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Representative Ron Gant’s Legislative Update: 03/02/17

New Proposal Targets Illegal Opioid And Prescription Drug Suppliers

As House Republicans boost their efforts to combat the opioid and prescription drug epidemic in Tennessee, new legislation has been introduced that would impose tougher penalties on illegal opioid and prescription drug suppliers.

House Bill 786 would enable law enforcement to charge illegal suppliers with voluntary manslaughter when they cause death to a user by unlawfully distributing or delivering controlled substances. The voluntary manslaughter charge in Tennessee is currently a Class C felony and carries a penalty of 3-15 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

Supporters of the legislation hope the bill will reduce access to illegal opioid and drug distribution by creating greater punishment and determent for those who go around doctors and traditional prescriptions to supply the narcotics.

Tennessee consistently ranks at the top of the charts nationally as it relates to prescription drug abuse. In 2015, 1,451 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses, the highest annual number in our state’s history. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that prescription opioid abuse has a total economic burden of $78.5 billion per year in the United States.

House Bill 786 comes only a few days after House Speaker Beth Harwell created the first-ever opioid and prescription drug task force within the General Assembly, a group with the immediate goal of working on legislation and determining best strategies for tackling Tennessee’s opioid problems.

The full text of House Bill 786 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at:

House Leaders Advance Legislation Establishing Long-Term Care For Those With Autism Spectrum Disorder

This week, members of the House Health Committee advanced legislation that that would establish a long-term system of care for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.

House Bill 384 establishes the Tennessee Council on Autism Spectrum Disorder. This 16-person advisory council would make recommendations and provide leadership in program development regarding matters concerning all levels of ASD services in health care, education, and other adult, adolescent, and children’s services.

Specifically, the Council will be charged with seven tasks:

  • Assessing the current and future impact of Autism Spectrum Disorder on Tennesseans;
  • Assessing the availability of programs and services currently provided for early screening diagnosis and treatment of ASD;
  • Seeking additional input and recommendations from stakeholders that include providers, clinicians, institutions of higher education, and those concerned with the health and quality of life for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder;
  • Developing a comprehensive statewide plan for an integrated system of training, treatment, and services for individuals of all ages with ASD;
  • Ensuring interagency collaboration as the comprehensive statewide system of care for Autism Spectrum Disorder is developed and implemented;
  • Coordinating available resources related to developing and implementing a system of care for autism spectrum disorder;
  • Coordinating state budget requests related to systems of care for individuals with autism spectrum disorders based on the studies and recommendations of the council.

The Tennessee Council on Autism Spectrum Disorder would consist of the Commissioner of Health, the Commissioner of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, the Commissioner of Education, the Commissioner of Human Services, the Commissioner of Commerce & Insurance, the Deputy Commissioner of TennCare, the Commissioner of Mental Health & Substance Abuse, one representative of the council on developmental disabilities, and six adult individuals who are either family members or primary caregivers of individuals with ASD.

Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. The Autism Society currently estimates that about one percent of the world population has ASD, affecting over 3.5 million Americans. The organization also notes that Autism Spectrum Disorder is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States.

The legislation will next be heard in the Government Operations Committee.


Tennessee Officials, Meteorologists Promoting Preparedness For Severe Weather Awareness Week

Tennessee’s Severe Weather Awareness Week is February 26 to March 4, and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), and the National Weather Service (NWS) are asking Tennesseans to make severe weather planning and preparedness a priority.

In addition, NWS offices in Nashville, Memphis, and Morristown are planning a series of education and training events, using each day of Severe Weather Awareness Week to focus on a different severe weather threat. Information on these activities is available at

As part of Preparedness Week, TDH urges Tennesseans to make emergency plans before a flood, tornado, or other threat is imminent, so there is time to decide what actions should be taken to be protected in an emergency situation.

TDH recommends thinking about the weather events in your area or while you travel and making a plan before the crisis comes. Ideas recommended include: writing down your emergency plan, talking with family and friends about where you will meet in an emergency situation, putting an emergency kit together, and communicating where you will go if you must evacuate and cannot return home during severe weather.

The most important preparedness tip for severe weather is to stay informed to its potential by watching for weather updates and warnings on TV or listening to the radio.

At a minimum, emergency officials recommend that preparedness kits should include one gallon of water per-day, per-person, and per-pet, for three to five days. The kit should also have enough non-perishable food for each family member, and pets, for three to five days.

Other items that every kit should include: flashlight, battery-powered radio, extra batteries, first-aid kit, personal hygiene items, cell phone charger or solar charger, and copies of important family documents.

It is also very important that emergency kits contain extra supplies of medications, especially for those with chronic health conditions.


House Republicans Encourage Growing And Selling Of Tennessee-Based Agricultural Products

This week in Nashville, House Republicans moved forward with legislation to help encourage the growing and selling of Tennessee-based agricultural products across the state.

As filed, House Bill 299 is a pro-small business bill that removes governmental regulations and red tape that have placed undue burdens on the distribution of homegrown, locally produced food products.

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

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

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

The full text of House Bill 299 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at:

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