by Steven Hale
Roughly an hour ago, Gov. Bill Haslam affixed the first veto of his gubernatorial tenure to HB 3576/SB 3597, the bill that challenges the so-called "All Comers" policy at state universities — and curiously, at one specific private university, Vanderbilt.
While Haslam said, in a written release, that he did not agree with Vanderbilt's policy, he nonetheless felt the bill should govern only public institutions.
"Although I disagree with Vanderbilt’s policy, as someone who strongly believes in limited government, I think it is inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution," Haslam said. "Therefore, I will veto HB 3576/SB 3597 in its current form.”
With the legislature formally adjourned as of last night, there's little threat of a pesky override of Haslam's veto. When the veto was announced, editors and reporters from the Scene and The City Paper were in the middle of a roundtable discussion with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. Told of the news, his response was to the point:
In the same statement, Haslam addressed another controversial item on his docket: HB 3540/SB 3345, the bill that would place caps on the hiring of foreign nationals as teachers in Tennessee schools.
“I will not sign the bill and will let it become law without my signature," Haslam said — the same tactic he deployed to public outcry on the so-called "Monkey Bill." This time, however, he added a cautionary measure addressed what he terms as "concerns about this bill's constitutionality."
"Because of my concerns, I am also requesting a formal opinion from the Attorney General on the bill’s constitutionality," Haslam said. "I think it is important for local educational agencies to fully understand the implications of this law and their decisions about granting charter school applications.”
Below, the full text of Haslam's release.
HASLAM RELEASES STATEMENTS ON HB 3540/SB 3345 AND HB 3576/SB 3597
Bills address teacher hiring practices in charter schools and the “all-comers” policy
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam released the following statements regarding HB 3540/SB 3345 and HB 3576/SB 3597.
House Bill 3540/SB 3345 addresses the hiring of foreign nationals as teachers in Tennessee charter schools.
“We continue to put a lot of time and effort in improving education in Tennessee. Establishing reputable and impactful charter schools to offer education options to parents and students has been an important part of that process. We should also continue to focus on attracting the best and brightest to study and teach in Tennessee,” Haslam said.
“In reviewing HB 3540/SB 3345, I am comfortable that because it is permissive and not mandatory, it does not adversely impact the state’s momentum in education reform. However, I do have concerns about this bill’s constitutionality.
“I will not sign the bill and will let it become law without my signature. Because of my concerns, I am also requesting a formal opinion from the Attorney General on the bill’s constitutionality. I think it is important for local educational agencies to fully understand the implications of this law and their decisions about granting charter school applications.”
Regarding HB 3576/SB 3597, which addresses Vanderbilt University’s “all-comers” policy for campus organizations, Haslam said:
“I don’t agree with Vanderbilt’s ‘all-comers’ policy. It is counter-intuitive to make campus organizations open their membership and leadership positions to anyone and everyone, even when potential members philosophically disagree with the core values and beliefs of the organization.
“The original version of HB 3576/SB 3597 only applied to public education institutions, and I believe it is appropriate for state government to be involved in policies of public colleges and universities.
“The amended legislation that the General Assembly ultimately passed, however, also applies to private universities. Although I disagree with Vanderbilt’s policy, as someone who strongly believes in limited government, I think it is inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution. Therefore, I will veto HB 3576/SB 3597 in its current form.”
UPDATE: A statement from Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, in response to Haslam's veto:
"While we respect the governor's position on Vanderbilt's policy, we are gratified by his rejection of government intrusion into private institutions and their ability to govern and set policies themselves."