STATE; Student Loan Defaults May Bite Teachers, Lobbyists

By Humphrey, Tom | News Sentinel, February 3, 2012 | Go to article overview

STATE; Student Loan Defaults May Bite Teachers, Lobbyists


Humphrey, Tom, News Sentinel


-

Legislation penalizes for delinquency

humphreyt@knoxnews.com 615-242-7782

NASHVILLE - Teachers and lobbyists who default on student loans could lose the right to practice their professions under legislation winning final approval in the state House on Thursday.

Several legislators, most of them Democrats, voiced objections to the bill - SB551 - in an hourlong debate before it passed 70-24. The measure cleared the Senate last year and now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature.

Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, sponsor of the bill, said most other professionals who have state-issued licenses are already subject to losing those licenses for failure to pay student loans and it is appropriate to add teachers, lobbyists and sports agents to the list.

Loan defaults effectively reduce the amount of money available for loans to new students through the Tennessee Student Assistance Corp., Sargent said. The legislation adds a needed tool to prod debtors into making payments. He said "about 7 or 8 percent" of TSAC loans are in default now and if the number rose too much, the entire program could be jeopardized.

"I'm just trying to preserve TSAC for the children of the future," Sargent said.

Criticism came on several fronts.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said the bill sends the wrong message to teachers already facing ample problems. It means, he said, "You would be able to take a teacher out of a classroom because he or she, because of tough times, has become delinquent on a student loan."

Rep. Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, said the measure was unfair to lobbyists and perhaps unconstitutional.

Lobbyists are paid to assert their clients' constitutional right to petition government for "redress of grievances," Kernell said, and taking away that right for an unrelated debt would be wrong.

Lobbyists are not licensed by the state, but must register with the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance and pay a fee for each client. …

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