Rep. Travis: Weekly Legislative Wrap

Thursday, March 21, 2019 - by Rep. Ron Travis
Sergeant Baker Bill Passes In The House

This week, House Republicans approved House Bill 258, known as the Sergeant Baker Act.

This initiative removes the intermediate appeal to the court of criminal appeals in death penalty cases and provides for automatic direct review by the Tennessee Supreme Court for convictions for which a death sentence is imposed. 

Additionally, House Bill 258 removes the direct appeal from the trial court to the court of criminal appeals and provides that when the judgment has become final in trial court, the conviction and death sentence will be automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court.

As referenced by media reports, House Bill 258 is named after Sgt.
Daniel Baker, a Dickson County Sheriff’s Sergeant who was shot and killed in May of last year. Steven Wiggins and Erika Castro-Miles have been charged with first-degree murder, and the district attorney’s office is seeking the death penalty for both.

House Bill 258 now awaits action in the Senate. For more information on the bill, please click here. 

House Republicans Support Broadband Accessibility Grants

Recently, Republican leaders joined with the Governor to announce $14.8 million in broadband accessibility grants that will expand broadband service to more than 8,300 households and businesses in 17 counties across Tennessee.

According to the FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, nearly one in four rural Tennesseans lack access to reliable broadband services. These grants and additional funding will continue to close the access gap, ensuring rural Tennesseans have the tools needed for growth and prosperity.

Grantees will provide $20 million in matching funds for a combined investment of nearly $35 million across the state for the second year of funding. Infrastructure should be built out within two years of receiving the grant funds. 

For more information about the Broadband Accessibility Grant Program, please click here.

Republicans Fight For Increased Access, Lower Healthcare Costs For Small Businesses

Recently, House Republicans approved legislation that expands access to high quality healthcare services for Tennessee’s small businesses, while also reducing overall costs.

House Bill 1126, which passed by a 95-0 vote, paves the way for small businesses and independent contractors to access large group insurance coverage, which will ultimately improve the quality of care available to these important groups, while lowering overall costs. 

The measure promotes competition and is part of the Republican-led CARE Plan, which will reshape healthcare in Tennessee through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems, and Empowering patients to ensure individuals and families to make all medical decisions, instead of insurance companies or the government. 

The overall goal of the innovative CARE plan is to increase access and the quality of care available to Tennesseans, while driving down overall costs and protecting all patients — with or without pre-existing conditions.

House Bill 1126 now awaits the Governor’s signature. For more information about this initiative, please click here.

Republican-Led Block Grant Legislation Continues To Move In The House

Legislation empowering Tennessee to lead on healthcare by creating a patient-centered system that addresses the unique needs of our citizens, while lowering costs continues to gain momentum in the Tennessee House of Representatives. 
House Bill 1280 cleared the House Finance, Ways, & Means Subcommittee this week. This legislation directs the Governor, through the commissioner of finance and administration, to submit a waiver amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide TennCare II funding by means of block grants.
Block grants authorized through House Bill 1280 must convert the federal share of all medical assistance funding for Tennessee into an allotment that is tailored to meet our state’s specific needs. All grant funding must be indexed to take into account both inflation and population growth.
In recent years, Tennessee has become a national leader in innovation — whether it is job creation, or improving our education system. This legislation enables us to once again lead on a critical local and national issue, without federal mandates. 
Republican leaders are committed to creating a patient-centered system, driven by free-market solutions. This will increase transparency and competition while lowering overall costs with limited government interference.

Katie Beckett Legislation Continues To Advance In The House

This week, members of the House TennCare Subcommittee passed House Bill 498, known as the Katie Beckett Waiver Program.

This life-saving legislation would allow Tennessee to adopt federal provisions like the Katie Beckett waiver to help families receive care for their children.

Tennessee joins other states that have opted to provide a Medicaid coverage pathway for at least some children with significant disabilities living at home, regardless of parental income. 

The measure now heads to the House Insurance Committee. For more information, please click here.

Investment in Vocational Education Initiative Passes Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee

On Wednesday, the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee advanced the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Act, which expands access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students. 

The GIVE is a two-pronged approach that utilizes regional partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities. Communities will now have the funding and flexibility to build programs that best reflect local needs and work directly with private industry to structure programming. 

GIVE also provides funding for high school juniors and seniors to utilize four, fully-funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs. Previously, high school students only had access to two fully-funded dual enrollment credits. With access to four credits, students will now be better prepared for entry into the workforce within two years of graduation.

Two grant programs will fund the initiative: GIVE Community Grants and GIVE Student Grants. Using the framework of the state’s Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP), the governor will recommend new funding in support of work-based learning through GIVE Community Grants. These competitive grants will go to regional partnerships between TCATs, industry, and K-12 to build new programs in work-based learning and apprenticeships, market-driven dual-credit opportunities, and the expansion of industry-informed CTE offerings at local high schools.

GIVE Student Grants will be funded via the Tennessee Lottery and support expanded access to dual enrollment.

House Bill 949 now heads to the House Finance, Ways, & Means Committee.

Republican Lawmakers Toss Amusement Tax On Small Gyms

Thursday, Republican lawmakers voted unanimously to toss the tax on small gyms and other fitness facilities across Tennessee with passage of House Bill 1138. 

As part of the Governor’s budget proposal, this important tax reduction levels the playing field for small gyms, fitness studios, and other exercise facilities so they can compete with their larger counterparts.

Prior to this repeal, members of smaller facilities would pay dues or fees that were subjected to a 10 percent tax, while customers at larger facilities were exempt from it. 

Tennessee currently ranks in the bottom five states for obesity and fitness, and eliminating the burdensome gym tax will help promote a healthier workforce, reduce absenteeism, and instances of diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. 

House Bill 1138 now awaits passage in the Senate.

Key Administration Bills Continue To Move Through House Committee Process

Several key pieces of the Governor’s agenda continued to move through the committee process in the House this week. They include:

House Bill 939: Creates new education opportunities through investment in Education Savings Accounts that will provide opportunities for thousands of students who reside within the worst performing school districts (Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Nashville, Jackson) a new educational pathway to success. 

House Bill 940: Establishes an independent charter commission to ensure that underperforming charter schools are replaced with successful charter models so they can better serve Tennessee’s student population that relies on these academic institutions.

House Bill 942: Builds upon Tennessee’s efforts to address the opioid crisis by cracking down on synthetic drug trafficking in our state. The legislation increases penalties against fentanyl dealers and those who traffic any derivative or analogue of this deadly synthetic drug. 

House Bill 947: Proposes a $30 million investment for the school safety grant fund and additional changes to existing law to prioritize the distribution of these grants to help secure school resource officers and additional safety measures. Total funding for school resources officers and additional safety measures as part of the Governor’s proposed FY 2019-2020 budget is $40 million ($10 million was allocated last year.) 


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