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Revenue Collection Beat Projections
AP Friday February 19, 2016

Tennessee’s general fund tax collections have beaten projections by nearly $400 million through the first half of the budget year.
The Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration announced Wednesday that sales taxes exceeded estimates by $218 million since the July 1 start of the budget year, posting a 7.4 percent growth rate compared with the same period last year.
Corporate franchise and excise taxes were $141 million more than expected.
January sales tax collections, which reflect economic activity in the previous month, were $58 million more than budgeted, and 8.6 percent higher than last year.
Finance Commissioner Larry Martin said the collections were driven by consumer spending due to low gas prices and an overall improving economy.


Haslam to Seek Flexibility with TNReady
WKRN Thursday February 18, 2016

Gov. Bill Haslam will seek “additional flexibility” for teachers following the technology failure that caused TNReady assessment delays.
His proposal would allow teachers to choose whether that would like to include or exclude student results from the 2015-2016 TNReady assessment in their evaluation scores.
School systems had spent months preparing students for the tests, only to be disappointed when the online site crashed in early February.
Officials later announced that due to the failure, tests would be administered by paper and pencil for the remainder of the 2015-16 school year.
Haslam’s proposal would keep student learning and accountability as factors in an educator’s evaluation while giving teachers the option to include this year’s results if the results benefit them. The governor will work with the General Assembly on specific language and a plan to move the proposal through the legislative process.


No Change in Gun Rules
AP Thursday February 18, 2016

No changes are expected in the gun ban at the legislative office complex in Nashville after a meeting between the House and Senate speakers and safety officials.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey told reporters last week that he wanted to drop the gun ban at the beginning of the year for people with carry permits who wanted to be armed at the Legislative Plaza. House Speaker Beth Harwell said she agreed in principle, but wanted to hear about concerns from the troopers who manage security at the building.
After Wednesday's meeting, the speakers couldn't agree on whether to move forward with the policy change. They are now aiming to make the change as part of a move into new offices near the Capitol scheduled for next year.


Senate Approves Counseling Bill
AP Thursday February 18, 2016

The Senate has passed a bill that would allow therapists or counselors in private practice to decline treatment for patients on the basis of "sincerely held religious beliefs."
The chamber on Wednesday voted 27-5 in favor of the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin.
Opponents argued that counsellors shouldn't be allowed to deny treatment of people in crisis because they are gay, transgender or practice a different religion.
Sen. Steve Dickerson of Nashville, the lone Republican to vote against the bill, said that as a doctor he would never refuse treatment to anyone. But fellow Republican Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville, another physician, said that he regularly refers patients seeking birth control to another doctor.
The House version is scheduled for a subcommittee vote next week.


Outsourcing Plan Reviewed
AP Thursday February 18, 2016

Gov. Bill Haslam's administration has agreed to have an outside group review the Republican's privatization plan for building maintenance at Tennessee's public colleges and universities.
Haslam plans to release his "business justification" for his privatization efforts by the end of the month. The governor has said the University of Tennessee and Board of Regents systems would be given the choice of opting out of the plan.
In a joint statement released Wednesday, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro and Regents Chancellor David Gregory agreed to consider the third-party review and said that no decision has yet been made on whether to proceed.
The Haslam administration says it has saved $11 million in the first two years of having an outside company maintain 10 percent of the state's properties.


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