Rep. Chris Hurt’s Newsroom

State Rep. Chris Hurt’s Legislative Update

March 6, 2020

Budget Presentations in Education Committee

This past Wednesday East Tennessee State University and Middle Tennessee State University came before the House Education Committee to present their budgets for the next fiscal year. They gave us important updates on the state of their universities and the work they are doing to educate new generations of students.

ETSU President Brian Noland updated us on the largest nursing program in the state which is at ETSU and it was great to hear about the number of nurses they graduate and the effectiveness of job placement for these nurses. Tennessee has areas across the state that deal with nursing shortages and it’s promising to see our higher education institutions helping to try and solve this problem.

Middle Tennessee State University’s President, Dr. Sidney McPhee, updated us on the increase in enrollment numbers at MTSU and informed us that the increase in those numbers did not correlate with a compromise in the standards of the student population. MTSU saw a 1% increase in enrollment while also witnessing record high average ACT scores and record high GPA averages.

Effective and affordable higher education is vital to the success of the state of Tennessee and it’s promising to see that we have multiple post-secondary institutions across the state that can effectively educate citizens who wish to obtain a college degree.

 

House of Representatives responds to communities devastated by historic tornado outbreak

Early this week, several communities across Tennessee suffered extensive damage as a result of an historic tornado outbreak.

In the early morning hours of March 3, a powerful tornado tore through Germantown and North Nashville with wind speeds reaching 125 miles per hour. The tornado strengthened as it stayed on the ground for more than 50 miles, causing catastrophic damage across East Nashville, Donelson, Wilson and Putnam counties before finally dissipating. In all, 24 people were killed including 18 in Putnam County alone.

In the days following the storm, the House of Representatives began working with Gov. Bill Lee, his administration, community partners and volunteer organizations to ensure those impacted by this catastrophic event had the resources needed to begin the long recovery process.

Thursday in the House chamber, several members recognized the ongoing efforts of law enforcement communities and first responders for their dedication and for answering the call to serve the citizens of this state during this difficult time. Members also paused for a moment of silence and prayed for all those who had lost loved ones or had suffered damage to their properties.

In the weeks ahead, members will continue to identify solutions that support the recovery and rebuilding efforts. They range from legislation and appropriations, to additional support services in our hardest hit areas. Members will have several opportunities to come together and participate in volunteer and community service events that support the ongoing disaster response.

Federal officials have been on the ground assessing the damage caused by the severe weather event for several days now. Gov. Lee on Thursday afternoon announced Davidson, Wilson, and Putnam counties will receive federal aid through an expedited Major Disaster Declaration.

Through this declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide both its Individual Assistance and Public Assistance programs to citizens in these three declared counties. Affected citizens can begin to register with FEMA and apply for federal assistance by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov

At this time, Tennessee remains under a State of Emergency and the State Emergency Operations Center in Nashville continues to operate in support of the ongoing disaster response.

Additional resources and information for storm survivors is available by clicking here.

 

Department of Health confirms first coronavirus case in Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Health on Thursday morning confirmed the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Tennessee.

In a joint press conference, the governor and the Tennessee Department of Health outlined actions taken by the administration and public health officials to treat the first patient— a Williamson County man with mild symptoms — in efforts to minimize further spread of the virus. The patient and his family have been isolated and are being closely monitored. Additionally, Williamson County schools are closed both Friday and Monday for extensive cleaning.

A Coronavirus Task Force has also been created to enhance Tennessee’s coordinated efforts to prevent, identify, and treat potential cases of COVID-19. The task force will develop and execute strong precautionary measures, resource allocation, and emergency response plans should the needs continue to arise.

Citizens are urged to avoid close contact with anyone who is sick, avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth, utilize proper handwashing to eliminate the spread of germs, and to stay home if they are ill.

For more information regarding COVID-19, visit https://www.tn.gov/health.

 

Constitutional carry legislation set to begin movement next week

Historic Republican legislation that allows Tennessee to become the 17th state to enact constitutional carry is set to begin moving through the Tennessee House of Representatives next week.

House Bill 2817 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, this legislation upholds the freedoms granted to law-abiding citizens of Tennessee under our Constitution by allowing open or concealed carry for citizens 21 and older (18 if certain military service requirements are met).

House Bill 2817 is expected to be debated and discussed by members of the House Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee on March 10.

 

Republicans introduce resolution urging law enforcement to develop protocols for interactions with autistic adults

Republicans this week introduced a resolution urging law enforcement to develop training guidelines for interacting with adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

House Joint Resolution 807 calls on Tennessee’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission to develop and implement the appropriate training protocols.

Many times when law enforcement is called to a situation involving adults with autism or intellectual disabilities, it is because others misinterpret unusual behavior as dangerous or criminal activity.

While law enforcement is trained to use certain protocols in crisis situations, those same protocols may not be the best way to interact with individuals with ASD who may exhibit a wide variety of behaviors. People with ASD can sometimes have difficulty following verbal commands, responding to questions or reading body language.

This important initiative recognizes the increased prevalence of young people being diagnosed with ASD in the United States, which is now one in 59, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

House Republicans approve legislation adding alternative treatment to combat opioid crisis

This week in Nashville, Republican leaders approved legislation designed to increase alternative forms of treatment to opioids for Tennessee patients.

House Bill 1917 adds occupational therapy, interventional treatments and procedures, as well as non-opioid medicines to current alternative treatment methods which already include acupuncture and chiropractic care, as well as physical therapy.

Opioid-related overdose deaths continue to plague cities and towns across our state. However, Tennessee is making progress addressing the opioid crisis.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome decreased by 14 percent from 2017 to 2018. Additionally, four to seven-day prescriptions have decreased from 33.7 percent in April 2018 to 18.7 percent in March 2019. Eight to ten-day prescriptions were also down from 6.3 percent in April 2018 to 2.7 percent in March 2019.

House Bill 1917 will now head to the governor’s desk for his signature.

 

Resolution affirming Tennessee’s sovereignty passes in the House

A resolution reaffirming Tennessee’s Constitutional status as a sovereign state and the General Assembly’s authority as a separate and independent branch of state government passed the House Chamber earlier this week.

House Joint Resolution 741 reaffirms the constitutional duty and exclusive authority and power of the Tennessee General Assembly to appropriate taxpayer dollars and balance the state budget.

The resolution was introduced after the governor announced in December he would allow refugees to resettle in Tennessee. That decision follows an executive order by President Donald Trump to allow states and local governments to opt-in on whether they would resettle refugees.

Tennessee in 2017 became one of the first states in the nation to sue the federal government for compelling the state to pay for a federal program like refugee resettlement. The lawsuit cites a violation of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

State Rep. Chris Hurt’s Legislative Update

February 28, 2020

State Rep. Chris Hurt

House Bill 2708 Passes Through House Employee Affairs Subcommittee

This week I presented HB 2708 in the House Employee Affairs subcommittee. This bill, known as the Tennessee Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, helps to remove ambiguity from the law for businesses when dealing with an employee who is pregnant. It clarifies the laws that determine the medical accommodations employers who have 15 or more employees must take when dealing with pregnant workers.

This bill also contains clauses that establish employers from having to make accommodations that could be detrimental to the operation of their business. This bill has been discussed and developed over a course of six years with input from all sides and I am happy to do what I can to help accommodate expecting mothers who continue to work while they are pregnant while also helping to clarify the law so that employers can effectively run their business. HB 2708 now moves on to the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee.

 

 

House Republicans Introduce Historic Constitutional Carry Legislation

This week in Nashville, House Republican leadership unveiled historic legislation designed to uphold the freedoms granted to law-abiding citizens of Tennessee under our Constitution, while also cracking down on bad actors who unlawfully possess a gun.

When amended, House Bill 2817 extends the right to carry a handgun to all law-abiding citizens with or without a permit through constitutional carry who are 21 and older, except in current restricted areas.

Additionally, the proposal sends a strong message to violent criminals, felons, and those who illegally obtain a firearm through a series of increased penalties for firearm-related crimes. These include:

  • Increasing the penalty for theft of a firearm to a felony;
  • Providing a sentencing enhancement for theft of a firearm in a car;
  • Increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 days to 180 days;
  • Increasing the sentences for unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or allowing a juvenile to possess a handgun.

This historic measure will make Tennessee the 16th state in the nation to enact constitutional carry. House Bill 2817 is expected to begin moving through the committee process in the Tennessee House of Representatives next week.

 

Holly Bobo Act Gains Support in House

Members of the House Judiciary Committee this week backed House Bill 2308, also known as the Holly Bobo Act. The measure expands Tennessee’s endangered alert system to include missing or endangered young adults under 21-years-old.

The legislation honors the memory of 20-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo who was abducted from her home in Decatur County in 2011. The young woman’s remains were found three years later.

Bobo’s mother, Karen Bobo, recently addressed members of the House Judiciary Committee about the hopelessness she experienced when her daughter went missing on April 13, 2011.

In powerful testimony from Karen Bobo, the panel heard how she begged law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert, but they couldn’t because the young woman was 20.  The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) currently only issues alerts for missing or endangered children under 18 and Silver Alerts for senior citizens.

The Holly Bobo Act would not change the activation criteria for AMBER Alerts, which is a federally funded program.  Law enforcement reserves AMBER Alerts for the most serious of missing child cases when authorities believe a child is in imminent danger.

House Bill 2308 now heads to the House Calendar & Rules Committee, where it will be scheduled for a future vote in the House chamber.

 

Key Components of the CARE Plan Begin Journey through Committee

 This week in Nashville, key components of the Republican CARE Plan began their journey through the committee process in the House.

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

House Bill 1699 on Tuesday moved out of the House Life & Health Insurance Subcommittee. The measure paves the way to increase the electronic delivery of healthcare in Tennessee — especially in our rural communities — through telemedicine. The legislation defines provider-based telemedicine by adding a private location that a patient deems appropriate to receive healthcare services. House Bill 1699 requires an in-person encounter between a service provider, the provider’s practice group or healthcare system, and the patient 24 months prior to a telehealth encounter. It also requires insurance entities to consider remote patient monitoring (RPM) services as a covered service if it also covered under Medicare.

House Bill 1699 now heads to the House Insurance Committee and is expected to be heard on March 3, 2020.

Additionally, House Bill 2350 makes various changes to the certificate of need (CON) process for health facilities and services in efforts to remove barriers to competition in the marketplace. House Bill 2350 now moves on for discussion and debate in the House Health Committee.

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

 

Contract Procurement Legislation Advances

Legislation designed to improve transparency for the process of how the state of Tennessee secures contracts for goods and services moved out of the Departments & Agencies Subcommittee this week.

House Bill 2727 will require Fiscal Review to examine and study all state contracts for goods or services over $250,000 that are greater than a year in contract length and are procured through a non-competitive process.

The legislation is scheduled to be heard in the House State Committee on March 3, 2020.

 

 

Republican Lawmakers Introduce Evelyn’s Law

 Republican lawmakers also filed an amendment to existing legislation this week that will increase penalties against parents or guardians who fail to expediently report a missing child to a law enforcement officer or appropriate agency.

Known as Evelyn’s Law in honor of 15-month-old missing Sullivan County toddler Evelyn Boswell, the proposal will require parents or guardians to verbally report a child in their care is missing, has been abducted, or has run away within 48 hours of that child’s disappearance, followed by a written report as requested by law enforcement.

This law applies in instances where a child’s whereabouts are unknown to a parent or guardian and that individual knows, believes, or has substantial reason to believe the child’s whereabouts are unknown to any other individual tasked with temporarily supervising a child. Situations where there is knowledge that a child has been abducted, has suffered serious bodily harm, abuse, sexual exploitation, or who has run away would also be included in reporting requirements outlined in Evelyn’s Law.

As a result of Evelyn’s Law, failure to report or delaying a report while demonstrating reckless disregard for the safety of a child will now be considered a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,500 or both.

If a parent or guardian fails to report or delay reporting with reckless disregard resulting in serious bodily harm or death, they will now be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by three to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The legislation will soon be introduced and assigned to the appropriate standing committee for discussion and debate.

 

 

Legislation Saving Taxpayers $18 Million through Drug-Free Zone Reform Advances in House

Legislation reclassifying Tennessee’s drug-free school zones gained momentum in the House this week.

House Bill 2517 would shrink drug-free school zones from 1,000 to 500 feet and allow judges to use discretion to waive mandatory school zone sentencing enhancements. The cost savings generated by the legislation could equate to a reinvestment of more than $18 million for public safety and rehabilitation.

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

House Bill 2517 will be heard by members of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee in March.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legislative Update from State Rep. Chris Hurt

February 21, 2020

 

Meeting with Haywood County School Board Members  

This week members of the Haywood County School Board visited my office in Nashville and met with me. We discussed many issues pertaining to education that they were concerned with and I listened as they gave their thoughts on what the state can do to better improve public education. As a former school teacher and now state representative it is great to see and hear from constituents from the 82nd District who can help me to better represent them in Nashville especially those who are deeply engaged in the public education process.

Higher-Education Subcommittee Passes HB 1665

This week in the House Higher-Education subcommittee we considered HB 1665 which was being carried by Jason Hodges, D – Clarksville. Rep. Hodges bill requires public institutions of higher education to classify a student who is the spouse or dependent child of a service member as an in-state student for tuition purposes, regardless of the spouse’s or dependent child’s domicile or place of residence. I am eternally grateful for the sacrifice the members of our armed services make and was happy to support this bill as it passed out of the subcommittee with unanimous support.

 

Transportation Committee Passes HB 1712

This week in the transportation committee we considered HB 1712. This bill, being carried by Jason Powell, D- Nashville, directs the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to study the cost, feasibility, and infrastructure of expanding railroad passenger service in this state through the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak. Having Amtrak expand their role in Tennessee and provide cost-effective transportation is something I am interested in seeing. Earlier this year Amtrak officials came to the House Transportation Committee and gave a presentation explaining their hopes to expand in Tennessee. This presentation included possible routes from Nashville to Atlanta and from Nashville to Memphis. I supported this bill as it passed out of the House Transportation committee and am interested to see what TACIR will discover should the bill become law.

 

Governor’s Initiatives Begin Journey Through House

This week in Nashville, almost three dozen administration bills began making their way through the House chamber. These initiatives build upon Tennessee’s recent momentum and are key components of Gov. Bill Lee’s agenda for the 2020 legislative year. Some of them include:

  • House Bill 2223:  Clarifies the Department of Agriculture is responsible for establishing the standards applicable for certain donations of food. Strengthens a food donor’s immunity against liability for damage resulting from distribution of apparently wholesome food. House Bill 2223 will now be heard by members of the House Judiciary Committee.
  • House Bill 2227: Creates a rural Brownfield Tax Credit Enhancement Program. These brownfield sites are locations in our rural communities where former industries once stood. House Bill 2227 will allow companies looking to reinvest in these properties and the communities they serve to receive a tax credit in order to encourage them to relocate and create new jobs. The measure now moves to the Finance, Ways, & Means Committee.
  • House Bill 2242:  Ensures integrity within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and will help our Department of Human Services to fight instances of fraud, waste, and abuse within this program. House Bill 2242 now heads to the House State Committee for additional discussion and debate.

 

Republican Lawmakers Approve Legislation Creating 32nd Judicial District

Republican lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a measure designed to create a new judicial district in Tennessee.

House Bill 1156 was approved in the House chamber by an 84 to 5 vote, and it creates a new 32nd judicial district.

This new district will serve the citizens of Hickman, Lewis, and Perry Counties. Currently, they and Williamson County comprise the 21st judicial district.

The 32nd judicial district will allow for more specialized legal attention to better address the unique needs of citizens in these counties by reducing the backlog of court cases currently on the books because of Williamson County’s exponential growth. Additionally, the bill would allow Williamson County to become its own standalone judicial district.

Republican leaders are committed to providing new resources and additional support to our local judicial and law enforcement communities. This will ensure we remain tough on crime and hold the worst of the worst accountable so we can continue to create safe communities across Tennessee.

 

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.

 

 

Spencer Bristol Act Heads To Finance Subcommittee

Legislation honoring the life and legacy of Hendersonville Master Patrol Officer Spencer Bristol is closer to a vote in the House chamber.

The Spencer Bristol Act holds criminals accountable by significantly increasing penalties for evading arrest when a law enforcement officer is injured or dies during a pursuit involving a fleeing suspect. House Bill 1805 is scheduled for discussion and debate in the House Finance Subcommittee next week.

Currently, evading arrest is a Class D felony punishable by not less than two years and not more than 12 years in prison. This initiative enhances that penalty to a Class A offense, punishable by 15-60 years in prison.

The Spencer Bristol Act also increases penalties for causing serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer during a pursuit from a Class D felony to a Class C felony.

Officer Bristol was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 30, 2019 pursuing a fleeing suspect following a crash and high-speed car chase that began in Hendersonville and ended on Interstate 65 in Goodlettsville.

House Bill 1805 is expected to be heard by members of the Finance, Ways, & Means Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.

 

 

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.

 

 

Good Samaritan Sentencing Enhancement Act of 2020 Advances Out Of Criminal Justice Subcommittee

Members of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee this week backed House Bill 1816, also known as the Good Samaritan Sentencing Enhancement Act of 2020.

This permissive legislation creates a sentencing enhancement for individuals who commit offenses against those rendering emergency care or assistance to crime victims and who are classified as Good Samaritans.

House Bill 1816 will now be heard by members of the House Judiciary Committee next week.

 

 

General Assembly Honors Northeast Tennessee Heroes

Members of the Tennessee General Assembly honored members of the Mountain Electric Cooperative this week for saving the life of a motorist trapped during a mudslide and local flooding event on Feb. 11 in Johnson County.

Linemen Cody Bryant, Rick Courtner, Charlie Grindstaff, Mollie Ingle and Dakota Tester rushed into action to save a woman after her truck was overrun by high water in a swollen creek. Risking their own lives, the group pulled the motorist from her nearly submerged vehicle, made sure she was safe, and then quietly returned to their jobs.

Thursday was an opportunity for House members to recognize these humble and courageous heroes who went above and beyond during a stressful situation that could have ended in unimaginable tragedy.

Those who attended the ceremony at the capitol in Nashville were presented with a House Proclamation as a small token of appreciation for their dedication and service to the citizens of Johnson County and Tennessee.

 

 

Additional Notes

 

  • New Republican Whip Johnny Garrett named six of his Republican colleagues as Deputy Whips this week. They include: State Representatives Charlie Baum, R-Murfreesboro; Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski; Kirk Haston, R-Lobelville; Esther Helton, R-East Ridge; Rusty Grills, R-Newbern; and Lowell Russell, R-Vonore. As Deputy Whips, these members will assist in counting votes and communicating with members about the Republican supermajority’s position on issues and legislative initiatives of great significance for our caucus.

 

  • 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.

 

 

You May Contact Representative Hurt:

425 5th Avenue North, Suite 500

Nashville TN 37243

Phone: 615-741-2134

Fax: 615-741-1446

Toll Free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 44183

E-mail: rep.chris.hurt@capitol.tn.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legislative Update from State Rep. Chris Hurt

February 14, 2020

State Rep. Chris Hurt

Update on the Haywood County Megasite

This week I met with the Governor Lee to discuss the progress of the Haywood County Megasite. This site is essential to bringing prosperity to West Tennessee and ensuring its completion is one of my biggest priorities.

The meeting with Governor Lee was very productive and he informed me that the wastewater pipeline has his support and once all the property easements are completed construction on the pipe should begin. This is essential to attracting a company to the site who can provide a large number of jobs to the citizens living in West Tennessee.

Diesel Mechanic Training for Farm Equipment Coming to Tennessee

This week in the House Education Committee we heard from the Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, Dr. Flora Tydings. She spoke about the success the community colleges and TCAT schools are having in Tennessee and what they are doing to help to develop a workforce for the future.

I asked her about bringing an agricultural mechanic program to Tennessee and she informed me that they are currently in the process of obtaining a new facility where one of the many areas of study that will be offered there is agricultural diesel equipment repair. Currently to get trained in this field you must go out of state, but soon we will have a facility located in Parsons, Tennessee that can provide students with the knowledge they need to perform repairs on agricultural farm equipment.

You can watch the full Education committee hearing by clicking this link: http://tnga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=453&clip_id=21562

General Assembly Honors Bradley County Veteran John Simmons

Members of the Tennessee House of Representatives this week approved a measure honoring Bradley County veteran John Simmons for his extraordinary contributions to Tennessee’s veterans and our nation.

House Bill 1652 passed unanimously in the House chamber Monday evening. It designates the entry driveway at the new Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home as the John Simmons Parkway in honor of Mr. Simmons.

A 100 percent service-connected veteran, Simmons proudly served our nation in the U.S. Navy and became a corpsman. He was called to duty during the Vietnam War and was also active in various organizations across southeast Tennessee, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

Simmons also served on the State Veterans Home Board and was at the forefront of the process to secure land for the new Bradley County State Veterans home. He also obtained an anonymous donation of $3 million to help the project continue to move forward.

Upon completion, the Bradley County State Veterans Home is expected to serve upwards of 50,000 veterans who reside in the region.

House Republicans are proud to recognize our brave servicemen and women for their remarkable contributions to our state and nation. We proudly support them and our veterans and their families who have given so much for our many freedoms.

Measure Enhancing Laws Against Sexual Predators Gaining Momentum in House

A measure enhancing penalties against sexual offenders is gaining momentum in the House of Representatives.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee this week approved House Bill 1802, which adds an aggravating factor in cases where individuals conceal narcotics or other controlled substances into a person’s food or beverage with the intent to assault them later.

Under House Bill 1802, penalties in these instances would now be considered Class A felonies, punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

House Bill 1802 now heads to the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee for additional discussion and debate.

Republican Lawmakers Support Resolution Affirming Tennessee’s Sovereignty

Members of the House Departments & Agencies Subcommittee on Tuesday approved a resolution affirming Tennessee’s Sovereignty.

House Joint Resolution 741 reaffirms the General Assembly’s authority as a separate and independent branch of state government.

The resolution comes on the heels of an announcement in December declaring Tennessee would opt into President Trump’s Executive Order allowing the resettlement of additional refugees in our state, despite concerns over program costs and safety.

House Joint Resolution 741 is expected to be heard by the House State Committee on Feb. 18, 2020.

Republican Leaders Approve Measure Declaring Tennessee the “Volunteer State”

This week, Republican leaders also approved a measure officially designating the state of Tennessee as 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 — until now.

The state of Tennessee has been referred to as the “Volunteer State” because of its tradition of answering the call of duty, especially during the War of 1812. At the time, Tennessee was asked to send 1,500 troops to defend the lower Mississippi region as part of this conflict. Instead, the “Volunteer State” answered the call by sending 30,000 troops.

House Bill 1562 now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Tennessee Launches Initiative to Increase Apprenticeships

Recently, the state of Tennessee launched a comprehensive program to raise awareness about the benefits of registered apprenticeships.

ApprenticeshipTN is designed to increase the number of skilled employees that comprise our state’s workforce.

Under the program, apprentices participate in supervised on-the-job training, as well as job-related education. Additionally, they are compensated, and their wages continue to increase as they move further into the program.

As part of ApprenticeshipTN, the Department of Labor & Workforce Development has established an apprenticeship organization to work directly with employers, institutions of higher learning, community partners and trade organizations, as well as additional state agencies across all three Grand Divisions in order to develop and implement new registered apprenticeship programs.

For more information about ApprenticeshipTN, click here.

House Completes Spend A Day In My Wheels Challenge

House members participated in the Team ALeX “Spend A Day in My Wheels” Challenge on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

This event challenged lawmakers to go about their normal daily activities using a wheelchair. The challenge aims to create awareness about the difficulties people with mobility devices face on a daily basis with the goal of making the world more inclusive for everyone.

It was the idea of 14-year-old Alex Johnson, an eighth-grader at Friendship Christian School in Lebanon who approached the General Assembly about hosting this event.

Johnson has a rare skeletal disorder which left him dependent on a walker and then later a wheelchair. He came up with the idea for his “Spend a Day in My Wheels” challenge in 5th grade as a way to help his able-bodied classmates experience the world from his perspective.

 

You May Contact Representative Hurt at

425 5th Avenue North, Suite 500

Nashville TN 37243

Phone: 615-741-2134

Fax: 615-741-1446

Toll Free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 44183

E-mail: rep.chris.hurt@capitol.tn.gov

 

 

Legislative Update from State Rep. Chris Hurt

January 31, 2020

Understanding the BEP

This week I had meetings aimed at better understanding the Basic Education Program. The BEP is the funding formula for Tennessee’s K-12 public schools. The BEP represents huge portion of the state budget – over $4.8 billion dollars. It is imperative that our elected officials understand how education funding is calculated to better help the school systems in our districts.

K-12 Selected Data Analysis

I met with the chairman of the K-12 education committee, Representative John Ragan, to review a presentation he developed analyzing data of Tennessee school systems’ ACT scores. His presentation was very informative and looked at education in a way that I had never seen before. These out of the box approaches are what are needed to help us to formulate ideas and processes to help improve the educational system in Tennessee.

 

Legislation Declaring Tennessee The “Volunteer State” Moves Forward

Legislation officially designating the state of Tennessee as the “Volunteer State” is moving forward in the Tennessee General Assembly.

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.

The state of Tennessee has been referred to as the “Volunteer State” because of its tradition of answering the call of duty, especially 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” answered the call with 30,000 troops instead.

House Bill 1562 now heads to the House Calendar & Rules Committee, where it will be scheduled for a future vote in the House.

 

House Republicans Elect Majority Whip

This week in Nashville, House Republicans elected State Rep. Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville) to serve as Republican Whip for the 2020 legislative session

As Republican Whip, Garrett is the fourth ranking officer in the House Republican Caucus. He will serve as the information channel between membership and caucus leaders. Garrett is also in charge of providing communication to membership related to caucus positions on legislation. He will work with members to understand their position related to legislative initiatives and communicate all information obtained to House Republican leadership.

Garrett joins a leadership team that also includes Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), Speaker Pro-Tempore Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland), Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), Assistant Majority Leader Ron Gant (R-Rossville), Republican Floor Leader Paul Sherrell (R-Sparta), Freshman Leader Chris Todd (R-Madison County), Republican Caucus Vice-Chairman Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin), Majority Secretary Clay Doggett (R-Pulaski), Majority Treasurer Mark Cochran (R-Englewood) and Deputy Speaker Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville).

 

Republican Lawmakers Introduce Legislation On Refugee Resettlement

Republican lawmakers filed a series of initiatives to address the ongoing refugee resettlement issue in Tennessee.

House Joint Resolution 741, House Bill 1578, and House Bill 1929 are designed to better examine questions about resettlement costs and other related matters, including safety.

The initiatives were filed after Tennessee opted into an Executive Order by President Donald Trump last December, which gave states the authority to decide whether they would continue to resettle additional refugees under the program.

Tennessee in 2017 became one of the first states in the nation to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement citing a violation of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which reserves states’ rights.

The legal matter may require additional action in the months ahead.

 

Unemployment Below Five Percent In Nearly Every Tennessee County

Newly released data from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development showed the vast majority of counties in the state had unemployment rates below five percent during December 2019.

Williamson County continued to have Tennessee’s lowest unemployment rates at 2.2 percent, which remained unchanged from November.

Davidson, Rutherford, and Cheatham counties each had a rate of 2.3 percent in December. Seasonally adjusted unemployment statewide held steady in December with the latest rate of 3.3 percent remaining unchanged.

Nationally, unemployment held steady at 3.5 percent for the final month of 2019. Thanks to conservative leadership, the Volunteer State remains the best place in the entire nation to live, work, raise a family, and retire.

 

Business Expansions Continue Across State

Recently, numerous major business expansions have been announced by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and House Republicans. Over the last month, several companies have decided to expand their operations.

Some of the most prominent announced expansions include:

  • Accenture — Nashville, Tennessee. The leading global strategy, consulting, digital technology and operations company is adding 165 technology jobs at the former Madison Mill site.
  • Adient — Lexington, Tennessee. The automotive supplier will invest $23.5 million to expand its manufacturing facility, creating 330 new jobs.
  • AllianceBernstein — Nashville, Tennessee. The asset management firm will invest $11.4 million to create 200 new jobs at its global headquarters.
  • Amazon — Memphis, Tennessee. Amazon’s new $200 million Memphis fulfillment center will add 1,000 new jobs in Memphis and Shelby County.
  • Gorman Woodyard LLC — McEwen, Tennessee. The wood chipping company is expanding to create 46 new jobs in Humphreys County over the next five years through a $1.5 million investment.
  • Minth Group — Lewisburg, Tennessee. The automotive supplier will create 254 new jobs and invest $87 million in Marshall County over the next five years.
  • Sanford – Shelbyville, Tennessee. The maker of mechanical pencils and parts will add 115 new jobs with an $11 million expansion in Bedford County.

 

Reminder: State Of The State Is This Upcoming Monday

As a reminder, Governor Bill Lee will deliver his second State of the State Address on Monday, Feb. 3 at 6:00.

The Governor will lay out his legislative agenda for the year in detail and also discuss his proposed budget.

House Republicans will place a major emphasis on health care, early-education, criminal justice reform, mental health, and rural economic development throughout the remainder of the 111th General Assembly.

 

You May Contact Representative Hurt at:

425 5th Avenue North, Suite 500

Nashville TN 37243

Phone: 615-741-2134

Fax: 615-741-1446

Toll Free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 44183

E-mail: rep.chris.hurt@capitol.tn.gov

 

 

 

Legislative Update from State Rep. Chris Hurt

January 24, 2020

Republican Leaders Honor Fallen Officer Spencer Bristol

This week in Nashville, House Republican leaders honored the life and legacy of Hendersonville Master Patrol Officer Spencer Bristol by introducing the Spencer Bristol Act.

Officer Bristol was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 30, 2019 pursuing a fleeing suspect following a crash and high-speed car chase that began in Hendersonville and ended on Interstate 65 in Goodlettsville.

The Spencer Bristol Act holds criminals accountable by significantly increasing penalties for evading arrest when a law enforcement officer is injured or dies during a pursuit involving a fleeing suspect.

Currently, evading arrest is a Class D felony punishable by not less than two years and not more than 12 years in prison. This initiative enhances that penalty to a Class A offense, punishable by 15-60 years in prison.

Additionally, the Spencer Bristol Act increases penalties for causing serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer during a pursuit from a Class D felony to a Class C felony.

Republican lawmakers are proud to support this initiative honoring this fallen hero. We proudly stand with the brave men and women who protect and serve our communities, and we will continue to fight for them throughout the 2020 legislative session.

Republican Lawmakers Join Governor for Pro-Life Announcement

Members of the House Republican Caucus joined Governor Bill Lee Thursday for a significant pro-life announcement designed to enhance Tennessee’s status as a national leader on this important issue.

During the announcement, the Governor unveiled components of a comprehensive proposal that includes a prohibition of an abortion when a fetal heartbeat exists.

Lee’s proposal would also build upon successes in other states while incorporating innovative approaches to enhance existing law, including requiring a mother to undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion. Additionally, this plan would prohibit an abortion when a physician is aware that the decision to seek a procedure is motivated by the race, sex, health, or disability diagnoses of the unborn child.

Tennessee is a strong pro-life state, and conservative leaders remain committed to protecting our most innocent and serving as a powerful voice for our unborn.

House Republicans Pursue Tax Cut Legislation this Year

House Republicans this year will prioritize legislation that provides additional tax cuts for hardworking Tennesseans. I strongly believe in cutting taxes and reducing the burden they place on all 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.

State Capitol Lit to Raise Awareness To Slavery and Human Trafficking

The lighting at the State Capitol this week was lit in blue on Wednesday in order to raise awareness about slavery and human trafficking in Tennessee. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry in the state.

In recent years, legislators have enhanced laws related to these specific crimes through a series of bills in efforts to combat this issue. This push comes after a 2011 (TBI) report showed 73 of the state’s 95 counties have experienced cases related to this heinous criminal activity. Because of our recent efforts strengthening human trafficking laws, Tennessee continues to lead the nation and has earned the top distinction from Shared Hope International for its human trafficking laws.

Unemployment Rates Remain Steady to Close Out 2019

Newly release data from the Department of Labor & Workforce Development indicates unemployment rates remained near record low levels for the month of December.

For the second consecutive month, the state recorded a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.3 percent. This figure is 0.1 percentage point away from the state’s all-time low unemployment rate of 3.2 percent, which was recorded in February of 2019.

Employers continue to create new jobs across Tennessee. Non-farm employment increased by 2,000 positions in December, and the manufacturing trade/transportation/utilities and leisure/hospitality sectors also reported the greatest number of new hires.

Nationally, unemployment also remains steady. The national seasonally adjusted rate for December 2019 is 3.5 percent — the same as November.

 

You May Contact Representative Hurt at

425 5th Avenue North, Suite 500

Nashville TN 37243

Phone: 615-741-2134

Fax: 615-741-1446

Toll Free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 44183

E-mail: rep.chris.hurt@capitol.tn.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legislative Update From Chris Hurt

January 17, 2020

Tennessee Legislature Kicks Off Second Half Of 111th General Assembly

The Second Regular Session of the 111th General Assembly officially convened this week in Nashville as Republican leaders continued to focus on building upon their recent achievements.

Speaker Cameron Sexton gaveled members into session and also welcomed everyone back before sharing brief remarks with the body about the upcoming session:

 “The 2020 legislative session is here, and I believe we are all poised for a very successful year in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

 Over the last four months, I have enjoyed visiting with you in your communities, and I am reminded every single day of how diverse and unique all three Grand Divisions are in our state and how fortunate we are to call Tennessee our home.

 I admire your dedication and your willingness to answer the call to serve others. Additionally, I appreciate our shared desire to build upon the solid foundations left behind by those who have previously served.

 We have had many great leaders over our years, and now is the time to accept the task that lies before us — the task to propel our state and our communities to new heights together.

 Our job is to represent, serving as the voices for all Tennesseans from middle to west to east to urban to rural. Each and every voice is distinctive, and while we may not always agree on every issue, let’s remain respectful to one another and remember that each one of us represents 65,000 Tennesseans. We have a tremendous opportunity to ensure Tennessee continues to grow and that our state prospers.    

 Thank you for your continued service; I appreciate your partnership; I am honored to serve as your speaker. I am very eager to begin and continue working alongside each of you for the betterment of all Tennesseans.”

-Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton

 The bill filing deadline for this year is set for Wednesday, February 5. This means all proposals, except bills of local application, must be filed by that deadline in order to be heard for consideration during the 2020 legislative session.

Amtrak Pitches Adding New Routes in Tennessee

During the first meeting of the House transportation committee representatives from Amtrak pitched adding new routes in Tennessee. The routes they pitched would be a route running from Nashville to Atlanta and possibly a route from Nashville to Memphis. The officials from Amtrak are hoping to get a federal grant to help cover the initial cost to get the Amtrak trains up and running. I look forward to listening to more concerning transportation issues and doing what I can to help the 82nd District in their transportation needs.

Tennessee General Assembly Officials Welcome New State Rep. Rusty Grills

As part of the opening chapter of the new legislative session, the General Assembly welcomed State Rep. Rusty Grills (R-Newbern) to Nashville.

The former Dyer County Commissioner overwhelmingly won December’s special election to fill the vacant District 77 seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Rep. Grills was joined in Nashville by his family as he officially took the oath of office below:

I (Name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that as a member of this General Assembly, I will, in all appointments, vote without favor, affection, partiality, or prejudice; and that I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to me injurious to the people, or consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State.

House Republicans Set 2020 Legislative Agenda

As the new legislative year officially begins, House Republicans have an array of issues they will prioritize over the course of the next several months. Their work in 2020 will build upon last year’s momentum and accomplishments.

Last year saw passage of a fiscally conservative balanced budget that included more than $35.2 million in tax cuts for all Tennesseans. The budget provides a $239 million investment in the state’s Rainy Day Fund bringing the state savings account to $1.1 billion. The budget included a record-breaking $11.3 billion investment in education and multiple initiatives that support businesses by providing opportunities to expand and create new jobs.

Education will remain front and center over these next several months.  A key goal will be to improve early childhood literacy rates across this state. This can be accomplished through targeted investments, attracting and incentivizing educators who specialize in these areas, and through community programs and partnerships. Every student should have the same resources and opportunities, so current and future workforces are prepared for successful futures and Tennessee continues to thrive.

Health care remains a priority in 2020. Republicans will further examine ways to create a health care system that improves access and quality of care available, while lowering overall costs. We will look to continue to increase access through telemedicine, and we will focus on promoting competition through Certificate of Need (CON) reform. Improving transparency so patients can determine the type of care that is most affordable to them will also remain a priority. Our current health care system must continue to shift toward a more patient-centered approach.  This will allow patients and their loved ones to make all medical decisions, rather than insurance companies or the government.

Additionally, we will advance discussions about overhauling our current criminal justice system so it meets present day standards, not those of 30 years ago. As we work to create a system of justice tempered with mercy, Republicans will focus on remaining smart on crime, but not at the expense of safer communities. Conversations will also likely focus on strengthening responses to individuals with behavioral health needs, sending a strong message to criminals through truth in sentencing laws, and continuing to remove barriers to successful re-entry for those who desire to become productive citizens.

Finally, members of the bi-partisan TANF Working Group will continue to examine the current surplus within the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in order to determine ways we can best support those looking to become self-reliant. The group’s overall focus will be to find innovative solutions that support our working families as they strive to overcome obstacles keeping them from achieving their independence.

Under GOP leadership, Tennessee remains near record low unemployment levels. As of November 2019, statewide unemployment was 3.3 percent. Additionally, our income levels are increasing at the second fastest rate in the entire Southeast. Tennessee has the lowest debt and is the most fiscally stable state in the entire country. The Volunteer State remains the best place in the entire nation to live, work, raise a family and retire, thanks to the efforts of the Tennessee House Republicans.

Republican Leaders Introduce Right to Work Constitutional Amendment

Republican leaders have introduced a resolution that would add Tennessee’s Right to Work law to the state constitution. The resolution is sponsored by more than a dozen high ranking Republican House members. It guarantees future generations of Tennessee workers their right to work regardless of whether they choose to join a union.

Tennessee’s Right to Work statute has been state law since 1947. It protects workers from being 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 introduced in 1947, supporters of the bill argued that it would “be of great advantage to the average member of organized labor.” It also protects the rights of those who choose not to join a union.

Twenty-seven other 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.

Tennessee is a highly sought location for companies seeking hard workers and a friendly business environment. Having this constitutional amendment that forever protects our workers and job growth in this state further solidifies Tennessee’s status as a national economic leader.

House Republicans Partner With Department Of Transportation For Aeronautics Grant Announcements

 Recently, members of the House Republican Caucus partnered with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) on a series of seven grant announcements across the state — totaling $6 million — to support our local airports.

The grants are part of the department’s Aeronautics Economic Development Fund, which is designed to impact job creation and investment opportunities within the state’s aviation industry.

A full list of the award recipients can be found by clicking here.

Republican lawmakers remain committed to fighting for additional resources to promote continued economic growth across all three Grand Divisions of Tennessee.

 

You May Contact Representative Hurt at:

425 5th Avenue North, Suite 500

Nashville TN 37243

Legislative Update from Representative Chris Hurt

May 3, 2019

Final Legislative Update

This is my final legislative update of this year. The 1111th Tennessee General Assembly officially finished our first session late Thursday evening. It was a wonderful time getting to be in Nashville and represent the people of House District 82. I have learned so much and am thankful for this opportunity. However, our work is far from done. We still need to work to improve public education, lower taxes, reduce unemployment, and take steps to get West Tennessee on a path towards success.

Tennessee General Assembly Approves Budget

This week, both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly unanimously approved a fiscally responsible budget that builds upon recent, strategic Republican-led investments. This budget makes thoughtful investments across state government and preserves Tennessee’s AAA bond rating.

It invests approximately $239 million into the Rainy Day Fund – totaling roughly $1.1 billion. The budget also cuts more than $35.2 million in taxes and saves $15 million for additional tax cuts next year. These reductions include $22 million in the Professional Privilege Tax, and the elimination of the $6 million Gym Tax.

Additionally, the budget allocates $27.3 million to fully fund the Katie Beckett program, which provides lifesaving medical services through TennCare for Tennessee children with the most significant disabilities and highest medical needs, regardless of parental income levels.

It makes an $11.3 billion total investment in education – including $6.6 billion in K-12 funding. Approximately $71 million will fund teacher salaries, while $39.4 million will fully fund the state’s Basic Education Program to cover growth and inflation in the funding formula. The budget also invests $40 million to secure our schools, and $25 million to expand vocational and technical training opportunities for our future leaders.

Finally, the budget includes $222 million in new economic development funding, $45.1 million for corrections, $21.5 million to support mental health and substance abuse services, and additional investments to support our veterans, first responders, and elderly citizens who have all made lasting contributions to their communities and this state.

House Republicans are committed to prioritizing the needs of our citizens, and we will continue to serve as responsible stewards of Tennessee’s taxpayer dollars.

Katie Beckett Waiver Legislation Unanimously Passes In House Chamber

Legislation to ensure children who have long-term disabilities or complex medical needs are allowed to receive healthcare services at home with additional support unanimously passed this week.

House Bill 498 – commonly referred to as the Katie Beckett Waiver bill – directs the Commissioner of Finance & Administration to submit a waiver for the purpose of establishing a distinct Katie Beckett program. The measure requires the program to be designed in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Development Disabilities (DIDD) and be composed of two parts.

Part A, a traditional Katie Beckett program, is designed to provide a pathway to eligibility for Medicaid services and essential wraparound home and community-based services regardless of parental income levels, as well as resources for children under 18 who suffer from severe functional limitations.

Part B, which would be administered by DIDD, must be designed as a Medicaid diversion plan and offer a capped package of essential wraparound services and supports, as well as premium assistance on a sliding fee scale for children under 18 that meet the appropriate level of care criteria.

Additionally, House Bill 498 requires a joint report by TennCare and DIDD to be issued annually to the House TennCare Subcommittee and Senate Health Committee.

This life-saving legislation will ensure Tennessee children and their families receive access to critical care services.

General Assembly Enhances Tennessee’s Statue Of Limitation Laws Against Child Predators

 Members of the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation designed to enhance Tennessee’s Statute of Limitations laws against child predators this week.

House Bill 565 removes the statute of limitations for all felony crimes committed against a child if the victim is under 13 years of age or if he or she is 13-17 years old and reports the crime to someone by their 23rd birthday.

If a victim is 13-17 and does not report the crime by their 23rd birthday, the statute of limitations is 25 years from their 18th birthday. After those 25 years, a case can also proceed if there is corroborating evidence of the allegations or similar acts by the defendant.

House Bill 565 now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

House Republicans Approve CARE Plan Components To Increase Access To Affordable Healthcare

Republican leaders approved components of the CARE plan this week, designed to transform healthcare through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems, and Empowering patients to ensure individuals and families can make all medical decisions instead of insurance companies or the government.

House Bill 419  – also known as the Tennessee Right To Shop Bill –  structures Tennessee’s health insurance market to include a customer member portal for the various health insurance plans that allows patients to shop for certain services coupled with an incentive program for enrollees to achieve a cost savings. This legislation will allow patients the ability to choose quality health services at the best price while participating in an incentive program that provides shared savings.

Additionally, House Bill 786, which reforms laws concerning pharmacy benefits managers (PBM), was also overwhelming approved. The bill prohibits errors identified from being the basis of a recoupment unless it results in an overpayment to the pharmacy or the wrong medication being dispensed to the patient. This legislation also requires 30 days’ notice from a PBM regarding any change to the PBM’s pharmacy contract and clarifies that this does not prohibit a PBM from taking action without notice against a pharmacist or pharmacy in its network for a fraudulent claim or service. The measure also allows for Direct and Indirect Remuneration (DIR) fees — which cover monies that a Medicare Part D/PBM may collect to offset member plans — to be used as incentives but not as disincentives.

Finally, both chambers reached an agreement on House Bill 1280. The measure calls on the Governor, acting through the Commissioner of Finance & Administration to submit a waiver to the federal centers for Medicare and Medicaid services to immediately provide assistance to the state’s TennCare population through the implementation of block grants. Block grants authorized through House Bill 1280 must convert the federal share of all medical assistance funding for Tennessee into an allotment that is tailored to meet Tennessee’s specific needs. All funding must be indexed to take into account both inflation and population growth.

This reform is desperately needed in Tennessee to transform our current healthcare model into a consumer-driven, patient-centered system that improves access and the quality of care patients receive, while ultimately driving down overall costs.

House Continues To Cut Taxes For Hardworking Tennessee Citizens

This week, House lawmakers continued to reduce taxes for hardworking Tennesseans and their families.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly supported House Bill 1262, which repeals the professional privilege tax on accountants, architects, athlete agents, audiologists, chiropractors, dentists, engineers, landscape architects, optometrists, pharmacists, podiatrists, psychologists, real estate brokers, speech pathologists, and veterinarians. This equates to a $22 million reduction.

House Republicans also approved House Bill 494 to repeal the ammunition tax imposed on shotgun shells and metallic cartridges for the law abiding citizens of this state.

Both measures now await the Governor’s signature.

Lawmakers Create The Tennessee Alzheimer’s Disease And Related Dementia Advisory Council

On Tuesday, Republican leaders advanced House Bill 37, creating the State Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia Advisory Council.

This council will continually assess and address the status of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in Tennessee. Under House Bill 37, the council will develop and submit an Alzheimer’s disease state plan to the General Assembly that identifies barriers to care for patients, analyzes service utilization data, and includes recommendations, metrics, and best practices to address gaps in service.

According to the National Institute of Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. This council is the first step in curbing this deadly disease, and Tennessee House Republicans are committed to ensuring those with Alzheimer’s receive the best care possible.

Republican-Led Initiative Authorizing LEAs To Create Educator Evaluation Models Passes House

A Republican-led initiative that authorizes local education agencies (LEAs) to use an alternative growth indicator approved by the State Board of Education in the evaluation of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers was overwhelmingly approved this week.

House Bill 91 creates a 10-member Portfolio Review Committee which will review the growth portfolio model process, identify expectations and areas for improvement, make recommendations, and consider alternative opinions. Additionally, no termination or compensation decisions can be made based upon the current evaluation/portfolio models already in place.

When our teachers and students have the support and access to the resources they need to succeed, Tennessee’s future is bright.

House Passes Bill To Require Automated External Defibrillators In Tennessee Public Schools

The General Assembly also approved legislation that will continue to ensure student safety across Tennessee earlier this week.

House Bill 776 requires all public middle and elementary schools to place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) within their facilities. This will ensure all public schools have lifesaving equipment in close proximity, in the event it is needed to save lives.

The measure now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Tennessee’s Strong Economy Continues To Grow

New data indicates Tennessee’s economy grew by 7.8 percent in February. According to the Department of Economic & Community Development, more than 6,700 Tennessee jobs have already been announced through April 26th – that’s more than 56 new jobs a day.

Recent numbers also indicate that 80 of our 95 counties recorded unemployment rates in March that were lower than the same time period last year. Statewide unemployment remains near historic low levels in Tennessee, with the seasonally adjusted rate remaining unchanged at 3.2 percent.

Tennessee’s economy is firing on all cylinders, and thanks to the efforts of Tennessee House Republicans, it is showing no indications of slowing down. We will continue to fight for job growth and economic opportunity across Tennessee through tax cuts, the elimination of job-killing regulations and through commonsense initiatives that support our businesses and our current and future workforces.

In Closing…

Having completed its business for the year, the first session of the 111th General Assembly is now complete. One General Assembly is comprised of two sessions, with the next meeting of the body set to begin on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at high noon.

Legislative Update from Representative Chris Hurt

April 18, 2019

House Supports Resolution Calling For New Ad Hoc Task Force On Education

This week, House lawmakers supported a Joint Resolution that creates a new Ad Hoc Task Force on Education.

This House-led initiative — in partnership with the Governor and the Senate Speaker — will focus on untying the hands of our educators, students, and schools in efforts to solidify Tennessee’s future.

Under House Joint Resolution 394, the task force will study and evaluate the overall effectiveness and necessity of state testing practices, curriculum, and other mandated academic policies and procedures that are currently imposed upon our school boards, school directors, principals, teachers, students, and their parents. This will improve overall education outcomes and enhance Tennessee’s future economic standing.

I am the prime sponsor of this resolution and I look forward to doing what I can to help reduce the burden placed on our teachers and administrators in our public schools that prevents them from effectively educating every student to their full potential. This week in committee I expressed that it is my desire to take a 30,000 foot look at the testing and mandates that the state sends down to our local LEA’s.

The Ad Hoc Task Force on Education will include members of the Governor’s Cabinet as appointed by the Governor, as well as members of both the House and Senate as appointed by the Speakers. Tennessee educators, school administrators, and parents will also be chosen to participate by the Governor, the Lt. Governor, and the House Speaker as they see fit.

Tennessee has made remarkable progress improving education over the past decade. Because of strategic and record-breaking Republican-led investments, our students are now the fastest improving in the entire nation across math, reading, and science. Last year, we also achieved the best high school graduation rates ever — 89.1 percent.

The creation of this important task force is another example of the House’s commitment to education and strong desire to lead. It is imperative that we build upon our recent successes in the areas of career readiness and aptitude for our K-12 students, and this task force gives us that opportunity.

Three More Bills Passed on the House Floor

 Today, I was able to successfully pass three more bills that I was sponsoring on the House floor.

HB 496 passed with a vote of 96-0. As introduced, this bill creates exemptions to licensure and certification requirements, as applicable, for certain health professionals who are participating in federal Innovative Readiness Training programs.

HB 1032 passed with a vote of 97-0. With certain exceptions, this bill requires a court of the state of Tennessee to recognize a foreign-country judgment to the extent that the judgment grants or denies recovery of a sum of money and that, under the law of the foreign country where rendered, is final, conclusive, and enforceable. However, this bill will not apply to a foreign-country judgment, even if the judgment grants or denies recovery of a sum of money, to the extent that the judgment is a judgment for taxes; a fine or other penalty; or a judgment for divorce, support, or maintenance, or other judgment rendered in connection with domestic relations. A party seeking recognition of a foreign-country judgment will have the burden of establishing that this bill applies to the foreign-country judgment.

HB 1514 passed with a vote of 96-0. Subject to local approval, this bill moves date of election for mayor and aldermen of the City of Ripley from April to the first Thursday in August at the regular general election.

Republican-Led Bill Promoting Civics Education Passes House

Republican lawmakers passed House Bill 944 recognizing Tennessee’s public schools and school districts that implement high-quality civic education because it is essential to preserving our constitutional democracy.

In partnership with the Secretary of State’s office, this initiative seeks to promote efforts to increase access to quality civics education, while also recognizing our schools for their excellence in civics education.

Standards established by this legislation include instructional criteria, professional development for teachers, project-based assessment implementation, real-world learning activities, and high-performance on Tennessee’s mandated exam for our high school seniors.

This legislation will have an incredible impact on our current and future leaders, and House Republicans will continue to support legislation that strengthens the academic foundations of our students.

Republican Lawmakers Pass Legislation To Protect Tennessee’s Elections From Fraud

Legislation to protect Tennessee’s elections from fraud and abuse passed the House of Representatives with strong support this week.

House Bill 1079 requires a person or organization that plans to conduct a registration drive attempting to collect 100 or more voter registration forms and pays individuals to collect the voter registration forms to register with the Coordinator of Elections and receive training prior to conducting drives.

This measure makes intentional violations a Class A misdemeanor for each offense on an individual or an organization that fails to adhere to new requirements under the measure. It also allows the State Election Commission to assess civil penalties to persons/organizations submitting a high number of deficient forms.

As amended, House Bill 1079 only applies to a person or organization that pays individuals to collect voter registration forms. The bill would not apply to individuals or organizations that collect forms using unpaid volunteers, such as the Boy Scouts, churches, or college student government associations.

It is important for every Tennessean to vote, but we must ensure voter registration is done in a responsible and lawful manner. This bill will ensure applications are timely filed and our election process is not compromised.

Republican Lawmakers Create Balance Within Community Oversight Boards

This week, House Republicans strengthened House Bill 658 by adopting a recent Conference Committee amendment that gives community oversight boards subpoena power through their local legislative body.

As amended, the local legislative body must vote in support of a community oversight board’s subpoena request. Additionally, the subpoena may not be issued in the form of a blanket authorization; it must specify each document to be produced or witness to testify and cannot be issued for confidential documents.

House Bill 658 balances both the interests of our citizens to voice their opinion while also protecting the fundamental rights of officers and their families from malicious or politically focused persecution.

Community oversight boards have existed since the 1950s, and there are presently no guidelines outlined in Tennessee state law that defines how they are created, who can serve on them, and what their specific function is.

This important initiative provides much needed structure to all current and future community oversight boards in Tennessee, which is critical to their overall success, as well as overall safety in Tennessee.

House Republicans Continue To Lead On Criminal Justice Reform

Earlier this week, Republican lawmakers advanced House Bill 839 to ensure accountability and also support rehabilitation efforts for those with a strong desire to work towards prosperity.

This measure creates a statewide payment plan for individuals who submit proof of their inability to pay fines, taxes, or court costs on citations and have had their licenses suspended. This will allow them to obtain restricted drivers licenses so they can work, pursue their education, or attend church.

Additionally, Republican leaders passed House Bill 950, which funds the state’s electronic monitoring indigency fund, which was exhausted last year. The measure adds $1.5 million in new funding and creates a state and county matching grant program to distribute funds.

These and other initiatives throughout the 111th General Assembly are a small part of a much larger criminal justice reform plan that will create a system of justice tempered with mercy.

Governor Lee Signs Legislation Tossing Gym Tax

This week, the Governor signed legislation that tosses the amusement tax on small gyms.

House Bill 1138 eliminates the amusement tax on small gyms, fitness studios, and similar entities across Tennessee. It levels the playing field for these facilities so they can compete against their larger counterparts, which obtained an exemption from this burdensome regulation in 1986.

Currently, Tennessee ranks in the bottom five states for obesity and fitness. The overall goal of this initiative is to promote a healthier workforce, reduce obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and improve the overall quality of life for the citizens of this state.

Republican lawmakers remain committed to eliminating burdensome regulations on Tennessee’s small businesses, as well as improving the health and well-being for all of our citizens.

Rural Republican Lawmakers Negotiate With Governor To Protect Against Possible Negative ESA Impact

As momentum builds in the House builds for the Governor’s proposed Education Savings Account legislation, rural Republican leaders are taking steps to safeguard their communities from unintended financial consequences related to House Bill 939.  

During discussions and negotiations with the Governor, these members were able to include an amendment to House Bill 939 that guarantees the proposed ESA pilot program is strictly limited to just four Tennessee counties — Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Shelby Counties and will be capped at 30,000 students. These school districts have been historically recognized in the bottom 10 percent of all schools in the state and across our country.

The House Finance, Ways and Means Committee passed House Bill 939 this week, which will give Tennessee’s poorest children in the worst schools a fighting chance at a high-quality education.

Feds Grant Governor’s Request for Major Disaster Declaration For Flood Relief In 56 Tennessee Counties

The federal government has approved the Governor’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration to make federal recovery assistance available to 56 county jurisdictions impacted by February’s flooding and severe storms.

The following counties are included in this declaration:  Bedford, Bledsoe, Blount, Campbell, Carter, Cheatham, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Coffee, Decatur, Dekalb, Dickson, Dyer, Fentress, Gibson, Giles, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Hawkins, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Lake, Lauderdale, Lewis, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall, McNairy, Moore, Morgan, Obion, Overton, Perry, Rhea, Roane, Robertson, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Smith, Tipton, Unicoi, Union, Van Buren, Warren, and Wayne.

The major disaster declaration covers the time period of Feb. 19, to March 30, 2019, and will allow government entities and certain private non-profits in the eligible counties to apply for reimbursement of specific expenses related to the disaster under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) program.

FEMA is still reviewing Gov. Lee’s initial request to provide assistance in five other Tennessee counties – Decatur, Hardin, Humphreys, Perry, and Sevier – through the Individual Assistance (IA) program.

The February storms impacted 83 of Tennessee’s 95 counties and caused more than $80 million in damages to the state’s transportation network. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has executed more than 50 emergency contracts to repair nearly 300 locations in 73 counties. TDOT has received $10 million in federal disaster relief funds and will work with the Federal Highway Administration for reimbursement for costs related to the storms.

Additionally, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is coordinating with partners to assist farmers experiencing flooding in low-lying areas and river bottomlands, particularly in West Tennessee.

Information about FEMA’s PA program and its eligible reimbursement categories is available by clicking here.

The federal declaration also makes Tennessee eligible for the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which provides assistance to communities to prevent or reduce long-term risks to life and property from natural hazards.

Legislative Update from Representative Chris Hurt

April 15, 2019

First Bill Passed and Signed Into Law

My first bill, HB 404, made it to the House Floor and passed with a vote of 93-0 and this past Wednesday it was signed into law by Governor Lee. HB 404 was a clean-up bill I carried for the Comptroller’s office. This bill simply codified the practice of the comptroller’s office being the assessing authority for telecommunications towers that are owned by a public utility company.

Republican-Led Initiative To Expand Access To Vocational & Technical Training Passes House

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 949, also known as the GIVE Act, to expand access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students by a 92-0 vote.

One of Governor Lee’s first initiatives, this legislation is a two-pronged approach that utilizes regional partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities. Communities will now have the funding and flexibility to build programs that best reflect local needs and work directly with private industry to structure programming.

The GIVE Act also provides funding for high school juniors and seniors to utilize four, fully-funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs. Previously, high school students only had access to two fully-funded dual enrollment credits. With access to four credits, students will now be better prepared for entry into the workforce within two years of graduation.

This initiative will help close gaps in our workforce by helping students become better prepared for jobs after high school. The measure now awaits Governor Lee’s signature.

Lawmakers Pass Bill To Empower Tennessee To Lead On Healthcare

House Republicans approved House Bill 1280 on Thursday, which will empower Tennessee to lead on healthcare and create a patient-centered system that addresses the unique needs of our citizens, while also lowering costs.

House Bill 1280 calls on the Governor, acting through the Commissioner of Finance & Administration to submit a waiver to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services to immediately provide assistance to the state’s TennCare population through the implementation of block grants.

It is part of the comprehensive Republican-led CARE plan, designed to transform healthcare through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems, and Empowering patients to ensure individuals and families can make all medical decisions instead of insurance companies or the government.

Block grants authorized through House Bill 1280 must convert the federal share of all medical assistance funding for Tennessee into an allotment that is tailored to meet our state’s specific needs. All grant funding must be indexed to take into account both inflation and population growth. Additionally, our General Assembly will partner with the Governor during the negotiation process and will have oversight on the implementation of federal funding allocated to TennCare.

In recent years, Tennessee has become a national leader in innovation — whether it is job creation, or improving our education system. This legislation enables us to once again lead on a critical local and national issue, without federal mandates.

House Republicans are continuing their work to create patient-centered solutions that redefine our current healthcare system, and this is a major step in ensuring Tennesseans remain in control of all health decisions.

Republicans Pass Legislation To Curb Fentanyl In Tennessee

House Republicans also passed multiple pieces of legislation this week to fight back against the opioid and drug epidemic in Tennessee.

House Bill 942, which unanimously passed this week, changes the penalties to a Class B felony for 15 grams or more or a Class A felony for 150 grams or more of fentanyl.

House Bill 705, which was also approved by a vote of 93-0, adds the sale or distribution of a substance containing fentanyl, carfentanil, or any opiate with the intent and premeditation to commit murder as an aggravating factor to be considered when the sentencing court is considering the death penalty.

While there is much more work to be done, Republican leaders are committed to curbing the opioid epidemic that is plaguing our state. These measures are a step in the right direction, and the General Assembly will continue to find new solutions that end the cycle of addiction.

House Advances Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

In a strong show of support, House members unanimously passed House Bill 941 to begin the process of overhauling our criminal justice system so it meets present day demands, not those of 30 years ago.

House Bill 941 removes the $180 fee for an individual seeking an expunction while also removing the $350 fee for a defendant applying for an expunction following the completion of a diversion program.

With an expungement, individuals who desire to become productive members of society will be able to have their previous non-violent mistakes erased and be ready to re-enter the workforce more rapidly.

Republican leaders also passed House Bill 926 this week. It clarifies eligibility requirements for a targeted program that measures outcomes of previously incarcerated individuals as they work to successfully re-enter their local communities.

Finally, House Bill 1303 was also approved on Wednesday. This initiative incorporates incarcerated individuals as a focus population for Tennessee’s Drive to 55 Program. The bill requires the Department of Correction (TDOC), in partnership with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), to develop and submit a plan to equip at least 10 percent of eligible incarcerated individuals with a post-secondary degree, certificate, or diploma by 2025.

Approximately 95 percent of all incarcerated individuals will leave prison and return to their communities at some point. These and other initiatives throughout the 111th General Assembly will prepare them for successful re-entry, save taxpayer dollars on incarceration costs, and accomplish the overall goal of creating safe communities across Tennessee.

House Republicans Fight To Protect Tennessee Consumers

House Republicans also passed legislation to help protect Tennessee consumers this week.

House Bill 948 — which is part of the Governor’s legislative package this year — strengthens protections for our consumers by streamlining the process for filing complaints.

Previously, all consumer complaints were filed with the Department of Commerce & Insurance before being referred to the Attorney General’s office. Under this initiative, consumers will now be able to directly contact the Attorney General’s Office to file a complaint.

House Bill 948 ensures Tennessee businesses are operating in a fair and equitable manner, so they are not undermining our consumers. Most importantly, this bill supports Tennessee’s business-friendly climate and guarantees the interests of our consumers are protected.

Legislation Benefiting First Responders Passes The House

Republican lawmakers also advanced House Bill 937 to help benefit our heroic police officers and firefighters.

This important measure increases the training supplement for those who protect and serve our communities, and those who are called upon to respond during fires and other emergencies after they complete 40 hours of in-service training.

It is a small way we can thank first responders for their daily service and sacrifices, and House Republicans will continue to fight for them.

House Bill 937 now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Components Of Governor’s Agenda Continue To Gain Momentum In House

Several Administration bills also continue to advance through the committee process. They include:

  • House Bill 950: Funds the state’s electronic monitoring indigency fund, which was exhausted last year. The measure adds $1.5 million in new funding and creates a state and county matching grant program to distribute funds. The bill heads to the House chamber for a vote on Monday, April 15, 2019.
  • House Bill 952: Increases Career Technical Education (CTE) opportunities for Tennessee students so they are better prepared to meet the demands of a 21st Century Workforce. The measure will be up for a vote on Monday, April 15, 2019.