Rep. Jason Zachary’s Newsroom

State Rep. Jason Zachary’s Capitol Hill Review

April 16, 2021

Republicans welcome Sen. Lamar Alexander, Candace Owens

Republicans on Monday welcomed former Governor and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander along with conservative commentator Candace Owens to Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville.

The General Assembly gathered in a joint session to present a resolution to Alexander, recognizing and honoring the senator for his lifetime of service to Tennessee. He also shared a few words with the legislators about his time in public service and congratulated the lawmakers on the direction they are taking Tennessee.

Alexander served as governor of Tennessee from 1979-87 and in the United States Senate from 2003-21, leaving office in January. He has retired to his home in East Tennessee, where he resides with his wife Honey and dog Rufus. The senator built a legacy in public service that is second to none and will be remembered by Tennesseans as a true statesman.

Owens, a new resident of the Volunteer State, joined Republicans on the House floor to accept a resolution welcoming her to Tennessee. She spoke with members of the House Republican Caucus prior to session to express her appreciation for the warm welcome. She discussed her motivation for moving to Tennessee.

Owens is a highly popular American conservative author, political commentator, and activist. She has hosted a weekly podcast, “The Candace Owens Show,” since 2019 and recently joined The Daily Wire to host “Candace,” a late-night political talk show. Owens resides in Middle Tennessee with her husband, George Farmer, and her newborn son.

 

Gov. Lee’s budget amendment includes tax holidays, investments in mental health, education and economic development

The state budget is the central focus in the last remaining weeks of the first session of the 112th General Assembly as committees begin to complete their business for year. Gov. Bill Lee this week announced his amendment to the proposed 2021-22 fiscal year budget which includes $580 million in available funds. These funds will be invested in strategic long-term projects that focus on a return to pre-pandemic priorities and deliver critical services while not growing government. The budget amendment also includes nearly $100 million for a two-week sales tax holiday on all grocery sales, purchases at restaurants, and all prepared food.

This amendment reflects Republican priorities and includes record investments in broadband, economic development, safety and law enforcement, increasing reserves, and education.

A key provision of the budget amendment is a $250 million investment in a Mental Health Trust Fund to assist K-12 families who are facing significant mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19. This proposal creates strong mental health services for school-aged students through a systemwide, evidence-based approach.

Gov. Lee’s budget amendment includes:

Tax Cuts 

  • $25M for a two-week sales tax holiday for groceries
  • $75M for a two-week sales tax holiday for restaurants and all prepared food
  • $16M to reduce the professional privilege tax by 25 percent

K-12 Education and Mental Health 

  • $250M trust fund to assist K-12 families facing significant mental health issues in the wake of Covid-19
  • $18.5M to transportation to students for summer learning
  • $2M to provide an additional grade aligned books and resources over the summer for 88,000 rising first graders

Higher Education 

  • $79M to eliminate current TCAT waitlists statewide, currently at 11,400 students
  • $25M to Tennessee Promise to permit increases in the Hope Scholarship
  • $4M to increase Agriculture Extension Agents at University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University

Rural & Agriculture  

  • $50K to support the state fair (in addition to the $250,000 recurring in originally proposed budget)
  • $3M to provide additional funding for rural projects as part of the Rural Economic Opportunity Fund (in addition to $21M in originally proposed budget for total of $24M)

Safety 

  • $500K to provide gun safety programming for children
  • $17M to replace radios for state troopers
  • $18M to improve the statewide disaster communications system
  • $680K to add 4 new Homeland Security Agents

Economic Development 

  • $5M to provide grants to restore and preserve historic downtowns across the state
  • $3M to increase employment in Tennessee through the Small Business Innovation program

Transportation 

$3M recurring and an additional $10M nonrecurring to provide additional direct funding to airports across Tennessee through the Transportation Equity Fund (total $50M investment in air infrastructure)

To view the full budget amendment, click here.

 

House passes legislation strengthening TANF program to help Tennessee families thrive

The House chamber on Thursday unanimously passed legislation strengthening and improving the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

House Bill 142 was recommended by a group appointed to study possible changes to the program, which currently has $710 million in reserves. The funds, which come from a federal block grant, provide important support to working families such as child care assistance, temporary cash assistance, transportation, job training, employment activities and other support services offered through the state’s Families First Program.

This legislation creates a two-year pilot program which provides enhanced cash assistance to individuals who are actively pursuing educational opportunities. The bill also distributes $180 million through a new Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Program, which will create large-scale programs benefiting TANF recipients. The legislation also increases the TANF allotment.  For example, it increases the monthly amount a family of three receive from $277 to $387.

House Bill 142 will create the Families First Community Grants to infuse $50 million in TANF reserves funds into the community through grants to organizations providing services to low-income families. It includes the Two-Generation program, which focuses on intergenerational poverty through a “whole family” approach by combining parent and child interventions to break the cycle of poverty and create a pathway to economic security.

The bill requires that $191 million will be reserved to ensure the program’s stability during an economic downturn.  However, once those reserves are in place, it provides that funding not spent from the department’s previous year will be used for community grants that will be spread statewide to build stronger families and a thriving Tennessee. ​

Finally, the bill creates The TANF Advisory Board consisting of up to 21 people to approve grantees and provide important input regarding the effectiveness of existing Families First and Two-Generation Program policies and grant programs.  The board will also be responsible for selecting recipients for Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Program grants, community grants and selecting research partners to evaluate the successes of grant programs awarded through TANF.

 

House passes Textbook Transparency Act

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported legislation this week that ensures all textbooks in the hands of Tennessee students are accessible to the public to view. House Bill 1513 creates the Textbook Transparency Act which increases transparency in public school educational material.

The Textbook Transparency Act makes available online textbooks that are adopted by the state of Tennessee and used by public schools. Compared to the 90-day timeframe textbooks are currently required to be available to the public, this bill requires publishers to make these materials available so long as they are actively being used in the classroom.

The bill now awaits passage in the Senate.

 

Republicans expand scholarship eligibility to homeschoolers

More Tennessee students could soon be eligible for state scholarships under Republican legislation. House Bill 646 will expand the eligibility for home school students to receive the HOPE and Tennessee Promise scholarships.

The legislation revises current state statutes by implementing certain criteria for home school students to meet in order to take advantage of the lottery scholarships. House Bill 646 allows the students to qualify for the scholarship based on a GPA, whereas currently home school students have had to rely solely on their ACT scores to establish eligibility for the HOPE scholarship. Students will now be able to qualify for the scholarship by successfully completing two dual enrollment courses with a minimum GPA of 3.0. It also removes the requirement for a student to maintain “home school status” for a minimum of one full calendar year prior to graduation.

House Bill 646 will be heard for consideration in the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee on Tuesday, April 20.

 

House increases transparency of foreign influence on campuses

The House chamber unanimously passed legislation requiring greater transparency for foreign investments on college campuses in Tennessee. It prohibits the establishment of Confucius Institutes which have ties to communist regimes.

As amended, House Bill 1238 requires state institutions to disclose gifts received from and contracts initiated with a foreign source in excess of $10,000. The bill requires the institution to submit a disclosure report to the Comptroller of the Treasury and Department of Safety for review. House Bill 1238 provides Tennessee taxpayers greater transparency in foreign influences and preserves the integrity of the state’s higher education institutes.

This legislation provides taxpayers with greater transparency of foreign influences and preserve the integrity of Tennessee’s higher education institutions.  The bill now awaits passage in the Senate.

 

Statewide Silver Alert legislation advances

Legislation creating a statewide Silver Alert program advanced in the House this week, passing the Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee on Wednesday. House Bill 119 implements a Silver Alert program under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to assist in the locating of missing and vulnerable citizens in Tennessee.

The Silver Alert program will benefit persons who are 60 years of age or older, suffer from a documented case of dementia, or are eighteen years of age or older with an intellectual, developmental, or physical disability whose whereabouts are unknown or are believed to be in danger or unable to return to safety without assistance.

Local police or sheriff departments are currently the gatekeepers for Silver Alert in Tennessee, left to make a judgement on when or if a Silver Alert is warranted. Should House Bill 119 become law, the TBI would be required to alert law enforcement agencies and designated media outlets across the state upon receiving notice of a missing citizen fitting the guidelines.

The bill moves on to the full Finance, Ways and Means Committee, where it will be heard for consideration on Tuesday, April 20.

 

House increases public safety on roadways

The House chamber this week passed legislation aimed at increasing public safety by making it a Class C misdemeanor offense for a person to solicit from the roadway, shoulder, berm, or the right-of-way of a controlled-access highway as well as entrances or exits of a highway.

House Bill 978 makes camping on the shoulder of a state highway or under a bridge or overpass punishable by warning citation on the first offence and $50 fine and 20-40 hours of community service on subsequent offenses.  The Equal Access to Public Property Act of 2012 generally makes it a Class E felony offense for a person to camp on property owned by the state knowing that the area on which the camping occurs is not specifically designated for use as a camping area. House Bill 978 makes the Equal Access to Public Property Act of 2012 applicable to all public property rather than only state-owned property. This bill also extends to local governments and their employees the provisions of the Act concerning impoundment and disposal of camping equipment that is used in violation of the act.

House Bill 978 awaits passage by the Senate.

 

Republicans protect religious freedom in Tennessee

Republicans on Monday passed legislation further protecting Tennesseans’ First Amendment right to hold religious services during a state of emergency.

House Bill 1137 prohibits the state or a public official from restricting church services during a state of emergency such as a pandemic or natural disaster. This legislation also prohibits county health officers from closing or limiting the operations of a church or religious organization.

The First Amendment guarantees the right of all citizens to freely practice their religion and to peacefully assemble at their chosen house of worship. Though Tennessee has not imposed any restrictions on religious services since the pandemic began, other states have.  House Bill 1137 ensures the government will not infringe on those rights.

 

House honors centennial celebration of 105th Attack Squadron of the Tennessee Air National Guard

The House on Monday unanimously passed a resolution honoring the 105th Attack Squadron of the Tennessee Air National Guard on its 100th anniversary serving the Volunteer State.

The roots of the 105th Attack Squadron reach back to World War I, when the Aero Squadron of the American Expeditionary Force was formed at Kelly Field, Texas in 1917.  Veterans of the 105th Aero Squadron living in Nashville in 1919 gathered to organize an air element of the Tennessee National Guard.

The unit received federal recognition on Dec. 4, 1921 and was assigned to the U.S. Army’s 30th ‘Old Hickory’ Division. The squadron’s insignia still includes a figure of President Andrew Jackson ‘Old Hickory’ on horseback.  The 105th was called to active duty in 1940 and became a ready source of trained personnel and seasoned pilots when our nation entered World War II. The 105th supported the Berlin and Cuban missile crises, national and state civil disturbances, the Vietnam War, and Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Volant Oak, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The full House Joint Resolution can be found here.

 

Tennessee State Library and Archives hosts grand opening

The Tennessee State Library and Archives hosted a grand opening ceremony Monday, April 12, to celebrate the opening of a new state-of-the-art building.

Founded in 1854, the State Library was created to collect, preserve and provide access to Tennessee’s historical records and resources in accessible formats. In 1919, the State Archives program was added, creating the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

The new facility provides much-needed space to properly house the Library and Archives’ extensive collections, improved climate controls and increased handicapped access. The larger 165,000 square foot building along with the latest technology will improve efficiency and increase capacity by nearly 40 percent from 542,700 to 759,500 items.

Located at the intersection of Rep. John Lewis Way N. and Jefferson St. in Nashville, the new building has classroom, meeting and research space for students, historians, librarians, archivists, genealogists, lawyers and groups of up to 300.

The new Library and Archives building has many accessibility improvements for Tennesseans with disabilities.  It also offers more than 240,000 book and magazine titles found in a traditional public library in audio, braille, or large print format through these programs.

Today, the Library and Archives is Tennessee’s premier historical research facility and actively promotes the development of local libraries and archives across the state. More information is available at www.sos.tn.gov.

Rep. Jason Zachary files legislation for 2021 rolling back health department autonomy in Tennessee

November 12, 2020

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — State Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) has filed legislation for 2021, designed to scale back the power of Tennessee’s six independent metropolitan health departments during their response to a county-wide health emergency.

House Bill 7 dials back the autonomy of the state’s six independent health departments in Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby, and Sullivan Counties. These six counties currently have boards comprised of unelected members with their own authority to issue health directives independently from the state.

Under House Bill 7, any county health director, health officer and board of health would move to an advisory role, while elected county mayors would have the final authority to establish and implement policies in response to a county-wide health emergency.

“Elected representatives in the legislative and executive branches are accountable to those who have entrusted them to serve, and they should make all final decisions during these situations, based upon advice from our public health experts,” said Rep. Zachary. “This legislation reduces bureaucracy and ensures accountability with constituents by moving unelected boards into advisory roles, which will make responses to health emergencies more consistent across the state.”

The legislation is strongly supported by members of House Republican leadership — including House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville). Sexton has worked closely with Rep. Zachary, as well as business and community leaders to craft a solution to address situations where burdensome policies implemented by unelected boards continue to hamper economic recovery efforts from Covid-19 in certain communities across Tennessee.

“Our elected officials are held accountable by voters through the election process; we also elect our leaders to make tough decisions, not to have those decisions made by unelected bureaucrats,” said Speaker Sexton. “The independent health boards are unrestricted with their autonomy and control, and their unchecked actions are further damaging businesses in areas like Davidson, Knox, and Shelby Counties. I appreciate Chairman Zachary for his hard work and for his desire to continue standing with our business and community leaders. Together, we will ensure a strong economic recovery across all three grand divisions of our state.”

The 2021 legislative session officially begins on Jan. 12, 2021. For more information on House Bill 7, please click here.

Jason Zachary is the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Emergency Executive Powers. He lives in Knoxville and represents Tennessee House District 14, which includes a portion of Knox County.

 

 

 

State Rep. Jason Zachary’s Capitol Hill Review

June 22, 2020

Tennessee General Assembly passes $39.45 billion budget

 This week in Nashville, both the House and Senate approved a $39.45 billion budget that addresses the unexpected revenue shortfalls caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Tennessee.

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-2021 budget reduces the size of government through common sense reductions and cuts totaling $1.5 billion over a two-year period in efforts to address historic revenue losses.  The budget finalizes the elimination of the Hall Income Tax and does not raise taxes on Tennesseans.

The new state spending plan invests $350 million into Tennessee’s savings account (Rainy Day Fund), bringing the total to $1.45 billion. The budget also fully funds the Basic Education Program (BEP), covering both growth and inflation with a $50.3 million investment. It includes $10.6 million for health insurance and retirement for teachers and principals. The FY 2020-2021 budget supports higher education with a $50 million investment in new facilities.

The budget also focuses on boosting consumer and business confidence through the creation of a $25 million sales tax holiday, which will take place over two weekends in late July and early August 2020.

Other key allocations include a $210 million grant program for all Tennessee cities and counties. These funds have no restrictions and will be used to address unique needs that are best determined by local and county leaders. Approximately $15 million will be used to support economic and community development through broadband accessibility grants.

Finally, the FY 2020-2021 budget invests $19 million to strengthen the state’s health care safety network and $7.5 million in new funding will create a children’s behavioral safety network.

Tennessee’s new budget supports citizens across all three grand divisions of our state as they continue to recover from these extraordinary circumstances. Under conservative leadership, the Volunteer State will remain the best place in the entire nation to live, work, raise a family, and retire.

 

Lawmakers pass historic pro-life legislation

Lawmakers this week also passed historic pro-life legislation that bans abortion procedures after a fetal heartbeat is detected or around six weeks.

House Bill 2263 passed by a 68-17 vote tally Thursday morning. The legislation includes a ladder provision that enacts bans at various other gestation intervals up to 24 weeks. These provisions would take effect if the courts struck down the six-week ban or any other component of this measure.

House Bill 2263 requires doctors to conduct an ultrasound, show images to an expectant mother and inform her about her baby’s development.

An amendment added to the bill also requires abortion facilities where 50 or more procedures are performed a year to post signage informing patients their chemical abortion procedure is reversible. Patients would also receive the same notification prior to and after the first dose of a two dose abortion-inducing drug treatment has been administered.

Tennessee is a strong pro-life state, and this historic measure and others demonstrate our continued commitment to fight for our unborn.

 

House approves Right to Work constitutional amendment

The House also approved a resolution adding Tennessee’s Right to Work law to the state constitution this week.

The resolution must pass by a two-thirds majority during the 2021 or 2022 legislative sessions in order to appear on the ballot for a statewide referendum in November 2022. The Right to Work constitutional amendment would also become part of the state constitution if adopted by a majority vote during the 2022 election cycle.

Tennessee’s Right to Work statute has been state law since 1947. It stipulates workers cannot be hired or fired based on their membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization. When it was introduced in 1947, supporters of the bill argued it would “be of great advantage to the average member of organized labor.” Right to Work also protects the rights of those who choose not to join a union.

Twenty-seven states have Right to Work laws, and nine of those have passed constitutional amendments, including neighboring states Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. The Alabama amendment passed most recently in 2016. Another neighbor, Virginia, is presently considering repealing its Right to Work statute. A constitutional amendment would offer greater protection for workers against such repeal efforts.

The Tennessee General Assembly remains committed to support Tennessee’s workers and businesses.

 

House passes drug-free zone reform

The House this week also passed legislation reforming drug-free zone laws currently on the books.

House Bill 2517 passed by an 88-4 vote on June 17, 2020. The measure right-sizes drug-free zones from 1,000 feet to 500 feet and strengthens penalties against those who sell drugs to children within these zones. At the same time, the legislation allows for a judge to use discretion and apply more appropriate sentencing in certain instances.

Drug-free zones include public or private elementary, middle, secondary schools, child care agencies public libraries, recreational centers and parks. By shrinking these zones, House Bill 2517 has the potential to create additional resources to make justice more efficient in our state.

House Bill 2517 now heads the governor’s desk for his signature.

 

 

 

 

State Rep. Jason Zachary’s Capitol Hill Review

June 12, 2020

House passes pro-life abortion reversal legislation  

Recently in Nashville, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed pro-life abortion reversal legislation by a 77-22 vote.

House Bill 2568 requires facilities where 50 or more abortions are performed each year to post a sign informing chemical abortion patients that their procedure is reversible after the first dose of a two-dose treatment.

The measure also requires a patient to receive the same notice prior to and after the first dose of an abortion-inducing drug has been administered.

Failure by a provider to inform patients about the reversal option would result in criminal penalties or civil action.

House Bill 2568 now awaits passage by the Senate.

To view discussion and debate on the measure from the House floor, please click the image above.

 

 

Mental Health Care Reform Act gains momentum in House

Legislation that creates a pathway for families and people with the most severe and violent cases of mental illnesses to access treatment continues to gain momentum in the House.

Known as the Violent Mental Health Care Reform Act of 2020, House Bill 969 creates a process for a parent, legal guardian, spouse, responsible relative, physician, or law enforcement to petition a court to order treatment when a person is determined to pose a serious threat of violence to others.

The measure would only apply to individuals who make multiple threats of violence. It is only applicable in 14 Tennessee counties that currently have a mental health court, but could be expanded later.

House Bill 969 allows a judge to order an evaluation by a licensed psychiatrist who would then determine if the individual met criteria for hospitalization or for treatment. The law also provides protections for the rights of individuals believed to be experiencing a mental health crisis and guarantees them the right to counsel.

More information on House Bill 969 is available here.

 

 

House Republicans approve measure designating Womens Suffrage Day in Tennessee

This week in Nashville, House Republicans unanimously approved legislation officially designating August 18th as Women’s Suffrage Day in Tennessee.

House Bill 2586 declares the annual day of observation to celebrate the day that Tennessee officially became the 36th and deciding state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting American women everywhere the right to vote.

All eyes turned to Tennessee as the last, best hope for ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920. Suffragists descended on Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel to gain support for their efforts during an extraordinary session of the Tennessee General Assembly. The suffragists adopted yellow roses as a symbol for their cause, while anti-suffragists adopted a red rose.

Following what became known as Tennessee’s “War of the Roses” between suffragists and anti-suffragists, 24-year-old Republican Harry T. Burn switched his position and cast the deciding vote, fulfilling the wishes penned in a letter by his mother, Febb Burn. Days later, the 19th Amendment, also known as the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment” became national law.

August 18, 2020 will mark the 100-year anniversary of this momentous occasion in Tennessee and U.S. history. To learn more about the Women’s Suffrage Centennial, click here.

For more information on House Bill 2586, please click here.

 

 

Republican leaders approve measure reducing student debt in Tennessee

This week, a measure reducing student debt in Tennessee was also unanimously approved by the House.

House Bill 2601 passed by a 95-0 vote tally in Nashville. It requires all public colleges and universities to provide a breakdown of total attendance costs – including tuition, fees, and all award amounts received – before a student accepts a student loan.

According to LendEDU, the average graduate from a Tennessee institution is leaving campus with $26,840 in student loan debt. The overall goal of this solution is to reduce debt burdens on our students as they pursue their certificate or degree and work to establish themselves in their careers.

House Bill 2601 now heads to Gov. Lee’s desk for his signature. For information, please click here.

 

 

Certificate of Need legislation moves in key House finance committee

Legislation that increases access to quality health care in Tennessee continues to gain momentum in key House committees.

House Bill 2350 removes barriers to entry into the health care marketplace to increase competition, which will ultimately improve access to quality care, while lowering overall costs for patients and families.

This certificate of need reform (CON) legislation eliminates red tape for entities moving forward in securing a certificate of need. The measure also collapses the timeline from 135 days for application and review to 60 days. Additionally, House Bill 2350 reduces burdensome fees and regulations on certain services, while also limiting the ability of existing entities within 35 miles of a new project to oppose applications.

Finally, House Bill 2350 creates flexibility for existing facilities with a certificate of need, and it removes CON requirements for projects in rural, distressed counties — including mental health facilities and micro-hospitals.

First introduced in 2019, the CARE Plan is designed to transform the health care system in Tennessee through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems, and Empowering patients.

House Bill 2350 now awaits additional action in the House Finance, Ways, & Means Subcommittee. For more information, click here.

 

 

Republican lawmakers enhance protections for senior citizens

Republican lawmakers on June 10 approved legislation that strengthens existing state laws designed to protect older Tennesseans.

Known as the Safe Seniors Act of 2020, House Bill 2653 targets those who abuse aging citizens. The measure adds abuse, aggravated abuse, neglect, and aggravated neglect of an older adult to the list of offenses where a court must consider the offense as a threat to the victim or to public safety.

 This initiative strengthens existing protections for aging and vulnerable Tennesseans who have made lasting contributions to their communities and our state.

The bill now awaits additional action. More information is available here.

 

 

 

State Rep. Jason Zachary’s Capitol Hill Review

June 5, 2020

House resumes legislative session following 10-week recess caused by Covid-19

The Tennessee General Assembly officially returned to the House chamber following a 10-week recess caused by the Covid-19 pandemic this week.

Floor sessions resumed inside the Capitol with certain safety measures in place to allow for a limited amount of the general public to attend proceedings. These included temperature screenings, spacing in the galleries, and the addition of Lexan barriers in between members’ seats on the House floor.

A total of 72 bills were heard in the chamber during this first week in June, with 58 officially passing.

While all members will continue to focus on addressing the budget shortfalls caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, discussion and debate on good public policy for Tennessee will continue as the 2020 legislative session moves towards a conclusion.

 

Speaker Sexton’s remarks on recent unrest in Tennessee and our nation

Before House members officially resumed their legislative business Monday night, House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) made the following remarks on the recent unrest in Nashville, Tennessee, and across our nation:

“Our State and nation is hurting – And there is anger everywhere.

The right to peacefully assembly is a founding principle of our representative republic, and we have seen many positive examples of peaceful and effective protests in recent days and throughout the history of Tennessee and our nation.

Each has encouraged an honest dialogue, which is essential for us to evolve as a society, and they have also remind us about the importance of respect, civility, partnership and that we all are created by the same God.

The actions of a very few individuals who have vandalized, who have set fires to buildings, and those who have escalated otherwise peaceful situations to jeopardize public safety and destroy property are an attempt to make us forget these guiding principles, and the value of human life.

These disruptive actions are not representative of the large number of those who have peacefully gathered to exercise their rights. They do not aid in bringing awareness to the events in Minneapolis. In fact, they have the opposite effect. What took place in Minneapolis is reprehensible and indefensible.

However, uncontrolled, rogue individuals defacing our public buildings or criminally abusing their powers do not represent our population or a movement. They are simply bad people doing bad things – nothing more, and nothing less. It is our job to rise above anger, to rise above frustration, and come together as a body to focus on the work ahead of us as a state and a nation. 

We are all leaders in our communities, and our state, and how we react, how we speak, how we  interact with one another, and our ability to continue to respect one another even when our opinions differ will set an example to all those who are watching us in the days ahead.

Life is precious, and if we don’t value life, we do not value our creation or our creator. As we finish our work in Nashville, conclude our legislative duties and business for the year, and as we return to our homes and to our families, let’s all continue to pray for guidance, for wisdom, and for peace. Tennessee needs leaders; now, is the time for all of us to answer the call to lead our great state.”

 

Stimulus Accountability Group announces Tennessee Business Relief Program

Members of the Stimulus Accountability Group joined with Gov. Bill Lee at Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville on Tuesday to announce a program designed to support all small businesses adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Tennessee Business Relief Program will direct approximately $200 million in federal Coronavirus Relief (CARES Act) Funds through the Department of Revenue directly to small family, rural, minority-owned and other businesses that were unable to obtain funding through the federal Paycheck Protection Program and who qualify for this much-needed relief.

Amounts awarded will be based on a businesses’ annual gross sales. Approximately 28,000 Tennessee businesses are expected to qualify, with more than 73 percent earning annual gross sales of $500,000 or less.

 

The following types of small businesses are eligible under the Tennessee Business Relief Program:

 

  • Barber shops
  • Beauty shops
  • Nail salons
  • Tattoo parlors, spas, and other personal care services
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Hotels and other travel accommodations
  • Theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers and similar facilities
  • Museums, zoos, and other similar attractions
  • Amusement parks
  • Bowling centers and arcades
  • Marinas
  • Amusement, sports and recreational industries
  • Promoters of performing arts, sports, and similar events
  • Agents and managers of artists, athletes, and entertainers
  • Independent artists, writers, and performers

 

In addition, the following small businesses are eligible if their sales were reduced by at least 25 percent, as shown on their April sales tax returns (filed in May):

 

  • Furniture stores
  • Home furnishing stores
  • Clothing stores
  • Shoe stores
  • Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores
  • Sporting goods, hobby, and musical instrument stores
  • Book stores
  • Department stores
  • Office supply, stationery and gift stores
  • Used merchandise stores
  • Other miscellaneous stores

 

Our small businesses are the backbone of our local and statewide economies, and we are committed to fighting for them as they continue to rally and recover in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

 

House Republicans approve resolution welcoming Republican National Convention to Tennessee

House Republicans Thursday morning approved House Resolution 326, which expresses that Tennessee is well-suited to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.

The measure comes after reports that Republican National Committee (RNC) officials were planning to tour possible locations in Nashville this week to potentially accommodate this year’s convention.

Recent disagreements between party officials, President Donald Trump and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper over the originally contracted convention in Charlotte remain unresolved. This could result in a new venue for August’s convention.

Other locations under possible consideration include Las Vegas, Orlando, and Jacksonville, according to media reports.

Hosting the Republican National Convention could have a financial impact between $100-$150 million on Tennessee’s economy.

The Volunteer State is poised and stands ready to nominate President Donald Trump as the Republican nominee during this year’s Republican National Convention.

For more details about House Resolution 326, please click here.

 

 

Republican-led Certificate of Need legislation clears House Health Committee

Republican-led legislation that increases access to quality healthcare in Tennessee continues to gain momentum in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

House Bill 2350 cleared the House Health Committee Tuesday. Part of the Republican CARE Plan, the measure makes various changes to the certificate of need (CON) process for health facilities in order to remove barriers to competition in the market place. This competition will drive down costs and provide more options for patients.

This innovative measure is the culmination of years of work on behalf of Tennessee patients by Republican leaders in efforts to transform our health care system through patient-centered solutions that are consumer-driven, increase access, provide high quality care and lower overall costs.

House Bill 2350 changes the CON process by collapsing the calendar for an application from 120 days to 60 days. Additionally, the bill limits opposition to an application by existing entities within 35 miles of a new project.

The legislation now moves on to the House Finance, Ways, & Means Subcommittee for additional discussion and debate on June 10.

First introduced in 2019, the CARE Plan is designed to transform the health care system in Tennessee through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems, and Empowering patients.

Republican lawmakers remain committed to providing patient-centered solutions that improve access and the quality of care available to all citizens, while lowering overall costs.

 

Republican lawmakers support age-appropriate firearm safety in our public schools

This week in Nashville, Republican lawmakers supported commonsense legislation that will allow for firearm safety education in our public schools.

House Bill 2761 was approved in the House chamber Wednesday afternoon. The bill enables the Department of Education, the Department of Safety and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to study the earliest, appropriate grade level for the implementation of firearm safety education.

Training under this legislation will help young people identify a firearm, understand safety risks, and encourage them to notify an adult should they encounter a firearm.

House Republicans are committed to the safety and well-being of our current and future generations of leaders.

 

House Republicans pass legislation supporting veterans as they obtain occupations

House Republicans renewed their commitment to the brave men and women who have so proudly served our state and nation through House Bill 1946.

This legislation was approved Wednesday in the House by a 94-0 vote tally. It enables our military veterans to receive credit for training and course work completed during their service time to be used towards an occupational license.

House Republicans are proud to support those who have made extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our state so they successfully transition to civilian life. We appreciate and we are forever indebted to them and to their families.

 

House unanimously approves Teacher Discipline Act

The Tennessee House of Representatives this week also approved legislation that establishes a process for a continuously disruptive student to be removed from their classroom.

Known as the Teacher Discipline Act, House Bill 2134 passed by a 91-0 vote Wednesday. The legislation has more than 70 cosponsors and will enable Tennessee teachers to spend more time with students who desire to learn.

Under House Bill 2134, each Local Education Agency (LEA) would 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 disciplinary action — including the possibility of permanent removal.

Once the disruptive student is disciplined, principals would use their discretion to send them back into the classroom. However, educators would also be allowed to file an appeal with the director of schools if they disagree with that decision.

The legislation also paves the way for directors to work with school officials to help address issues that are impacting a disruptive student’s ability to learn, so they become a productive member of society.

 

 

State Rep. Jason Zachary’s Capitol Hill Review

June 1, 2020

House resumes committee meetings under Tennessee Pledge

Republican lawmakers were back in Nashville this week to resume their committee meetings and complete calendars for the year with members of the public present.

As part of the House’s return from their recess caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, several safety precautions were enacted inside the Cordell Hull Building in accordance with the Tennes see Pledge.

Just as businesses have utilized the Tennessee Pledge to safely reopen, the House implemented several measures like temperature checks, social distancing reminders and thorough cleaning practices to protect the safety and well-being of all who visited the building.

Committee room seating for members of the public was properly spaced at six feet apart. Lexan barriers were also installed in between members’ chairs to increase protections and limit possible exposure to the virus and other illnesses.

Members will return to the House chamber at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 1. Addressing revenue shortfalls caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will remain a top priority. At the same time, the House remains focused on passing good public policy that continues addressing the needs of all Tennesseans.

 

Constitutional carry legislation moves through first House committee

Historic Republican legislation that allows Tennessee to become the 17th state to enact constitutional carry continued to move through the committee process in the House of Representatives this week.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 2817 by a 16-7 vote tally Tuesday evening. The measure sends a strong “tough on gun crime” message to violent criminals, felons, and gang members through a series of sentencing enhancements that support our law enforcement and judicial communities as they work to protect our cities and towns.

At the same time, House Bill 2817 upholds the freedoms granted to law-abiding citizens under our Constitution by allowing open or concealed carry for citizens 21 and older (18 if certain military service requirements are met) without a permit.

House Bill 2817 now moves to the House Finance, Ways, & Means Subcommittee for a vote on Wednesday, June 3.

 

 

Governor’s pro-life initiative clears Public Health Subcommittee

Wednesday, members of the House Public Health Subcommittee advanced strong pro-life legislation that builds upon previous initiatives passed to protect our unborn in Tennessee.

House Bill 2263 bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected or around six weeks. The measure also includes additional prohibitions as well as a ladder provision that enacts additional bans at various other gestation intervals up to 24 weeks. These would take effect if the courts struck down the six-week ban or any additional part of the bill.

The measure also requires doctors to conduct an ultrasound and show images to an expectant mother, and inform her about her baby’s development.

Tennessee is a strong pro-life state, and this measure and others demonstrate the commitment of Republican leaders to enhance protections for our unborn children.

 

 

Innovative literacy bill heads to Government Operations Committee

Members of the House Education Committee this week approved innovative legislation that will transform the way Tennessee children learn to read.

House Bill 2229 advanced through the committee with an 18-6 vote Thursday evening. The measure is a research-based approach to literacy instruction that is founded on phonics and focused on the individual needs of students.

Under the measure, this new approach will focus on phonics, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension to improve childhood literacy rates in Tennessee. The state will invest in training teachers so they are well prepared to implement this new method of literacy instruction and will provide additional resources in the form of grants to Local Education Agencies (LEA).

Education is the cornerstone in the foundation of the future leaders of Tennessee. House Republicans remain committed to building upon the improvements we have made changing the academic trajectories of our children.

House Bill 2229 now heads to the House Government Operations Committee for additional discussion and debate.

 

In other news….

  • Republican leaders also advanced House Bill 1929 out of the Departments & Agencies Subcommittee on Thursday. The bill is designed to encourage a dialogue between our members and Gov. Lee so we can work together to determine costs and any potential safety issues associated with the refugee resettlement program. House Bill 1929 now heads to the House State Committee.
  • Lee’s Economic Recovery Group issued new guidance this week for noncontact sports like baseball, softball, volleyball, golf and disc golf, tennis, racket sports, cycling, track and field and other running and equestrian events to resume with certain precautions. The guidance also pertains to camps and higher education and includes pre-screening measures, social distancing, isolation and care of possible patients, wearing masks, and added sanitation measures when feasible.
  • The latest Covid-19 numbers released Thursday afternoon reveal 21,679 cases in Tennessee out of 415,989 tests conducted. Approximately 14,632 Tennesseans have recovered, 1,689 have been hospitalized, and 356 citizens have died. Free testing is available at rural county health departments in all Tennessee counties five days a week. To find a location, click here.

 

 

 

 

State Rep. Jason Zachary’s Capitol Hill Review

May 1, 2020

Safer at Home Executive Order expires, economic reboot officially begins

Gov. Bill Lee’s Safer at Home Executive Order expired this week as Tennessee’s phased economic reboot officially began. Plans to safely and swiftly reopen sectors of our economy are currently moving forward.

The Safer at Home Order was originally issued to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19, flatten the virus curve and preserve hospital capacity. The order aimed to reduce an anticipated surge of patients so workers on the frontlines battling this virus would not be overwhelmed.

Restaurants in 89 of our 95 counties began reopening at 50 percent capacity and in accordance with guidance offered through the Economic Recovery Group and the Tennessee Pledge on April 27. Retail shops followed on April 29 at 50 percent capacity and under similar safety measures. On May 1, gyms followed suit, while elective medical procedures also resumed.

These procedures had been postponed since March 23 in order to increase Tennessee’s supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and preserve hospital bed and equipment capacity. Through federal, state, and private sector partnerships, Tennessee has substantially increased its supply of these items, and our health care system is well-positioned to address a possible second wave of Covid patients. Procedures like routine screenings and joint replacements will be included as some of the first elective procedures resuming.

 

Additional Tennessee businesses to reopen week of May 4

 The Economic Recovery Group has also issued guidance for close contact businesses as they prepare to reopen the week of May 4. These businesses include barber shops, hair salons, waxing and nail spas, body-art facilities, as well as tanning and massage therapy establishments.

These entities must operate at half capacity, by appointment only and utilize social distancing practices. All workstations at these facilities must be placed six feet apart, and waiting areas are to remain closed at this time. All industry employees and their customers must also wear face coverings and take other precautions to ensure safe environments.

Dental facilities are also scheduled to resume operations on May 6 with non-emergency procedures including hygiene visits, cosmetic and other elective procedures. Dentists, oral surgeons, and other service providers are still allowed to perform emergency procedures, including pain treatment, swelling, or addressing abscesses.

These reopenings will occur in 89 of our 95 counties, with Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan Counties establishing their own dates and criteria, based upon input from their local health departments.

 

Tennessee continues to increase testing to align with federal recommendations

As more businesses continue to reopen, the state is further coordinating efforts to test more Tennesseans for the Covid-19 virus.

This week, it was announced the state had already met testing levels recommended by the Trump Administration, and that testing efforts would only become more robust in the weeks ahead. For the month of April, Tennessee performed 177,626 tests, meeting the federal two percent recommendation set forth by the president.

Pop up testing will continue this weekend at sites across Tennessee.  Citizens can also get tested Monday-Friday at any rural county health department, free of charge and regardless of traditional Covid-19 symptoms. For locations by county, visit here.

Antibody testing is expected to come online soon, as plans move forward to test 10,000 Tennessee health care workers with this testing. The Food & Drug Administration continues to approve this form of testing, which utilizes blood samples to determine whether a person has previously been exposed to and has fought off a virus.

These antibody tests will help medical experts potentially better understand the behavioral patterns of the Covid-19 virus, whether individuals may develop immunity, and they could also play a role in determining future health strategies.

Widespread Covid testing of the more than 700 long-term care facilities across our state has also begun. Our nursing home and assisted living facilities are home to more than 70,000 of our most vulnerable citizens.

As of Friday morning, there were 10,735 cases of Covid-19 in Tennessee, of which 5,338 have recovered. The virus has led to the hospitalization of 1,045 citizens, and the deaths of 199 Tennesseans. Additional data and information from the Tennessee Department of Health can be found by clicking here.

To reach me, call my legislative office at 615-741-2264 or email me at rep.jason.zachary@capitol.tn.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Rep. Jason Zachary’s Capitol Hill Review

April 24, 2020

Safer at Home Executive Order to expire April 30; phased economic reboot in 89 counties beginning next week

This week in Nashville, Gov. Bill Lee announced he would let the Safer at Home Executive Order expire on April 30 with a phased economic reboot of some businesses in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties beginning as early as Monday, April 27. The administration will continue working with local officials in the remaining six Tennessee counties (Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby, and Sullivan Counties) to determine the safest plan for them to get their local economies back open and running again.

The decision to begin the phased reboot comes on the heels of a record number of Covid-19 tests performed during the weekend of April 18-19. Data continues to reveal a downward trend of positive cases in Tennessee. During this time period, more than 11,000 citizens utilized free testing opportunities including citizens who did not experience Covid-19 symptoms.

Aggressively testing anyone with or without symptoms for Covid-19 is an essential part of the plan to safely reboot the state’s economy. The Unified Command Group, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee National Guard, will continue to operate additional drive-thru testing locations for the next two weekends. A list of drive-thru sites is available here.

Free Covid-19 testing is also available at all of Tennessee’s rural health department locations the remaining five days each week. A full list can be found here.

The state has seen a steady decrease in new Covid-19 cases daily since April 4. At this time, Tennessee’s hospitalization rates remain consistently lower than national averages. More citizens have recovered from Covid-19 than the number of current active cases, and over the past three weeks, both flu-like symptoms and Covid symptoms continue to decline within most of our hospital facilities.

As Tennessee prepares for a phased economic reboot, members of the Economic Recovery Group continue to meet so they can determine industry specific guidance to help businesses open safely and operate within the best interests of their employees and customers. The first round of guidance is expected to be announced Friday, April 24.

Beginning Monday, April 27 restaurants operating at 50 percent capacity and following this guidance will be allowed to open. Retail locations operating at 50 percent capacity and following guidelines will be allowed to open on Wednesday, April 29.

Citizens are urged to continue social distancing, working from home whenever possible, practicing proper hygiene and using cloth masks. The Unified Command on Wednesday announced it had secured five million cloth masks and will work with Amazon to distribute them to Tennesseans so they are better protected from the spread of the highly contagious pathogen.

Once the Safer at Home Order expires, certain restrictions will remain in place as we work to restore normalcy in Tennessee. These restrictions include discouraging social gatherings of 10 or more people, and restricting visits to nursing homes and hospitals to protect our vulnerable populations.

As of Thursday afternoon, the state had conducted 123,100 tests. Approximately, 8,266 individuals tested positive, 793 have been hospitalized, 170 have died and 4,193 have recovered.

 

 

Stimulus Financial Accountability Group meets to discuss federal relief funding

 Members of the administration’s Stimulus Financial Accountability Group met this week for the first time to discuss how federal Covid-19 funding can be used to address the ongoing pandemic in Tennessee.

The group consists of Finance & Administration Commissioner Butch Eley, and it is co-chaired by Speaker Sexton. It also includes Gov. Lee, Lt. Gov. McNally, House and Senate members, Stuart McWhorter with Unified Command and Comptroller Justin Wilson.

Tennessee is expected to receive up to $3.6 billion in total federal funding, including up to $2.4 billion alone through the Federal CAREs Act – limited to Covid-19 expenditures only. This funding amount does not include funds directly allocated to businesses, for payroll protection or to our state’s hospitals.

Federal funds cannot be used to balance budget shortfalls at the state or local levels; any state budget shortfall must be addressed through the General Assembly’s budget process.

To date, Tennessee has received guidance on 22 of the 53 federal awards that will be distributed through 17 different state agencies in the days and weeks ahead.

Our health providers are also expected to receive a portion of the $100 billion in direct federal relief, of which $30 billion was distributed to facilities across the country last week. Up to $259 million in federal funding is expected to support education in Tennessee and approximately $170 million will go to higher education. The Department of TennCare is expected to administer an estimated $285.3 million in federal Covid funding, while approximately $102.8 million will be allocated through the Department of Human Services, and an additional $19.6 million through our Department of Labor.

Stimulus Financial Accountability Group members anticipate receiving additional federal guidance on funding usage before their next meeting, which is expected to take place in the next couple of weeks.

 

 

Grant funding made available to support hospitals; new Covid-19 data released for long-term care facilities

 This week, the first round of grant funding was announced to support small and rural Tennessee hospitals that have felt the financial strain caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, the governor announced $10 million in funding to help these facilities as they await federal relief on its way to Tennessee.

The first four grants, totaling $1 million in state funds were awarded to the following locations:

Lincoln Medical Center

Henderson County Community Hospital

Lauderdale County Community Hospital

Three Rivers Hospital (Waverly)

In addition to state funds, these hospitals have also drawn down $7.5 million in federal resources.

More information about the Small and Rural Hospital Grant program is available here.

The Unified Command continues to strengthen efforts to protect the state’s long-term care facilities. New Covid-19 data was released this week from the state’s long-term care facilities and an action plan was outlined to prevent future cases and mitigate existing Covid-19 clusters within these facilities.

The Department of Health has also agreed to report the number of confirmed Covid cases, and Covid-related fatalities within all long-term facilities across Tennessee. Additional details can be found here.

 

To reach me, call my legislative office at 615-741-2264 or email me at rep.jason.zachary@capitol.tn.gov.

State Rep. Jason Zachary’s Capitol Hill Review

April 17, 2020

Safer at Home Order extended through April 30;

phased economic reboot takes shape

This week, Gov. Bill Lee extended the Safer at Home Order through April 30 to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and continue to flatten the virus curve in our state.

In cooperation with the White House, Executive Order 27 extends existing orders in place through April 30 and requires all Tennesseans to stay home unless they are carrying out essential activities.

At the same time, The Unified Command Group continues to consult with experts, analyze all available data, and monitor CDC recommendations to better prepare Tennessee for a phased economic reboot in early May.  In preparations for this reboot, Unified Command will continue to focus on disease management, increasing hospital and testing capacity, and building up the state’s supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to support our health care professionals and first responders who are on the frontlines of this public health emergency.

Gov. Lee on Thursday announced a new Economic Recovery Group to focus on the phased economic reboot. This group consists of legislative leaders including the House and Senate Majority Leaders, the heads of several state departments, and leaders of industries that have been highly impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Their overall goal is to develop and issue industry specific guidance so businesses can prepare to operate safely and in the best interests of the employees and customers when they reopen in early May.

The governor also announced the Stimulus Financial Accountability Group this week, consisting of both the House and Senate Speakers, legislative leaders, the Commissioner of Finance & Administration, Unified Command leadership, and the Comptroller of the Treasury among others. This group will ensure proper financial management of the expected $2.3 billion in federal stimulus resources on its way to Tennessee as a result of passage of the federal CARES Act.

 

State ramps up Covid-19 testing as part of preparations for phased economic reboot

The Lee Administration and the Tennessee Department of Health this week announced the state will also ramp up testing for Covid-19 as part of the plan to prepare for May’s economic reboot.

To improve access and allow Tennesseans to make informed decisions, expanded testing will launch April 18-19 as members of the Tennessee National Guard and Department of Health establish new drive-thru testing locations across the state. Testing will be available at selected sites each of the next three weekends with results available within 72 hours of a test being conducted. Citizens will also have the opportunity to get tested at every rural county health department in the state over the course of the other five days each week.

Expanded testing will be made available to all Tennesseans who are not feeling well, even if they do not experience common Covid-19 symptoms including cough, fever or breathing difficulty.

To view locations, please go here.

As of Friday morning, the state had performed 85,049 tests, of which 6,262 citizens have tested positive for Covid-19. Approximately 141 individuals have died, 691 have been hospitalized, while 2,789 have recovered.

 

Tennessee schools recommended to remain closed for remainder of school year

The governor also joined with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) to recommend that all schools remain closed through the end of the current school year to preserve the health and safety of children and their families, as well as the state’s educators and administrators.

To continue supporting students during these extraordinary circumstances, the department on Wednesday announced a new Covid-19 Child Wellbeing Taskforce to provide resources and care for at-risk and vulnerable student populations. More details on the taskforce will be made available in the weeks ahead.

Additional resources are available for children including ReadyRosie, an innovative platform that allows families to access a series of short videos and other online resources.  The platform aims to provide support for children from birth through third grade to help continue learning outside of a classroom setting.

ReadyRosie is now available in Tennessee through Sept. 1. To sign up, please visit here.

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will also continue to offer two hours of daily instructional programming with high quality content for students to solidify their academic foundations.

To connect families in need with food as schools remain closed, TDOE has partnered with a vendor to make available a school meal finder website, which will help those at-risk find the closest meal pick up program available to meet their nutritional needs.

For more education news, please click here.

Passage of the CARES Act also includes one-time relief funding for local school districts to help address the unique challenges they face, as a result of this unprecedented health situation.

 

$600 federal unemployment benefit now available for Tennesseans

The state this week began paying approved unemployment claimants their first installment of the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit, in addition to their state benefits.

Approximately $94 million was delivered to financial institutions across the state for 110,000 unemployed Tennessee citizens. Most approved individuals began receiving the direct-deposit funding on Wednesday, April 15, with the number of payments projected to continue to increase in the days ahead and likely exceed 150,000 citizens.

New unemployment claims for the week ending April 11 were 74,772, compared to 116,141 new claims the previous week.

For information about unemployment benefits and resources available to those who have unexpectedly lost their jobs, please visit: Jobs4TN.gov

 

Easter evening tornado outbreak devastates Southeast Tennessee

Shortly before midnight on Sunday, April 12, the Chattanooga area was hit by a series of tornadoes that killed 11 in the Tennessee Valley, injured dozens more and damaged thousands of homes and area businesses, causing millions of dollars in damages.

The Easter night severe weather outbreak produced a violent tornado that formed in north Georgia and traveled 14.5 miles through Chattanooga, Ooltewah, and into Bradley County with sustained wind speeds reaching 145 miles per hour.

As of midweek, state and federal officials were on the ground in communities hardest hit assessing the damage. A major disaster declaration is expected soon, and  these communities will likely receive additional federal assistance soon.

Sunday’s storms come a little more than five weeks after the March 3rd outbreak that caused catastrophic damage in communities across Benton, Davidson, Wilson, and Putnam Counties.

State Rep. Jason Zachary’s Capitol Hill Review

April 13, 2020

Covid-19 testing increases as new tests become available

The state of Tennessee continues to make considerable progress increasing the number of Covid-19 tests being performed across our state. As of Friday morning, 59,849 Tennesseans have been tested, with 55,215 negative test results and 4,634 positive tests.

This week, the state received 120 Covid-19 rapid result tests. These new tests, which are manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, show a positive Covid-19 result in as little as five minutes and a negative result in about 13 minutes. Once these tests are maximized, this innovative testing technology will reduce the testing backlog on the state’s books. Private providers across Tennessee are also gaining access to these rapid tests, and more are expected to become available soon.

Currently, 500 National Guardsmen are working to support 37 assessment sites with a focus on our rural Tennessee communities.

New projections this week indicate a flattening of the virus curve as a result of social distancing and observance of CDC guidance. To date, 921 Tennesseans have recovered from the illness. While these new numbers and projections are encouraging, citizens must continue to take additional precautions and remain vigilant in the days and weeks ahead. As of Friday morning, Tennessee has reported 94 deaths and 505 citizens have been hospitalized.

These numbers are updated by the Department of Health at 2:00 p.m. daily. For information, please click here.

 

 

Small & Rural Hospital grants now available; state works to secure additional PPE supplies

Applications for $10 million in small and rural hospital readiness grants are now available to support facilities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Grant funding was announced this week in partnership with the Department of Economic & Community Development and the Department of Finance & Administration. All funds are capped at $500,000 per hospital and are a part of the fiscal year 2020 $150 million Covid-19 health and safety response appropriation.

These funds provide temporary resources for facilities facing a financial strain while elective procedures are suspended and federal funds are still being processed.

To access applications, click here.

Tennessee’s Unified Command continues efforts to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for those on the frontlines battling this health emergency. More than 1,300 PPE shipments have already gone out to all 95 Tennessee counties to keep our health care workers safe during this emergency.

This week, Gov. Lee also signed Executive Order 25, which now postpones elective medical and dental procedures though April 30, 2020. The goal of the order is to preserve additional supplies of PPE, in the event they are needed as resources for the anticipated surge of Covid-19 patients.

You can read Executive Order 25 here.

 

 

City & County Government Grants application process unveiled

Before our General Assembly recessed until June 1, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a $39.8 billion budget that included $200 million in city and county government grants. These one-time grants are based on population and will be distributed to every Tennessee county and municipality.

The grants may be used for road projects, IT upgrades, capital maintenance, utility system upgrades, public safety projects, Covid-19 response, as well as recovery relief for communities impacted by the March 3 tornado outbreak.

No county will receive less than $500,000 and no municipality will receive less than $30,000. Additional funding opportunities for Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties is also available through these grants.

The application process will go live April 30, 2020, and funding will be available after July 1.

Additional information can be found here.

 

 

Lee Administration, Department of Labor provide unemployment update

 The Lee administration and the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development this week provided several updates to help address the record number of unemployment claims filed in recent weeks.

Currently, our department is reprogramming the Jobs4TN.gov website to address the increase in unemployment claims, and to support additional resources available through the federal CARES Act, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the new $600 weekly federal benefit. The Department of Labor has also added 200 more employees to assist with the substantial increase in claims. Self-employed or unemployed workers who have already submitted a claim do not need to reapply. All Tennesseans receiving unemployment or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will also automatically receive the weekly $600 federal benefit, in addition to their unemployment benefit.

Certain provisions of the CARE Act are expected to be implemented as early as next week. This will create additional funding and flexibility to support all those who have unexpectedly lost their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last week, the U.S. Small Business Administration launched the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to incentivize small businesses to keep employees on staff. These loans will be completely forgiven if a business utilizing them keeps all of its employees on payroll for eight weeks and funds are used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

For more information about the PPP, contact your local financial institution or click here.

 

 

Broadband Accessibility Grant funding announced for 21 Tennessee counties

Recently, the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development announced a new round of Broadband Accessibility Grants totaling nearly $20 million for 21 Tennessee counties.

The funds will provide access to reliable broadband services for 31,000 Tennesseans currently unserved in 12,700 households and businesses. All recipients demonstrated a tremendous need for grant funding so they could implement and sustain projects with strong support from the community.

Grantees include:

 

*   Ben Lomand Connect: $2,000,000 serving parts of Cumberland County

*   BTC Fiber:  $1,500,000 serving parts of Bledsoe County

*   Charter Communications (Spectrum):  $140,433 serving parts of Henderson County

*   Comcast:  $568,509.64 serving parts of Cheatham and Dickson Counties

*   Fayetteville Public Utilities: $1,750,000 serving parts of Lincoln County

*   Forked Deer Electric Cooperative: $719,921 serving parts of Haywood & Lauderdale Counties

*   Gibson Electric Membership Corporation: $703,518 serving parts of Obion County

* HolstonConnect, LLC: $361,211 serving the Mooresburg community in Hamblen and Hawkins Counties

*   Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative: $593,166 serving parts of south Perry County

*   PVECFiber and Scott County Telephone Cooperative: $1,908,811.24 serving part of Union County

*   SVEConnect: $1,654,882 serving the Battle Creek and South Pittsburg Mountain communities in Marion County

*   Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Cooperative: $1,768,686 serving parts near the Brownsville community in Haywood County

*   TEC: $826,677.45 serving parts of the Buena Vista and McLemoresville communities in Carroll County

*   Tri-County Fiber Communications, LLC: $501,811 serving parts of Trousdale County

*   Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative: $1,406,000 serving parts of Fentress and Overton Counties

*   United Communications: $1,331,504.80 serving the Eagleville community in rural Rutherford and Williamson Counties

*   West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative: $2,000,000 serving parts of Weakley County

 

Infrastructure is expected to be built out, and customers should be able to sign up for service within two years of providers receiving funding.

Since 2018, the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development has awarded more than $44 million in broadband grant funding.

 

 And Finally…….

The Department of Education is preparing to utilize funding from the CARES Act to increase learning opportunities and address ongoing needs of Tennessee students in the days and weeks ahead. The one-time funding from the federal stimulus package will be used to support meal preparation and distribution, and extend virtual learning opportunities by providing infrastructure, such as internet and hardware accessibility. Thursday, the department announced the Board of Education approved emergency rules lowering high school graduation requirements, freezing grades for students, and other changes because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Schools across Tennessee will remain closed through at least April 24.