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State Representative Ron Gant’s Capitol Hill Review: 02/23/18

Application Process Opens For Tennessee Reconnect

Adults encouraged to apply for tuition-free community or technical college

State Representative Ron Gant (R-Rossville) and his House Republican colleagues joined with Governor Bill Haslam this week to announce the application process is officially open for adults to enroll tuition-free this fall at a community or technical college through Tennessee Reconnect.

Tennessee Reconnect builds off the groundbreaking Tennessee Promise program — which provides high school graduates two years of tuition-free community or technical college — by establishing a last-dollar scholarship for adults to earn an associate degree or technical certificate free of tuition or mandatory fees.

Both Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Promise are programs under the Drive to 55, an initiative spearheaded by Republicans to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. Studies show that by 2025, at least half the jobs in Tennessee will require a college degree or certificate.

Early results of the Tennessee Promise program show that students participating in the program are succeeding at higher rates than their peers. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to offer all citizens, both high school graduates and adults, the chance to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate tuition-free.

Those interested in applying for Tennessee Reconnect can do so by following these 4 simple steps:

  • Complete the application at;
  • Apply to a local community college or eligible Tennessee Reconnect institution;
  • File the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) at;
  • And enroll in a degree or certificate program at least part-time.

To be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, a student must not already hold an associate or bachelor’s degree, must be a Tennessee resident for at least one year, and be determined as an independent student on the FAFSA.


Representative Gant, General Assembly Honors Blind Veterans, American History During House Ceremony

This week on the House floor, Representative Gant and his House colleagues came together to honor Tennessee’s blind veterans as well as pay tribute to all of the men and women who sacrifice themselves for the freedom Americans are able to enjoy on a daily basis during an official ceremony and presentation of the braille American flag.

The House ceremony was led by retired Staff Sgt. Walt Peters, a veteran who served 20 years in the U.S. Army, including three tours of duty in Vietnam. Peters lost his sight 15 years ago as a result of exposure to the chemical Agent Orange while serving in Southeast Asia.

Peters first got involved with the braille American flag in 2014 when he was presented with a durable paper replica of the bronze-cast braille flag. Peters, who only sees faint silhouettes, said that gift meant a lot to him and pushed him to set out on a mission to have a bronze braille flag placed in every veterans’ hospital in the country — just over 150. This mission led him to meeting Randolph Cabral, founder of the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute, who created the braille flag to honor his father, Jesus Sanchez Cabral.

Jesus Sanchez Cabral was a decorated U.S. Army Air Corps veteran who served the United States during World War II. Glaucoma robbed him of his sight 10 years before his death. It also hampered Cabral’s ability to post and fly the American flag on his front porch, a duty he cherished as a patriotic veteran.

The braille American flag serves as a valuable teaching and learning aid for instructing blind students about its place in American history. It is composed of braille figures in the upper left corner that represent the stars of the 50 states. They are arranged in nine rows of alternating clusters. The long smooth horizontal lines represent the red stripes. Each red stripe is lined with the appropriate braille dots to indicate the stripe’s color. The long raised textured areas on the flag represent the white stripes. They are also lined with the appropriate braille dots to indicate the stripe’s color.

The American braille flag is a powerful symbol for more than 30 million blind and low vision Americans. In 2008, the United States Congress authorized its placement at Arlington National Cemetery as a tribute to blind veterans. It is displayed by thousands of sighted and blind civilians, veterans, hospitals, memorial parks, elected officials, schools for the blind, and many other places.

Legislation Strengthening Protections For Human Trafficking Victims Gains Support

An initiative that enhances identity protections for Tennessee’s human trafficking victims gained strong support from House Republicans this week in Nashville.

House Bill 1849 protects the records of trafficking victims who seek treatment from service providers during their recovery process.

While records are currently confidential for patients who are treated in hospitals, this initiative protects those who are treated at domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, as well as human trafficking service providers.

In Tennessee, approximately 94 teenagers fall victim to human trafficking each month. However, the state has some of the toughest laws against this type of crime in the entire country.

According to Shared Hope International, our state ranks first among all 50 states for legislation that combats human trafficking. Much of that success can be traced to the steady work of lawmakers who have fought to give a voice to human trafficking victims.

In 2017, the General Assembly allocated $550,000 in funding for organizations like End Slavery Tennessee, Second Life, and Restore Corps whose mission is to help end human trafficking in the state. These efforts were reinforced by the creation of the Human Trafficking Advisory Council by House Speaker Beth Harwell and multiple pieces of legislation passed to combat trafficking occurrences.

Human trafficking victims suffer an extraordinary amount of physical abuse, emotional trauma, and psychological pain. House Bill 1849 seeks to protect victims from further harm and aims at supporting recovery efforts so that they can restore some sense of normalcy in their daily lives.

The legislation will be heard by members of the House Civil Justice Subcommittee next week.


Chair Of Honor Initiative Advances In Committee Process

Measure places unoccupied chair on Capitol campus at no cost to taxpayers

An initiative sponsored by House Republicans that honors America’s Prisoners of War (POW) and those Missing in Action (MIA) is advancing through the General Assembly’s committee process.

Wednesday afternoon, members of the House State Government Subcommittee unanimously voted to send House Bill 2138 to the full State Government Committee.

The measure expands the POW-MIA Chair of Honor Program to include placement of an unoccupied chair containing the POW/MIA insignia at the Capitol campus in Nashville at no cost to taxpayers.

The POW/MIA Chair of Honor program is designed to serve as a solemn reminder of soldiers who are still waiting to be brought home. According to data from the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 80,000 service members are still listed as Missing in Action decades after they served in conflicts like World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

House Bill 2138 is the latest in a series of initiatives supported by House lawmakers in order to call attention to the selfless sacrifices of American service members and their families.

A chair containing the POW/MIA insignia is already displayed at various government buildings, including the Capitol in Washington, and other public locations in cities and towns across the country.

For more information about House Bill 2138, please click here.

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