“Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and keep it lit.” – Mary Lou Retton, American gymnast and five-time Olympic medalist
I want to recognize Dr. Farris Beasley, of Lincoln County, for his receipt of the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award. Each year, 1.6 million Tennessee volunteers give over 137 million hours of community service- contributing $3.3 billion to our economy. Thanks Dr. Beasley for all your years of volunteering to make our county and state better.
Also last week, I learned that Bedford and Lincoln County Schools were recognized by the Governor as “Tennessee Best for All” Districts. In the letter I received, they stated that our district’s schools “have shown that they are determined to put students first, prioritizing their academic achievement, growth, and opportunity above all else.” To qualify for the Best for All program, a district had to spend an amount equal to 50% of their ESSER 3.0 (The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) award amount on proven, researched-based strategies to raise student academic achievement and participate in the TN ALL Corps tutoring grant program.
Our Dept of Commerce and Insurance & the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) were excited to announce that 327 lives have been saved due to their “Get Alarmed, Tennessee!” smoke alarm program. The program is a grant-funded fire safety education and smoke alarm installation program that has partnered with 555 TN fire departments and volunteer organizations. They have given out over 254,000 smoke alarms since the program began in 2012, including 18,000 in 2021.
We’re working hard this session to introduce two bills aimed at honoring U.S. military veterans for their sacrifice. HB 2322 entitles disabled veterans to receive registration plates free of charge in Tennessee. The bill expands current law to include veterans who have a service-connected disability or a combined 100 percent total disability or impairment that hinders their capacity to work. Another bill, HB 2045 entitles disabled veterans and Purple Heart recipients to have fees waived for title and memorial registration plates for two vehicles. State law currently only waives fees for one vehicle per qualified veteran.
It always makes me proud to see Tennessee praised in the national news. Financial Advisor Magazine published a list of the states that attracted the most Americans moving from out-of-state for retirement in 2021: Tennessee 13.1%, Florida 11.3%, Pennsylvania 10.7%, North Carolina 10.3%, South Carolina 9.4%. Further proof of our financial strength- people would rather live here than the beach!
We were briefed on the rising electric vehicle use in Tennessee recently and the impact that could have on state gas tax collections. There were 87,000 registered hybrid vehicles statewide as of June 2021 and 12,000 registered electric vehicles as of December. Even though electric vehicles only make up about 0.2% of all vehicles statewide, that’s nearly a 32% increase from six months ago. While gas tax revenue growth is projected to increase during the next two years, the Dept. of Revenue believes that collections will “flatten out” as electric vehicles become more popular. They believe there will be 200,00 all-electric vehicles by 2028. Since it’s clear electric cars are coming, we are going to have to look somewhere else to fund our roads. Electric vehicles currently pay an additional $100 on their annual vehicle registration fee to help make up for their reduction in gas tax collection, but that might not be enough long term to make up the difference.
On Tuesday of this week, Jason Reese, the assistant general manager of Shelbyville Power, Water, and Sewerage Systems, came by my office for his first visit to the State Capitol. We both learned a lot from each other about his utility work and my state rep work. That same night, the Municipal Electric Association had a fine reception for all the legislators.
On Wednesday morning Barry Cooper, Chairman of Duck River Electric (DREMC), and several members of the board stopped by for a visit and told me about their legislative priorities and concerns. That night, the Electric Co-ops had their annual legislative reception and had a large enthusiastic crowd attend.
Wednesday was both MTSU and UT Day on the Hill. I got to meet with MTSU president Dr. McPhee and several of his staff- including their mascot Lightning. I also was able to visit with UT’s President Randy Boyd. I had my picture taken with UT’s new Coach Josh Heupel. He was very impressive! It was awkward changing from blue to orange ties trying to make them all happy!
Please let me know if I can ever be of service to you or your family. You can reach my office by phone at 615-741-6824 or email at [email protected]. I’m honored to serve District 62 and appreciate your continued support.