“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” -Robert Louis Stevenson
The first week of April in the TN House of Representatives was a very busy time with 388 bills going through the committee system. Six of the subcommittees closed last week with another 14 set to close this week. The House leadership is predicting that we should be able to adjourn by the 1st or 2nd week of May.
I was proud to host Shane Hooper, the new industrial recruiter of Shelbyville/Bedford County, here on Tuesday. He got to meet some of my legislative friends, sit in on two or three committee meetings, and watch Senator Reeves in action in a committee. I had a meeting with Speaker Sexton that afternoon and Shane got to attend the meeting with the Speaker. Shane is doing a fine job and we are all hopeful that we will have some new industries come our way soon! Sen. Reeves and I also had the honor of meeting Debbie Schroeder from Fayetteville this week. She came up to the Capitol to meet us and was able to watch a little bit of Session.
I received some interesting facts last week about Tourism in Tennessee. Money spent on travel in TN in 2019 was $23.3 billion with $1.92 billion in state and local tax revenues. This was almost 6% more than 2018. In House District 62, Bedford and Lincoln Counties, we had $56.3 million spent on traveling and visiting our attractions. This resulted in almost $2 million in local tax receipts. Tourism is a huge business in TN and it’s only getting bigger.
We sent House Bill 786 to the Governor this week for his signature. This bill was referred to as the Tennessee Constitutional Carry Bill. It will permit the vast majority of all law-abiding Tennesseans and visitors to carry a handgun for the defense of themselves and others without first obtaining government permission. In order to qualify, a person must be at least 21 years old (or 18 if they have been honorably discharged from the military), lawfully possess a handgun (must pass background check by TBI), and be lawfully present in the place they are carrying. If someone has been convicted of misdemeanor stalking, has two or more DUIs in the last 10 years (or more than one in five years), or has been treated or diagnosed with certain mental disorders, they do not qualify to carry under this legislation. In addition, it increases the penalties for theft of firearms and modifies existing law to ensure that criminals who misuse firearms serve more of their sentences before they are paroled.
In addition, we passed legislation that addresses Tennessee’s teacher shortage. House Bill 533 simplifies the process for teachers who are moving to Tennessee to receive an appropriate teaching license, helping qualified teachers get into classrooms quicker. The bill allows out-of-state educators who possess the equivalent of a Tennessee professional teacher’s license in their current state to receive a Tennessee professional-level license without being required to take an assessment or receive certain evaluation scores.
We also have a bill to make changes to how Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) operate in Tennessee. House Bill 1398 ensures patients can use the pharmacies they choose and trust rather than being forced by their insurance companies to use specialty pharmacies that often don’t meet patients’ needs. This is particularly important for patients with chronic, complex or rare diseases. It also helps support our small, local pharmacies over big box stores.
Speaking of small businesses, we were proud to send the “Business Fairness Act” to the governor’s desk for his signature. House Bill 855 provides businesses with the assurance that they cannot be forced to close while larger competitors stay open. This bill gives businesses the choice to follow any set of guidelines, state or local, that allows them to operate at the capacity that works best for them and their customers and employees. This is great for our counties that don’t have the same issues that Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville face.
I want everybody in Shelbyville and Bedford County to know that our Driver’s License Center will be opening in a new location soon! The old center was very small and out of room. The virus actually forced its closure. Bedford County Mayor Graham has made available space for the Dept. of Safety and the city, county, and state have all partnered up to pay for the building remodeling project. We should have a larger, nicer building with plenty of parking soon. The location is in the back of the old doctors’ office building behind the old hospital.
If you are ever in Nashville, please feel free to stop by our new office in the Cordell Hull Building, Suite 610. It’s an honor to serve District 62 and I appreciate being able to visit with my constituents. You can also reach me by phone at 615-741-6824 or [email protected].