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Kingsport BOE member outlines legislation that may impact schools

CHRISTAN M. THOMAS • Apr 11, 2007 at 11:57 AM

KINGSPORT - Parents and community members got a short overview of state legislation that could possibly affect area schools Wednesday as part of the Kingsport City Schools monthly Brown Bag Lunch.

This month's lunch, which was held at Washington Elementary, featured a presentation by Kingsport Board of Education Vice President Susan Lodal.

"It is just amazing the amount (of bills)," Lodal said. "I certainly don't know all the bills. The legislators don't even know all the bills. You realize the volume that they are having to learn, and part of our job is to educate them."

Lodal highlighted a few pieces of legislation that could impact education.

•The governor's budget.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has proposed, among other items, that the state should go from providing 38.5 percent of funds for at-risk student programs to 100 percent. He proposes to fund this initiative through a 40 cent increase in cigarette taxes.

•House Bill 2354/Senate Bill 2326.

This legislation proposes the increase on "the tax on cigarettes from 10 mills to 3 cents on each cigarette; requires that all cigarette tax revenue realized from the increase be deposited into the general fund." These are the funds proposed by the governor to be used for education funding. However, amendments added by the Tennessee House Agriculture Committee changed the increase to 2 cents. One amendment also specifies that instead of those funds going toward education, "at least $21 million of such cigarette tax revenue shall be allocated to the Department of Agriculture's farm program to be used for improvements in cattle breeding, improvement of cattle handling facilities, improvement of hay storage facilities, assistance in crop diversification, promotion of Tennessee products, assistance with development of a viticulture association of wineries and grape producers, support of farmers markets and other agribusiness initiatives."

Lodal said this bill is still being worked on, and several legislators have indicated that these amendments will be changed and the money put back toward education before a final bill has passed.

•House Bill 0569/Senate Bill 0868.

"Requires the Basic Education Program to be funded according to the prototype system-level fiscal capacity model developed by TACIR (Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations)."

No action has been taken on HB0569 since Feb. 12 or on SB0868 since March 16.

•House Bill 1467/Senate Bill 2054.

Nicknamed the "Booster Bill," the bill "requires that any school activity funds be turned over to a properly designated school official as school property."

This bill has been deferred until changes can be made in order to better align the bill with its intended purpose, Lodal said.

"It looked like booster clubs, PTAs, PTOs were going to be required to run their money through the school system," Lodal said. "The reason this came about (was) people doing things they shouldn't do.

"The comptroller's office does not legally have access to those accounts. This gives them a direct link for auditing purposes. They want to be able to see if something illegal has been done, if the question is raised."

To follow the progress of a bill, visit www.legislature.state.tn.us.

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