This was a somber week for many Tennessee families. I offer my condolences to the loved ones of those lost at The Covenant School in Nashville on Monday. Flags over the capitol and all state buildings were flown at half-staff in honor of the families, students, school faculty, and the church. The assailant committed an evil beyond my comprehension. I commend officers Engelbert, Collazo, and others for acting swiftly and removing this killer before more lives were lost.
Now more than ever, it is time for the General Assembly to step up and protect our children. Currently, there are a few ways we are acting to bolster our school’s safety. This year’s budget includes $20 million in School Safety Grants directed to local school districts. Next year’s proposed budget includes $32 million for the Tennessee School Safety Initiative which provides 131 new school safety positions and guarantees at least one special agent for each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. We must also expand our safety measures to private schools.
I voted for HB 1456 which will allow private schools like The Covenant School to contract student resource officers through their local sheriff. I voted for HB 322 in the Government Operations Committee which aims to require schools to implement threat assessments, active shooter drills, and keep all exterior doors locked when children are present in public and private schools. This bill is scheduled to be heard on the House floor April 6.
When the House reconvened this Thursday, I was proud to see hundreds of Tennesseans using their first amendment right to voice their concerns. They were heard loud and clear; however, it was unfortunate that a few members of the Democratic Party used this protest to disrupt the decorum in the chamber. They used signs, bull horns, and yelled chants to prevent other Representatives from conducting the people’s business, yet your government was not halted. Under Speaker Sexton’s leadership, we were able to stop further disruption and hear dozens of bills which will impact all Tennesseans.
Among this legislation includes the Transportation Modernization Act which is now off for the Governor’s signature. This legislation is an unprecedented investment in Tennessee’s infrastructure which was accomplished without tax increases or debt accruement. It will also ensure projects are completed in a fraction of normal construction times.
In addition to continued human trafficking response, HB 115 authorizes the Secretary of State to implement a voluntary program for businesses to opt into. This initiative would enroll a business into periodic training sessions to educate employees on identifying potential trafficking victims as well as where to report suspicions of trafficking.
Lastly, HB 818 is another bill ready to protect Tennessee students. This bill increases penalties for those who do not stop when school buses pick up or drop off children. Students should be safe coming to and from school, and this legislation holds drivers accountable.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you. Please write me about your concerns and ideas
Rep. Greg Martin