“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. ~ Mother Teresa
We had a short and busy week this past week. Monday was a holiday, President’s Day, so we had to cram four days of legislative work into three, and it has gone by quickly. We are hearing a lot more bills in the committees and also have many more bills on the House floor to vote on.
On Tuesday morning at 7 a.m., I got to eat breakfast with the Bedford County School Board at the Doubletree Hotel. Bedford School Superintendent Don Embry and most of the board were there. Also, I got to visit with Mark Clark, school board chairman of Fayetteville City Schools. Then later in the day, they came by my office and the Legislative Plaza to visit and find out more about the education legislation that is moving in this session.
At my Business and Utilities Committee on Wednesday, we had the pleasure of learning about two important areas of our state government: the Department of Tourism and the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA).
On the Budget hearing for the Department of Tourism, we learned that ten years ago Tennessee had a $10.8 billion economic impact from tourism in our state. In 2013, tourism had grown in economic impact to $16.2 billion. They told us that for every dollar spent by the state on tourism advertising, $19 was returned to the state. Tourism is a huge business in Tennessee.
It’s growing each year and it is big in every county in Tennessee. The Governor had $8 million in his budget last year for tourism and has added $6 million this year. The commissioner also said that Dollywood has committed to spending over $300 million over the next ten years to make it bigger and better.
Then we learned a lot more about the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. Shelbyville’s own Jim Allison is chairman of the Agency and gave the presentation. Jim told us about the private utilities that the agency is over and told us that their budget is 10.4% less than last year. They are doing more work with less money. That’s what I want to happen all over the State government. “Getting a great job done with less people and less money”. They have also moved from their own building on James Robertson Parkway into smaller offices in the Andrew Jackson building.
Wednesday evening I was asked to have dinner with the Governor and the First Lady at the Governor’s home in West Nashville. He has legislators over to his house one or two nights a week until he gets to all 132 of us. We have a great meal and get to learn a lot about the Governor and Chrissy and he gets to find out much more about the legislators in the General Assembly. We all have to work together on many projects and policies and it is great to learn more about our co-workers. We really have a fine group working together to make our state the best it can be in many areas.
It takes a lot of people to make things operate smoothly here in the state legislature. If you’ve ever called my office in Nashville then you’ve probably spoken with my assistant, Brita Britnell. She’s been working with me for about three years now and helps keep me on track with my schedule, my bills and with all of the constituent inquiries that we get. I also have two interns this session, Destiny Spencer and Michael Joak. Destiny is a senior at Tennessee State University majoring in English with a minor in political science. Destiny is from Memphis but currently lives in Nashville while she’s finishing school. Michael is in his last year at MTSU majoring in Public Administration. Michael moved here about 13 years ago from South Sudan. I’m glad to have both of them helping me this year. They both are learning a lot about state government and how legislation is produced in Nashville.
I’m sure many of you have heard about the “wine in grocery stores” bill. We voted on this bill on the house floor on Thursday, and it passed by about 20 votes after two hours of debate. Now it will go to the Governor’s desk for his signature. In November of this year, a referendum will be put forth to the people so that each local area can vote on whether or not they would like to be able to have wine in grocery stores. If the referendum passes, grocery stores may start selling wine in July of 2016. Included as part of this, liquor stores will be able to start selling beer and party supplies starting in July of this year. Additionally, both grocery stores and liquor stores will now be required to ID anyone buying alcoholic beverages with no exceptions.
Another bill of importance to our rural areas is HB 590, which concerns annexations within municipality’s urban growth boundaries. This bill, as I understand it, would require a vote or referendum from the citizens of the proposed annexed areas before they can be annexed. There have been several discussions on this proposed legislation and a lot of work has been done to make sure we do it right.
Please feel free to stop by my office at War Memorial Building G-19A or give me a call if you have any questions or concerns. You can reach me at (615) 741-6824 or by email at email@example.com. I am honored to represent the people of the 62nd district!