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Chairman Pat Marsh’s Letter to the District

“Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.” Steven Wright

The Tennessee House of Representatives returned to the House Chamber last week following a 10 week recess caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Floor Sessions resumed inside the Capitol with certain safety measures in place to allow only a very few visitors to the gallery. We have heard many legislative proposals that deal with policy and many that have been focused on budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19. We have passed some very good pieces of legislation that should help make our state better.

I was honored to be chosen by Governor Lee and his team to be on the Stimulus Group that worked on and presented the plan for $200 million for the TN Small Business Relief Program.  There will be awards to about 28,000 TN businesses with more than 73% earning annual gross sales of $500,000 or less. Our small businesses are the backbone of our local and state economies and we are committed to fighting for them as we all rally and recover in the near future.

We adjourned sine die at 3:15 a.m. on Friday after we passed a balanced budget for this current year and also for the 2020-2021 years.  It was an emotional week and evening.  Tensions were high. For a bill to pass, the House and Senate must agree on the same version.  There were several points of disagreement, and therefore many conference committees between the House and Senate.  We originally thought and planned on a $500 million surplus in our current year, but now after the virus and the business closures, we learned that it will be a $500 million shortfall.  So, we had to go back into our budget and cut enough spending to balance the budget. Very hard chore! And next year’s budget, which we had already passed when the virus hit, looks to be a billion dollars lower than first predicted.  More changes and even more cuts!

We passed HB 2134 this past week which is known as the Teacher Discipline Act.  It states that a Local Department of Education must create a process that would allow for a teacher to remove a student who causes repeated disruptions in the classroom and send that student to the principal’s office for disciplining action- including the possibility of permanent removal.  Unfortunately, the Senate didn’t get this bill passed this Session.

We have really been through some tough times and I have been really upset and sad. We had the state and its finances in such good shape and now in 2 or 3 months we have seen it all fall apart.  So many great businesses are still not open and those that are open are struggling to survive.  It’s going to take a while, but we will rebound and be a better state because of it.

Due to the virus and many safety measures, the Senate had decided to only take up a few bills that have budget or COVID-19 issues.  Therefore, many bills that we are working on in the House and presenting to committees were not passed in the Senate.  We have done a lot of preparation and the staff has put in many hours of work, but the bills will be dead, since the Senate didn’t pass them.  We will have to start over from scratch next year. I have 15 bills this Session and 10-12 will pass.

I had a meeting with Comptroller Justin Wilson and Assistant Comptroller Jason Mumpower last week and they presented me with 2 nice proclamations.  Lincoln and Bedford Counties both had perfect audits by the state auditors.  That is an amazing accomplishment and congratulations to both county mayors and their finance managers- Cole Bradford and Robert Daniel!

One bill that I’m really proud of that Senator Reeves and I just passed is the legislation that prohibits cities, counties, and municipalities from banning livestock shows and exhibitions in our state.  These entities can still regulate and make sure zoning and other rules are followed, but they just can’t ban them. This will keep our shows viable for many years and protected from being shut down by extreme radical groups.

Now that we have adjourned, we are done with the 111th Legislative Session and the 112th will start back up the 2nd Tuesday of January next year.  I am running again for the House seat, District 62, and am very fortunate that I don’t have an opponent this time. Thanks for allowing me to serve you and be your Representative!


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