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Budget debate, kindergarten age, baggy pants and lawsuits

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A long debate over the state’s budget Thursday afternoon appears to jeopardize chances that the General Assembly would be able to wrap up by Friday. Many anticipate members will return next week.

Much of the Thursday afternoon was spent debating whether to close the Taft Youth Center in Pikeville, located in Bledsoe County.

Often the arguments passionate from representatives from throughout the state, as Taft serves 156 male students, ages 16 through 19, from across the state.

Typically, the youth at Taft have adult sentences, serious delinquent offenses, are serving a third commitment, or have exhibited severe behavior problems at one of the regional Youth Development Centers.

At one point in the debate, immediately following a motion to table an amendment to keep the Taft Center open failed, Republicans asked for and received a recess. In the end, though, the amendment failed and the fate sealed to close the center.

New cutoff dates for Pre-k, kindergarten entrance

On Wednesday, the House approved a bill pushing back the cutoff date for children enrolling in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.

The bill changes the date by which children must be 4 to enter pre-K or age 5 to enter kindergarten from Sept. 30 to Aug. 31 in the 2013-2014. Then in 2014-2015, it backs the date up to Aug. 15 for ever year thereafter.

However, the bill also allows parents to request entrance to kindergarten of their child at age 4 if they pass a “maturity” test.

During the Senate debate Thursday morning, Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) said the change in dates for starting kindergarten is something early childhood education professionals have wanted for some time.

The Senate recessed before a vote was taken on the bill in the morning, but it passed in the afternoon floor session.

No more baggy pants

The “baggy pants” legislation became law last week when Gov. Bill Haslam signed it. The new law prohibits students from exposing “underwear or body parts in an indecent manner that disrupts the learning environment.” It will be up to individual school districts to determine the punishment.

Dismissed lawsuit losers may have to pay

After extensive debate by members of both aisles, the Senate passed last week a bill that will force a loser in a lawsuit that is dismissed as groundless to pay the other sides’ attorney’s fees and court costs up to $10,000.

Opponents said the measure would prevent people from filing suit, even if they have a legitimate case, while supports argued it will cut down on pointless lawsuits.

The bill passed the Senate 17-12.

The measure headed back to the state House to approve minor Senate changes on Thursday.

Grades for parents

Parents will be able to grade themselves on how involved they are in their child’s school performance once Haslam signs the bill.

Rep. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) sponsored the legislation that passed the House 94-2 early in the week and passed the Senate 27-0 on Wednesday.

Parents will be able to do a self-evaluation on such items as how much do they do help their child or children with homework and how often do they attend parent/teacher meetings.

The governor has already signed a proposal encouraging the state Department of Education to create a parental involvement contract.

New laws for synthetic drugs

Legislation creating new felony offenses for synthetic drug sellers, makers and distributors are headed to the governor’s desk. The Senate unanimously voted to conform to the House-approved versions.

The bills dealt with synthetic drugs such as “K-2” and “bath salts” sold in convenience stores and head shops, and in addition to creating jail time and fines, they declared those businesses selling them as public nuisance.

Sponsors said even though the legislature dealt with synthetic drugs in 2011, in one year they found that makers had found new chemical compounds that circumvented last year’s legislation.

Bill recognizing embryos as human goes to governor

On Monday, the Senate passed 28-2 legislation that would make the embryo of a woman who is assaulted or killed a victim. The House companion bill passed 80-18 the week before.

Current law recognizes the fetus as a human being. The new legislation recognizes an embryo or fetus. Those charged with assaulting or killing a pregnant woman would be charged with two counts of assault or two counts of homicide.
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Members Opinions:
April 30, 2012 at 3:35pm
I think the new law prohibiting " Baggy Pants" is a good idea, however I don't believe it should be a law. This new law is suppose to prohibit students from exposing body parts or underwear.
Governor. Bill Haslam believes baggy pants cause a classroom distraction. I agree it is a distraction for some, but not all. I think there are other more important distractions that should be addressed instead of focusing on baggy pants. I think the bullying problem should be addressed before this topic.
As far as punishment goes, will it be the child's fault or parents? What if the parent just cannot afford proper pants. And who will make sure this law is followed through?
Yes, I understand showing body parts is an issue. It was a problem when I was in school, but we should not be so concerned about how people dress. I don't think it is worth making a law for. Why not invest in school uniforms? This way children don't have to worry about any "so called distractions" and parents don't have to worry about buying new school clothes. A belt is an easy fix, but a school uniform could go a long way.

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