Rep. John Crawford’s Newsroom

General Assembly Approves Representative Crawford’s Event Tourism Act

May 7, 2018

Initiative designed to help Northeast Tennessee secure future sporting events.

(NASHVILLE) — A measure sponsored by State Representative John Crawford (R-Kingsport) that supports tourism in Tennessee and is designed to help Northeast Tennessee secure future sporting events has been approved by the Tennessee General Assembly.

House Bill 2384 — also known as the Event Tourism Act — supports Bristol Motor Speedway and other sporting venues across our state in their efforts to land future events by reimbursing host counties and local municipalities, as well as the event venue for certain qualified event-related expenses. These include any expenditure directly related to the event that is approved by the Departments of Tourist Development and Finance & Administration.

The monies would come from a newly created event tourism fund, backed by a percentage of the sales tax revenues generated by certain services provided at the event. These monies could then be reinvested into the facility or the community for maintenance or upgrades in efforts to secure future sporting events.

Opened in 1961, Bristol Motor Speedway is the fourth largest sports venue in the United States, with a capacity of 162,000. It is an annual host of NASCAR’s Monster Energy Series and Xfinity Series and has also welcomed the NFL and NCAA throughout its 57-year existence.

In 2016, more than 150,000 fans attended the Battle at Bristol, featuring the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech — the largest crowd in American football history.

“Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the premier venues in all of sports and a tremendous economic engine for our local community and our region,” said Representative Crawford. “I am pleased that House Bill 2384 will solidify its future and enable us to continue to attract marquee sporting events to our state in future years.”

For more information about House Bill 2384, please click here.

John Crawford serves as a member of the House Local Government Committee and Subcommittee, as well as the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee and House Calendar & Rules Committee. He lives in Kingsport and represents House District 1, which encompasses a portion of Sullivan County. Crawford can be reached by email at: Rep.John.Crawford@capitol.tn.gov or by calling (615) 741-7623.

State Representative John Crawford’s Capitol Hill Review: 04/22/18

April 22, 2018

Fiscally Conservative Balanced Budget Passed By House Of Representatives

In the final few days of this year’s legislative session, State Representative John Crawford (R-Kingsport) and the House of Representatives passed Tennessee’s annual budget with a near-unanimous vote. The bill’s passage was the culmination of months of tireless work crafting a fiscally responsible and balanced budget.

The $37.5 billion budget builds on previous legislative priorities by making strategic and thoughtful investments across state government. Because of the conservative fiscal choices lawmakers have made over the last several years, Tennessee currently ranks as the lowest taxed and lowest debt state in the entire nation.

When Republicans became the General Assembly’s majority party, Tennesseans asked for fiscal responsibility to be a priority looking forward. The 2018-2019 budget holds true to that principle while ensuring Tennesseans get the services they expect from state government.

As other states struggle with out-of-control spending and growing debt, Republicans in Tennessee have made responsible decisions that will continue to ensure the state is positioned to be a top leader in the country on jobs. Since Republicans took control of state government in 2011, over 400,000 new private sector jobs have been created in Tennessee. Additionally, the state has experienced its lowest unemployment rates in Tennessee’s 222-year history while students have become the fastest-improving in the nation across math, reading, and science.

As part of the budget debate, lawmakers also worked together in fixing problems with one of the state’s standardized tests — called TNReady — that have once again plagued the 2018 testing assessments of schools across Tennessee. The discussions followed three days of problems tied to TNReady’s online testing platform, the most significant of which occurred on Tuesday when the Department of Education reported its testing vendor had experienced a cyber-attack on its computer system. The day before and after this attack, many students were unable to log into or complete their tests. These tests are vitally important to students, teachers, and schools across Tennessee because they count for large portions of final student grades as well as final teacher evaluations and school rankings. The solution agreed upon by lawmakers to address these TNReady problems include giving local education agencies the option to not count TNReady test scores for the year for both students and teachers, allowing each of these groups to be held harmless for the widespread TNReady failures experienced by school systems statewide in 2018.

Specific highlights of the 2018-2019 budget include:

  • Opioids — The multi-faceted plan, called Tennessee Together, is comprised of legislation, $30 million in funds through the budget, and other executive actions to battle opioids through the three major components of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. In 2016, there were over 1,600 opioid-related overdose deaths, one of the highest in the nation, and statistics show the numbers are only increasing. Each day in Tennessee, at least three people die from opioid-related overdoses — more than the daily number of traffic fatalities. Tennessee Together limits the supply and dosage of opioid prescriptions, with reasonable exception and an emphasis on new patients, as well as education for elementary and secondary schools through revisions to the state’s health education academic standards. The plan increases state funding to attack the illicit sale and trafficking of opioids through additional law enforcement and training and includes updates to the controlled substance schedules in order to better track, monitor, and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs — including fentanyl. Finally, the plan provides every Tennessee state trooper with naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose prior to paramedic arrival.
  • School Safety — House lawmakers approved recommendations made by a working group organized to make suggestions for immediate enhancements to school safety across the state as part of this year’s budget, including a review and risk assessment of all school facilities to identify vulnerabilities, an increase in available resources to help secure school resource officers, and a statewide technology application for anonymous reporting of security threats. The 2018-2019 budget and school safety plan doubles the amount of recurring school safety grant funding for schools, which can be used for resource officers or other facility security measures. To address immediate needs while further state, local, and federal conversations around school security and budgeting take place, total state school safety grant funding will increase by more than 500 percent for the upcoming fiscal year.
  • Education — The approved budget fully funds education in Tennessee with more than $200 million in new funding for K-12 education, $55 million for a teacher pay raises, $114 million in additional funding for higher education initiatives, $11 million for an energy-efficient schools program, and $9 million in nonrecurring funds to purchase equipment at the 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology to improve and modernize a broad variety of workforce development programs.
  • Juvenile Justice — The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 includes $4.5 million in the 2018-2019 budget for targeted investments that support evidence-based programming and community resources — especially in the state’s rural and distressed counties. The measure overhauls the current system of juvenile justice for the first time in more than 20 years by tackling inefficiencies and variations in the system. The program empowers members of local law enforcement communities to intervene in instances involving minor offenses in order to better address a youth’s underlying issues. It also limits probation and incarceration for minor offenses while maintaining judicial discretion. Research suggests that taking youths out of their homes and schools for minor offenses increases the risk of recidivism, diverts resources from youth who pose a risk to the community, and unnecessarily uses taxpayer dollars. Often, studies show, community-based services are more effective and are a wiser use of resources.
  • Economic Development — The 2018-2019 budget includes investments in several key business-friendly programs, including $128 million in new funding for employment job growth, funding to bring the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $850 million — the highest amount in state history, $15 million in broadband accessibility grant dollars, and $10 million in nonrecurring funds for the Aeronautics Development Fund to create jobs and investment opportunities in Tennessee’s aviation industry.
  • Additional Investments — Other important funding contained in this year’s budget includes $3 million in funds for school districts to address the extra costs associated with purchasing buses equipped with seat belts, $10 million for repairs on the state’s important short-line railroads, $11.7 million to help individuals with developmental disabilities, an additional $136 million for TennCare — the state’s version of Medicaid, and funding for capital construction projects and maintenance across the state.

With the budget officially passed, lawmakers now turn their attention to debating the last few legislative items for the year while remaining focused on continuing work to make Tennessee an even better place to live, work, raise a family, and retire.

 

Lawmakers Approve Legislation Ending Mandatory Emissions Testing

Representative Crawford and House lawmakers this week passed legislation to end mandatory emissions testing for vehicles in Tennessee.

As passed, House Bill 1782 applies to residents of Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, and Wilson Counties where vehicle emission testing is still required prior to vehicle registration or renewal.

The 1990 Federal Clean Air Act required the state to develop more restrictive regulations to control air pollution in counties which were not meeting the federal standards for air quality.

Currently, testing is done on vehicles with a model year of 1975 and newer if they are powered by a gasoline or diesel engine and weigh up to 10,500 lbs. Over 1.5 million vehicles went through emissions testing in Tennessee last year in the six counties where it is required.

The idea for House Bill 1782 resulted from conversations with Tennesseans who have voiced concerns about the burdensome costs of testing on families across the state. Once the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation released a report last August revealing that all 95 Tennessee counties now meet federal air quality health standards, it became clear that mandatory testing was no longer needed.

Supporters agree that vehicle emissions testing is a perfect example of a well-intentioned government program with harmful, unintended consequences for Tennessee’s middle class, noting that the passage of this legislation will help relieve this burdensome regulation for Tennessee citizens.

For more information about this initiative, click here.

 

Measure Enhancing Security In Tennessee Passes In House

This week, Representative Crawford and Republican lawmakers supported passage of a measure to strengthen safety and security in communities across Tennessee.

House Bill 2312 fights back against sanctuary cities by prohibiting state and local government officials or employees from accepting consular identification cards and other similar documents which are not authorized by the federal government or the State of Tennessee for identification purposes.

The bill is a preemptive measure to ensure that abuses seen in other cities in the U.S. to issue government identification cards to illegal aliens are not implemented here.

Matricula consular cards were prohibited as a source of identification for receiving a driver’s license under a law adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2003 after widespread abuse was reported.

The measure is the latest in a series of Republican-led initiatives designed to strengthen safety and security in cities and towns across our state.

 

John Crawford serves as the Majority Assistant Floor Leader and is a member of the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee and the House Local Government Committee. He is also a member of the House Local Government Subcommittee. Crawford lives in Kingsport and represents House District 1, which includes part of Sullivan County.  He can be reached by email at Rep.John.Crawford@capitol.tn.gov or by calling (615) 741-7623.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOHN CRAWFORD’S CAPITOL HILL REVIEW: 02/02/2018

February 2, 2018

State Representative John Crawford Attends State Of The State Address

Governor unveils 2017 budget proposal

In his final State of the State address to the General Assembly this week, Governor Bill Haslam unveiled his budget priorities for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Haslam addressed multiple issues during the speech and challenged all Tennesseans to lead the nation in creating high-quality jobs, improving the education of students, and working to provide the most efficient and effective state government services possible.

Throughout the address, Haslam focused on the momentum created since Republicans took control of the legislature and Governor’s office in 2011. He spent time reflecting on the past seven years, working with the General Assembly to create a strong commitment to jobs, education, and conservative fiscal policies that have resulted in multiple significant accomplishments for the state, including:

  • The lowest unemployment rates in Tennessee’s 222-year history and a job growth rate greater than 17 percent, with nearly 400,000 net new private sector jobs created;
  • The fastest-improving students in the nation, across math, reading and science, and the highest high school graduation rates the state has ever seen;
  • Nearly $1.5 billion invested in K-12 education, with $500 million going to teacher salaries;
  • Nearly $800 million in tax cuts to Tennesseans, including a 30 percent cut on groceries;
  • Being named ‘State of the Year’ in back-to-back years, becoming the only state to ever do so;
  • Ranking #1 for new jobs from foreign direct investment and being named the #1 state for retirement;
  • A cut in year-to-year spending by more than a half-billion dollars;
  • And a tripling of the state’s Rainy Day Fund, bringing it to its highest amount in state history.

In addition to these major accomplishments, Haslam applauded the General Assembly for passing legislation to give all Tennesseans access to college free of tuition and fees through the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect programs. To assist in ensuring those incoming students complete college and enter the workforce with degrees or certificates in a timely manner, Haslam also announced the Complete to Compete initiative during the speech. Once passed by the legislature, this new plan will restructure financial aid requirements for Promise and HOPE scholarships to keep students on track for on-time completion, and requires community colleges to implement structured, ready-made schedules for all incoming full-time students based on their academic program.

The Governor also announced plans for the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 — an initiative created based upon recommendations made by members of House Speaker Beth Harwell’s Joint Ad-Hoc Blue Ribbon Task Force on Juvenile Justice. Research suggests that taking youths out of their homes and schools for minor offenses increases the risk of recidivism, diverts resources from youth who pose a risk to the community, and uses taxpayer dollars unnecessarily because community-based services are often more effective and cost-efficient. The Juvenile Justice Reform Act will tackle these problems and help strengthen families and communities while promoting public safety and ensuring a responsible and conservative use of resources.

In addition to the Complete to Compete initiative and Juvenile Justice Reform Act, Governor Haslam also unveiled additional details of the Tennessee Together program, a multi-faceted plan comprised of legislation, $30 million in funds through Governor Haslam’s proposed budget, and other executive actions to battle opioids through the three major components of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. Similar to the Juvenile Justice Act, the Tennessee Together plan incorporates recommendations made by Speaker Beth Harwell’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

Other notable budget highlights investments for the year include:

  • More than $200 million in new state funding for K-12 education, including additional funds for teacher compensation;
  • Nearly $100 million for higher education initiatives;
  • $128 million for job growth investments, including programs that target rural communities;
  • And investments to bring the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $850 million.

The full text of the Governor’s address along with video from the speech can be found by visiting tn.gov/governor.

 

House Republicans Introduce Legislation Outlawing TennCare Reimbursements To Abortion Providers

This week, House Republicans introduced legislation to outlaw TennCare reimbursements to the state’s abortion providers.

House Bill 2251 aims at protecting the sanctity of life by eliminating taxpayer funding to facilities that perform elective abortions. It does not impact the availability of other critical health care services offered to women.

While some believe taxpayer dollars have been banned from funding abortions in Tennessee, documents from the Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration show providers across our state have received almost $1 million in funding from 2012-2017. Supporters of House Bill 2251 hope to change this by ending taxpayer assistance to these facilities once and for all.

The support of this legislation by House Republicans is the latest in a series of initiatives designed to protect Tennessee’s unborn.

During the 2017 legislative session, Republican lawmakers passed the Tennessee Infants Protection Act; it prohibits abortions after 24 weeks — except in medical emergency — and requires testing to determine viability of an unborn child if a woman is at least 20 weeks pregnant. The Tennessee Infants Protection Act also holds physicians who perform late-term abortions accountable for their actions.

For more information about House Bill 2251, please click here.

Representative John Crawford’s Weekly Update

January 26, 2018

Republican Leaders Unveil ‘Tennessee Together’ Plan To Help Combat Opioid Epidemic

While the federal government has only just commenced conversation about the opioid epidemic, Tennessee leads the way in fighting the situation here at home. On Monday afternoon, Governor Haslam joined with Republican leaders to unveil a new initiative to combat the state’s opioid problem head on: Tennessee Together.

Tennessee Together is a multi-faceted plan comprised of legislation, $30 million in funds through Governor Haslam’s proposed 2018-2019 budget, and other executive actions to battle opioids through the three major components of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. The plan incorporates recommendations made by Speaker Beth Harwell’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

In 2016, there were over 1,600 opioid-related overdose deaths, one of the highest in the nation, and statistics show the numbers are only increasing. Each day in Tennessee, at least three people die from opioid-related overdoses — more than the daily number of traffic fatalities.

Potential legislative solutions through Tennessee Together include limiting the supply and dosage of opioid prescriptions, with reasonable exception and an emphasis on new patients, as well as education for elementary and secondary schools through revisions to the state’s health education academic standards.

Additionally, the plan suggests investing more than $25 million for treatment and recovery services for individuals with opioid use disorder. These services will include an increase in peer recovery specialists in targeted, high-need emergency departments to connect patients to treatment immediately.

Tennessee Together increases state funding to attack the illicit sale and trafficking of opioids through additional law enforcement agencies and training, and includes updates to the controlled substance schedules in order to better track, monitor, and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs — including fentanyl. Finally, the plan provides every Tennessee state trooper with naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose prior to paramedic arrival.

House Republicans are dedicated to working closely with the Governor to address Tennessee’s opioid problem as the Second Regular Session of the 110th General Assembly continues. While steps have been taken in the right direction over the last several years, there is still much work to do on the opioid front.

Next week, the Governor will deliver his annual State of the State Address where additional details of the Tennessee Together plan are expected to be unveiled and discussed.

Welfare Reform Initiative Gains Support From House Republicans

This year, House Republicans are leading efforts to reform Tennessee’s welfare system. Last fall, the Haslam Administration announced an initiative to reinstate the work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents who rely on the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for assistance.

By reinstituting work requirements, approximately 58,000 able-bodied adults who are not currently meeting the work requirement but still receive assistance will now be able to capitalize on an overabundance of jobs in order to secure meaningful employment. This will help move them along a pathway from dependency to independence and self-sufficiency.

The restoration of these stipulations will not impact residents who currently depend on these key benefits in 16 Tennessee counties still designated as distressed by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. They will also not apply to Tennessee’s senior citizens or disabled residents.

This new welfare reform initiative not only encourages more Tennesseans to utilize their job skills to go back to work and be productive citizens but also strengthens the overall integrity of the SNAP program by reinstating work requirements

As Republican leaders, the House GOP Caucus want Tennessee residents to have meaningful employment so they can take care of their families and make contributions that enable communities to continue their economic development and prosperity.

House Republican Caucus Rebrands

Earlier this week, the House Republican Caucus announced a statewide rebranding initiative — including a new logo and video — which recaps the successes Tennessee has experienced since Republicans became the majority party in 2011.

Under Republican leadership, nearly 400,000 new private sector jobs have been created. Last September, the state unemployment rate reached a record low of 3.0 percent. The current unemployment rate is 3.2 percent — almost a full percent lower than the national average. Additionally, the Republican-led General Assembly has cut nearly three times as much in taxes as any other Administration and General Assembly in state history.

Tennessee students are also the fastest improving in the entire country, and Tennessee is the first state in the nation to offer all kids and adults access to community college free of tuition and fees.

Tennessee has the lowest debt per capita, lowest overall taxes, no transportation debt, and the lowest interest rate in state recorded history. House Republicans have also more than doubled the state’s savings account since 2011, and the fund is now at its highest level ever.

Recently, WalletHub ranked Tennessee the number 1 state to be a taxpayer, based on the state’s conservative monetary decisions, low tax structure, and other key fiscal indicators. Other studies rank Tennessee similarly.

The new rebranding initiative by House Republicans outlines the commitment to Tennessee’s values and highlights the hard work completed and still needed to advance the state.

To view the new House GOP Caucus logo and video, visit: www.facebook.com/tnhousegop.

Speaker Harwell, Northeast Tennessee House Members Advocate for Aerospace Park Project

July 14, 2017

NASHVILLE – Speaker of the Tennessee House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) today sent a letter to the members of the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission urging them to seriously consider the Tri-Cities Airport’s Aerospace Park project for a major grant from the state. Speaker Harwell toured the site recently and believes the project will give the region a significant economic boost.

“The Aerospace Park project at the Tri-Cities Airport is an innovative and worthwhile project for these grant funds,” said Speaker Harwell. “I hope the commission will give serious consideration to this project because I believe it will be beneficial for the entire Northeast Tennessee region.”

The Northeast Tennessee delegation in the House of Representatives joined Speaker Harwell in advocating for the project.

“The Aerospace Park is one of the most important ventures to come to Northeast Tennessee in recent years because it will create new economic momentum for our entire region,” said Rep. John Crawford (R- Kingsport). I appreciate Speaker Harwell’s support and look forward to working with her and my Northeast Tennessee colleagues to ensure the success of this critical project.”

“The Aerospace Park project will provide a considerable boost to our local economy here in the Northeast Tennessee region,” said Rep. Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport). “I am grateful to Speaker Harwell for supporting this critical initiative that will create high paying, high tech jobs that are a perfect fit for many of our residents.”

“My colleagues and I in the House worked diligently during the 2017 legislative session in order to ensure that this pivotal project receives the necessary funding in order to move forward,” said Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville). “I know Speaker Harwell understands and appreciates the important economic impact it will have on our community, and I am thankful for her support.”

“Funding the Aerospace Park project will enable Northeast Tennessee’s economy to experience the type of growth that other parts of our state have seen in recent years,” said Rep. John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethton). “I am honored that Speaker Harwell has pledged her full support and is committed to seeing this project come to fruition.”

“Our region is fortunate to have many residents trained in this industry who are ready to fill the jobs that will be created by this important project,” said Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville). “I applaud Speaker Harwell’s efforts to help us make aeronautics expansion in Northeast Tennessee a reality.”

“Funding the Tri-Cities Aerospace Park will help our region be more attractive to companies looking to move to or expand their operations in the great State of Tennessee,” said Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Gray). “I appreciate Representative Timothy Hill’s leadership and Speaker Harwell’s support in helping us move this important project forward, and I am hopeful that the Aeronautics Commission will make this important investment in our community.”

“I am proud of this excellent team of legislators, including Speaker Harwell, for their dedication to seeing this regional project advance,” said Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough). “The Aerospace Park development is a critical piece to the future of Northeast Tennessee. It will stimulate our local economy and create jobs that will benefit future generations of our residents.”

The Tennessee Aeronautics Commission (TAC) assists with the formulation of relevant policy planning and all proposed changes in the state airport system plan. More information can be found at https://www.tn.gov/tdot/topic/aeronautics-commission. More information about the Aerospace Park project at Tri-Cities Airport can be found at http://www.triaerospacepark.com/.

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 You can read Speaker Harwell’s full letter by clicking here.

Rep. John Crawford’s Legislative Update: 05/08

May 8, 2017

Budget Discussion Begins On House Floor

This week in Nashville, lawmakers began discussion and debate regarding the state’s annual budget amongst the full legislative body on the House floor.

As originally proposed, the $37 billion budget cuts taxes, puts $132 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, fully funds Tennessee’s educational system, and focuses in on job recruitment and infrastructure investments. For a second year in a row, and the second year in Tennessee recorded history, the proposed state budget does not take on any new debt.

When Republicans became the General Assembly’s majority party in 2010, Tennesseans asked for fiscal responsibility to be a priority looking forward. The proposed 2017-2018 budget holds true to that principle while ensuring Tennesseans get the services they expect from state government.

As other states are mired in partisan gridlock and out-of-control spending, Republicans in Tennessee have made responsible decisions that will continue to ensure the state is positioned to be a top leader in the country on jobs. Since January of 2011, over 265,000 new private sector jobs have been created in Tennessee. Additionally this year, Tennessee remains the lowest debt and lowest taxed state in the entire nation.

House members are expected to continue budget discussions into next week.

House Republicans Team Up With Traveling Sports Physicians To Improve Care And Limit Opioid Use

This week, lawmakers passed legislation that permits traveling team physicians to practice sports medicine in Tennessee under guidelines established by the state.

House Bill 952, known as the Visiting Sports Team Act, was initiated by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. It allows traveling team physicians at the collegiate, amateur, and professional level to use their existing medical licenses to treat athletes, coaches, and team staff who are 18 years of age or older.

The Visiting Sports Team Act also limits the distribution of controlled substances — including opioids — as part of a team physician’s method of treatment. Under the law, physicians are required to report information related to the dispensing of a controlled substance to both Tennessee’s controlled substance database, as well as the controlled substance database in the state where the physician is licensed.

Supporters of the bill agree the legislation is long overdue and will ensure that visiting athletes and coaches receive the treatment they need in order to perform at the highest level while also helping to curb the over-prescribing of opioids and other controlled substances.

Tennessee continues to be one of the worst states in the nation for opioid abuse. Currently, an estimated 69,100 Tennesseans are addicted to prescription opioids and require treatment for prescription opioid abuse. Additionally, 151,900 Tennesseans are using prescription opioids in ways that could be harmful and may benefit from early intervention strategies.

House Republicans Support Legislation Designed To Assist Gatlinburg Fire Victims With Cleanup Efforts

House lawmakers unanimously approved legislation this week to provide additional assistance to Gatlinburg fire victims during ongoing cleanup and recovery efforts.

House Bill 1166 grants county highway departments access to private property, at the request of the property owners, in order to assist with debris removal following last November’s wildfires. The legislation also allows for reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for cleanup costs once the work has been completed.

The passage of House Bill 1166 follows additional efforts by House Republicans to assist those impacted by the Sevier County wildfires: earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation to prorate the 2016 tax assessment for a homeowner’s real property or a business owner’s personal property if it sustained damage from the FEMA certified disaster area last year. This bill was modeled after similar legislation that granted tax relief to victims of the 2010 floods in Nashville.

Last November, more than 17,000 acres burned in the Sevier County area. In Gatlinburg alone, 2,460 structures were damaged or destroyed, and 14 deaths were attributed to the fire. The Gatlinburg wildfires caused more than $500 million in damages; cleanup and recovery efforts continue several months later.

The full text of House Bill 1166 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/HB1166.pdf

 

Thirty-Five Years Ago This Week, 1982 World’s Fair Opens In Knoxville

Thirty-five years ago this week, the 1982 World’s Fair opened in Knoxville. At the time, Ronald Reagan was President, a postage stamp cost just twenty cents, and E.T. was the number one movie at theaters.

Officially known as the “Knoxville International Energy Exposition,” this was the second World’s Fair held in Tennessee, following the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897, which was held in Nashville.

The 1982 World’s Fair led to a unique event in Tennessee history: On May 12, 1982, the 92nd General Assembly convened in an Extraordinary Session (EOS), having already adjourned a week earlier on May 6. This was the 49th Extraordinary Session in the history of the state, and only the second EOS called by legislative petition instead of governor’s proclamation.

This Extraordinary Session, though, convened in Knoxville, not Nashville, to celebrate the World’s Fair, making it the only EOS in the history of Tennessee to not convene in the capital city of the state.

The only other meeting of the General Assembly in any city other than Nashville was on July 6, 1974, when the General Assembly met in Jonesborough for one day. However, this was the last legislative day of the Regular Session, not an Extraordinary Session. The 88th General Assembly recessed on April 25 and re-convened in Jonesborough on July 6 to celebrate Jonesborough Days before officially adjourning for the year.

The Knoxville International Energy Exposition, or the 1982 World’s Fair, lasted from May 1 until October 31.

House Republicans Team Up With Traveling Sports Physicians To Improve Care And Limit Opioid Use

May 8, 2017

(NASHVILLE) — This week, Republican lawmakers passed legislation sponsored by State Representative John Crawford (R-Kingsport) that permits licensed team physicians to practice sports medicine in Tennessee under the guidelines established by the state.

House Bill 952, also known as the Visiting Sports Team Act, was initiated by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. It allows traveling team physicians at the collegiate, amateur or professional level to use their existing medical licenses to treat athletes, coaches and team staff who are 18 years of age or older.

The Visiting Sports Team Act also limits the distribution of controlled substances — including opioids — as part of a team physician’s method of treatment. Under the law, physicians are required to report information related to the dispensing of a controlled substance to both the State of Tennessee’s controlled substance database, as well as the controlled substance database in the state where the physician is licensed.

“This legislation is long overdue in our state and will ensure that visiting athletes and coaches receive the treatment they need in order to perform at the highest level,” said Representative Crawford. “It will also curb the overprescribing of opioids and other controlled substances by physicians, thanks to the reporting methods established by the law.”

Tennessee continues to be one of the worst states in the nation for opioid abuse. Currently, an estimated 69,100 Tennesseans are addicted to prescription opioids and also require treatment for prescription opioid abuse. Additionally, 151,900 Tennesseans are using prescription opioids in ways that could be harmful and may benefit from early intervention strategies.

The full text of House Bill 952 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/HB0952.pdf

John Crawford serves as a member of the House Local Government Committee and Subcommittee, as well as the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee and House Calendar & Rules Committee. He lives in Kingsport and represents House District 1, which encompasses a portion of Sullivan County. He can be reached by email at Rep.John.Crawford@capitol.tn.gov or by calling (615) 741-7623.

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Representative John Crawford’s Legislative Update: 04/28/17

April 28, 2017

2017-2018 Budget Amendment Introduced

Legislation includes $11 million for Gatlinburg/Sevier County, investment in Substance Abuse Services

This week, Governor Bill Haslam introduced his amendment to the fiscal year 2017-2018 budget proposal that will be considered by the 110th General Assembly in the coming days.

The appropriations amendment tracks closely to the Governor’s original budget proposal presented to the legislature on January 30, which for the second year in a row does not take on any new debt and makes significant investments in teachers, K-12 schools, higher education, state employees, the state’s Rainy Day Fund, and the tax cuts included in the IMPROVE Act.

The amendment builds on previous legislative priorities by making strategic and thoughtful investments across state government. Because of the conservative fiscal choices lawmakers have made over the last several years, Tennessee currently ranks as the lowest taxed and lowest debt state in the nation.

Notable investments in the 2017-2018 budget amendment include:

  • $8 million to increase salaries paid to Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities service providers who care for the state’s most vulnerable,
  • $2 million for prevention, education, treatment, and recovery services with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services,
  • $55 million for transportation projects as the IMPROVE Act is phased in,
  • $40 million for a new State Library and Archives building to collect and preserve Tennessee records of historical, documentary, and reference value,
  • And $10.65 million for disaster relief in Gatlinburg and Sevier County after the devastating wildfires in November 2016.

The appropriations amendment is customarily introduced in the final weeks of the legislative session each year for consideration and approval by the General Assembly. The final 2017-2018 budget is expected to be adopted sometime in May.

 

New Legislation Allows American Sign Language To Satisfy Foreign Language Requirements

This week, Republican lawmakers passed legislation that allows American Sign Language to be used to satisfy foreign language requirements in Tennessee high schools.

House Bill 462, known as the American Sign Language bill, was initiated by Molly Ridgeway — a nonverbal student at Maryville College — and her boyfriend, Joshua Anderson.

The legislation allows any high school student who enrolls in an American Sign Language course to use the credit they earn to satisfy foreign language requirements needed for graduation. Currently, more than 180 colleges and universities accept American Sign Language as a foreign language credit from incoming high school graduates.

Estimates show there are approximately 500,000 Tennesseans who are deaf or hard of hearing, many of whom use sign language to communicate.

Supporters of the legislation hope the bill will help to improve communication between verbal and nonverbal Tennesseans and lead to job growth for future nonverbal educators.

Forty other states have already passed similar measures.

The full text of House Bill 287 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/HB0462.pdf.

 

House Lawmakers Encourage Tennessee Students To Celebrate Freedom

This week, House lawmakers passed legislation that helps Tennessee students learn the principles of freedom in our nation’s founding documents.

House Bill 287 designates the week of September 17 as “Celebrate Freedom Week” in Tennessee public schools. The week-long celebration will coincide with Constitution Day each September 17 and help students learn more about the original intent, meaning, and importance of documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and United States Constitution.

While these items are already included in social studies curriculum across the state, “Celebrate Freedom Week” gives educators additional opportunities to create special lesson plans and affords additional time during the school year to teach students about the historical significance of these documents and other important events.

The goal of the legislation is to help further empower current and future generations of Tennessee children to appreciate U.S. historical documents and better understand their importance in our country’s history.

General Assembly Creates Additional Protections Against Child Predators

House members unanimously passed legislation this week to create additional protections against child predators.

Communities across Tennessee already rely on the state’s sex offender registry to track and monitor convicted offenders who have moved into permanent residences upon release from prison.

House Bill 404 enables law enforcement officials to monitor offenders convicted of child rape or a child sexual predator offense who may not have a permanent address by requiring them to enroll in a satellite-based monitoring and supervision program. Anyone in Tennessee who has been convicted of a crime against a child on or after July 1, 2017 that does not have a permanent or secondary address must enroll in the program and remain in it for the duration of their parole term.

Stop Child Predators, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to preventing child exploitation and other crimes against children, estimates that 1 in 5 girls are exploited before they reach adulthood.

The new monitoring system will allow law enforcement to determine if probation or parole has been violated by showing the location of the sexual offender, regardless of whether they have a permanent address. This legislation adds an additional layer of protection for Tennessee children against predators.

The full text of House Bill 404 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB0404&ga=110.

 

Department Of Environment & Conservation Announces Upcoming Transportation Awards And Forum

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Tennessee Clean Fuels, announced this week they will hold the third annual Tennessee Transportation Awards and Forum during Clean Air Month from May 23-24 at the Nashville Public Library.

The event will bring together state experts, local leaders, and community members to discuss successes and challenges facing transportation in Tennessee.

The forum, entitled “Navigating Toward a Livable Tennessee,” will highlight local transportation planning and the pursuit of policies and investments for improved transportation options in our communities. The keynote address will be delivered by Russ Brooks, Smart Cities Director at Transportation for America, an organization focused on supporting the development of smart, locally driven transportation policies across the United States.

An awards luncheon will be held on the second day of the forum, and will include remarks from TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau and Tennessee Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Toks Omishakin. The awards recognize outstanding initiatives to improve the efficiency, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability of transportation systems in the state, consistent with ongoing efforts to improve the health and well-being of Tennesseans, provide for a strong economy, and protect our state’s natural resources.

To register for the event, visit https://goo.gl/MhnS5h.

House Republicans Support Legislation Designed To Assist Gatlinburg Fire Victims With Cleanup Efforts

April 24, 2017

(NASHVILLE) — Republican lawmakers have unanimously passed legislation sponsored by State Representative John Crawford (R-Kingsport) that provides additional assistance to Gatlinburg fire victims during their ongoing cleanup and recovery efforts.

House Bill 1166, also known as the Gatlinburg Bill, grants county highway departments access to private property at the request of the property owner in order to assist them with debris removal following last November’s wildfires. The legislation also requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse the City of Gatlinburg for cleanup costs once the work has been completed.

Last November, more than 17,000 acres burned during the Chimney Tops No. 2 Fire. In Gatlinburg alone, 2,460 structures were damaged or destroyed, and 14 deaths were also attributed to the fire. The Gatlinburg wildfires caused more than $500 million in damages; cleanup and recovery efforts continue several months later.

“Gatlinburg residents are working tirelessly to put their lives back together, and many still need additional support during this difficult process,” said Representative Crawford. “House Bill 1166 helps this hard hit community with its rebirth; I have no doubt Gatlinburg will come back stronger than it was before the tragic fires.”

The full text of House Bill 1166 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at:  http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/HB1166.pdf

John Crawford serves as a member of the House Local Government Committee and Subcommittee, as well as the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee and House Calendar & Rules Committee. He lives in Kingsport and represents House District 1, which encompasses a portion of Sullivan County. Crawford can be reached by email at: Rep.John.Crawford@capitol.tn.gov or by calling (615) 741-7623.

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State Representative John Crawford’s Weekly Update: 04/21/17

April 21, 2017

Legislation Aimed At Protecting Elderly Tennesseans From Abuse Moves Forward

Legislation sponsored by House Republicans that cracks down on elder abuse and exploitation continues to advance through the House committee process.

House Bill 810, known as the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act, closes legal loopholes in existing abuse laws to further protect some of our most vulnerable from criminal targeting.  The legislation increases penalties and raises fines for elder abuse offenders while also enabling the Tennessee Department of Human Services to track serial abusers by placing them on a registry.

House Bill 810 is part of a larger effort by lawmakers this year to help ensure the safety of Tennessee’s senior citizens. Over the last several years, there has been a nationwide increase in the number of cases related to the financial exploitation of seniors as technology and internet related scams have been on the rise.

Two additional pieces of legislation that have already passed the full House this year include House Bill 304, which helps protect the elderly and those at increased risk of cognitive impairment from financial exploitation by providing the Tennessee Securities Division with the tools needed to help detect and prevent financial fraud and abuse.

Similarly, House Bill 1064 adds tools and greater flexibility as to how financial institutions can best protect their customers when they have reason to suspect financial exploitation of elderly or vulnerable adults is occurring or being attempted.

Studies show that approximately 20% of seniors have been a victim of financial exploitation at a cost of approximately $2.9 billion annually. Moreover, these numbers are likely low as it is also estimated that only one out of every 44 instances of financial abuse is actually reported.

 

House Republicans Enhance Transportation Safety For Tennessee Students

Monday evening, House lawmakers unanimously approved legislation designed to enhance safety and create more oversight of school bus transportation for Tennessee students.

As passed, House Bill 322 requires all school districts, including charter schools, to appoint a transportation supervisor to monitor and oversee student transportation. This supervisor must receive annual training developed from the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) and the Tennessee Department of Safety (TDS) and must also implement a school transportation policy adopted by the local board of education. Additionally, House Bill 322 requires all new bus drivers to complete a driver training program based on standards developed by the TDOE and the TDS prior to transporting any students.

Another key provision of the bill requires any school bus driver to be 25 years old and have five years of unrestricted driving privileges, areas that came into question after the Chattanooga school bus crash last year that killed six children where the driver, who was 24 at the time, had several previous traffic violations. A 2014 school bus crash in Knoxville — caused by distracted driving — also killed two children and a teacher’s aide.

Supporters of the legislation hope the new transportation oversight will help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

The full text of House Bill 322 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/HB0322.pdf.

 

House Approves Legislation To Remove Burdensome And Outdated Regulations From Law Books

The full House passed legislation this week to remove unneeded governmental regulations and red tape from the system by exempting those whose profession is shampooing hair from having to acquire a barber or cosmetology license before being able to run their businesses.

Currently, a person in the shampooing business must submit an application, pay a fee, and take 300 hours of education at a cosmetology school before being able to offer their services to the public — burdens that supporters of the legislation believe are excessive and unneeded.

Similarly, the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee will hear legislation this week to authorize any individual, firm, or corporation that holds a cosmetology, manicurist, aesthetician, or natural hair styling license to practice in a customer’s home or place of business instead of being required to have a separate business location of their own. Presently, with a few exceptions, cosmetology services must be provided in a salon. House Bill 710 removes that restriction and allows for willing providers and willing recipients to transact that business outside of a salon.

The support of these bills by House Republicans are part of a broader effort to relieve the burden of regulation on the right of an individual to pursue a chosen business or profession without first having to jump through governmental hoops.

As part of the same effort, lawmakers earlier this month moved forward with legislation to encourage the growing and selling of Tennessee-based agricultural products across the state by removing governmental regulations that have placed undue burdens on the distribution of homegrown, locally produced food products.

Prior to the passage of House Bill 299, all food manufacturers, regardless of size, were required to be licensed and inspected by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, incurring fees and other payments due to the state. House Bill 299 removed these licensing costs, allowing home-kitchens and small start-up companies the ability to thrive without being burdened by unnecessary fees and expenses.

Over the last several years, many rural communities across Tennessee have seen newly established farmers markets and local kitchens pop up that continue to grow in size and offerings to the public. Because of the regulations in place, however, these groups had difficulty expanding because of the high fees associated with providing these services.

Now that the legislation has passed, House Bill 299 will stop the licensing and inspections required by the Department of Agriculture at over 150 existing domestic kitchens. This will allow for growth in our rural communities and at small business start-ups and farmers markets in all parts of the state.

As the 2017 legislative session continues, House Republicans remained committed to fighting back against governmental overreach and working to empower individuals to succeed without the worry of burdensome governmental regulations.