Tennessee Regulatory Authority executives are facing a major cut to their salaries following the proposal of a bill that will also include new requirements regarding education and experience.
Kenneth Hill, TRA chairman, would face re-appointment under a proposed law that states directors must “have experience in one or more of the industries regulated by the TRA, executive level management experience, or experience that qualifies the director...to efficiently and effectively administer the functions of the TRA.” The TRA regulates investor-owned telecommunications and utility companies.
Hill, a former religious radio operator from East Tennessee, was appointed to the TRA by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey in 2009.
Hill, who is listed as “Dr. Kenneth C. Hill” on the TRA's website, has bachelor's and master's degrees in broadcasting from East Tennessee State University and Indiana State University. His doctorate of religious education, however, comes from Andersonville Baptist Seminary, an unaccredited Christian school.
ABS, which now goes by Andersonville Theological Seminary, offers distance learning programs and a doctorate “degree” requires 30 hours of coursework. On its annual tax filings, Andersonville identifies itself as a church, not a school. Its address is located in an industrial area of Camilla, Ga.
Also listed among "educational achievements" are a bachelor's degree from Baptist Christian College in Louisiana and a master's degree from Manahath School of Theology in Virginia. Neither are sanctioned by traditionally accepted accrediting bodies.
But Hill said he wasn't concerned about accreditation because theology was his “avocation,” not his vocation.
“I wasn't taking that class or any of those course works to get a job so I wasn't worried about accreditation per se. I was more concerned about theological education,” Hill said. “I did learn a lot on the theological side from all of my theological education. I think it was worth it.”
And even though the proposed law requires more stringent educational standards for directors, Hill said he feels like the bill isn't directed at him or the current TRA directors.
“We would hope that that's not the case,” Hill said. “Really, what's needed in my opinion are clear-thinking people who understand business and consumers... then you have to learn to work within the regulatory framework.”
The proposed bill also would make the directors part-time and cut their salaries from $152,000 to $36,000 per year. An executive director position, appointed by the governor, would also be added.
“With those changes, basically I would say that we don't see it as being favorable for the consumer in Tennessee ... or for efficiency here,” Hill said. “There would be so many changes that will have to take place and quite honestly I don't think part-time directors will be able to do it.”
The TRA, which regulates private telecommunications and utility companies, has its reorganization bill set to be heard by the House today and the Senate on Thursday.