Johnson City Press: Hill amends standardized testing bill, opposes Sunday wine sales
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Hill amends standardized testing bill, opposes Sunday wine sales

Zach Vance • Updated Feb 25, 2018 at 12:27 AM

Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, has amended his standardized testing bill ahead of its subcommittee hearing this week.

Eager to abandon the TNReady standardized testing model after its many faults, Hill has championed legislation on behalf of Johnson City Schools officials that would prohibit end-of-course examinations to high school students and make the ACT the only assessment required for graduation.

But now that’s changed.

Speaking to the Johnson City Press on Friday, Hill said he’s amended his bill to now make it optional for local education agencies to use the ACT as the primary end-of-year assessment rather than the TNReady test.

“I’ve been working with Dr. (David) Timbs and Carleton Lyon who work for the Johnson City School System. Working with them, they have submitted and developed an amendment they feel better represents the initial wording. So I filed that right before I left town yesterday to come back home,” Hill said.

“The big change with the amendment is instead of saying you have to do the ACT for the end-of-year test, it says you can choose because there will be some school systems that don’t want to change over. They felt that would make it more palatable, and really truly, it’s better policy at the end of the day because you don’t want to force them to do it.”

Hill said the Department of Education sent him a letter Friday saying they were opposed to the bill.

“I don’t know why, because I haven’t been able to meet with them yet because I’m (at home),” Hill said. “I’ve got try to get some more details from them. I think with the amendment, they should be OK with it.”

Hill plans to also meet with members of the Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee early next week, before his bill is heard Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

Wine on Sundays

Hill said he’s opposed to a bill sponsored by Chattanooga Rep. Gerald McCormick to permit wine and liquor bottle sales on Sunday.

Despite most grocery stores and some liquor stores coming to rare agreement on the proposed legislation, Hill said he believes it’s too early to change the law again after selling wine in Tennessee grocery stores just became legal in July 2016.

“When wine in grocery stores initially passed on referendum, there were certain commitments made to the entire business community. It’s not even been two years since wine in grocery stores went through, and there are already folks wanting to alter the agreement to change things,” Hill said.

“In my opinion, that goes against the spirit of what was agreed to. That’s No. 1.

“No. 2, we have unfortunately a very high DUI rate in this state, and I think that we need to address that a little more fully before we start granting more and more access to alcohol.”

In March 2013, as chairman of the House Local Government Committee, Hill voted to kill a bill that would have allowed localities to vote on whether to permit wine sales in grocery stores. That measure eventually passed in 2014.

Rep. Jeremy Faison’s cannabis bill

With Cosby Rep. Jeremy Faison’s Medical Cannabis Only Act also scheduled for a committee hearing this week, Hill said he believes it’s time to have the discussion about legalization for medical purposes.

“I think it’s definitely time to have the discussion,” Hill said. “Not to be cagey about it, but at the end of the day, it’s all going to come down to the details. What I support, and I want to be very clear, is good science and good medicine.”

When he’s inquired doctors about their opinions, Hill said he hasn’t received any kind of consensus among the local medical community.

“Some say it’s a good idea, some say it’s a horrible idea. So it’s very, very difficult to get a good read, and we have to be very careful because I’m not interested in using the force of government to play doctor,” Hill said. “We want to get people help that need help but it needs to be help that is medically and scientifically sound.” 

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