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Gov. Bill Haslam will officially be sworn in tomorrow for a second term.

Haslam’s inauguration ceremony takes place at 11 a.m. atop War Memorial Plaza. Streets near the Capitol will be closed for the event.

The day also includes an 8:30 prayer service at Ryman Auditorium and a dinner and ball at the Omni Nashville Hotel. Tickets to those events have been sold out.

Costs of the ceremony and celebrations are being covered through private donations to the Haslam Inaugural Committee. A list of contributors will be released next month.

John Liu via Flickr

A Rutherford County lawmaker says he’s frustrated with the high price of college textbooks and has filed a bill that he hopes will help reduce those costs.

State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, introduced a measure this week calling for the creation of a panel of lawmakers to study cheaper ways to educate students.

WhiteHouse.gov

Updated 11:24 a.m:

A Haslam spokesman says the governor will not attend the State of the Union and hadn't been invited to do so by the White House.

Original post:

When President Barack Obama delivers his annual State of the Union address Tuesday, it’s likely to feature a lot of Tennessee.

The president has been highlighting two programs in the Volunteer State as he traverses the country in the lead-up to the speech.

Chas Sisk / WPLN

After an impassioned campaign over Amendment 1, groups on both sides of Tennessee’s abortion debate are surprisingly practical about what they can accomplish in the legislature this year.

TN Photo Services

Governor Haslam’s proposal to offer health coverage to 200,000 uninsured Tennesseans is already getting a wary look from state lawmakers.

One part of his proposal is to use vouchers to help low-wage workers buy coverage from their employers.

But what if your employer doesn’t offer insurance? Or you don’t work? And you don’t qualify for Medicaid? We explain Haslam's plan here:


Chas Sisk / WPLN

With a bang of her gavel, Rep. Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) opened the 109th General Assembly and was unanimously elected to a third term as speaker of the state House of Representatives.

The real drama was in the lobby outside the chamber, where dozens of protesters – some with signs and drums – rallied against plans to impose new restrictions on abortion. Chanting slogans such as, “Keep your laws off my body,” they sought to discourage lawmakers from pursuing regulations such as a 48-hour waiting period and tougher licensing requirements for abortion facilities.

TN Photo Services via Flickr

It’s likely to be a heated political fight next month, when Governor Haslam takes his plan to expand Medicaid to the General Assembly. Lawmakers have serious questions about the complicated proposal to cover 200,000 uninsured Tennesseans.

Let’s unpack the governor’s two-pronged plan, starting with his voucher idea. Listen:

Gov. Bill Haslam has called a special session that will start Feb. 2 dedicated solely to his proposal, Insure Tennessee. But passage won’t come easily, as many state lawmakers, like House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, are greeting it with skepticism.

“I respect and admire his thoughts and what he’s trying to do,” Casada said. “Many legislators like myself, though, have reservations about increasing the size of government.”

Flickr

Gov. Bill Haslam says he understands why some state lawmakers are demanding more details about his plan to expand health coverage for the poor.

Nearly a month has passed since he said the proposal would be coming, but it still hasn’t been released, a situation that has many conservatives concerned. But Haslam told reporters Wednesday that the proposal, which he’s calling Insure Tennessee, will be out this week — well before the state House and Senate have to start debating it.

“This is a big deal, and we want the legislators to know exactly what it is that we’re proposing, so this will give everybody two or three weeks to review it,” he said. “Obviously we’re hurrying as much as we can to get the waiver finished.”

Haslam says Washington officials generally like his idea to expand Medicaid through health savings accounts or vouchers for employer-provided insurance. But the federal government and the legislature both must sign off before it can be enacted.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker officially becomes chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week. He says one of his first acts will be to hold hearings on the Obama administration’s decision to soften the country’s stance toward Cuba.

The Tennessee Republican said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning that the Cuban government hasn’t yet lived up to its end of the bargain — which includes releasing 53 political prisoners. But he added, he’s keeping an open mind.

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