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Delivering Efficient State and Local Government Services

Tennessee Efforts at Government Modernization and Improved Performance

  • In the 1960s the state legislature carried out important structural reforms and funded the building of a modern legislative plaza. Also, during this period the legislature created a joint fiscal review committee so that the legislature could collect its own data on the state’s economy separate from the figures provided by the governor.
  • In a series of limited constitutional conventions, beginning in the 1950s, the state citizens approved additional important structural and procedural changes to state and local government.
  • In the 1970s and 1980s Tennessee became a national leader in K-12 education accountability measurement. Then in the 1990s the state began a process of more equitable funding between rural and urban school systems. Later Governors Don Sundquist and Bredesen focused on new initiatives in the areas of Early Childhood Education and reading proficiency for grades one to three.
  • Both Governors Lamar Alexander and Ned McWherter took major initiatives in the 1970s and 1980s to attract industry to Tennessee and to improve the state secondary and primary road systems in the state.
  • As a result of federal lawsuits, Tennessee, in the 1980s and 1990s, was forced to modernize its state prison system. Also, a state sentencing commission proposed a more uniform sentencing system in the state based on a new criminal classification system. Too, the state was required to restructure the delivery of services to the mentally and physically challenged, which included the movement from institutional to community based housing and services.
  • In 1967 the state legislature created the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) for the purpose of coordinating and supporting the efforts of post-secondary institutions in the State of Tennessee. One of its statutory requirements is to create a master plan for the development of public higher education in Tennessee.
  • Due to the need to comply with federal legislation and to be in a better position to receive federal funding for state and local governments, the state has created regional economic development districts to administer such services as public transportation, Head Start education funding, and community services funding for such areas as sewer improvements and fire fighting services.
  • The state of Tennessee has created and funded, since the 1970s, a series of initiatives to improve the quality of state and local government management. This has come through the creation, mostly through the University of Tennessee, a network of agencies dedicated to improving the administration of government and to improving the management skills of government personnel at both the state and local levels.
  • Through the Tennessee State Planning Board and the Tennessee Planning Commission, the state established the structure for local county and municipal powers to engage in zoning and land use planning.
  • A Local Government Planning Advisory Commission was established to advise the governor concerning local government conditions and inclusion of those needs in a state's general plan. Today the State Planning Office operates through regional planning offices which assists over 200 local municipalities and counties and nine regional planning commissions, created in 1960, with their planning responsibilities.
  • As a result of federal court rulings, the state of Tennessee and its political subdivisions have had to restructure their governing bodies so that the distribution of their membership comply with the one man one vote apportionment requirement.

Source: Dr. Richard Chesteen

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