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Proposed Bill Would Help More Students Complete College

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

More students who use money from the Tennessee Promise Program would have a better chance of finishing community college or technical college, if a bill sponsored by 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley passes the Tennessee General Assembly.

Hensley, a medical doctor and Republican from Hohenwald, represents Giles and five other South Central Tennessee counties.

He was re-elected last November and sits on the State Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee as second vice chairman and on the Education and Health and Welfare committees.

Senate Bill 229, Hensley said, would set up a pilot program to help students who may have stopped going to college for various reasons.

The companion bill in the State House of Representatives is sponsored by Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka.

“This is not intended to give students extra money,” Hensley said.

“Instead it will help students deal with matters that may have stopped them from finishing college.”

With a scholarship from the Tennessee Promise Program, a person may attend community college or technical college free of tuition and fees.

Under the bill, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission would establish a four-year pilot program that awards grants to Tennessee Promise scholarship students. Approximately 57% of Tennessee Promise students complete their degree, which Hensley said shows the need for the program, to increase the percentage.

Approximately $250,000 in each fiscal year 2021-22 through fiscal year 2024-25 is recommended in the bill.

The bill was recommended by the Senate Education Committee and will be considered by the Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

On another matter, Senate Bill 2671, sponsored by Hensley, was recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Tennessee citizens at least 21, or honorably discharged or active in the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves, could carry a firearm without a permit under the bill.

It also penalizes criminals who steal or possess guns illegally.

Under the bill, those who carry without a permit must have no felony convictions, orders of protection in effect, pending charges, convictions for domestic violence or stalking, or have been judged a mental defective.

Two driving under the influence offenses in the last 10 years or one in the last five years, would disqualify someone from carrying a weapon without a permit, nor would illegal aliens or fugitives from justice qualify, according to a legislative composite,

The legislation also increases penalties for firearm-related crime including:

• Increasing the penalty for theft of a firearm to a Class E felony;

• Providing a sentencing enhancement for theft of a firearm in a car;

• Increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 days to 180 days; and

• Increasing sentences for unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or allowing a juvenile to possess a handgun.

The legislation is similar to laws in 17 states, while 31 states recognize the right to carry openly, according to Hensley’s office. The bill now goes to the Finance, Ways and Means Committee for consideration before moving to the Senate for a final vote.

Other bills include:

• Senate Bill 0226, which enacts the “Good Samaritan Sentencing Act,” which provides that a defendant convicted of first degree murder is eligible for the death penalty if the victim was assisting a person at the time of their death. The bill has been forwarded to the Senate Judiciary Committee and is sponsored in the house by Rep. Brandon Ogles as Bill 6647.

• Senate Bill 0224,which asks county joint economic and community development boards to include representatives from county school systems. Giles County’s EDC already does this. House bill 0155 is sponsored by State Rep. Kirk Haston, R-Lobelville.

• Senate Bill 0227 requires, beginning with the 2022-23 school year, each local education agency and public charter school to provide students with age and grade-appropriate education on firearm safety. The bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee. Ogles is sponsoring the companion bill, 0103 in the house.

• Senate Bill 0230 establishes the “Teacher’s Discipline Act,” which allows teachers to ask for removal of students if the student’s conduct disrupts the class and violates school policies. The bill has been recommended for passage and referred to the Senate Calendar Committee. Cepicky sponsored the companion bill, 0016, in the house.

• Senate Bill 0632 exempts persons at least 25 years old from helmet requirements when riding a three-wheel motorcycle, including autocycles and clarifies helmet requirements. The bill has been referred to the Senate Public Works and Transportation Committee. The companion bill, 0095 is sponsored by State Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris.

• Senate Bill 1308 prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to receive an immunization or vaccination for COVID-19 against the will of the employee to stay employed. It also prohibits the employer from retaliating against an employee refusing such immunization or vaccination.

The companion house bill, 1147, is sponsored by Rusty Grills, R-Newbern.

• Senate Bill 0597 requires a judge or jury coordinator to excuse a person from jury duty upon receiving a written statement, signed under penalty of perjury, that the person's religious beliefs prohibit the person from serving on a jury. Sponsoring the companion house bill 0588 is Haston.

Among resolutions co-sponsored by Hensley are ones to recognize Metropolitan Nashville Police Officers who helped evacuate people from an area of the city before a bomb exploded last Christmas, state and federal agencies which investigated the bombing and emergency personnel who responded.

Another resolution commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, and others recognize Richland High School Lady Raider basketball player Jesse Jennings, former Nashville State Senator Steve Dickerson and the late State Rep. David Shepard.

The 225th anniversary of Tennessee’s statehood, the retirement of Jackie Smith and establishment of the right to work regardless of affiliation with any labor union or employee organization are in other resolutions,

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