Tenn. lawmakers back at work in Nashville

The state legislature is back in session. Lawmakers convened the 108th General Assembly in Nashville Tuesday afternoon, ready to debate a host of issues that will impact us right here in East Tennessee.

Many of the issues they will be voting on this year are familiar ones, and state lawmakers are hopeful some of these discussions will finally find some sort of resolution.

Those issues include school vouchers, and the question as to whether they should be handed out to Tennessee youth who want to transfer away from failing schools.

Two Knoxville representatives find themselves at odds on the measure.

"All the peer reviewed research on vouchers shows there's no difference in test scores for students who go to those other schools," said Knoxville Representative Gloria Johnson, a Democrat.

"I think parents, we always ask them to be involved in their child's education and then we take away one of the biggest decisions that they have. So I think it's better for them to decide than some bureaucrat downtown with a map who draws a circle and says this is where your child's going to go," said Knoxville Representative Bill Dunn, a Republican.

Another old topic with a new chapter is wine in grocery stores.

""That's kind of the constant issue down here," said House Representative Ryan Haynes.

This year, the Republican thinks it can actually pass.

"It will make everyone equally happy, it will make everyone equally upset, but I think by the end of the year, I hope, that we'll get wine in grocery stores," said Speaker Ramsey.

There are some other issues that will get their fair share of discussion this year, too.

One includes the state's war on methamphetamine and just exactly what strategy is best to attack it.

Blount County Senator Doug Overbey unveiled legislation on Monday that would require Tennesseans to get a prescription in order to buy a product that has pseudoephedrine.

Overbey said his legislation would act as a deterrent.

But, not all Republicans feel that's the right step to take.

"That's awfully restrictive, very restrictive," Speaker Ramsey said.

Some in the Senate are also against raising the state's minimum wage beyond the federal standard.

It's a bill brought forth by Democrats. One they hope will indeed pass.

"Well, I think that we need good jobs with good wages and the best way to put money in our economy is middle class folks with money in their pockets," said Rep. Johnson.

Whether that happens, well, we'll soon find out.

It's all up to the men and women given the privilege to work in state capital.

In addition to those topics is one of the biggest jobs of all. Lawmakers will have to cut $100 million in order to balance the state budget this year.


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