By Chas Sisk / The Tennessean
The sponsor of Gov. Bill Haslam's proposal for school vouchers abruptly withdrew the bill Wednesday, saying he could not get guarantees from fellow Republicans that they would not try to expand the measure.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Memphis, said he had asked the chairman of the Senate Education Committee not to hear Senate Bill 196 at its final meeting Wednesday afternoon. Norris said he had been informed that committee members planned to pursue amendments to the bill. Haslam has said he would not entertain changes to the bill.
"If they won't run their own bill, they shouldn't try to hijack the administration's," Norris told reporters.
Haslam proposed offering as many as 5,000 vouchers to low-income students in poorly performing schools next fall, ramping up to 20,000 over the next several year. The governor described his plan as a conservative approach that would help students in the worst schools.
But some Republican lawmakers, led by Education Committee Chairwoman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, favored a more expansive plan that would give as many as 10,000 vouchers next year to families statewide with household incomes of about $75,000 or more.
Norris said he and the governor agreed to withdraw the bill so they could shift their focus to the state budget rather than a showdown with members of their own party.
"The clock ran out," Norris said.