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Judicial redistricting bill fails

Party politics apparently rang the death knell for more than one bill in the state legislature last week.
Speaker Ron Ramsey’s judicial redistricting plan was defeated in the House on Friday, and apparently set in motion the defeat of a charter school bill.
After the redistricting bill was scrapped, Ramsey reportedly blocked House Speaker Beth Harwell’s legislation to give a state board more authority to open charter schools when a local school board says no by keeping it from coming to a vote after dozens of hours of committee hearings.
The judicial redistricting plan was time sensitive because of upcoming elections, and Ramsey said he won’t bring it up again.
The speaker conceded that the killing of the charter-school legislation is related to the demise of judicial redistricting.
“It’s not fun to fight with friends,” Ramsey said. “But in the end we’re all in here to govern the state of Tennessee and we’ll all be friends…soon.”
Charter-school advocates had been looking for a way to give the state authority to open charter schools, even if the local school board opposes them.
Harwell was pushing the change, but when her chamber voted down Ramsey’s  judicial redistricting plan the bill went south.
“It wasn’t retaliation,” Ramsey said, defending his actions. “I thought the judicial redistricting bill should have passed, and they didn’t. So that’s where we are.”
Similarly, Governor Bill Haslam’s limited plan to pay private-school tuition for the state’s poorest kids in the lowest performing schools went down because of internal struggles in the GOP.
Apparently, Republicans who wanted vouchers to be made more widely available killed the plan.
The proposal to expand wine sales into grocery stores was killed on procedural grounds after a committee chairman took exception to members of his own party tried to keep anyone from making changes to the measure.
“I think it’s going to be a long, hot summer for those folks,” says Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) who sponsored the wine in supermarket legislation. “I think when they come back, they’re going to have a new perspective based on that feedback.”
Lundberg expects to bring the wine in grocery stores proposal up again next year.
Haslam says he will give vouchers another go, and the state charter-school legislation is destined to return with legislators in January as well.
The proposal to redraw Tennessee's judicial districts for the first time since 1984 would have placed Rutherford and Williamson counties in their own judicial districts, while Coffee County, currently in  a district by itself, would have been included into a new district with Cannon, Warren and Van Buren counties.
Two West Tennessee districts made up of Lake, Dyer, Obion and Weakley counties would have been merged into a single district.
No other judicial districts would have been affected, including the 13th, which DeKalb County shares with Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, and White counties.
While the measure was approved by the Senate on a 27-4 vote, it was defeated in the House 66-28.
The proposal would have affected 22 counties in eight districts, and would have reduced the number of judicial districts in the state from 31 to 29, eliminating the positions of two prosecutors and two public defenders.
He estimated that the savings of eliminating the four positions would be more than $600,000.
One House member who voted against the measure said he felt that the bill had been “crammed down our throats”  by the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Charter School Association released a statement voicing their disappointment with the outcome of the school charter vote.
“Unfortunately, the concept of broadening educational options for Tennessee students has once again become the victim of politics, despite thoughtful consideration over the bill through 10 committees and passage in the House yesterday with a vote of 62 to 30,” the TCSA statement read.
“Strong public charter schools are leading successful education reform in our state, with many delivering the best results of all Tennessee public schools.
This bill sought to strengthen the charter school authorization process, drawing the focus of decisions toward merit and expanding the possibility of excellent public charter schools throughout the state,” the TCSA opined.


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