The University of Tennessee Space Institute was proud to host Sen. Steve Roller, who recently replaced former senator Jerry Cooper in representing the 14th district. Accompanying the new senator was his friend Bill Zechman, a Warren County Commissioner and member of UTSI’s Support Council.
Sen. Roller and Mr. Zechman joined UTSI Chief Operating Officer Dr. Don Daniel and the members of UTSI’s Senior Staff for an overview briefing of UTSI’s legacy of graduate education, recent research, and value to the community. Following the briefing, Sen. Roller said a few words to the group about his intentions for the legislative session that began on Tuesday.
Sen. Roller said that he thinks Tennessee is ranked too low among all states in many categories and that he believes supporting education and increasing opportunities for secondary education will in turn make our state more desirable for industry. “A strong back isn’t enough anymore. Industry is looking for both strong backs and strong minds,” said Sen. Roller.
Sen. Roller assured those assembled, “I’m going to spend money up there like I spend my own, even more strictly, because I won’t splurge with someone else’s money. We’re going to have to use some common sense.” The senator referred specifically to the $400 million surplus in the lottery scholarship fund, stating again that he would like to see this surplus used to provide scholarships to non-traditional students, meaning students not between the ages of 18-21, who might be going back to school after spending time in the workforce or graduate students, such as those that attend UTSI. Sen. Roller said that some of his fellow legislators wanted to spend the lottery surplus for capital building projects, but that he wouldn’t support that effort. “We have a capital building fund. We don’t need to use the lottery scholarship funds for building projects,” said the senator. “I’m embarrassed that we’ve had to fund scholarships with a lottery, but that is what the fund is designated for, and that money should only be spent on scholarships,” Sen. Roller said.
Sen. Roller also mentioned that he is not in favor of any new taxes, but felt that all taxes should be fair and applied equally. The new senator reiterated that he intends to represent all 7 of the counties in his district, which includes Franklin, Bledsoe, Coffee, Grundy, Sequatchie, Van Buren, and Warren counties.
DR. DANIEL GREETS SENATOR ROLLER AND BILL ZECHMAN—UTSI Chief Operating Officer Dr. Don Daniel is shown, left, greeting Warren County Commissioner Bill Zechman, while the state’s newest senator, Steve Roller, and Zechman’s granddaughter, Bliss Zechman, look on. Roller and Zechman visited UTSI on Friday, during Roller’s first week in the legislative session.