Feb 6, 2024 - News

State of the State: Vouchers, AI and rural development

Photo illustration of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Gov. Lee's State of the State speech underscored his priority for the year ahead: expanding vouchers, rural economic development and copyright protections for Tennessee musicians.

Vouchers: With his proposed voucher expansion plan expected to dominate the legislative session, Lee doubled down on the need to give families more education options.

  • "It's time that we change that. It's time that parents get to decide — and not the government — where their child goes to school and what they learn."

Economic development: Lee touted the overall jobs created in Tennessee during his tenure, including the progress in rural areas.

  • Companies have invested $35 billion and created 211,000 jobs in Tennessee since 2019, Lee said, arguing that rural areas are benefiting from the growth.
  • "Five years ago, we had 15 distressed counties — today we have just eight," Lee said. "And the statistic that really tells the story — for the first time in history, Tennessee's poverty rate is below the national poverty rate."

Copyright protections: Against the backdrop of artificial intelligence growing in popularity, Lee is pitching a new law to protect Tennessee music artists from AI-generated copyright theft.

  • "While this new AI technology can be used for good, it also allows users to impersonate and make fake works in the voice and likeness of others," he said.
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