This week I filed my first two bills. The first bill is HB 120 and will increase the penalties related to illicit fentanyl, sufentanil, and carfentanil manufacturing, possession, distribution, and trafficking. Though more powerful, cheaper, and easier to traffic than heroin, they carry less of a penalty which incentivizes drug traffickers to poison our communities. I have spoken extensively with Governor Lee and his staff on this issue, and I believe he is looking into making some changes to our laws. However, I must ensure this issue is getting addressed, thus filed the bill. Senator Dickerson, who carried it last year, has agreed to carry it again.
I have, also, filed HB 123 which will allow county fire departments to appoint arson investigators and provide them with policing powers to secure the scenes of suspected arson. Municipalities currently have this authority, but this bill will extend it to the counties. Though the bill applies statewide, this is really a local issue as we are losing our arson investigator to retirement. Fire Chief Larry Farley brought this issue to my attention. The mayor, sheriff, and county commission are supportive and the state fire marshal office does not oppose.
Without an arson investigator to secure a scene, Rutherford County firefighters would be forced to keep a truck and firefighters at the scene until an investigator that covers seven counties arrives. Our fire department could then be without the use of a truck and manpower for several hours until the scene is secured. In a county that is growing like ours, this is unacceptable. Senator Shane Reeves will be carrying this bill in the Senate.
Working on Issues Important to Tennesseans
This week I continued to gather information and work on issues that are important to the District and to Tennessee. I was able to formally sit down with the new TennCare Director, Gabe Roberts and listen to his vision for TennCare. I discussed my concerns with the program, as well as offered input on how we can better serve Tennesseans. I was, also, able to meet with the Chairmen of the new TennCare and Health Insurance Committees to discuss some of our challenges ahead.
In addition to those meetings, I met with all the Health Subcommittee Chairmen and vice-chair to discuss logistics and major health issues that will be coming through our committees. I expect unborn protections, opioids, mental health treatments, certificate of need legislation and medical cannabis to be some of the issues we will discuss.
One of the major headlines this week revolved around New York’s new abortion law that, in my opinion, is not only anti-life, but dangerous to women. Allowing non-physicians to perform abortions while, also, presenting a false sense of security for women with a true medical emergency is malpractice by a state. One can rest assured that as Chairman of Health, I will work against any such legislation. In fact, I’m already working with others to further protect the unborn and women.
One should, also, know that I have held many discussions with legislators, the administration, and others on the issue cannabis based medicines. I’ve had two working drafts of legislation, but after many discussions, I have decided one pathway is clearly a better and more feasible option. As many may know, I require legislators to fill out my four step process form when they file a bill. I do the same for my legislation. The steps include: premise or problem to solve, goal or goals, options, and feasibility of those options. Understanding that my premise is that the chemicals in cannabis have medicinal properties and my goal is to get cannabis based medicines to Tennesseans in a safe and cost efficient manner, I know that there are many options to take. In fact, 33 states have taken various options. But in Tennessee, the feasibility of various options is narrow. I’m working hard to ensure we can accomplish our goals this session.
111th General Assembly Honors Martin Luther King, Pledges To Fight Racism
This week in Nashville, House Republicans formally honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life with a resolution noting all he did to bring us together. The measure also pledges to fight racism of all types in Tennessee.
Members of the House leadership team introduced the measure during Wednesday morning’s session in the House chamber. It was later passed unanimously by the entire Tennessee General Assembly, sending a message that racism and hatred will not be tolerated in our state.
Dr. King was a prominent civil rights leader who emphasized peaceful demonstration and inspired young men and women across the country to draw attention to the injustices done solely because of race.
House Republicans are committed to honoring his incredible legacy and making King’s dream come to fruition by ensuring Tennessee is a place where equality, justice, freedom, and peace continue to grow and flourish.
Tennessee Unemployment Holds Steady During December
Statewide Unemployment Rate Remains at 3.6 percent for Second Consecutive Month
New data released by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development shows Tennessee’s statewide unemployment rates remain near record low levels.
The seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate for December 2018 was 3.6 percent, which mirrored the rate from November.
Since 2011, House Republicans have supported a business-friendly environment that has led to the creation of more than 400,000 new private sector jobs. Additionally, Tennessee’s median household income is growing at the second fastest rate in the entire southeast.
Republican leaders will continue to focus on backing commonsense initiatives and eliminating burdensome regulations that hinder job growth. This will guarantee our state remains open for business.
Governor Lee Issues First Executive Order to Address Accelerated Transformation of Rural Areas
All executive departments required to assess rural impact and provide recommendations
This week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued his first executive order, requiring all state executive departments to issue a statement of rural impact and provide recommendations for better serving rural Tennessee.
This executive order is the first step by the administration to accelerate plans to address 15 distressed counties in Tennessee — all rural. The order requires each executive department to submit a statement of rural impact explaining how the department serves rural Tennesseans no later than May 31, 2019 and recommendations for improving that service by June 30, 2019.
There are 22 executive departments that will engage in this review and recommendation process. Distressed counties rank among the 10 percent most economically distressed counties in the nation. Each year, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) prepares an index of county economic status for every county in the United States.
Lake, Lauderdale, Hardeman, McNairy, Perry, Jackson, Clay, Grundy, Van Buren, Bledsoe, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, Hancock, and Cocke Counties are categorized as distressed counties.