Many high priority topics were heard in the first year of the 111th General Assembly. I was privileged to take part in sponsoring and supporting several initiatives that will make Tennessee even better.
- Katie Beckett Waivers (HB 498) – This allows children with severe medical needs to receive in home care and services that they need, even if their parents’ annual income exceeds the income cap. Some families have had to divorce in order for one of the parents to qualify for TennCare in order to get help for their child. As part of the TennCare committee, I helped to form and sponsor this legislation.
- Pharmacy Benefits Managers (HB 786) – PBMs, the middlemen often responsible for increased drug pricing and unfair practices against pharmacies, will now have guardrails around their actions due to the regulations passed in House Bill 786, which I co-sponsored. Additionally, I passed a budget appropriations amendment that will allow the state to implement best practice guidelines for PBMs.
- Opioids (HB 705, HB 942) – Illicit fentanyl and carfentanil are opioids that are more potent than heroin, but carried lesser penalties. I co-sponsored both of these bills that increased penalties for the trafficking of these opioids.
- Insurance (HB 1126 & HB 419) – I supported insurance legislation that will allow for health care policies amongst a collaboration of small businesses. In addition, I supported the Right to Shop Act which will require health insurance carriers to create incentive programs for policy holders who have met their deductible to look for healthcare providers that provide quality healthcare services at a cost lower than the average price.
- Firefighters (HB 316 & HB 123) – We were able to provide better care and service to our Tennessee firefighters with a bill which will provide healthcare compensation to firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer as a result of their work in the line of duty. Secondly, my Arson Investigator bill will extend police powers and the ability to make arrests related to arson investigation to county fire investigators. This will allow the Rutherford County Fire Department to perform their investigative duties in a much more efficient and effective manner.
- Sheriffs’ Departments (HB 643) – Thanks to overwhelming support for the mental health transportation bill, Sheriffs’ departments across the state will have an alternative for transportation of mental health patients. This initiative will protect our officers and our patients.
- Voter Convenience (HB 1077) – I previously passed a voter convenience pilot program for a Rutherford County. The program was an overwhelming success, and House Bill 1077 makes sure Rutherford County will be able to continue with convenient voting centers for our elections.
- MTSU Funding – I was glad to support Governor Lee’s 2019 budget, which included nearly $35 million in funding for the MTSU Concrete Industry Management program.
- Heartbeat Bill (HB 77) – I stood for Pro-Life legislation when the House of Representatives passed the Heartbeat Bill which would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat was detected, unless there were concerns for the health of the mother. Unfortunately, the Senate deferred action until 2020.
- Complications of Abortion Reporting Bill (HB 711) – With the passing of my Complications Reporting Bill, Planned Parenthood will be exposed and held accountable for the complications encountered during abortion procedures that Tennessee tax dollars have to pay to fix.
Illegal Immigration –
- State Dollars – I stood with the other conservative members in the fight against illegal immigration. I helped to ensure that illegal immigrants would not be able receive state benefits,
- E-Verify (HB 1239) – I also supported a bill that requires that employers with 25 or more employees enroll in an electronic verification program to confirm the work authorization status of their employees. In the previous session, I helped reduce the requirement from 100 to 50 employees. This bill will reduce that number further. Unfortunately, the Senate deferred action until 2020.
- Budget Funding – The General Assembly secured $168 million in new funding for Tennessee Public Education, including increased teacher pay, more school resource officers, expanded vocational education, and increased BEP funding.
- MTSU Scholarships – The 2019 budget also included $750,000 in financial aid for scholarships for students in the joint MTSU/Meharry medical program.
- Teacher Reward Bill (HB 632) – I sponsored and passed a bill that provides a reward of five additional professional development points (PDP) to teachers working in Priority or Focus list schools. Teachers are required to earn 60 PDP’s for their license every 6 years. The bill will help those teachers who work in difficult educational environments.
- Teacher Evaluations (HB 928) – I stood with Governor Lee in his initiative to update the Tennessee teacher evaluation process. While I recognize that further protections are necessary, the bill is a step in the right direction. I will continue to fight to protect our teachers in the future.
Taxes & Employment –
- The General Assembly unanimously passed a $38.5 billion budget. The budget included an addition of $225 million to the state’s rainy day fund, while eliminating the professional privilege tax for 15 professions, the amusement tax on gyms and fitness centers, and the tax on ammunition.
- Tennessee’s economy is prospering. Tennessee has record low unemployment at 3.2%, businesses are moving to Tennessee every day, and the General Assembly secured $222 million to continue to bring high paying jobs to Tennessee.