Chas Sisk | Nashville Public Radio

Chas Sisk

Enterprise Reporter

Chas joined WPLN in 2015 after eight years with The Tennessean, including more than five years as the newspaper's statehouse reporter. Chas has also covered communities, politics and business in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Chas grew up in South Carolina and attended Columbia University in New York, where he studied economics and journalism. Outside of work, he's a dedicated distance runner, having completed a dozen marathons.

Ways to Connect

John Liu via Flickr

A Rutherford County lawmaker says he’s frustrated with the high price of college textbooks and has filed a bill that he hopes will help reduce those costs.

State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, introduced a measure this week calling for the creation of a panel of lawmakers to study cheaper ways to educate students.

Photo via Gov. Haslam’s flckr stream

The leader of the state Senate says he wants to replace Common Core education standards, and he thinks state lawmakers are the right people to do it.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told reporters Wednesday that the Senate Education Committee already has begun work on replacement standards that should be ready by the end of the legislative session.

TN Photo Services

Governor Haslam’s proposal to offer health coverage to 200,000 uninsured Tennesseans is already getting a wary look from state lawmakers.

One part of his proposal is to use vouchers to help low-wage workers buy coverage from their employers.

But what if your employer doesn’t offer insurance? Or you don’t work? And you don’t qualify for Medicaid? We explain Haslam's plan here:

Chas Sisk / WPLN

With a bang of her gavel, Rep. Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) opened the 109th General Assembly and was unanimously elected to a third term as speaker of the state House of Representatives.

The real drama was in the lobby outside the chamber, where dozens of protesters – some with signs and drums – rallied against plans to impose new restrictions on abortion. Chanting slogans such as, “Keep your laws off my body,” they sought to discourage lawmakers from pursuing regulations such as a 48-hour waiting period and tougher licensing requirements for abortion facilities.

TN Photo Services via Flickr

It’s likely to be a heated political fight next month, when Governor Haslam takes his plan to expand Medicaid to the General Assembly. Lawmakers have serious questions about the complicated proposal to cover 200,000 uninsured Tennesseans.

Let’s unpack the governor’s two-pronged plan, starting with his voucher idea. Listen:

Gov. Bill Haslam has called a special session that will start Feb. 2 dedicated solely to his proposal, Insure Tennessee. But passage won’t come easily, as many state lawmakers, like House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, are greeting it with skepticism.

“I respect and admire his thoughts and what he’s trying to do,” Casada said. “Many legislators like myself, though, have reservations about increasing the size of government.”


Gov. Bill Haslam says he understands why some state lawmakers are demanding more details about his plan to expand health coverage for the poor.

Nearly a month has passed since he said the proposal would be coming, but it still hasn’t been released, a situation that has many conservatives concerned. But Haslam told reporters Wednesday that the proposal, which he’s calling Insure Tennessee, will be out this week — well before the state House and Senate have to start debating it.

“This is a big deal, and we want the legislators to know exactly what it is that we’re proposing, so this will give everybody two or three weeks to review it,” he said. “Obviously we’re hurrying as much as we can to get the waiver finished.”

Haslam says Washington officials generally like his idea to expand Medicaid through health savings accounts or vouchers for employer-provided insurance. But the federal government and the legislature both must sign off before it can be enacted.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker officially becomes chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week. He says one of his first acts will be to hold hearings on the Obama administration’s decision to soften the country’s stance toward Cuba.

The Tennessee Republican said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning that the Cuban government hasn’t yet lived up to its end of the bargain — which includes releasing 53 political prisoners. But he added, he’s keeping an open mind.

Upupa4me via Flickr

Lawmakers in Nashville and Washington, including Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker, have been talking about raising the gas taxes on both the state and federal levels.

A double whammy might not sit well with drivers, but Commissioner John Schroer, the state’s top transportation official, says the need for more money cannot be ignored.

He says the approximately $650 million that Tennessee brings in annually soon will be enough only to keep the state’s roads patched up — without any new construction projects. With that in mind, Tennessee leaders shouldn’t let talk in Congress of raising the federal gas tax keep them from considering a state hike as well.

Chas Sisk / WPLN

The monthly Bill Goodman Gun & Knife Show at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds has just about everything a weapons collector could want: Handguns and high-powered rifles, tomahawks and tasers – in colors that range from survivalist camo to hot pink.

But perhaps the most surprising find is at the table of dealer Eva Simmons: a 1970s-era switchblade, the kind with a black-and-silver handle and a curlicue guard. These were illegal in Tennessee until recently.