Republican-Led Initiative To Expand Access To Vocational & Technical Training Passes House
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 949, also known as the GIVE Act, to expand access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students by a 92-0 vote.
One of Governor Lee’s first initiatives, this legislation is a two-pronged approach that utilizes regional partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities. Communities will now have the funding and flexibility to build programs that best reflect local needs and work directly with private industry to structure programming.
The GIVE Act also provides funding for high school juniors and seniors to utilize four, fully-funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs. Previously, high school students only had access to two fully-funded dual enrollment credits. With access to four credits, students will now be better prepared for entry into the workforce within two years of graduation.
This initiative will help close gaps in our workforce by helping students become better prepared for jobs after high school. The measure now awaits Governor Lee’s signature.
Lawmakers Pass Bill To Empower Tennessee To Lead On Healthcare
House Republicans approved House Bill 1280 on Thursday, which will empower Tennessee to lead on healthcare and create a patient-centered system that addresses the unique needs of our citizens, while also lowering costs.
House Bill 1280 calls on the Governor, acting through the Commissioner of Finance & Administration to submit a waiver to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services to immediately provide assistance to the state’s TennCare population through the implementation of block grants.
It is part of the comprehensive Republican-led CARE plan, designed to transform healthcare through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems, and Empowering patients to ensure individuals and families can make all medical decisions instead of insurance companies or the government.
Block grants authorized through House Bill 1280 must convert the federal share of all medical assistance funding for Tennessee into an allotment that is tailored to meet our state’s specific needs. All grant funding must be indexed to take into account both inflation and population growth. Additionally, our General Assembly will partner with the Governor during the negotiation process and will have oversight on the implementation of federal funding allocated to TennCare.
In recent years, Tennessee has become a national leader in innovation — whether it is job creation, or improving our education system. This legislation enables us to once again lead on a critical local and national issue, without federal mandates.
House Republicans are continuing their work to create patient-centered solutions that redefine our current healthcare system, and this is a major step in ensuring Tennesseans remain in control of all health decisions.
Republicans Pass Legislation To Curb Fentanyl In Tennessee
House Republicans also passed multiple pieces of legislation this week to fight back against the opioid and drug epidemic in Tennessee.
House Bill 942, which unanimously passed this week, changes the penalties to a Class B felony for 15 grams or more or a Class A felony for 150 grams or more of fentanyl.
House Bill 705, which was also approved by a vote of 93-0, adds the sale or distribution of a substance containing fentanyl, carfentanil, or any opiate with the intent and premeditation to commit murder as an aggravating factor to be considered when the sentencing court is considering the death penalty.
While there is much more work to be done, Republican leaders are committed to curbing the opioid epidemic that is plaguing our state. These measures are a step in the right direction, and the General Assembly will continue to find new solutions that end the cycle of addiction.
House Advances Criminal Justice Reform Legislation
In a strong show of support, House members unanimously passed House Bill 941 to begin the process of overhauling our criminal justice system so it meets present day demands, not those of 30 years ago.
House Bill 941 removes the $180 fee for an individual seeking an expunction while also removing the $350 fee for a defendant applying for an expunction following the completion of a diversion program.
With an expungement, individuals who desire to become productive members of society will be able to have their previous non-violent mistakes erased and be ready to re-enter the workforce more rapidly.
Republican leaders also passed House Bill 926 this week. It clarifies eligibility requirements for a targeted program that measures outcomes of previously incarcerated individuals as they work to successfully re-enter their local communities.
Finally, House Bill 1303 was also approved on Wednesday. This initiative incorporates incarcerated individuals as a focus population for Tennessee’s Drive to 55 Program. The bill requires the Department of Correction (TDOC), in partnership with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), to develop and submit a plan to equip at least 10 percent of eligible incarcerated individuals with a post-secondary degree, certificate, or diploma by 2025.
Approximately 95 percent of all incarcerated individuals will leave prison and return to their communities at some point. These and other initiatives throughout the 111th General Assembly will prepare them for successful re-entry, save taxpayer dollars on incarceration costs, and accomplish the overall goal of creating safe communities across Tennessee.
House Republicans Fight To Protect Tennessee Consumers
House Republicans also passed legislation to help protect Tennessee consumers this week.
House Bill 948 — which is part of the Governor’s legislative package this year — strengthens protections for our consumers by streamlining the process for filing complaints.
Previously, all consumer complaints were filed with the Department of Commerce & Insurance before being referred to the Attorney General’s office. Under this initiative, consumers will now be able to directly contact the Attorney General’s Office to file a complaint.
House Bill 948 ensures Tennessee businesses are operating in a fair and equitable manner, so they are not undermining our consumers. Most importantly, this bill supports Tennessee’s business-friendly climate and guarantees the interests of our consumers are protected.
Legislation Benefiting First Responders Passes The House
Republican lawmakers also advanced House Bill 937 to help benefit our heroic police officers and firefighters.
This important measure increases the training supplement for those who protect and serve our communities, and those who are called upon to respond during fires and other emergencies after they complete 40 hours of in-service training.
It is a small way we can thank first responders for their daily service and sacrifices, and House Republicans will continue to fight for them.
House Bill 937 now awaits the Governor’s signature.
Components Of Governor’s Agenda Continue To Gain Momentum In House
Several Administration bills also continue to advance through the committee process. They include:
- House Bill 950: Funds the state’s electronic monitoring indigency fund, which was exhausted last year. The measure adds $1.5 million in new funding and creates a state and county matching grant program to distribute funds. The bill heads to the House chamber for a vote on Monday, April 15, 2019.
- House Bill 952: Increases Career Technical Education (CTE) opportunities for Tennessee students so they are better prepared to meet the demands of a 21st Century Workforce. The measure will be up for a vote on Monday, April 15, 2019.
- House Bill 939: Also known as the Education Savings Account Bill, this legislation creates new opportunities for students who reside in areas with three or more low performing schools. House Bill 939 will now be heard by the House Finance, Ways, & Means Committee next week.
- House Bill 940: Establishes an independent charter school commission to support the continued success of our current public charter schools while also creating additional opportunities for students to attend newly established public charter facilities. The measure heads to the House floor for a vote next week.
John Holsclaw serves as Chairman of the House Employee Affairs Subcommittee. He is also a member of the House Consumer and Human Resource Committee, Commerce Committee and Banking and Investment Subcommittee. Holsclaw lives in Elizabethton and represents House District 4, which includes Unicoi and part of Carter Counties. He can be reached by email at Rep.John.Holsclaw@capitol.tn.gov or by calling (615) 741-7450.