Week of March 17 through March 20, 2008…
Veterans Home Board: The Senate State and Local Government Committee approved legislation this week to expand the board of the State Veterans Nursing Homes. The bill aims to give the panel more health care expertise and provide accountability to the General Assembly. SB3919 increases committee membership from ten to thirteen by adding citizens with practical clinical and administrative experience in nursing homes. The bill also builds in reporting and accountability requirements to the Legislature's Joint Select Committee on Veterans Affairs. It requires the board to report annually regarding issues and recommendations to improve state veterans nursing homes and to notify lawmakers of potential problems.
Lottery Excess Fund Subcommittee, reviewing proposals for disbursing excess lottery funds, met this week and recommended several bills for passage to the full Senate Education Committee. There is 460-million dollars in the lottery reserve account, of which 50-million dollars must be kept in savings under current law. Recommendations include:
- The subcommittee voted to increase the savings to 100-million dollars to provide a greater cushion to protect scholarships in cases of a downturn in lottery revenues.
- The subcommittee recommended legislation to set up a 25-million dollar endowment fund to provide Tennessee veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan with a scholarship of up to 1,000 dollars per semester. The bill applies to full-time students. Total benefits are capped at 8,000 dollars, and the scholarships must be used within eight years of the end of military service. Over 12,000 Tennesseans have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
- The subcommittee also recommended passage of legislation that would set up an energy-efficient school program aimed at helping schools save money on their energy bills. The proposal partners the state with TVA, Oak Ridge Laboratory, and other energy experts by setting up a council that would guide schools in energy-saving options. The council would also provide a system of grants to help schools purchase any construction or renovations needed for the conservation efforts.
- The subcommittee recommended use of 200-million dollars of the lottery surplus to create an endowment for the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC), which makes grants to low-income college students. The bill would allow for distribution of about 9-million dollars in grants from the interest of the funds. Last year, the Senate Education Committee approved legislation for TSAA grants to allow more non-traditional students to have access to those grants. The grants would provide scholarship opportunities to an additional 13,500 students from interest earnings.
The Senate Education Committee approved legislation last year that would distribute at least 100-million dollars of the surplus directly to school districts for use in K-12 construction or renovation. That bill will be considered again after it was moved from the Senate Finance Committee to the Senate Education Committee by action in the full Senate this week so that it can be considered in unison with the other proposals. The school building bill is designed to help local governments keep up with student enrollment growth and needed improvements.... read the rest of the story by Subscribing now.