NASHVILLE, May 1, 2017– The week ending April 28 offered the beginning of the end of this year’s session at the General Assembly. Special thanks to Cade Cothren of the TNHouseGOP for contributing to this update for District 48.
2017-2018 Budget Amendment Introduced
With the IMPROVE Act/gas tax passing, Governor Bill Haslam has introduced his budget amendment for the fiscal year 2017-2018. We will be discussing and debating the amendment and the various appropriations that are in the proposal.
One topic of discussion surrounding the budget involves the Copeland Cap. The Copeland Cap is a spending limit law enacted under the leadership of Rep. David Copeland and voted in by the citizens of Tennessee in 1978. Basically, the law states that Tennessee cannot increase the spending in the budget at a rate greater than the income growth in Tennessee. If Tennesseans have to tighten our belts, then government should, too.
The issue this year is that we have a two billion dollar surplus which is a very positive sign, but we are still recovering from the Obama economy. If we utilize all the revenue, including padding the rainy day fund, the budget will likely bust the Copeland Cap. I am awaiting an answer from the Comptroller’s office on whether the rainy day fund counts or not against the cap. Regardless, we will be debating the budget next week, and it is my understanding that it will require two separate votes on the budget and a vote on any spending above and beyond the Copeland Cap.
With the General Assembly just approving a gas tax hike and now looking to spend above the Copeland Cap, it should make for some lively debates at the Capitol and in our districts. Those who like to tax and spend might have to do some explaining to #WeThePeople.
Legislation Allows American Sign Language To Satisfy Foreign Language Requirements
This week, the House passed legislation that allows American Sign Language to be used to satisfy foreign language requirements in Tennessee high schools.
House Bill 462, known as the American Sign Language bill, was initiated by Molly Ridgeway — a nonverbal student at Maryville College — and her boyfriend, Joshua Anderson.
The legislation allows any high school student who enrolls in an American Sign Language course to use the credit they earn to satisfy foreign language requirements needed for graduation. Currently, more than 180 colleges and universities accept American Sign Language as a foreign language credit from incoming high school graduates.
Estimates show there are approximately 500,000 Tennesseans who are deaf or hard of hearing, many of whom use sign language to communicate. Supporters of the legislation hope the bill will help to improve communication between verbal and nonverbal Tennesseans and lead to job growth for future nonverbal educators. Forty other states have already passed similar measures.
I was proud to be able to co-sponsor this bill for several reasons. First, my Great Aunt Idella was deaf. She helped take care of my sister and me when I was younger. Until she passed away a few years ago, she and I used to write each other letters. She was adept at reading lips, but the world would have been more functional for her if others could converse via sign language.
Secondly, with the bill originating from students and the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature, it is truly a bill of #WeThePeople. The bill is a testimony to self governance and is worthy of citizens taking notice.
The full text of House Bill 287 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/HB0462.pdf.
House Lawmakers Encourage Tennessee Students To Celebrate Freedom
This week, House lawmakers passed legislation that helps Tennessee students learn the principles of freedom in our nation’s founding documents.
House Bill 287 designates the week of September 17 as “Celebrate Freedom Week” in Tennessee public schools. The week-long celebration will coincide with Constitution Day each September 17 and help students learn more about the original intent, meaning, and importance of documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and United States Constitution.
While these items are already included in social studies curriculum across the state, “Celebrate Freedom Week” gives educators additional opportunities to create special lesson plans and affords additional time during the school year to teach students about the historical significance of these documents and other important events.
The goal of the legislation is to help further empower current and future generations of Tennessee children to appreciate U.S. historical documents and better understand their importance in our country’s history.
General Assembly Creates Additional Protections Against Child Predators
House members unanimously passed legislation this week to create additional protections against child predators.
Communities across Tennessee already rely on the state’s sex offender registry to track and monitor convicted offenders who have moved into permanent residences upon release from prison.
House Bill 404 enables law enforcement officials to monitor offenders convicted of child rape or a child sexual predator offense who may not have a permanent address by requiring them to enroll in a satellite-based monitoring and supervision program. Anyone in Tennessee who has been convicted of a crime against a child on or after July 1, 2017 that does not have a permanent or secondary address must enroll in the program and remain in it for the duration of their parole term.
Stop Child Predators, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to preventing child exploitation and other crimes against children, estimates that 1 in 5 girls are exploited before they reach adulthood.
The new monitoring system will allow law enforcement to determine if probation or parole has been violated by showing the location of the sexual offender, regardless of whether they have a permanent address. This legislation adds an additional layer of protection for Tennessee children against predators.
The full text of House Bill 404 can be accessed by visiting the Tennessee General Assembly website at: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB0404&ga=110.
As always, I am humbled and honored to be the State Representative for District 48.
Dr. Bryan Terry