As session enters final weeks, big decisions likely at state capitol.

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Decision time is at hand for Tennessee lawmakers.

With about a month to go in this year's session of the General Assembly, the next two weeks could turn out to be the most eventful of the year, as a number of debates come to a head at last. The state Senate and House face big decisions on issues such asmethamphetamine abuse and medical marijuana, school vouchers and Common Core education standards, free tuition for community college students and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

Legislative leaders hope to adjourn for the year in mid-April, and they already are beginning their final push toward the end. This week, several legislative committees and subcommittees plan to hold their final meetings for the year — a development that will force lawmakers to make a final call on many bills whose fates have been up in the air.

Debate already is coming to a head on Common Core. Last week, Democrats and conservative Republicans caught leaders flat-footed when they forced a vote on the floor of the state House on legislation that would impose a two-year freeze on new education standards and the computer-based tests that go with them.

The victory by opponents of Common Core appeared to signal widespread dissatisfaction among House lawmakers with the education program championed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and his Democratic predecessor, Gov. Phil Bredesen. It also pushed the issue to the top of the legislature's crowded agenda.

Common Core will again come before the General Assembly tonight, when the Senate is scheduled to vote on a pair of measures meant to reassert the state's right to reject nationally imposed education standards. More substantive measures, including bills that would repeal Common Core altogether, could come up as soon as Tuesday morning, when the House Education Subcommittee holds the first of three meetings it has scheduled for next week to complete its legislative agenda for the year.

Lawmakers also face a showdown on meth legislation. This week, the House and Senate are scheduled to hear at least four plans that would limit sales of pseudoephedrine, a drug found in some cold and allergy medications that also is a key ingredient in meth.

Haslam's plan to limit sales to 4.8 grams a month, the amount of pseudoephedrine found in two boxes of 20 12-hour tablets, appears to have support in the Senate. But House Civil Justice Subcommittee Chairman Tony Shipley said last week that it does not have enough support to clear his panel. Legislators should find out Tuesday afternoon, when the panel holds its last meeting for the year.

Tennessee Promise, the governor's proposal to waive tuition to community colleges and technology centers, also faces critical votes. University officials have testified to lawmakers that they are worried about how the plan will impact their finances, and some lawmakers have said they do not like the governor's idea of paying for Tennessee Promise by reducing Hope scholarships for freshmen and sophomores by $1,000 while boosting them for juniors and seniors by the same amount.

The House Education Committee could take up Tennessee Promise Tuesday. Its Senate counterpart could take it up Wednesday.

School voucher legislation also appears to be coming down to the wire. Plans put forward by state Sens. Brian Kelsey and Dolores Gresham are up in the House Education Subcommittee next week could be debated in the Senate as well. Meanwhile, Haslam's voucher plan is scheduled for discussion in both chambers.

The end of the session usually forces a day of reckoning for bills whose hopes have been dwindling. The House Health Subcommittee is expected to reject the Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis Act, which would legalize marijuana for medicinal use, on Tuesday afternoon. Similarly, legislation that would offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants is likely to die, either in the House or Senate committees.

But the final weeks can also offer surprises. A bill to launch a study of a monorail connecting Murfreesboro and Nashville is supposed to get a hearing before the House Transportation Subcommittee adjourns for the year Wednesday. Legislation that would further lift restrictions on guns, limit the activities of unions, block the Affordable Care Act and prohibit open alcohol containers in cars also are on the agenda.

As lawmakers race to the end, the pace of debate will only speed up.

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