Rep. Watson: Moving Tennessee Forward

Thursday, October 17, 2013 - by Rep. Eric Watson

I was honored to join my colleagues in Nashville, along with officials from the Department of Safety & Homeland Security, and the Department of Veterans Affairs during September to announce the addition of a new veterans designation for Tennessee drivers licenses. 

Many of the citizens of my district are veterans and to publicly recognize those that gave so much for our state and country is humbling.  The new driver’s license designation is offered to any honorably discharged service member who presents a certified copy of their discharge papers, or DD-214, to any of the driver service center facilities located across Tennessee.  The primary purpose of the license designation is to allow the state to publicly recognize veterans for their time in service. The new license also serves as proof of veteran status for those who do not carry copies of their DD-214 papers with them on a regular basis.

For more information about this new program which is now being offered statewide, visit or call the Department of Safety and Homeland Security at 615.251-5166.

I joined Governor Bill Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell to help launch Tennessee’s new “Drive to 55” education initiative.  This program aims to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate to 55 percent by the year 2025.  We focus so much on the future of Tennessee with our attention on the children.  Now, we can bring an added emphasis to the adults as we encourage those to return to school for their secondary education. Currently, only 32 percent of the state has a degree or certificate.

The initiative will work hand-in-hand with the recent launch of Western Governors University Tennessee, an online school which seeks to expand access to higher education for all Tennesseans. Differing from most brick-and-mortar institutions, WGU Tennessee uses an innovative learning model called competency-based education. Instead of earning a degree based on credit hours or time spent in class, students must demonstrate their knowledge of required subject matter through rigorous testing procedures. 

This new program will help both traditional college students achieve success while also aiding those who now wish to go back to school to finish their degrees. As the state continues to move into the 21st Century, Republicans believe having these new opportunities available will help ensure Tennessee students are being prepared for the high-skilled and high-wage jobs of the future.

Other than law enforcement, one of the key areas that has been a priority for me is to bring more business to our state.  I was thrilled when Forbes magazine released their 2013 “Best States For Business” and Tennessee is now number 15, as compared to number 24 just last year.  Our pro-business and AAA rating from Moody’s Bond Agency, which is a major sign that proves our state’s fiscal environment and why our state is a leader were both major factors in the substantial change.

I would like to congratulate Gary Farlow, president and CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce on his recent election win as president of the Tennessee Economic Development Council Board.

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