NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Gavels were down in the Tennessee capitol as lawmakers adjourned for the year.
The House and Senate concluded the first session of the two-year 110th General Assembly on Wednesday afternoon. The session featured heavy infighting among the Republican majority about Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax hike and other budget issues.
Haslam’s road funding plan dubbed the Improve Act raises the tax on gasoline by 6 cents over the next three years. The plan also cuts taxes on groceries, manufacturers, and income from stocks and bonds.
House Republicans were deeply divided over the measure, but the bill ended up clearing the chamber with Democratic support.
Other high-profile legislation passed this year dealt with abortion, gun rights and extending the state’s free community college program to adults.
Governor Haslam said he was proud lawmakers were able to pass Tennessee Reconnect, which makes it easier for adults to go back to school, providing free tuition at any technology college to eligible adults.
“It makes a commitment to the chance for higher education for every adult in Tennessee. We’re the first state ever to say regardless of your background, regardless of your income level, regardless of your zip code, if you’re an adult in Tennessee you will get two years of community college or technical school absolutely free and I think we will see dramatic dividends.”
Haslam said he visited a company Wednesday morning and their entire issue was about training their workforce. He says the issue is not going away.
“We also passed the Strong Act as a way to reward our National Guard members and as a way to continue to recruit the very best in military service. We passed a bill in rural broadband,” said Haslam. “It was something we had all talked about for a long time and we were able to become a remarkable consensus on this bill.”
The governor says many of the changes were able to forward because of the republic majority in the legislature.
“We forget this. I’m actually the first Republican governor in history to serve with Republican majorities. So we started this experiment six and a half years ago and these are the results: lowest taxes in the country, lowest debt in the country, fastest improving education, first state to open up education to everyone, a plan for how to fix our infrastructure and addressing things like mental health, intellectual development disabilities, clean air and addressing our infrastructure,” said Haslam. “The process isn’t always the easiest, but I think if you look at the results that this general assembly has turned in as they gaveled down the session in both houses I think it was a remarkable year.”