The Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT)-Shelbyville was funded in the just passed state budget. The proposed building project was on the Board of Regents’ master plan this year but was not initially funded in the governor’s budget. After much discussion and help from many sources, Senator Reeves and I were able to talk the House and Senate budget committees into funding this much needed project. The state has now appropriated $42.4 million to build this fantastic college in Bedford County. The TCAT serves 7 counties with 11 courses and currently has a waitlist of 550 people wanting to achieve their certificate or diploma.
This new TCAT will be a huge game changer for our region. Our students can learn a much needed trade in a short time, get a good paying job, and be able to stay around our local counties to work and raise their families.
We got our new census numbers for Tennessee last week and Tennessee has moved up to 6.9 million citizens from 6.3 million ten years ago. As a TN State Representative, I will now serve 69,806 citizens up from 64,102 from the last census. We will work on our redistricting plan for state representatives, senators, and federal congressmen later this year.
We passed our 2021-2022 budget last Thursday and I want to highlight some of the items:
- $100 million to provide high speed internet to our citizens who don’t have it
- $145 million for air and rail transportation infrastructure
- Brings our Rainy Day fund up to $1.55 billion (added $100 million)
- 4% raise for our teachers
- $5 million more to Health Care Safety Net
- $100 million to local counties and cities to use as they see fit
- $250 million to fund a Mental Health Fund for K-12 students
I had a good meeting last Thursday evening with the board of the Tony Rice Center in Shelbyville. They are trying to partner with the South Central Human Resources Agency, based in Lincoln County, to start a Drug Court in Bedford County. This is a very good idea, and if it works, should take prisoners out of our jails and take care of them within drug centers and recovery homes.
We passed HB 1538 last week that creates a new division of state government (to operate for the next 3 years) to be named The Office of Cooperative Disability Investigation. This office will be composed of state law enforcement officers, known as special agents, who will investigate social security disability claims for fraud. The Federal Government Social Security Administration will pick up all the costs of this new unit. Hopefully, this will help cut abuse and fraud and save money for our federal and state governments.
Tennessee’s Right to Work law is one step closer to being an amendment on the state constitution. Last Thursday, we voted to give our approval to House Joint Resolution 72. The final step for the amendment will come in 2022 when the potential amendment must be adopted by a majority of voters in the next governor’s election. Tennessee’s Right to Work statute has been state law since 1947. It says workers cannot be hired or fired based on their membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization. Twenty-seven other states have Right to Work laws and nine of those have passed constitutional amendments.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) will soon implement a statewide Silver Alert program in Tennessee after House Bill 119 unanimously passed in the General Assembly. Similar to the Amber Alert, the Silver Alert program will benefit persons who are 60 or older, suffer from dementia, are 18 years of age or older with an intellectual, developmental, or physical disability when they can’t be found or believed to be in danger. Currently in Tennessee, local police or sheriff departments are in charge of the Silver Alert. This bill moves responsibility to the TBI. They will now be in charge of alerting law enforcement agencies and the media across the state upon receiving notice of a missing citizen fitting the description above.
Since visits to the Capitol have been limited lately, I recorded a special virtual tour for you. It’s available on my Facebook page or you can find it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/KHtv9M4ZyMA
This should be our last week of Legislative Session for this year. I will be back in Nashville a couple of times per month to work on projects or problems. We’ll start back in Legislative Session the 2nd Tuesday in January 2022. Until then, you may contact Laura Bond, my legislative assistant, who is in the office most every day. I will be around the District a lot this Summer and Fall and would love the opportunity to meet and talk with you on projects and/or concerns. Our office phone number is 615-741-6824 and my email is email@example.com.