This week has been a really busy week with lots of meetings in my office, as well as many committee meetings and three House Floor Sessions. The highlight of the week was Monday night when we heard the Governor give his State of the State address. The speech was almost an hour long with many standing ovations. The Governor has many great ideas and budget items in his speech. I want to list some of them that really caught my attention:
- $750M recurring increase for new K-12 education funding formula
- Since new formula will not commence until FY24, these funds will be utilized in FY23 for: CTE improvements in all high schools and middle schools($500M), moving all 14 public schools out of flood plains ($200M) and GIVE and SPARC grants ($50M)
- Proposing a new law that will ensure parents know what materials are available to students in their libraries
- $124.7M to provide a well-deserved increase into the teacher salary pool
- $75.2M to increase the 4-year HOPE Award to $5,100 per student, per year, and the 2-year HOPE Award to $3,200 per student, per year
- $355.6M in a Multi-Agency Law Enforcement Training Academy
- $82M to reimburse public hospitals for uncompensated care, primarily in rural communities
- $18.6M to attract over 150 new primary care residents
- $619M to accelerate projects listed in the IMPROVE Act and invest in transportation projects to ensure economic opportunity
- $28M to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog at State Parks
- $2.541B for higher education and general government capital improvements over the next several years
- Reducing employee headcount at departments by five percent without making layoffs
Last Friday in Shelbyville, we had a very important meeting that featured Bedford County, the City of Shelbyville, Bedford Utility District, Industrial Recruiting, and the TN Department of Environment and Conservation. The group got together to discuss and come up with a plan to improve our water and sewer infrastructure in Bedford County. If our leaders can come together with a master plan and put in some local money, we have a real chance to draw down large matching funds from the state using the ARP (American Rescue Plan) federal money. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow and improve our water and sewer utilities in our county. We invited the leaders of Lincoln and Moore Counties to attend the meeting and help us all understand how to put together this grant application. We had about 50 people in attendance and we all learned a lot on how to move the project forward.
Tuesday was Tennessee Veterans Day on the Hill. We all look forward to this day every year and our veterans were represented by a great group. Mike Reuss, the Veterans Service Officer in Shelbyville, and Greg Dodson and Chris Hopkins, both of Fayetteville, stopped by my office for a good visit. I’m very proud of their service to our country and for the way they continue to serve our community.
Legislation was recently filed that would give Tennessee public schools the option to offer remote class instruction in the event of extreme weather or outbreaks of illnesses on a school-by-school basis. House Bill 1912 gives local school districts the flexibility to provide up to 10 days of remote instruction of the required 180 days per school year. If the bill becomes law, districts could utilize the rule to allow individual classes or schools to learn remotely rather than shutting down an entire district.
House Bill 1867 requires an employer with a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy to grant an exemption for medical or religious reasons to anyone who requests to be exempt. The bill also specifies that medical practitioners are protected from civil liability and threat of disciplinary action by health-related boards for providing medical exemptions.
Things are starting to get really busy around here, but we do our best to make sure we take care of everyone back home. You contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (615) 741-6824. If you are ever in Nashville, feel free to stop by my office at the Cordell Hull Building, Suite 610.