Governor Haslam Signs Several Bills Into Law - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Governor Haslam Signs Several Bills Into Law

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Governor Bill Haslam has signed several pieces of legislation, including a measure to require drug testing as a condition for receiving welfare.

The legislation -- which passed the Senate 24-9 and 73-17 in the House -- requires new welfare applicants to undergo a special screening process. If suspicion is raised after the screening, then the applicant would be drug tested.

The proposal differs from an original version that would have required blanket testing.

The state's attorney general opined that approach would violate applicants' rights not to be drug tested unless there is suspicion they are using drugs.

Haslam told reporters Thursday that he's comfortable with the legislation because the Department of Human Services will develop the rules for the testing, and the state attorney general must make sure the process is constitutional.

He also signed a measure that requires agencies to verify that applicants for public benefits are legal residents.

The legislation -- which passed the Senate 29-1 and the House 64-18 -- was delayed in the lower chamber last year because the cost of the measure was a little over $1 million. But House sponsor Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, said the tab has been reduced to around $100,000.

He said every applicant won't have to be verified because there are other processes in place to prove legal residence.

Sponsors said the intention is to make sure that individuals lawfully in Tennessee get the benefits first.

Another proposal signed Thursday is designed to help Tennesseans get off unemployment and find a job.

The legislation, called the "Tennessee Works Act," unanimously passed the Senate 33-0 and 91-0 in the House.

The bill creates a pilot program to provide employers with grants to pay for training expenses for recently laid-off workers or workers whose jobs have gone overseas. In order to continue receiving the grant funds, employers agree to hire a portion of the employees trained.

The sponsor of the legislation, Democratic Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga, has said it's proof that Republicans and Democrats can work together to make Tennessee a better place.

Haslam also signed a measure that requires roll-your-own cigarette retailers to pay a licensing fee and tax and adhere to certain restrictions.

Pipe tobacco, a popular product of roll-your-own retailers, is not listed on the state attorney general's directory of tobaccos. The legislation requires tobacco the retailers use in their machines to come from the directory.

It also requires the retailers to pay a cigarette tax and an annual $500 licensing fee for each roll-your-own machine used.

The measure passed the Senate 25-2 and was approved 67-13 in the House.

And another signed Thursday would allow college professors to teach high school courses.

The measure allows the Department of Education to issue a teaching license in grades nine through twelve to individuals who have taught as full-time faculty members or adjunct faculty members at two-year and four-year post-secondary institutions.

A full-time faculty member has to have taught at least two years, and an adjunct professor is required to have a minimum of three years. 

The legislation passed the Senate 19-13, and was approved 62-28 in the House.

Governor Haslam has also signed a proposal that allows parents to grade themselves on how involved they are in their children's schooling.

The measure sponsored by Democratic Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis and Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown was approved 94-2 in the House and unanimously passed the Senate 27-0.

The four-year pilot program will initially apply to two struggling schools.

Another measure sponsored by the lawmakers that was signed into law recently will create parent contracts that give them step-by-step guidelines for pitching in.

Only a few states have passed laws creating evaluations or contracts that put helping with homework or attending teacher conferences into writing. Tennessee is the only one so far to do report cards, though Utah has parents fill out an online survey.

He also signed another measure to set up a state fair commission.

The legislation -- which passed the House 90-2 and was approved 33-0 in the Senate -- creates a state fair and exposition commission within the Department of Agriculture.

The commission will be appointed by the governor.

Sponsors said a Metro Fair Board in Nashville had control of the fair, but the legislation officially makes the state fair a property of the state. 

In an attempt to keep the fair in Davidson County, resolutions also passed urging any state fair to be held where the seat of government is located.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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