Tennessee Could Be The Star In Next Week’s State Of The Union Address

President Obama speaks at Pellissippi State Community College to introduce "America's College Promise," a free community college program. Credit: WhiteHouse.gov

President Obama speaks at Pellissippi State Community College to introduce “America’s College Promise,” a free community college program. Credit: 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.

Obama plans to use the speech to argue local governments should be allowed to offer their own high-speed Internet service, without interference. Several states have passed legislation banning such utilities, and Obama believes the Federal Communications Commission should adopt regulations that overrule them.

The issue hits close to home in Chattanooga, which has been a leader in the broadband arena. That city’s mayor, Andy Berke, has been helping the president make his case for publicly-owned Internet services, taking part in a conference call with reporters to discuss its program.

Obama also is expected to continue to promote his proposal to offer tuition-free community college to students nationwide, an idea that builds on Tennessee Promise. Gov. Bill Haslam took part in the event last week in which the president unveiled that proposal.

But other political leaders haven’t been as happy about the president’s interest in the state. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says Obama’s endorsement of Tennessee Promise, in particular, could wind up hurting the program.

“I do not want the federal government getting involved in this, because that’s exactly what happened on Common Core. (It) began as a great idea (from) the National Governor’s Association, then the federal government and Barack Obama wrapped his arms around it, and suddenly people became leery.”

A spokesman for Haslam wouldn’t say Thursday whether the governor will attend the speech, or if he’d been invited.

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