 60 in August 2018 and is in excellent health. It is unlikely he would be offered a post with President Trump given his opposition to Trump last fall, and the U.S. Senate seat held by Lamar Alexander does not open until 2020, when Alexander may seek another term anyway.

Haslam certainly has the resources and instincts to lead in philanthropy, and he would be excellent at it. He could return to Pilot Flying J, but that does not appear to be where his passion lies. He was recently asked on a local Sunday talk show by Susan Richardson Williams and Billy Stair about possibly becoming the next UT president.

He demurred on a direct response but did not reject it when asked. He questioned whether he would want to lobby the legislature for more UT funding. There is recent precedent on this when Lamar Alexander became UT president following his two terms as governor. There is no doubt that if Haslam wanted the position, the current board, every member of which he appointed, would support him overwhelmingly without debate.

Some faculty might oppose him without a competitive search, but they do not have a vote. Employees might raise issues on whether he would implement outsourcing as a new president as he advocated as governor. However, other governors have become university presidents and done well. Terry Sanford in North Carolina and David Boren in Oklahoma come to mind.

Note: The referenced TV talk show was WBIR’s “Inside Politics.” Video of Haslam’s appearance on the show can be found on the show’s website, HERE.

Fed court oversight of DCS ends after 16 years

News release from the governor’s communications office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner Bonnie Hommrich today announced that after more than 16 years of system-wide reform and a massive turnaround, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) is now free of federal court oversight.

U.S. District Court Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw has approved the historic agreement between the state and Children’s Rights, the New York-based advocacy group that in 2000 filed litigation known as the Brian A. lawsuit that charged that Tennessee youth in foster care suffered in an overburdened system, describing children in crowded congregate care shelters and social workers with overwhelming caseloads.

Tennessee now has a thoroughly reformed foster care system. The reform comes after years of collaboration with Children’s Rights and the Technical Assistance Committee, a panel of nationally recognized child welfare experts that served as the federal court monitor for the Brian A. consent decree.

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Haslam: ‘I hate to see us get carried away’ with city schools seceding from county systems

Gov. Bill Haslam, who signed into law a 2014 bill that let six Shelby County towns seceded from the county school system and formed their own districts, is voicing some misgivings about a proposal for Brentwood schools leaving the Williamson County system, reports The Tennessean.

The Shelby County situation has drawn some national attention and is already being used as a model for Signal Mountain schools to secede from Hamilton County. (Previous post HERE.) Brentwood is the most prosperous city in the state’s most prosperous county.

 “I tend to think the whole secession idea — I hate to see us get carried away with that,” Haslam told reporters during a press conference Wednesday. “There’s always been a benefit to communities that are all part of one area, and being a community together and figuring out our problems, whether it be rural schools or urban schools, or whatever the challenges may be.”

Haslam at NGA conference: We’re not ‘waiting around for an answer out of Washington’

Tennessee’s Bill Haslam is mentioned in a Politico story reporting that, on a bipartisan basis, the state chief executives gathered for a National Governors Association conference this week widely ignored President Donald Trump and his doings – not even mentioning his name for the most part.

Excerpt:

Vice President Mike Pence spent much of his afternoon address to the nation’s governors on Friday making sure they know how much Donald Trump loves them. But a majority of the state leaders gathered here (Providence, R.I.) this week spent much of their three-day summer meeting pretending the president doesn’t exist.

…Neither the White House’s most prominent allies nor its loudest detractors in governor’s mansions made it to Rhode Island to begin with, significantly dampening what could have been a charged atmosphere. New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Florida’s Rick Scott — both close Republican Trump associates — skipped the meeting, as did frequent Trump critics like fellow Republican John Kasich of Ohio and Democrats Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jerry Brown of California, and Jay Inslee of Washington.

…“There is a sense, with most of the things we deal with on a day-to-day basis, we can deal with them now in the states,” said Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, insisting that the governors’ common refrain about their political independence is still true. “Without waiting around for an answer out of Washington.”

Indeed, on policy after policy, governors whistled past the White House.

When it came to trade, they aligned themselves with counterparts from Canada and Mexico — many of whom traveled to Rhode Island for that specific purpose — in a bid to get distance from the White House and present an otherwise united North American front just one month before NAFTA’s renegotiation begins.

After IMPROVE, Haslam promotes benefits while AFP trashes ‘massive $2 billion tax hike’

While Gov. Bill Haslam is touting the benefits of his IMPROVE Act tax package, Americans for Prosperity is doing just the opposite in its own statewide campaign, according to reports in the Knoxville News Sentinel and in the Kingsport Times News.

The governor, speaking at an IMPROVE Act promotional event in Elizabethton last week, said the road projects funded by the package’s fuel tax increase will have a “huge economic impact” benefiting the state.

“We’re also putting money back in citizens’ hands. They will have more money to grocery shop … the other thing is the cut on manufacturers. Somebody like Eastman obviously produces a lot of jobs. Eastman will now have more incentive to keep those jobs in Tennessee because the tax they pay as a manufacturer will be more in line with our neighboring states.”

AFP Tennessee, meanwhile, is going around the state holding rallies to thank legislators who voted against the Haslam-sponsored measure and cites an American Legislative Exchange (ALEC) statement saying the overall package means Tennesseans will pay a net of $2 billion in additional taxes over the next ten years – despite the grocery tax cuts and corporate tax cuts.

“We knew the Improve Act was a tax increase for most Tennesseans,” AFP-TN State Director Andy Ogles said. “It is a shame only 43 lawmakers opposed this massive two-billion-dollar tax hike even as Tennessee had over a billion-dollar surplus, but those that did stand up for taxpayers deserve our thanks.”

(Note: The ALEC comment is included in a June “State of the States” roundup on gubernatorial doings nationwide. The whole thing, including the Tennessee portion, is HERE. The AFP press release is HERE. A Haslam news release on his promotional efforts is HERE.)

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Haslam ‘working group’ to consider banning long-term opioid prescriptions for some on TennCare

Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s putting together a “working group” to consider changes in state laws and regulations dealing with opioid abuse, including a ban on long-term prescriptions of the powerful and addictive painkillers for many TennCare patients, reports the Times Free Press.

“Should we ever be long-term prescribing opioids in TennCare in a non-cancer situation? That’s a question we’re going to explore,” Haslam said last week. “There’s a lot of things we think we can do. So we’re going to put together a working group there.”

He spoke after returning from a Chattanooga event where U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price sought to highlight the nation’s opioid crisis and the Trump administration’s approach to battling it.

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Haslam hails May drop in TN unemployment: Only one county (Rhea) above 5 percent

First paragraphs of an email from Gov. Bill Haslam to those who signed up for such things (that’s virtually certain to be repeated in subsequent stump speeches):

We received some exciting news in June when we learned that for the first time ever recorded, 94 of Tennessee’s 95 counties had an unemployment rate below 5 percent.

As a whole, the state’s unemployment rate for May dipped down to 4 percent, down from 4.7 percent in April. The last time our state rate was that low was March 2001. Tennessee’s unemployment rate now stands better than the national unemployment rate of 4.3 percent, and our state has seen gains in both urban and rural areas.

While our lowest unemployment rates are found in more heavily populated centers, we also saw improvements in rural areas. The county with the highest unemployment rate for May, Rhea County, was at 5.1 percent, but that was a drop from 6.6 percent in April and down from 6.5 percent in May of 2016. And Rhea County received some exciting news in May when Nokian Tyres announced the company will build a new tire manufacturing facility in Dayton and create at least 400 new jobs after the passage of the IMPROVE Act.

The full Haslam email is HERE. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s press release on May unemployment figures is HERE.

Poll finds more Tennesseans trust Trump than Haslam, Alexander or Corker

A poll conducted by the Office of Consumer Research at Middle Tennessee State University’s Jones College of Business reports that the surveyed Tennesseans trust President Donald Trump a bit more than Gov. Bill Haslam.

Overall, Trump had the trust of 38 percent of those polled and Haslam 35 percent. Both were well ahead of U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (27 percent) and Bob Corker (28 percent). But the two senators were, in turn, well ahead of the U.S. Congress overall (18 percent). There are also some interesting findings on trust of media outlets.

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Haslam headed to Europe for a week

News release from Department of Economic and Community Development

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe will travel to Europe from June 26 to June 30 for an economic development trip designed to strengthen ties with European businesses and increase foreign direct investment (FDI) in Tennessee.

During the weeklong trip, Haslam and Rolfe will pitch Tennessee’s advantages to a number of European businesses interested in establishing operations in the Southeast U.S. The trip will include stops in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Germany.

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