“It all goes so fast, and character makes the difference when it’s close.” ~ Jesse Owens
Finally, we have started getting very busy and moving several bills through the committee system this past week. This week we had 120 bills on notice, and next week there should be even more. There is already talk of a date to adjourn this session. The senate has a target date of April 20th.
Governor Bill Haslam released further information concerning his 2018 Legislative Agenda. He listed four points he wanted us to focus on. Last week, I addressed one of the points he talked about – TN Together, which is his plan to end the opioid addiction crisis in Tennessee. Another of the governor’s proposals is the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2018. This act seeks to ensure students stay on track for on-time college completion and enter the workforce with aligned credentials ready to be a productive worker.
While the legislature and governor have worked together to improve college access, our completion rates at our public two and four-year schools are 26 percent and 57 percent, respectively. This is not good and some key points in the legislation to help correct the issue are:
- Restructuring conditions for the Tennessee Promise and HOPE Scholarships that would require students to take 30 credit hours in 12 months or risk losing portions of their scholarship
- Requiring community colleges and technical schools to implement structured schedules that are ready-made based on the degree program the student is pursuing
The third point is the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018. This is based on the review of Tennessee’s juvenile justice system and recommendations from a specially appointed task force on juvenile justice. The legislation focuses on:
- Where a youth resides no longer determines the services he or she receives
- Studying length of custody, so youth are not placed into the system indefinitely
- Other items that help rehabilitate and get them out and back in society quicker
Lastly, the governor has also proposed the UT FOCUS Act to empower the University of Tennessee’s Board of Trustees to oversee multiple campuses and make sure they operate more efficiently and effectively. This plan includes reconstituting the board from 27 to 11 members, modernizing statutory responsibilities, and creating a seven-member advisory board for each of the campuses.
So, by following the governor’s lead, we will be seeing many pieces of legislation from the governor’s office which will be dealing with the problems and obstacles arising from the increased drug use in our state. We will be learning about proposed legislation from the Higher Ed Commission on how to graduate more students quicker with better results. We should also see legislation from the Department of Corrections on how to better house and rehabilitate our youth. We can also expect much discussion on the UT system and how to streamline it and make it much more efficient. The governor is not afraid to give us large, difficult tasks to force us to make tough decisions that will hopefully make our state better in many areas.
Wednesday was School Superintendent Day on the Hill. Don Embry from Bedford County and Bill Heath from Lincoln County came up for a visit at the House Session. The group had several educational sessions and even a photo op with the governor. I know they are working hard for our students and teachers and facing many tough challenges along the way.
I always like hearing when our district receives a grant, so I was pleased to hear that the Lincoln County Archives is set to receive an Archives Development Grant from the Tennessee Library and Archives. This money will be used to provide carts and needed supplies to help properly preserve our local records.
I am going to be speaking with the Bedford County Republican Women’s group Monday morning, and I am looking forward to seeing many of my friends there. I also am going to get to babysit some of my grandkids this weekend, and I’m really excited about that.
As always, please feel free to stop by my office in the Cordell Hull Building, Suite 540 or give me a call if you have any questions or concerns. You can reach me at (615) 741-6824 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.