Rep. Rusty Grills’ Newsroom

State Rep. Rusty Grills appointed to economic advisory group for agriculture

April 22, 2020

State Rep. Rusty Grills, R-Newbern, has been appointed to an agricultural working group tasked with helping to safely reboot Tennessee’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Bill Lee on Monday announced he would not extend his Safer at Home order beyond April 30.  He established the Economic Recovery Group, a joint effort between state departments, members of the legislature and leaders from the private sector to build guidance to safely reopen Tennessee’s businesses.

The effort is in cooperation with the White House which has begun coordinating a phased reopening of the nation’s industries, one region at a time.

“COVID-19 has not only created a public health crisis, it has hurt thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of hardworking Tennesseans,” said Lee. “As we work to safely open Tennessee’s economy, this group will provide guidance to industries across the state on the best ways to get Tennesseans back to work.”

The industry representatives working with the ERG collectively represent Tennessee’s major industries, including retail, banking, agriculture, manufacturing, health care and small business. They will offer guidance for transition specific to their industry.

“It is an honor and a privilege to serve my fellow farmers and Tennesseans as an agricultural representative for the Economic Recovery Group during this critical time,” said Grills, a farmer from Newbern. “I sincerely appreciate Governor Lee and the ERG for appointing me to the team that will help address the difficult economic challenges our state now faces.”

Grills serves the 77th House District in the Tennessee House of Representatives which includes Dyer, Lake and part of Obion counties. Grills serves on the Local, Transportation, Agriculture and Natural Resources committees and the Cities and Counties subcommittees.

State Rep. Rusty Grills’ Legislative Update

April 14, 2020

Most of us have never been asked to make sacrifices for the health and safety of others. We’ve never deliberately brought our economy to a standstill and we’ve never lived through a time when millions of Americans have become instantly unemployed practically overnight.

In cooperation and guidance from the White House, Gov. Bill Lee announced on Monday he would extend his stay at home order through April 30.

Balancing the value of life, with freedom and quality of life is a difficult task to say the least. As uncomfortable as this is for all of us, this is likely the quickest path back to normalcy with the fewest deaths possible from COVID-19.

I urge you to take personal responsibility for yourself and your family. Follow the advice of medical experts.  Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. Use common sense.

We must do what it takes to preserve our economy and way of life. I’m pleased that our governor has formed the Economic Recovery Group to focus on a phased reboot of our state economy that will work to reopen Tennessee businesses.

The group will be led by Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Mark Ezell and will work in coordination with legislative leadership, local mayors, health care professionals, and representatives of impacted industries. The Economic Recovery Group will issue industry-specific guidance so that businesses can be prepared to operate safely while protecting their workers and customers.

By formalizing an economic recovery specific group, this will ensure the Unified Command Group will continue their focused efforts of disease management, improving hospital and testing capacity, and increasing our PPE supply chain. The Unified Command Group will also be making recommendations to Gov. Lee about when and how to begin the phased-in reopening of the economy.

Remember that God is in control. Do not let fear take over. Continue to turn to Him for direction and comfort.

 

Broadband Accessibility Grant funding announced for Obion County

Gibson Electric Membership Corporation will receive a grant for $703,518 to expand broadband accessibility in Obion County. The funds are part of a round of new broadband accessibility grants announced by Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development last week 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. Infrastructure is expected to be built out, and customers should be able to sign up for service within two years of providers receiving funding.

 

City & County Government grant applications available April 30

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 and funding will be available after July 1.

Additional information can be found here.

 

Department of Labor unemployment update

 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.

The Jobs4TN.gov website  is being reprogrammed 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.

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 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.

 

Support local businesses

Small business is the lifeblood of our community and many are hurting right now. They are our neighbors and our friends, and they are part of what makes our towns unique. Please remember to support them right now just as they have supported our youth sports teams, bands, clubs and organizations.

And finally, I am here to serve you. Please share your thoughts or let me know how I may be of assistance to you.

“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Please email me at rep.rusty.grills@capitol.tn.gov.

 

State Rep. Rusty Grills’ Legislative Update

April 3, 2020

Without a doubt, our nation, our state and our communities are being tested in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Our faith may also be tested in the coming weeks. I urge you to continue to turn to God for direction and comfort.

While we practice social distancing, I ask that you continue to check in on each other. Every hand we don’t shake or hug we avoid should become a phone call we place. Let’s be extra mindful of the needs of our senior citizens. When and where possible, help them access extra household supplies, nonperishables or even meals. If you can assist our less mobile seniors with chores or errands, it will surely be appreciated.

Please let an essential worker know you appreciate them. Chances are you personally know a few. These folks are an army of heroes who are risking it all for the rest of us. Our health care workers, first responders, and law enforcement are on the front lines, putting themselves directly in harm’s way to save lives.

Don’t overlook our truck drivers who are working long hours to keep America’s supply chain intact making sure doctors and nurses receive vital supplies and that grocery stores receive the food and supplies the rest of us need.

Thank the people who work in your favorite grocery store and delivery drivers. These workers have suddenly found themselves on the front lines of this health crisis, having to deal with angry shoppers, empty shelves and panic-buying.

 

Governor announces Safer at Home Executive Orders

This week in Nashville, Gov. Bill Lee announced Safer at Home executive orders to keep people home and increase social distancing to reduce an anticipated surge of Covid-19 cases in Tennessee.

Executive Order 22, introduced by the governor and both the House and Senate speakers on Monday, enacted safer at home guidelines in all 95 Tennessee counties. It is effective through April 14, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

Tennesseans with non-essential roles including barber shops, salons, and recreational and entertainment facilities were strongly urged to stay home.

Executive Order 23 requires Tennesseans to stay home unless they are carrying out essential activities until April 14. It comes after data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) revealed an increase in citizen movement across the state earlier in the week. Additionally, cell phone data provided by Unacast was also studied, and it showed an increase in cell phone mobility trending back towards pre-Covid-19 levels.

The Covid-19 Unified Command also this week announced a partnership with LaunchTN to ramp up production of lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies by businesses willing to switch their models and produce resources to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Approximately 25 companies and universities have made significant donations of PPE and supplies to assist health care workers as they provide lifesaving services to patients. 3D printing efforts at higher education institutions have also resulted in the production of 10,000 face shields.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Thursday also approved Tennessee’s Covid-19 disaster declaration. This will expedite the state’s ability to convert existing facilities into critical care centers while also expanding Tennessee’s hospital bed capacity by 7,000 beds to better prepare our health care system for an expected influx of Covid-19 patients.

 

Department of Education announces early education resources for families

The Tennessee Department of Education and the governor’s Early Literacy Foundation this week announced a partnership with ReadyRosie to provide innovative educational resources to families as schools remain closed.

Through ReadyRosie, families and children will be able to access a series of short videos and other online resources to help support children from birth through third grade so they remain engaged and are encouraged to learn while they are home.

All videos for families with school-aged children are approximately two minutes in length; they feature instructional activities parents can utilize and share with their kids. Videos are available in English and Spanish, and topics include literacy, early math, health and well-being.

This platform is now available in Tennessee through Sept. 1. To sign up, please click here.

Beginning April 6, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will deliver two hours of instructional television programming while students remain home through at least April 24.

 

Help for small businesses

The Small Business Administration officially launched its $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on April 3 in efforts to support Tennessee businesses currently struggling because of the sudden economic downturn caused by Covid-19.

As part of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package, these forgivable loans are designed to provide incentives to small businesses with 500 or fewer employees to keep their employees on the payroll. Eligible entities include sole proprietorships, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals among others. If a business keeps all of its employees on the payroll for eight weeks and funds are used specifically to meet payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utility expenses, all loan balances will be forgiven and each loan becomes a grant.

Small businesses in the hospitality or food industry with more than one location may also be eligible if their individual locations employ less than 500 workers.

The PPP is now available to all Tennessee small businesses through June 30, 2020. More information is available here.

Lastly, please continue to practice healthy habits. The safety and the health of our loved ones is what matters most right now.  Be steadfast and trust in the Lord.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord,”  – 1 Corinthians 15:58:

I can be of any assistance please email me at rep.rusty.grills@capitol.tn.gov.

Grills: We’re all in this together

March 19, 2020

Our state and our nation will likely experience some very difficult times in the days ahead. When the worst situations arise, the best place to start is with prayer. Please pray for one another, have patience, and help each other. We’re all in this together.

The safety and the health of our loved ones is what matters most right now.

My colleagues and I in the General Assembly along with Gov. Bill Lee have taken extraordinary steps this week to pass an emergency budget that helps minimize the disruption of state business and services as much as possible. We are taking swift action to ease the tremendous burden this unexpected health event will have on our fellow Tennesseans.

First, unemployment benefits will be extended to employees who are out of work due to businesses that temporarily close. There are currently no state mandates on businesses to close or reduce their capacity

The governor is currently working on relief options for our local governments impacted by possible loss of revenue.

At this time, all Tennessee school districts have agreed to follow Gov. Lee’s request to close until March 31.

The Tennessee Department of Education applied for and received two nutrition waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide School Food Authorities (SFAs) flexibility to continue to provide meals to at-risk students.

We must continue to support students and teachers. The legislature will ensure no school districts, schools, school district employees, or students are adversely impacted by the school closures or other hardships related to COVID-19 or the tornadoes. This legislation, House Bill 2818, holds them harmless as it relates to TNReady testing, teacher evaluation growth scores, final grades, school and district accountability assessments, BEP-related requirements, and post-secondary readiness assessments for the 2019-20 school year.

House Bill 2472 allows higher education scholarship programs and financial aid funding to continue without interruption during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

At this time, Gov. Lee has encouraged child care facilities to remain open to meet child care demands but each facility will decide whether or not to remain open.

I appreciate Gov. Lee, my fellow members of the General Assembly, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, the Coronavirus Task Force and countless other health state and local professionals who are working day and night to provide the latest information to help Tennesseans stay healthy.

To help prepare for the anticipated high demand on our health care system, we are including a $19 million investment in our emergency budget that will strengthen the safety net for health care services, especially in our rural communities.

The governor’s administration has authorized the order of an additional 570 ventilators to support Tennessee hospitals that may need additional resources.

Information is quickly evolving during this outbreak and will very likely change again in the coming days and weeks.

At the end of this hiatus, the legislature will get back to the work we began in January.  There is still more to be done.

Tennessee has a proud tradition of being a fiscally conservative state and we are solidly prepared for the financial challenges that lie ahead. I am grateful for the confidence and trust you’ve placed in me to represent House District 77.

When this crisis is over, we will emerge stronger and more prepared.  Please continue to keep your neighbors and families in your prayers.  We must remember the Lord was not surprised when this started.  It’s good to know that in times like these that God is in control. We can find comfort in His mighty hand and His loving heart.

If I can be of any assistance please contact my office at 615-741-0718 or  rep.rusty.grills@capitol.tn.gov.

 

State Rep. Rusty Grills’ Capitol Hill Review

February 21, 2020

It’s been a busy first month at the state capitol. I’m so proud to serve as your voice in Nashville. Tennessee is experiencing tremendous success and prosperity under Republican leadership.  I’ll be working hard in 2020 to further build on these accomplishments. Here’s an update on what’s been happening on the hill:

Tennessee is officially the “Volunteer State”

Republican leaders on Feb. 10 approved a measure officially designating Tennessee the “Volunteer State.”

House Bill 1562 designates the “Volunteer State” as the official nickname of Tennessee. While Tennessee has held this distinction since 1812, it is not currently documented in state law.

Tennessee has been referred to as the “Volunteer State” because of its tradition of answering the call of duty, most notably during the War of 1812. When Tennessee was asked to send 1,500 troops to defend the lower Mississippi region during this conflict, the “Volunteer State” instead answered the call with 30,000 troops. House Bill 1562 now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

 

What’s coming up in Education in 2020

Providing our children with a high-quality educational experience is our most important obligation.

That is why my Republican colleagues and I have already made an $11.3 billion total investment in education as part of our current state budget.  This includes $6.6 billion in K-12 funding.

Gov. Lee in his State of the State address on Feb. 3 announced many forward-thinking education initiatives for the coming year.

These include:

  • Investing an additional $117 million in teacher salaries
  • Recommending moving the minimum teacher salary schedule from $36,000 to $40,000 over the next two years
  • Creating the K-12 Mental Health Trust Fund through $250 million in one-time funds to support the growth and placement of mental health services for students through a systemwide, evidence-based, whole child approach
  • Growing school-based behavioral health liaison program from 36 counties to all 95 counties
  • Setting new standards for public elementary literacy training and instruction and providing improved literacy supports and interventions for K-2 students
  • Launching the Governor’s Teaching Fellowship to support the education of more than 1,000 future teachers per year
  • Supporting district-led “Grow Your Own” programs with new curriculum and grants
  • Investing $4 million into professional development and career advancement opportunities Applying for a new AP education teaching course
  • Establishing the Tennessee Teacher and Leader Institute

Additional highlights from the governor’s speech include:

  • Reinvesting more than $100 million in cities and counties.
  • Focusing on job creation in distressed and at-risk counties through incentive packages in efforts to attract new businesses to these communities.
  • $25 million to further increase broadband accessibility.
  •  A $20 million investment in the Rural Opportunity Fund to support community development and address critical infrastructure needs.
  • Increasing the criminal penalties associated with theft of a firearm and those associated with reckless endangerment of law enforcement and first responders.
  • Revising the occupational licensing process to encourage employment for those who desire to re-enter society and become productive citizens.
  • Expanding recovery courts and community supervision programs.
  • Investing $6.5 million additional recurring funds in the Health Care Safety Network.
  • Creating a Children’s Behavioral Health Safety Network through a $7.5 million investment.
  • Financing year three of the Rural Hospital Transformation Program.

The full text of the Governor’s address along with video from the speech can be found by clicking here.

 

House Republicans Pursue Tax Cut Legislation

House Republicans will continue to prioritize legislation that provides additional tax cuts for hardworking Tennesseans.

These cuts include legislation designed to create a Food Tax Holiday for 2020 across the state through House Bill 1697. This initiative would exempt the retail sale of food and food ingredients from a 4 percent sales tax for the months of June and July.  However, local taxes – up to 2.75 percent – would still be collected by cities and counties.

Because most Tennessee students are out of school in June and July, this will help families better provide food for their children during summer months, especially those who rely on free and reduced lunches throughout the school year.

Republicans are also considering reductions in the corporate tax, which currently sits at 6.5 percent — one of the highest rates in the entire southeast region. This burdensome tax penalizes businesses by taxing their net earnings. By reducing it, additional revenue should allow our businesses to reinvest and potentially expand operations, which could create new jobs.

Legislation to advance recent progress made eliminating the professional privilege tax is also being considered for the 2020 legislative session. Republican leaders last year slashed $22 million worth of this unnecessary tax on accountants, architects, athletic agents, audiologists, chiropractors, dentists, engineers, landscape architects, optometrists, pharmacists, podiatrists, psychologists, real estate brokers, speech pathologists, and veterinarians.

Tennessee is the lowest tax and lowest debt state in the entire country. By continuing to eliminate burdensome regulations, cutting red-tape, and slashing taxes, Tennessee will remain a national economic leader.

 

Legislation Lowering Tennessee’s Business Income Tax Gains Support In House

A measure designed to lower Tennessee’s business income tax (excise tax) is gaining support in the House.

House Bill 2301 is a fiscally responsible approach to attract new business to our state and to encourage small business owners to reinvest into their communities by beginning the process of lowering the excise tax from 6.5 percent to 6 percent over a five year period.

The measure would reduce the tax by one-tenth of a percent every year over the next five years, provided revenue growth remains above two percent.

House Bill 2301 also contains built in safety mechanisms that are based upon revenue collections, in the event Tennessee suffers an unexpected economic downturn. If the revenue growth rate is more than one percent but less than two percent, the tax would remain flat.

Should the state’s revenue grow less than one percent, than the tax rate will increase incrementally in the same manner in which it decreased (one-tenth of a percent).

Finally, if revenue collections demonstrate a negative growth rate at any point in the process of lowering the tax, this rate would then return to the original 6.5 percent.

Cutting the business income tax on businesses will put money back into the pockets of owners so they can expand and create new jobs.

Legislation Improving Transportation for Disabled and Aging Citizens Moves Forward

 

Members of the Finance, Ways, & Means Subcommittee this week approved legislation aimed at improving transportation options for Tennessee’s disabled and aging populations.

The Tennessee Accessible Transportation and Mobility Act of 2020 creates an office within our Department of Transportation dedicated to expanding and improving accessible transportation.

Public transportation is a challenge in certain areas; it can be especially difficult for the disabled and aging. The new office created through House Bill 1596 will be tasked with identifying and working to eliminate barriers to reliable forms of public transportation for these specific populations.

House Bill 1596 heads to the Finance, Ways, & Means Committee for additional discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

 

Coming Up: Ag Day on the Hill

The annual “Ag Day on the Hill” event is set to get underway at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This year’s event coincides with National Agriculture Week and recognizes the important contributions made by our farmers and forestland owners. The 2020 Ag Day on the Hill will feature a cow milking competition and will also provide opportunities for agriculture organizations and agencies to discuss this important industry with their elected officials.