REP. SUSAN LYNN - TN STATE LEGISLATURE - DIST. 57
LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

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2024 LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

JANUARY 12, 2024
JANUARY 26, 2024
FEBRUARY 2, 2024
FEBRUARY 9, 2024

 

 

 

2023 LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

FEBRUARY 17, 2023
FEBRUARY 24, 2023
MARCH 3, 2023
MARCH 10, 2023
MARCH 17, 2023
MARCH 24, 2023
MARCH 31, 2023

APRIL 7, 2023
APRIL 14, 2023
APRIL 24, 2023
APRIL 28, 2023
MAY 5, 2023
MAY 12, 2023

MAY 19, 2023
JUNE 2, 2023
JUNE 7, 2023
AUGUST 4, 2023
AUGUST 11, 2023
SEPTEMBER 1, 2023

SEPTEMBER 22, 2023
SEPTEMBER 29, 2023
NOVEMBER 13, 2023
NOVEMBER 22, 2023
DECEMBER 1, 2023
DECEMBER 15, 2023

 


 


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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – JANUARY 12, 2024

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Tennessee General Assembly Gavels in for 2024

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(http://securenets1.com/TNAssembly-01122024.jpg) - The TN 113th General Assembly reconvened in Nashville this week for the start of its second legislative session. Republicans this year will continue focusing on making strategic investments in education and public safety while also strengthening the economy and cutting taxes. Among the top priorities for 2024 will be to approve a spending plan that addresses the needs of all Tennesseans. After nearly a decade of unprecedented economic growth, lawmakers will have to be even more conservative with their spending in 2024 as experts expect a $300 million shortfall in the budget. The State Funding Board estimated revenue growth for the 2023 fiscal year to be at 7.7 percent, however, actual growth was closer to 5.39 percent.

Despite lagging revenue collections and record-high inflation, the Volunteer State remains in a strong overall financial position with its economy continuing to outperform the national average. Tennessee has a long tradition of being a well-managed state with an incredibly low tax burden for residents. The General Assembly in 2023 invested an additional $250 million into the state’s Rainy-Day Fund, bringing it to more than $2 billion in total. This increases Tennessee’s financial stability and will benefit the state in the event of an economic downturn.

Supporting students and educators will also continue to be a priority for the Republican supermajority this session. Lawmakers have increased funding for K-12 education by $1.3 billion since fiscal year 2022-23, prioritized the individual needs of students with passage of the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act and approved the largest pay increase for teachers in state history. Members of the General Assembly this year will explore a proposal from Gov. Bill Lee that would expand school choice statewide through the Education Freedom Scholarship Act. This legislation would give families more control over how their tax dollars are used for their child’s education.

Improving public safety and protecting communities from crime will be another key area of focus this session. The General Assembly will consider measures to provide law enforcement with additional tools to keep criminals off the streets along with proposals to ensure offenders receive the appropriate sentences for their crimes. Last year, lawmakers approved $232 million to enhance school safety in Tennessee and will continue looking for additional ways to keep classrooms safe. Republicans will also look for ways to provide additional mental health support for residents as well as improve access to health care in rural communities along with other legislative initiatives that address various needs statewide. Tennessee continues to thrive under conservative leadership, and House Republicans seek to build on that momentum in 2024.

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Bill Aims to close Loophole for Defendants Found Incompetent to Stand Trial 

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(http://securenets1.com/MajorityLeaderWilliamLamberth.jpg) - As part of an aggressive push to improve public safety in Tennessee, a Republican bill would close a legal loophole for defendants found incompetent to stand trialHouse Bill 1640, sponsored by, would require criminal defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial to be committed to an appropriate treatment facility. Current state law does not provide this requirement.

“This closes a loophole that puts the public’s safety at serious risk by allowing dangerous individuals back into society to languish and re-offend without receiving the appropriate mental health services and supervision they desperately need,” Lamberth said. 

The legislation was introduced following the murder of Jillian Ludwig, an 18-year-old Belmont University freshman who was fatally shot while walking in a Nashville park on Nov. 7. Her killer, Shaquille Taylor, was a repeat violent offender prosecuted in April 2023 for a separate crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The case against Taylor was dismissed after three court-appointed physicians testified he was incompetent to stand trial and was released from custody. “This loss is an incomprehensible, senseless tragedy that exposes a critical failure in our judicial and mental health care systems,” Lamberth said. “I expect this legislation to close the wide gap in current law so that law-abiding citizens are protected from anything like this ever happening again in our state.” The legislation would additionally require individuals deemed incompetent to stand trial to be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which serves as a namecheck database of people prohibited from buying or owning firearms.

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AI Protections for Music Industry 

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(http://securenets1.com/AIProtectionAct.jpg) - Republicans unveiled legislation to address the damaging impact artificial intelligence (AI) can have on the music industry in Tennessee. Gov. Bill Lee announced the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act this week, which will add protections for songwriters, performers, and music industry professionals’ voice from the misuse of AI to Tennessee’s Protection of Personal Rights law. Overall, the music industry supports more than 61,617 jobs across the state, contributes $5.8 billion to Tennessee’s GDP and fills more than 4,500 music venues. 

“From Beale Street to Broadway, to Bristol and beyond, Tennessee is known for our rich artistic heritage that tells the story of our great state,” Gov. Lee said. “As the technology landscape evolves with artificial intelligence, we’re proud to lead the nation in proposing legal protection for our best-in-class artists and songwriters.” While Tennessee’s existing law protects name, image and likeness, it doesn’t specifically address new, personalized generative AI cloning models and services that enable human impersonation and allow users to make unauthorized fake works in the image and voice of others. Artists and musicians at all levels are facing exploitation and the theft of their integrity, identity, and humanity. 

“Tennessee is home to a remarkably diverse music community that is important not only to the culture of our state, but its economy as well,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland. “As technology advances, we must ensure the intellectual property of these incredibly talented artists, such as their voice, is fully protected. I am incredibly proud to carry this legislation that will benefit the performers who make our music industry so successful.” The ELVIS Act would be the first legislation of its kind in the nation to build upon existing state rule protecting against the unauthorized use of someone’s likeness by adding “voice” to the realm it protects.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – JANUARY 26, 2024

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Republicans propose penalties for abortion trafficking

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(http://securenets1.com/TNAssembly-01262024.jpg) - House Republicans this week reaffirmed their commitment to protecting the unborn by introducing legislation to make abortion trafficking of a minor a Class C felony. House Bill 1895, proposed by State Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, seeks to stop anyone who attempts to circumvent the state’s current abortion law by helping to facilitate an abortion for the minor without parental consent. If the bill becomes law, it will become illegal for any adult to recruit, harbor, or transport a pregnant, unemancipated minor for a criminal abortion, help a minor obtain an abortion-inducing medication, or conceal an act resulting in a criminal abortion.

“Tennessee Republicans will never stop working to advance and uphold the pro-life and pro-family values held by an overwhelming majority of people in this state. We will continue our commitment to protect parents’ rights and defend the defenseless,” Zachary said. Republicans in the General Assembly in 2019 laid the groundwork to ensure life is protected at conception in Tennessee should the U.S. Supreme Court ever reverse its decision to legalize abortion. The General Assembly that year passed the Human Life Protection Act, a conditional trigger law written to go into effect 30 days following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade. When the high court overturned its 1973 decision on June 24, 2022, the Human Life Protection Act became law and automatically made abortion for any reason a felony in Tennessee. House Bill 1895 is expected to begin moving through committees in the coming weeks.

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Republicans introduce Protecting Children from Social Media Act

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Description automatically generated(http://securenets1.com/ProtectingChildrenFromSocialMedia.jpg) - Republicans have introduced legislation to restore parental authority on social media platforms by requiring online companies to verify ages of account holders. The Protecting Children from Social Media Act, filed by State Rep. Jake McCalmon (R-Franklin), in partnership with Gov. Bill Lee’s administration, requires social media companies to verify parental consent for minors who wish to become account holders. It gives parents a high level of access to supervise their child’s online interactions as well as the ability to revoke consent. “Social media has hurt a generation of young people by exposing them to unhealthy content and dangerous interactions with strangers online. They have become victims of companies who have deliberately targeted them for profit through addictive algorithms designed to maximize the amount of time kids use them,” McCalmon said. “This bill applies meaningful safeguards to protect children but ensures parents are the only decision-makers when it comes to who communicates with their children online.”

House Bill 1891 would require social media companies to provide privacy monitoring tools and control daily usage, scheduled breaks, and parent notifications. It directs the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, specifically the Division of Consumer Protection, to enforce the law and handle complaints. The U.S. Surgeon General in 2023 released an advisory warning to the public about the “profound risk of harm” social media use has on young people. The advisory cites several studies and includes a review of available evidence and further studies noting social media use is up 95 percent among minors ages 13-17, with more than a third saying they used social media “almost constantly.” Although age 13 is commonly the required minimum age used by social media platforms in the United States, nearly 40 percent of children ages 8–12 use social media. Similar legislation requiring age verification on social media sites has passed in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Utah.

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Tennessee children living in poverty continues to decline

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Description automatically generated(http://securenets1.com/TNStateOfTheChild.jpg) - The number of Tennessee children living in poverty has declined more than 8 percent over the last decade, according to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth’s State of the Child 2023 report. The commission reports 17.6 percent of Tennessee children were living below the federal poverty level in 2022, compared to 25.8 percent in 2012. A family of three earning less than $23,030 is considered to be living below the federal poverty level, a metric of income used to determine eligibility for public programs. The annual data book tracks the status of children by analyzing state-level statistical indicators of child well-being using social, educational, economic and health data.

“[This report] is a compilation of existing data around how our children are doing in a variety of areas,” Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Executive Director Richard Kennedy told committee members during a presentation Wednesday. “With the report, it’s really important for us to try to be as balanced as possible, so we are very mindful that there are lot of things that we are doing very well as a state and there are lots of opportunities that we have.”

Additional highlights from the presentation include: 29% of Tennessee high school students in 2021 reported their mental health was either most of the time or always not good within the past month. 42% of Tennessee high school students in 2021 reported symptoms of depression within the previous year – a 63% increase from 2011. The suicide rate among Tennessee youth 13-18 increase from 7 per 100,000 to 9.4 per 100,000 between 2019 and 2021. 11th graders across all measures had the highest rate of suicidal behaviors and were the most likely to have asked for help. 1 in 10 households with children in Tennessee reported having a child that needed mental health treatment in September 2023. There were 511 social workers serving 975,545 students statewide in 2022-23. There were 660 school psychologists employed by Tennessee districts in 2022-23. The complete State of the Child in Tennessee 2023 report can be found at https://www.tn.gov/tccy/programs0/kc/kc-pubs-nav.html

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2, 2024

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Jillian's Law Honors Slain Belmont Student

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Description automatically generated (http://securenets1.com/JillianLudwig.jpg) - An amendment naming a new law in honor of Jillian Ludwig, an 18-year-old Belmont University freshman who was fatally shot while walking in a Nashville park last year, advanced out of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday. House Bill 1640, also known as “Jillian’s Law,” aims to improve public safety by requiring criminal defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial to be committed to an appropriate treatment facility. Current state law does not provide this requirement.

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(http://securenets1.com/StateRepRyanWilliams.jpg) - “The trauma inflicted on the Ludwig family, her friends, and the Belmont community by this senseless act is inconceivable,” said State Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, who introduced the amendment. “Every day that a dangerous criminal is free on a technicality is a day that the public safety is a serious risk.” House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland. filed House Bill 1640 following the murder of Ludwig, who was fatally shot while walking in a Nashville park on Nov. 7. Her killer, Shaquille Taylor, was a repeat violent offender prosecuted in April 2023 for a separate crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The case against Taylor was dismissed after three court-appointed physicians testified he was incompetent to stand trial and was released from custody. The legislation would additionally require individuals deemed incompetent to stand trial to be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which serves as a namecheck database of people prohibited from buying or owning firearms. Jillian’s Law is scheduled to be heard in the House Criminal Justice Committee on Feb. 6.

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Tennessee Republicans Stand with Texas to Secure Southern Border

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(http://securenets1.com/SecureTheBorder.jpg) - House Republicans have filed several pieces of legislation in support of Texas and its fight to secure the southern border amid surging illegal immigration. House Joint Resolution 801, sponsored by State Rep. Jake McCalmon, R-Franklin, urges the federal government to do everything in its power to get the border crisis under control. A separate resolution filed by State Rep. Jody Barrett, R-Dickson, also encourages Gov. Bill Lee to continue allowing the Tennessee National Guard to assist Texas in its efforts to combat illegal immigration.

“What’s happening at the southern border is a foreign invasion and the Biden administration is complicit,” McCalmon said. “President Biden has been derelict in his duty to protect American citizens and secure our nation’s borders. The federal government’s inaction has put Tennesseans and Americans across the country at risk. We cannot afford the current administration’s open border policies, which is why I am calling on Biden to do his job and use every resource possible to stop the invasion.”

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House Joint Resolution 801 is scheduled to be heard in the Departments and Agencies Subcommittee on Feb. 7

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Description automatically generated (http://securenets1.com/StateRepMontyFritts.jpg) - Additionally, a proposed amendment to House Bill 2190, sponsored by State Rep. Monty Fritts, R-Kingston, would also authorize the governor, in accordance with the state constitution, to deploy a brigade-sized force of between 3,000 and 5,000 troops to Texas for up to a year. The deployment could be extended for up to six months at a time upon approval of the General Assembly. There have been more than 10 million reported illegal border crossings within the last three years, which include apprehensions by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and those who evaded capture. Since 2019, Tennessee has sent 562 National Guard soldiers to help secure the southern border.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – FEBRUARY 9, 2024

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Gov. Bill Lee on Monday delivered his sixth State of the State Address during a joint session of the General Assembly.

(http://securenets1.com/GovLee-2024-StateOfTheState-jpg) - Gov. Bill Lee on Monday delivered his sixth State of the State Address during a joint session of the General Assembly on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024

During his speech in the House chamber, Lee highlighted his legislative priorities for 2024 along with a proposed $52.6 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year that enhances education, strengthens public safety, cuts taxes and supports families across Tennessee. The Governor’s proposed budget continued to make key investments in strategic areas like education with more than $261 million in new funding for K-12 public schools, including teacher pay increases. Education remains a top priority this year. Lee underscored his focus on improving the state’s public schools, while also ensuring parents have the freedom to make education decisions specific to their child’s needs. He expressed his intentions to provide school choice for every Tennessee family through his Education Freedom Scholarship Act proposal. Lee also noted that $1.8 billion in new state dollars have been invested in public education during the last five years. Last year, the General Assembly approved the largest pay increase for teachers in state history and committed to making Tennessee one of the top 10 states for highest teacher salaries by 2026.

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Description automatically generated (http://securenets1.com/GovBillLee.jpg) - “We have placed an unprecedented focus on public education, and I intend to continue that every year,” Lee said. “We can give parents choice and support public schools at the same time. You’ll hear me say that over and over again – these two ideas are not in conflict.” Other initiatives include a $410 million franchise tax cut to support Tennessee’s economy, expanding rural health care access and the creation of four new state parks. Lee credited the General Assembly’s unwavering commitment to fiscal responsibility as the reason for the state’s firm financial foundation. Following several years of extraordinary revenue growth, revenues are stabilizing. Good fiscal governance has well-positioned Tennessee to continue its record of fiscal responsibility with a balanced budget, healthy savings, and tax cuts.

“Tennessee’s fiscal management approach has set the standard for how states across the country should operate, and families and businesses nationwide have taken note,” Lee said. Lee added that Tennessee’s economy is “very strong” and “built to withstand even the pressure of our country’s uncertain economic future.” He also touted the state’s AAA bond rating, which it has held for nine consecutive years. “Over the past five years, Tennessee has been ranked as the fastest-growing economy of all 50 states, the number one state for fiscal stability, a top state for businesses, the second lowest-taxed state per capita and the lowest debt state in America,” Lee said. “Any state would envy the position that we’ve been in. The members of the Tennessee General Assembly – all of you here tonight as well as your predecessors – are the ones to thank because of your unwavering commitment to keeping our state in a strong financial position, by balancing our budget, maintaining a healthy savings account and cuttings taxes for Tennesseans year after year.” Members of the General Assembly will review Lee’s proposed budget in the coming weeks and make their own recommendations. To view the entire speech, visit https://www.tn.gov/governor/sots/2024-state-of-the-state-address.html

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House Unanimously Passes Bill Changing Fire Alarm Protocols

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(http://securenets1.com/MajorityLeaderWilliamLamberth.jpg) - The House on Thursday voted unanimously to pass legislation requiring schools to determine the cause of a fire alarm before allowing children to leave their classrooms. House Bill 1644 is among several safety proposals reintroduced from the special session in August. The bill was filed by House Majority leader William Lamberth (R-Portland), in response to the Covenant School shooting in Nashville on March 27. One of the six victims, William Kinney, 9, was leading his third-grade classmates to safety as line leader when he was fatally shot by a former student of the school. Smoke from the shooter’s weapon triggered the school’s fire alarm, but the victims were unaware there was an active shooter in the school when they heard the alarm. Kinney was the first to encounter the shooter in the hallway of the school. “This is one small step, but a very important one for both the families at Covenant, for (Tennessee), and I was glad to see it get unanimous support,” Lamberth said on Thursday. “This is one of a number of bills we pass this year that will make Tennessee safer tomorrow than it is today.” The bill is expected to be considered in the Senate chamber in the coming weeks.

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Legislation to remove political flags from classrooms advances

(http://securenets1.com/StateRepGinoBulso.jpg) - A Republican bill to ensure students in Tennessee are not indoctrinated by political flags in the classroom advanced out of the K-12 Subcommittee this week.

House Bill 1605, sponsored by State Rep. Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood) would prohibit certain flags from being displayed in public schools. “What this (legislation) does is make it crystal clear that both flags, and images of flags that are used in a way to try to teach students a particular set of values that may or may not correspond to the values that they’re learning at home, are not going to be allowed,” Bulso said. The bill, as amended, would allow for multiple flags with local, state, national, world and historical significance to be displayed at schools. In addition to the Tennessee and United States flags, other flags that would be allowed include military flags, government flags, foreign country flags and flags used temporarily for course curriculums. House Bill 1605 would also allow parents to take civil action against a school if it refuses to act within 10 days of receiving a written notice regarding a potential violation of the law. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Education Administration Committee on Feb. 14.

Governor Lee concluded, "The foundations that were laid by the generations before us, the “city on a hill” that we call Tennessee, the gates that welcome those who want opportunity and security and freedom. the walls that protect fiscal stewardship and public safety and our environment. We recognize the great challenges that lie before us, whether it be rural healthcare or workforce protections. We have opportunity and obligation, and it will take each one of us, as we debate and agree and disagree, about the path forward to accomplish that which we all believe in – serving our fellow Tennesseans, recognizing the dignity of each one of them, each person’s God-given value, and working to make a better life and future for them all. We each have our spot on the wall – an important spot, no one greater than the other, each one greatly necessary. And just like in Nehemiah’s day, there will be those who criticize – those who will see Tennessee’s success and try to stop it. And they’ll do that by trying to divide us. We shouldn’t let that happen. Let’s stand together – remember our shared purpose. Only when we work together – side by side – will we build upon, protect and create that which is one of the greatest places in all the world, and ensure that it remains for those who live here, for those who want to live here, and their children and their children’s children. May the Lord pour his spirit and favor out on each one of you, and may the Lord bless the people and the place that is the great state of Tennessee."

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2023 LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – FEBRUARY 17, 2023

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Republicans advance ban on taxpayer-funded transgender surgeries.

The House Insurance Subcommittee this week advanced Republican legislation to protect taxpayer money from being used for transgender surgeries in Tennessee. House Bill 1215 would prohibit a managed care organization (MCO) contracted with TennCare from covering any medical procedures performed for the purpose of changing a person’s sex. “(This bill) does not deny access to the transgender community or any community to health care,” said bill co-sponsor State Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro. “This bill does not discriminate and it also does not outlaw the surgery. This simply states that Tennessee tax dollars are not to be used for it.” If approved, any MCO that is in violation of the bill and contracted with TennCare would have 90 days to come into compliance. House Bill 1215 is scheduled to be heard in the Insurance Committee on Feb. 21.

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General Assembly passes bill requiring GPS for ignition interlock devices

Both chambers of the General Assembly this week unanimously passed legislation designed to keep those convicted of drunk driving (DUI) from becoming repeat offenders by getting behind the wheel under the influence. House Bill 77, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, will require all ignition interlock devices installed on vehicles after Jan. 1, 2024, to be equipped with Global Positioning Satellite technology to geotag a vehicle’s location whenever an ignition interlock device is used to start a vehicle. These devices are installed on vehicles of drivers convicted of a DUI and require drivers to pass a breathalyzer test to ensure they are not under the influence of alcohol before they can operate their vehicle. When the driver blows into the breathalyzer, a photo is taken to confirm the driver is the one blowing. Current law does not allow law enforcement to prosecute a driver when photo evidence confirms when someone other than the driver blows into the breathalyzer. Without a geotag at the time the ignition interlock device is used, it is unclear which jurisdiction the driver should be prosecuted.  

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Republicans address truck driver shortage, help veterans.

The House Transportation Committee this week advanced Republican legislation to help address the truck driver shortage by making it easier for qualified veterans to receive a commercial learner’s permit. House Bill 88 would require the Department of Safety to waive the knowledge test to obtain the permit if an applicant provides documentation showing that they possess certain relevant military experience and a clean driving record. “The American Trucking Association estimates that we currently have an over 80,000 truck driver shortage in the United States,” said bill sponsor Speaker Pro Tempore Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville. “That could grow to 160,000 by 2028. We have a real problem. This is a pro-veteran bill that would allow current military personnel or veterans within one year of honorable discharge to help acquire a commercial driver’s license.” According to the legislation, any applicant who received a knowledge test waiver would still be required to complete any applicable vision and skills test and pay the appropriate fees. House Bill 88 is scheduled to be heard in the Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee on Feb. 22.

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Anti-stalking legislation advances in the House.

Legislation that further strengthens Tennessee’s anti-stalking laws and protects citizens from unknowingly being tracked advanced this week to the House Criminal Justice Committee. House Bill 1008, sponsored by State Rep. Rusty Grills, R-Newbern, expands the meaning of stalking methods to include use of an electronic tracking or Global Positioning System (GPS) device to secretly monitor the location of an individual and/or their property without their consent. State law currently requires at least two separate noncontinuous acts to occur before someone could be charged with the offense. Law enforcement agencies across the nation have warned citizens about the growing problem of stalking with electronic tracking devices being secretly used by criminals to follow vehicles they intend to steal or worse. The bill provides another way to help protect people, their property and their privacy, said Grills. Approximately 1,850 cases of stalking were reported in Tennessee during 2021, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s most recent annual report. A person guilty of this crime should it become law would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. The offense is enhanced to a Class E misdemeanor if the defendant is a registered or violent sex offender. House Bill 1008 would not prevent law enforcement from using an electronic tracking device during an ongoing criminal investigation.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – FEBRUARY 24, 2023

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General Assembly bans gender mutilation of children.

Legislation that prohibits minors from undergoing irreversible and harmful medical procedures for the purpose of changing their gender identity now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature following a 77-16 vote in the House chamber on Thursday. Tennessee now provides the nation’s strongest protections against the removal of a child’s healthy body parts. House Bill 1, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, bans medical interference that alters a child’s hormonal balance and procedures that remove body parts to enable the minor to identify as a gender different from their biological sex. The Senate version passed on Feb. 13. “These treatments and procedures have a lifetime of negative consequences that are irreversible,” said Lamberth on the House floor. “When you start cutting off body parts of a child and you’re telling them something is wrong with their body when they already think that, it is dangerous and destructive….What those children need is love and support, mental health treatment, and time.” Any health care provider who violates the law can be sued in civil court by the minor injured, the parent of the minor injured or the Attorney General within 30 years of the violation. Providers found to be in violation could face up to a $25,000 penalty per violation and have their medical license restricted. The legislation ensures that doctors can still prescribe hormone treatment to minors for medically necessary purposes and makes exceptions for children born with chromosomal anomalies or congenital defects.  House Bill 1 now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. It becomes effective July 1.

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General Assembly protects children from adult entertainment.

The House chamber on Thursday passed legislation that protects children from being exposed to sexually explicit performances. House Bill 9, sponsored by State Rep. Chris Todd, R-Jackson, restricts adult-oriented cabaret performances from being performed on public property if children could be present. The bill requires private establishments such as bars or restaurants that host sexually explicit shows to require patrons to show identification to ensure they are at least 18. The bill provides common-sense protection and clarity regarding what performances are not appropriate for children. Todd told members on the House floor he sought to clarify the law following community outrage in his district over a drag show planned on public property. The show was promoted as a “family-friendly” event. “This is a common sense, child safety bill,” Todd said. “It protects children first and foremost. This will make it much easier for the public to determine what exactly is appropriate for children and what is not.” A violation of this bill would result in a Class A misdemeanor, and a second or subsequent offense would result in a Class E felony. The bill returns to the Senate chamber for a procedural vote before heading to the governor’s desk for his signature. Another proposal making its way through House committees would require a person to obtain a valid entertainer permit from the adult-oriented establishment board in jurisdictions with a board, prior to performing an adult cabaret entertainment show. House Bill 30,  sponsored by State Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski, prohibits public, private and commercial establishments from allowing anyone under the age of 18 to attend such a performance. House Bill 30 is scheduled to be heard in the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee on Feb. 28.

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Constitutional carry expansion advances.

Republican legislation to expand protections for Tennesseans’ Second Amendment rights advanced out of the House Civil Justice Subcommittee this week. House Bill 1005, as amended, would expand constitutional carry in Tennessee by allowing law-abiding adults to carry a firearm where they are legally allowed to. The legislation would also lower the minimum age required for a person to obtain an enhanced, lifetime enhanced or concealed handgun carry permit from 21 to 18 years of age. “You have a civil right to keep and bear arms, and it’s not just pistols,” said bill co-sponsor State Rep. Chris Todd, R-Madison County. “That is what this bill is about.” If approved, the bill would also rename concealed handgun carry permits and enhanced handgun carry permits to concealed firearm carry permits and enhanced firearm carry permits. Permit holders and law-abiding adults would be allowed to carry any firearm they legally own in any place or manner currently authorized for handguns. Existing state law prohibiting certain individuals, like those convicted of stalking, from possessing a firearm would remain unchanged. Additionally, the legislation would clarify that a person or entity who prohibits the possession of firearms on their property is not immune from civil liability. House Bill 1005 is scheduled to be heard in the House Civil Justice Committee on March 1.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – MARCH 3, 2023

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Governor Lee, Commissioner McWhorter Announce The Webstaurant Store, LLC to Establish Distribution Operations in Wilson County.

Leading online restaurant supply store to invest nearly $104 million in Tennessee facility in Lebanon to gain 225 new jobs through project.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter and The Webstaurant Store, LLC officials announced the company will invest $103.9 million to locate new distribution operations in Lebanon’s Speedway Industrial Park. Through the expansion to Tennessee, Webstaurant will create 225 new jobs in Wilson County. Webstaurant’s Lebanon facility will be the company’s newest plant and largest investment in automation and infrastructure to date. Once operational, it will utilize automated packing machines and work alongside the company’s current distribution operations in Georgia and Kentucky to target increased demand for restaurant, industrial and other office supplies and equipment in the Midwestern U.S. Hiring is expected to begin later this year and will continue into 2024. Those interested can apply here. Based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and founded in 2004, The Webstaurant Store, LLC is one of the largest online restaurant supply companies. Webstaurant specializes in distributing commercial equipment and wholesale supplies around the globe from its operations in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and soon, Tennessee. Since 2019, TNECD has supported 15 economic development projects in Wilson County, resulting in nearly 5,600 job commitments and $1.1 billion in capital investment.

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4 new state parks included in Gov. Lee’s proposed budget.

Gov. Bill Lee has included funding to creating four new state parks as part of his proposed $55.6 billion budget for the upcoming 2023-24 fiscal year. “Our state parks are a jewel, and they’ll only be around for the future if we invest in them today,” Lee said during his annual State of the State address last month. “Through the years, Tennessee has maintained responsible stewardship of our natural resources, but it’s time to develop a conservation strategy that balances our state’s economic growth with a plan to protect our environment.” The proposed new state parks include: Devil’s Backbone State Park (Lewis County): The 950-acre natural area, along with an additional 570-acres of state land, offers visitors the opportunity for a quiet hike adjacent to the Natchez Trace Parkway. The potential to add camping for cyclists and motorists along the parkway may also be considered in future development planning.

Middle Fork Bottoms State Park (Madison County): The approximately 1,200 acres would serve as a conservation showcase featuring 250,000 recently planted hardwood trees, 20 acres of warm season prairie, more than 200 acres of restored shallow water wetlands and 2 miles of restored stream. If approved, $22.5 million would be used for the construction of a visitors’ center, maintenance facility, boardwalk, boat ramps, trail bridge(s), utility infrastructure and amenities. North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Park (Hamilton/Sequatchie counties): The 7,093-acre natural area features more than 18 miles of hiking trails, an outstanding 10-mile gorge, a high diversity of plant and animal habitat along with a popular kayaking stream. The terrain and already high visitation require additional infrastructure and Tennessee State Parks personnel to support the intense demand for the area. Scott’s Gulf Wilderness State Park (White County): The park would link three significant state natural areas around Virgin Falls to allow for greater access to recreation on state-owned land while also improving visitor safety and resource protection. If approved, $27.8 million would be used to build a new visitors’ center, maintenance shop, restrooms, roadways, utilities and parking infrastructure.  As part of the selection process for the proposed new state parks, locations already in TDEC holdings were evaluated based on their suitability to better meet the outdoor recreational needs of Tennesseans and visitors. Considerations included their proximity to populations and travel routes; uniqueness of experience; natural, cultural and scenic value; and resource stewardship. Tennessee has 57 unique state parks that provide a variety of activities for outdoor adventurers of all interests and pursuits. Every Tennessean lives within an hour of at least one state park. Additional information about what each park offers can be found online at www.tnstateparks.com.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – MARCH 10, 2023

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Small Government Efficiency Act Becomes Law.

Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday signed legislation that ensures effective local representation and the utmost efficiency for taxpayers. House Bill 48, also known as the Small Government Efficiency Act, reins in excessive government growth by lowering the maximum size of metropolitan and municipal legislative bodies in Tennessee to no more than 20 voting members. It passed on Monday in the House chamber and on Thursday morning in the Senate. The City of Nashville, which would fall under the scope of House Bill 48, has a population of 690,000 and is the 21st largest city in the United States. Nashville’s 40-member council is currently the nation’s third largest, just behind New York City which has a 51-member council and a population of 8.8 million, and Chicago, which has a 50-member council and a population of 2.7 million. “This isn’t just about Nashville,” bill sponsor House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, told members on the House floor on Monday. “This is about every single city in the state not (making) the mistake that Nashville made 50 years ago when it (decided on) 40 members. We don’t want any city in this state to expand beyond 20.” Local government bodies exceeding 20 voting members will be required to dissolve and re-appropriate current districts using the latest federal U.S. Census data to ensure equal representation based on population by May 1, 2023.

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Republicans seek to increase school bus safety in Tennessee.

Republicans this week advanced legislation strengthening punishment for drivers who illegally pass a school bus that is picking up or dropping off children. House Bill 818, sponsored by State Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, would make it a Class E felony if a driver illegally passes a school bus and strikes another person. It would be a Class C felony if the individual died. “In 2019, the General Assembly passed legislation attempting to reduce the number of people illegally passing stopped school busses by allowing schools to install cameras on the outside of busses,” Whitson told the committee Tuesday. “Over the last several years, we have learned about some enforcement challenges due to a lack of clarity within our current statute. This bill provides that clarity and incorporates lessons learned from other states to help us better understand and stop these violators.” The legislation would also increase the fine for not stopping for a school bus from $200 to $250 for the first offense based solely on video camera footage from the bus. The minimum fine for a second or subsequent offense would increase from $250 to $500. In 2022, there were 84 citations issued to drivers who illegally passed a school bus that was either picking up or dropping off children, according to data from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. House Bill 818 is scheduled to be heard in the Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee on March 15.

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Republicans aim to prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions.

Republicans this week advanced legislation that would prevent any city, county or metropolitan government from using taxpayer dollars to directly or indirectly assist with obtaining an abortion or abortion-related services. House Bill 90, sponsored by State Rep. Debra Moody, R-Covington, prohibits taxpayer funds from being used as part of a health benefit plan or for travel to a state where abortion is legal. On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the federal standard protecting the right to abortion and returning the regulation of abortion to the states. House Bill 90 ensures no municipality, county or metropolitan government in Tennessee reallocates tax dollars, cuts critical services or staff positions to pay for abortions or abortion-related services. Government bodies should not be in the abortion business. Using taxpayer dollars to transport a pregnant woman across state lines for an abortion is an inappropriate use of funds, Moody said. The Tennessee Constitution gives the State of Tennessee authority over local government bodies and allows the state to preempt a local government as long as it does not violate a right guaranteed by the State Constitution. House Bill 90 is expected to be considered in the House Local Government Committee on March 14.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – MARCH 17, 2023

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House protects Tennessee workers’ right to private votes.

House Republicans on Thursday passed legislation ensuring Tennessee workers’ rights are protected by secret ballot in union-organizing elections. House Bill 1342, sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and State Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville, prohibits an employer who accepts economic development incentives from Tennessee from disclosing an employee or subcontractor’s personal contact information to a labor organization without consent. Tennesseans voted in 2022 to codify the right-to-work in the state constitution. This measure protects Tennessee workers from being fired for not joining or paying a union. Even with these protections in place, Tennessee workers can still face intimidation when it comes to unionizing. Through a process known as card check, union officials pressure workers privately and publicly until they collect enough signatures directly from the workers until they have enough signatures to begin bargaining collectively. “If we are going to invest in a company, we want to make sure that the workers have rights to free, fair and private elections,” said Vaughan. “This is a way we can take care of our economic incentives and investments and protect our investments as a state moving forward.” House Bill 1342 ensures taxpayer dollars are not used to support coercive union tactics like card check. The legislation protects workers’ right to a private ballot in union elections and respects their right to privacy at home when companies take taxpayer-funded economic incentives. The companion bill is currently advancing through the Senate.

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Committee advances bill to enhance third-grade literacy.

Legislation aimed at further improving third-grade literacy in Tennessee advanced out of the House K-12 Subcommittee this week. House Bill 437, as amended, includes several enhancements to bipartisan legislation passed in 2021 to address learning loss related to COVID-19 and provide students with additional academic support before being promoted to the fourth grade if they are approaching reading on-level. “There has been a lot of discussion about education in Tennessee over the last few years, especially about the reading issues that our children are facing,” said bill co-sponsor State Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka. “The thing that we have to be very careful of is continuing on this pathway of moving kids forward that aren’t ready. We’re not really doing them a service. We’re actually doing them an injustice.” If approved, the bill would expand fourth-grade eligibility by allowing students who score in the “approaching” category on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test to still be promoted to the next grade level if they also scored in the 50th percentile or higher on their most recent benchmark assessment provided by the state and given as a test. Parents would also be able to receive additional assistance from school administrators when filing a waiver to appeal their child’s retention. The legislation also requires a tutor to be assigned for one year to all students in kindergarten through third grade who are retained beginning with the 2023-24 school year. State Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, who is the primary sponsor of House Bill 437, told members of the committee on Tuesday that Tennessee must also continue to focus on early childhood literacy beginning in pre-kindergarten. “We’re not through with this,” White said. “We are going to keep working, but I think we have addressed some of the major concerns that (exist with the current law). We can’t take our foot off the accelerator. We know it’s difficult… but we can get this right and we have a good opportunity to do so.” House Bill 437 is scheduled to be heard in the Education Administration Committee on March 22.

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Do-Not-Text law lets Tennesseans block unwanted messages.

The House chamber on Thursday unanimously passed legislation to allow Tennessee consumers to block unwanted text messages. The Senate companion version passed unanimously on March 6. House Bill 805, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, merges text message solicitations to the state’s Do Not Call Registry. It extends the same prohibitions, requirements, and penalties that apply to telephone solicitations to unwanted text messages. The Tennessee Public Utility Commission (TPUC) would continue to oversee the registry, which includes landlines and cell phone numbers of Tennessee telephone subscribers who have elected not to receive solicitations. Businesses may not be included on the list. “I think we’re all sick of getting unsolicited texts messages from individuals we don’t know and I know my constituents are as well,” Lamberth told members on the House floor. “If you want to be left alone you can be added to this and just be left alone.” House Bill 805 prescribes a maximum penalty of $2,000 dollars for each violation of a text solicitation to a person on the registry. There are some exemptions to the law which include invitations to be called by the person being called and solicitations on behalf of a not-for-profit organization. The Tennessee Do-Not-Call law only authorizes the regulation of telemarketing for commercial purposes; political telemarketing is not covered by this law. Because free speech is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed for the regulation of commercial speech but has provided political speech with much greater protection from government regulation. House Bill 805 now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature. For information and to be added to the Do-Not-Call Registry, visit https://www.tn.gov/tpuc/tennessee-do-not-call-program/csd-online-do-not-call-registration-form.html

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – MARCH 24, 2023

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Pro-life bill strengthens protections for mothers in emergencies.

The House chamber on Monday passed legislation ensuring the life of a mother will be protected when a nonviable pregnancy endangers her life. House Bill 883, sponsored by State Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes, R-East Ridge, clarifies that terminating a nonviable pregnancy, such as in the case of an ectopic or molar pregnancy, is not an abortion. The measure passed 83-11. Republicans in the General Assembly in 2019 laid the groundwork to ensure life is protected at conception in Tennessee should the U.S. Supreme Court ever reverse its decision on legalized abortion. The General Assembly that year passed the Human Life Protection Act, a conditional trigger law written to go into effect 30 days following the high court’s decision giving states the authority to regulate abortion. When the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022 declared that abortion is not a constitutional right, the Human Life Protection Act became law and automatically made abortion for any reason a Class C felony crime in Tennessee. House Bill 883 ensures elective abortions remain illegal in Tennessee, but removes the affirmative defense clause that could have required doctors to provide evidence defending their actions in court when saving the life of a mother. It now provides protection for physicians by decriminalizing the procedure in such emergencies. "This bill provides better clarity and returns to the normal judicial system practice of innocent until proven guilty," Helton-Haynes told members on the House floor on Monday. "It protects the life of the mother and the life of the baby." Approximately one in 50 ectopic pregnancies occur each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy will likely result in a life-threatening hemorrhage. “During pregnancy, a woman takes on the incredible responsibility to safeguard another human life and it is important her health is protected,” Helton-Haynes said. “I’m proud of what this pro-family, pro-life legislation accomplishes and I will continue advocating for the health of women and children in Tennessee.” Tennessee Right to Life, the state’s largest pro-life advocacy organization, supported House Bill 883. The companion version of the bill is currently advancing in the Senate.

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Republicans propose $407 million in tax cuts for families and businesses.

Republican leaders this week advanced the Tennessee Works Tax Reform Act of 2023 that proposes a number of changes to the state’s tax code and represents an unprecedented $407 million in tax cuts impacting every Tennessean. House Bill 323, sponsored in the House by Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and Assistant Majority Leader Mark Cochran, R-Englewood, is part of Gov. Bill Lee’s top legislative initiates for 2023.  The bill aims to lower the tax burden on businesses, boost Tennessee’s economic competitiveness, promote entrepreneurship and small business formation, as well as provide targeted relief to families. “This is one of the largest tax reforms and tax cuts in Tennessee’s history,” Cochran told members of the House Finance Ways and Means Subcommittee on Wednesday. “It provides tax relief to Tennessee families, for businesses - particularly for small and medium-sized businesses - and makes us a stronger economic competitor in general.” Tennessee Republicans remain committed to keeping taxes low. Tennessee is the second-lowest taxed state in the nation and collects zero income tax. The cuts provide significant tax relief to small businesses by lowering the burden of the franchise and excise tax as well as the business tax rate. The bill would allow more than 23,000 small businesses in Tennessee to reduce their excise tax liability to zero by exempting the first $50,000 in income from the state’s excise tax. It also exempts up to $500,000 of business property from franchise tax liability. The tax cuts would exempt 140,000 Tennessee businesses from the business tax by raising the threshold for business tax exemptions from $10,000 to $100,000 of gross receipts. In addition, it reduces the highest business tax rate from 0.3% to 0.1%. The proposal will strengthen Tennessee’s economic competitiveness while prioritizing businesses within our state’s borders. It incentivizes businesses to hire Tennesseans and headquarter here. It ensures state tax deductions for research and development (R&D) expenses that help companies grow, innovate and produce superior products and services. Finally, the proposal will deliver for working families by creating a three-month sales tax holiday food from Aug. 1-Oct. 31, 2023. It also seeks to incentivize businesses to provide paid family leave to employees by establishing a state-paid family leave franchise and excise tax credit on wages paid for a two-year pilot period. House Bill 323 is up for consideration in the Finance, Ways and Means Committee on March 28.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – MARCH 31, 2023

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State Rep. Susan Lynn announces $2.5 million for water infrastructure projects in Mt. Juliet.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, today announced that the city of Mt. Juliet will receive a $2.5 million grant to improve water infrastructure. The grant, administered by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), is among 43 grants totaling $203.2 million from the state’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) fund. Mt. Juliet will receive $2.5 million to make needed improvements to the community’s wastewater system. The funds will be used to replace 9,000 linear feet of sewer lines to improve significant infiltration and inflow into its sewer system. “As Mt. Juliet continues to grow, it’s vital to have the necessary infrastructure in place to ensure that our community continues be successful,” Lynn said. “These important upgrades will benefit residents and businesses while also helping to ensure that we are best prepared for the future.” Tennessee received $3.7 billion from the ARP, and the state’s Financial Stimulus Accountability Group dedicated $1.35 billion of those funds to TDEC to support water projects in communities throughout Tennessee. Of the $1.35 billion, approximately $1 billion was designated for non-competitive formula-based grants offered to counties and eligible cities. The remaining funds will go to state-initiated projects and competitive grants.

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Covenant attack puts increased focus on school safety. House postpones votes in remembrance of victims.

It was a somber week on Capitol Hill as lawmakers joined Tennesseans and the rest of the nation in mourning the deaths of six innocent people killed by an active shooter at the Covenant School, a private Christian academy in Nashville, on Monday, March 27. Votes on scheduled legislation were postponed in both the House and Senate chambers Monday evening in recognition of the victims of the horrific attack. Pastor Brad Hall, president of the Tennessee Christian Motorcycle Association, led the House in prayer for the victims and their families before the members adjourned. The victims were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, and Hallie Scruggs, all age nine, Mike Hill, age 61, Cynthia Peak, age 61, and Katherine Koonce, age 60. The shooter was a former student of the private school whom police described as a biological woman but identified as a transgender male. Flags over the capitol and all state buildings were flown at half-staff this week in honor of the families, students, school faculty and church. The House is scheduled on Monday, April 3 to formally honor the Metro Nashville Police Department along with officers Rex Engelbert and Michael Collazo who exemplified courage in the face of evil. The officers’ heroic actions stopped the shooter within five minutes of arriving at the school. The tragedy turned the spotlight on school safety in the Volunteer State. Since 2018, Republicans provided more than $550 million to make Tennessee public schools safer. This money has provided school resource officers (SROs), enhanced school security measures and mental health resources. Funding for school safety is built into the new student-based funding formula known as the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) which goes into effect on July 1. The 2023-24 fiscal year budget proposes an additional $50 million to address new school safety enhancements. Of that, $20 million is proposed for School Safety Grants directed to local school districts. The School Safety Act of 2023, House Bill 322, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and House Education Chairman Mark White, R-Memphis, codifies best practices already carried out in most Tennessee schools. The bill aims to ensure a statewide standard of school safety by putting in place collaborative prevention strategies for threat assessment, active shooter drills, and requires public and charter schools to secure all exterior doors and vestibules. It requires all newly built schools to install classroom door locks. An amendment pending on the bill would extend the law to include private schools. This year’s upcoming budget also includes nearly $32 million for the Tennessee School Safety Initiative.  It provides 131 new positions to support the school safety division related Homeland Security. It would provide at least one special agent for each of the state’s 95 counties. The agent would be responsible for providing threat assessments, monitoring safety as well as collaborating with law enforcement. House Bill 322 is scheduled to be considered in the House chamber on April 6.

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General Assembly approves $3.3 billion for transportation infrastructure.

Legislation that will modernize Tennessee’s infrastructure and address critical transportation needs now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature. The House on Thursday approved House Bill 321, known as the Transportation Modernization Act, which will invest an unprecedented $3.3 billion to accommodate Tennessee’s record growth, address traffic congestion and meet transportation needs across rural and urban communities. Gov. Bill Lee earlier this session announced the investment plan as part of his legislative package for the year. Transportation Chairman Dan Howell, R-Ocoee, and Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, guided passage of the bill through the House in partnership with Lee’s administration and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). “Our roads are the vital arteries of our communities that connect Tennesseans to their jobs and schools, goods to our businesses, and first responders to the scene in emergencies,” Lamberth said. “This investment addresses challenges like potholes, safety, and long commutes, but more importantly, it creates greater, faster access to more destinations. Our state is well prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow.” The legislation will give TDOT the resources needed to solve the state’s current and future mobility challenges, including seeking the use of public-private partnerships to preserve state funds for rural infrastructure priorities, exploring Choice Lanes to decrease congestion and increase economic impact statewide, and expanding the alternative delivery model to save taxpayer dollars and deliver road projects more efficiently. “As Tennessee continues to experience unprecedented growth, investing in our transportation infrastructure is essential to ensuring residents and our economy keep moving forward,” said Howell. “The Transportation Modernization Act will provide historic funding to address congestion in both rural and urban areas of our state. It will also provide innovative solutions to these challenges without the need to raise taxes. I was honored to guide passage of this important piece of legislation in the House, and I appreciate Gov. Lee, TDOT, and my colleagues in the General Assembly for their support of this generational shift in how we address infrastructure in our state.” The legislation provides $750 million for infrastructure for each of the four transportation regions with another $300 million to expand the State Aid Program for local road projects. It also expands TDOT’s existing alternative delivery tools and establishes a structure for electric/hybrid vehicle fees.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – APRIL 7, 2023

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Rep. Susan Lynn's Statement Regarding the Expulsions of TN State House Representatives Pearson & Jones.

This extraordinary action was due to extraordinary circumstances. After two weeks of turmoil in the Tennessee House, Members voted overwhelmingly to expel members who conspired to overtake the House Chamber. The evidence proved that they plotted together to disrupt the proceedings of the House. These members have continually interrupted the proceedings, verbally attacked fellow representatives, disrespectful to committee chairmen, verbally attacked the speaker of the house, incited disorder in committees as well as in the House Chamber, and took over the Chamber of the Tennessee House. I experienced the actions of the three legislators firsthand. When Session began in January, this group routinely rose to speak on bills to call out white supremacy, among other accusations. This is out of order and breaks House Rules, and on each occurrence, the Speaker promptly gaveled them out of order. Last week: while we were all grieving the Covenant School tragedy, the three members chose to use the tragedy to raise themselves up, making themselves higher than the victims, and their families. It appeared their primary object was to score political points for themselves one of the left’s favorite issues, Gun Control. On two separate days, these members created a disturbance in the House for several hours. They amassed a large crowd inside and outside of the Capitol and House Chamber to demand gun control. On the House Floor, among other accusations, they accused Republicans of being the true murderers of the children, the teachers and even the killer herself. The crowd in the balcony joined each time with a deafening scream. On the first day, we had no idea of what they were planning to do. As they rose to speak, making their accusations bill after bill, when the time was right, they gathered at Rep. Johnson’s desk and proceeded to commandeer the House Floor. Yelling into a bullhorn, they incited the crowd in the gallery to a deafening pitch demanding gun control. Each day State Troopers had to physically remove unruly individuals who were particularly provoked by the three. Ultimately, Troopers had to remove everyone from the entire balcony above the House floor due to the disorderly conduct which would not stop. Their Democrat leadership was furious with them for this breach of House Rules and decorum, and so was ours. These members ignored repeated commands from the Sergeant-at-Arms to cease and desist. Since Session began in January, these Reps have repeatedly broken House rules on the floor and with similar conduct in committee. It was clear early-on that they sought attention as one of the members was followed around all day, every day, by a Netflix camera crew. It was explained that it is unlawful for us to profit from our office so a reality series about him being a Representative would be out of the question. I explain all of this to make a point. In my opinion, the House members we disciplined were defiant and disrespectful to the House. It was selfish to use the tragic deaths of young children and teachers for their own personal political gain. Dishonest to the crowd they drew, was to provide an impression that there was “gun control” legislation on which to vote. There is none. Each of the three could have easily filed bills at the beginning of session to do something about school safety or shootings, but they never did. They commandeered the House Chamber to blame Republicans for not voting for legislation that does not exist while repeatedly accusing Republicans of killing children with guns, of being white supremacists, and calling us racists. If you watched the expulsion proceedings, you saw them call Republican members racist, while clearly expressing racism themselves to divert attention from their own misdeeds. Their Thursday seizure of the House Chamber ended with Democrat Leader Karen Camper and Representative Joe Towns severely scolding them. Camper demanded that they leave the podium and go into the House Clerks office for a private meeting. We cannot help but be curious. What was their exit plan had Leader Camper not forced them to end their occupation of the Well? They were asked this question at their expulsion hearing but they did not provide an answer. In Rep. Johnson's closing comments, she accused members of racism. She kept her seat by one Republican vote. When she exited the chamber, she proceeded to further incite the crowd by telling them that they kept me because I am white. Article II, Section 12 of the Tennessee Constitution states; Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same offense; and shall have all other powers necessary for a branch of the Legislature of a free state. We heard these members repeatedly cite passages from the Bible. But in the Bible, forgiveness always follows contrition. There was no contrition but rather promises that their antics would continue.

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House approves sweeping school safety enhancements.

The House chamber of Thursday passed bipartisan legislation that significantly strengthens safety at public and private schools across Tennessee. The School Safety Act of 2023, House Bill 322, was introduced in January, though several measures were added following the deadly shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27. House and Senate leaders joined Gov. Bill Lee on Monday to announce the additional actions to heighten safety at public and private schools across Tennessee. These measures include enhanced legislation and funding to place an armed security guard at every Tennessee public school, boost physical school security at public and private schools, and provide additional mental health resources for Tennesseans. The bill adds $140 million to establish a school resource officer (SRO) grant fund to place a trained, armed security guard at every public school. “Our children must feel safe when they attend their school of choice. Gov. Lee’s plan to fund SROs for public and private schools will provide a safer learning environment and additional security,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville. “We also must continue to address mental health in K-12 education and provide resources like counselors, social workers, and other health care professionals.” The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and House Education Chairman Mark White, R-Memphis, codifies best practices already carried out in most Tennessee schools. The bill aims to ensure a statewide standard of school safety by putting in place collaborative prevention strategies for threat assessment, active shooter drills, and requires public and charter schools to secure all exterior doors and vestibules. It requires all newly built schools to install classroom door locks. “The tragedy at Covenant School underscores that evil takes the path of least resistance and preys on society’s most vulnerable. No child, parent, teacher or school employee should ever fear for their safety,” said Lamberth. “I am thankful to Gov. Lee and my Republican colleagues for their continued commitment and investment in our schools. These are aggressive and necessary steps that will ensure Tennessee’s schools are the safest, most secure in the nation.” The Tennessee General Assembly and Gov. Lee have prioritized investments in school safety over the last four years. Lee in 2021 signed Executive Order 97 and launched a statewide effort to enhance school safety by boosting collaboration among parents, schools and local law enforcement across the state. The School Safety Act of 2023 / House Bill 322: • Enacts a multi-tiered accountability plan to require exterior doors of public and private schools are locked when students are present. • Requires that private security guards are held to a high standard and receive active shooter training. • Requires every public and private school to develop annual safety plans. • Require all newly built schools to: install classroom door locks that lock from the inside; secure vestibules for visitor entry; require the installation of a clear bullet-resistant or entry-resistant film on the glass panel of any exterior entry or basement-level window to prevent individuals from entering who are not allowed and require camera systems to continuously monitor each entrance, hallway and communal area. Gov. Lee’s amended budget proposal includes $30 million to expand a statewide homeland security network with agents serving students in public and private schools; $140 million to establish an SRO grant fund to place a trained, armed security guard at every public school; $20 million for public school security upgrades; $7 million for private school security upgrades; $8 million for additional school-based behavioral health liaisons across the state.

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Republicans pass historic tax cuts for families and businesses.

House Republicans on Monday passed the largest tax cut in state history, which represents $407 million in cuts impacting every Tennessean, including a three-month-long sales tax holiday on food from August 1st thru October 31st. The Tennessee Works Tax Reform Act of 2023 makes a number of changes to the state’s tax code. House Bill 323, sponsored in the House by Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and Assistant Majority Leader Mark Cochran, R-Englewood, is part of Gov. Bill Lee’s top legislative initiatives for 2023. The bill aims to lower the tax burden on businesses, boost Tennessee’s economic competitiveness, promote entrepreneurship and small business formation, as well as provide targeted relief to families. Tennessee Republicans remain committed to keeping taxes low. Tennessee is the second-lowest taxed state in the nation and collects zero income tax. The cuts provide significant tax relief to small businesses by lowering the burden of the franchise and excise tax as well as the business tax rate. The bill would allow more than 23,000 small businesses in Tennessee to reduce their excise tax liability to zero by exempting the first $50,000 in income. It also exempts up to $500,000 of business property from franchise tax liability. The tax cuts would exempt 140,000 Tennessee businesses from the business tax by raising the threshold for business tax exemptions from $10,000 to $100,000 of gross receipts. In addition, it reduces the highest rate from 0.3% to 0.1%. The proposal will strengthen Tennessee’s economic competitiveness while prioritizing businesses within our state’s borders. It incentivizes businesses to hire Tennesseans and headquarters here. It ensures state tax deductions for research and development (R&D) expenses that help companies grow, innovate and produce superior products and services. Finally, it also seeks to incentivize businesses to provide paid family leave to employees by establishing a state-paid family leave franchise and excise tax credit on wages paid for a two-year pilot period. The companion version of the bill is currently advancing in the Senate.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – APRIL 14, 2023

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House passes Tennessee Information Protection Act.

The House of Representatives on Monday unanimously approved legislation that will protect Tennesseans’ right to privacy and ensure they have control of the personal information they share online. House Bill 1181, also known as the Tennessee Information Protection Act, requires large technology companies like Google, Instagram, and TikTok to fully disclose to consumers what information is being collected about them through their online activities. “This provides a mechanism where they have to protect (your) data,” said bill sponsor House Majority Whip Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville. “They have to make sure you’re aware of what they do with that data. They have to make you aware if they sell the data. They have to give you a copy of the data. If you request that data to be deleted, this legislation makes them delete that information.” When consumers interact on websites, social media or apps, they leave behind personal information that is sold without their knowledge to groups that use it to market their products, ideas or beliefs with targeted ads. The Tennessee Information Protection Act will require online platforms to disclose up-front exactly what personal information will be collected and how they intend to use it. Tennesseans will also be able to opt-out of the selling of their personal information to third parties without discrimination. Additionally, the legislation includes protections for biometric data that measures physical characteristics like voice records, fingerprints, retinal scans or facial recognition. Companies that misuse a consumer’s information will also be held accountable. The bill gives the state attorney general the authority to impose civil penalties if these big tech companies fail to safeguard private data or violate consumer protections. The companion version of House Bill 1181 is still awaiting Senate approval.

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House approves sweeping school safety enhancements, prepares to pass budget.

Lawmakers have been winding down legislative business for the first session of the 113th General Assembly as the House and Senate chambers prepare to pass a budget and additional safety measures to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals. Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday issued an executive order aimed at strengthening background checks. Tennessee law already prohibits people who have been involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment from possessing or purchasing firearms. The governor’s order sets a 72-hour period for reporting new relevant criminal activity and court mental health information to the Tennessee Instant Check System (TICS). “We’ve been meeting with all stakeholders, the Department of Health, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Education, and families with children who went to Covenant School,” House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland said on Thursday. “We are focused on the horrendous tragedy (in Tennessee,) but it’s not just about that shooting; It’s about preventing the next one. It’s about making sure that never happens in Tennessee ever again. All ideas (are) on the table and we’ve had some spirited discussions. I feel like we can take some good steps forward and we already have with the School Safety Act.” The House chamber last week passed bipartisan legislation that significantly strengthens safety at public and private schools across Tennessee. The School Safety Act of 2023, House Bill 322, was introduced in January, though several measures were added following the deadly shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27. These measures include enhanced legislation and funding to place an armed security guard at every Tennessee public school, boost physical school security at public and private schools, and provide additional mental health resources for Tennesseans. The bill adds $140 million to establish a school resource officer (SRO) grant fund to place a trained, armed security guard at every public school. “If there’s one place every child should feel safe, it’s in school. So we’ve focused on that, but we want to go beyond that and focus on mental health to make sure there are no loopholes there for those who are being involuntarily committed,” Lamberth said. In reference to the Covenant school shooting, our office found extensive research on mass shootings. For more information, visit theviolenceproject.org

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House increases support for human trafficking victims.

Republican legislation to allow victims of human trafficking to receive financial support in Tennessee has been unanimously approved by the House chamber. House Bill 555 adds human trafficking offenses to the list of eligible victims who can receive compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation (CIC) Fund for personal injury or loss incurred as a result of the crime. “This bill was drafted… to allow victims of human trafficking the same opportunities as other victims to access the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund for pain and suffering,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Mary Littleton, R-Dickson. The CIC was established as a fund of last resort to financially assist innocent victims of violent crimes in Tennessee that result in personal injury. Eligible victims and claimants may be reimbursed for medical expenses, loss of wages and other unforeseen costs related to the crime. The legislation clarifies that an individual is still eligible for compensation from the fund if they could not fully cooperate during the investigation and prosecution of the offender if their cooperation was impacted due to their age, physical condition, psychological state, cultural or linguistic barriers or due to other health and safety concerns. It also removes the requirement that human trafficking victims, or claimants acting on their behalf, must have reported the offense to law enforcement within 48 hours. The companion version of House Bill 555 is currently advancing in the Senate.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – APRIL 24, 2023

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Session Adjourns! Gov. Lee’s Full ‘Tennessee Leading the Nation’ Agenda Passes.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Last Friday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee marked the close of the 2023 legislative session, which includes the successful passage of his $56.2 billion budget and full legislative agenda as outlined during his State of the State address in February. “To prepare Tennessee for continued growth and prosperity, we’ve made strategic investments to cut taxes, strengthen our workforce, ensure educational opportunity and modernize transportation infrastructure across our state,” said Lee. “I commend the General Assembly for its partnership to pass conservative measures and maintain Tennessee’s reputation for strong fiscal stewardship.” Lee’s agenda included the landmark Transportation Modernization Act, historic legislation that will create a new transportation strategy and invest $3.3 billion to accommodate Tennessee’s record growth, address traffic congestion and meet transportation needs across rural and urban communities without raising taxes or taking on debt. The roster of budget and legislative priorities also dedicated $250 million to Tennessee’s Rainy-Day Fund, bringing totals to an historic $2.05 billion, and included significant investments in tax relief, K-12 education, Tennessee’s skilled workforce and conservation. Notably, Lee led a comprehensive school safety proposal to enhance physical security in public and non-public schools across Tennessee.

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Gov. Lee to Call Special Session on Public Safety.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Last Friday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced that he will call for the Tennessee General Assembly to convene a special session to pass legislation that will strengthen public safety and preserve constitutional rights. Gov. Lee will release additional details and issue an official call in the coming days. “After much input from members of the General Assembly and discussions with legislative leadership, we have decided to call a special session to continue our work to protect Tennessee communities and preserve constitutional rights,” said Gov. Lee. “There is broad agreement that dangerous, unstable individuals who intend to harm themselves or others should not have access to weapons. We also share a strong commitment to preserving Second Amendment rights, ensuring due process and addressing the heart of the problem with strengthened mental health resources. I look forward to continued partnership with the General Assembly as we pursue thoughtful, practical solutions to keep Tennesseans safe.”

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – APRIL 28, 2023

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At the beginning of the 113th General Assembly Rep. Lynn Passed Crucial House Bills 841 & 843 Amend Current Obscenity Law

In the amended version, House Bill 841 makes it a Class E felony "for a book publisher, distributor, or seller to knowingly sell or distribute obscene matter to a public school serving any of the grades K-12. In addition to the punishment authorized for a Class E felony (one to six years imprisonment and a fine of up to $3,000), a person who violates this amendment's prohibition will additionally be fined at least $10,000, but not more than $100,000". House Bill 843 amends present law to include the following: (1) Material that contains nudity or descriptions or depictions of sexual excitement, sexual conduct, excess violence, or sadomasochistic abuse for the age or maturity level of a student in any of the grades K-12 and must not be maintained in a school's library collection; or (2) Is patently offensive, or appeals to the prurient interest for the age or maturity level of a student in any of the grades K-12 and must not be maintained in a school's library collection. Under this amendment, if an LEA receives feedback concerning a material under the policy described in (1)-(3), then the LEA must evaluate and determine, within 60 days from the date the feedback was received, whether the material is appropriate. If the LEA does not make a determination within 60 days, the person who submitted the feedback may request the state textbook and instructional materials quality commission to evaluate the material. This amendment specifies that an LEA's determination made on whether a material is appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students who may access the material, and whether the material is suitable for, and consistent with, the educational mission of the school, does not establish a contemporary community standard for purposes of the criminal offenses involving obscenity. This amendment requires the commission to evaluate and determine whether a material in a school's library collection is appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students who may access the materials, and whether the material is suitable for, and consistent with, the educational mission of the school if the LEA does not make a timely determination as described above. The commission must issue the commission's determination in writing and each LEA must include, or remove, the challenged material in, or from, the library collection for each of the LEA's schools for the grade levels for which the commission has found the challenged material to be appropriate or inappropriate for students. However, House Bill 843 is not current law. This is due to the Senate version has not been voted on. It will heard in Senate Education at the beginning of next session.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – MAY 5, 2023

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Gov. Lee Recognizes "Foster Care Month" in Tennessee. Celebrates $600 M to accelerate child placement, support foster & adoptive families.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. On Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee proclaimed the month of May ‘Foster Care Month’ in Tennessee and recognized foster families for providing loving, permanent homes to children in need. Lee also marked this year’s successful passage of bipartisan legislation and an historic $600 million in funding to accelerate child placement and support foster and adoptive families. “This ‘Foster Care Month’, we recognize the 5,000 Tennessee families who open their hearts and hands to children in need,” said Lee. “We have an obligation to ensure that every child has a loving, permanent home, and I thank Commissioner Quin and the General Assembly for partnering to deliver important support to children and families.” 

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Forever Homes Act.

This year, the Lee administration strengthened support for foster and adoptive families through the Forever Homes Act, bipartisan legislation that will accelerate child placement by: Allowing for a judicial waiver to speed adoption finalization from six to three months if a court sees fit; providing foster parents a respite period of up to six months without losing their standing as a foster home; extending care services for expectant mothers on TennCare.

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Ways to Serve Children & Families.

Lee also invited Tennesseans to give back by supporting foster children and families in their local communities. Through Tennessee Fosters Hope, a public-private initiative created in partnership with Lee, DCS and the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2021, Tennessee families, churches and businesses can donate items, volunteer time and learn more about opportunities to foster or adopt children in need. This month, DCS will engage Tennesseans and businesses to give back to foster families, including connecting foster children to free camp opportunities throughout the summer. Learn more about the summer camp initiative and additional volunteer opportunities in May here. During May, Tennessee Serves, an initiative of First Lady Maria Lee, will connect Tennesseans to volunteer opportunities to serve children and families across Tennessee.

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Walmart Wellness Day this Saturday!

 Walmart invites communities to gear up for a healthy summer at Walmart Wellness Day on Saturday, May 6 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. local time. This community event provides free health screenings, free and low-cost immunizations, and the opportunity to talk with a local Walmart pharmacist at more than 4,600 stores nationwide. Since 2014, Walmart pharmacies have hosted Walmart Wellness Days, providing more than 5 million health screenings and 225,000 immunizations to customers across the country. The goal of Walmart Wellness Day this quarter is to help customers prepare for a healthy and safe summer with an emphasis on First Aid kits and sunscreen. Customers can also participate in free health screenings for cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure, and more. Insurance is not required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, which is available at no cost, and other vaccines are covered under most major insurance plans. Customers can find a free event near them at Walmart.com/wellnesshub. Please feel free to share this information with your constituents and community organizations.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – MAY 12, 2023

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State Rep. Susan Lynn secures $10K for Little League baseball in Mt. Juliet.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, has secured $10,000 in state funding for Mt. Juliet League, Inc. The funding will be used to support the organization’s Little League baseball program in the community. “Sports participation is one of the best ways for children to stay active and learn valuable life skills like teamwork,” Lynn said. “Mt. Juliet Little League ensures those opportunities are available to the youth here in our community. I appreciate my colleagues in the General Assembly for their support of this worthy organization.” The appropriated funds are part of a $56.2 billion balanced budget that was passed by the General Assembly in April. Republican priorities included making significant investments in transportation infrastructure, education, school safety, health care and economic development while also providing more than $400 million in tax cuts for Tennesseans.

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Gov. Lee announces TN Special Session On Public Safety to begin August 21 and invites Tennesseans to share feedback on public safety & preserving constitutional rights.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced that he will call for the Tennessee General Assembly to convene a special legislative session on August 21, 2023, to strengthen public safety and preserve constitutional rights. “After speaking with members of the General Assembly, I am calling for a special session on August 21 to continue our important discussion about solutions to keep Tennessee communities safe and preserve the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Gov. Lee. “There is broad agreement that action is needed, and in the weeks ahead, we’ll continue to listen to Tennesseans and pursue thoughtful, practical measures that strengthen the safety of Tennesseans, preserve Second Amendment rights, prioritize due process protections, support law enforcement and address mental health.” Starting today, Tennesseans are invited to engage in the conversation by sharing feedback here.

Gov. Lee will meet with legislators, stakeholders and Tennesseans throughout the summer to discuss practical solutions ahead of the special session. The Governor’s office will issue a formal call ahead of the special session.

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Gov. Lee Signs Strong School Safety Measures Into Law. Commends $230M to protect Tennessee students & teachers.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Wednesday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed strong school safety legislation into law and recognized the investment of more than $230 million to strengthen safety at public and private schools across Tennessee. “Nothing is more important than Tennessee students and teachers returning home from school safely each day,” said Gov. Lee. “Every year since 2019, we’ve worked with the General Assembly to prioritize school safety, and this year, we’ve passed significant measures to fund an armed SRO for every public school, enhance mental health support and boost physical security at public and private schools across Tennessee.” At the beginning of the 2023 legislative session, Gov. Lee introduced a bill to strengthen physical security at every public school and enhance accountability in school safety protocols, in addition to an initial budget proposal that included $30 million for 122 Homeland Security agents to serve students at both public and private schools in every Tennessee county. Following the tragic Covenant shooting, Gov. Lee worked with the General Assembly to enhance his legislation and increase funding in the Fiscal Year 23-24 budget to place an armed School Resource Officer (SRO) at every Tennessee public school, boost physical school security at public and private schools, and provide additional mental health resources for Tennesseans.

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Enhanced School Safety Legislation.

Enacts a multi-tiered accountability plan to ensure exterior doors are locked while students are present. Requires that private security guards receive active shooter training prior to being posted at schools. Requires every school district to establish threat assessment teams to ensure students are connected to support services and behavioral health professionals when appropriate. Requires every public and private school to develop annual safety plans, including a newly required incident command drill for school leaders and law enforcement.

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$230 Million in School Safety Funding.

The bill gives $30 million for more than 100 Homeland Security agents across all 95 counties to serve Tennesseans and students in both public and non-public schools; $140 million for one full-time, armed School Resource Officer (SRO) for every public school; $40 million for public school security upgrades; $14 million for private school security upgrades and $8 million for additional School-Based Behavioral Health Liaisons across the state. Since 2019, Gov. Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly have prioritized investments in school safety every year. In June 2021, the Governor signed Executive Order 97 and launched a statewide effort to enhance school safety by boosting collaboration among parents, schools and local law enforcement across the state. A complete list of Gov. Lee’s school safety actions to date can be found here.

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Gov. Lee Signs Single Largest Tax Cut in Tennessee History into Law. Tennessee Works Tax Act to provide $400M in savings for families & small businesses.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. On Thursday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed the Tennessee Works Tax Act, the single largest tax cut in state history, to provide more than $400 million in savings for Tennessee families and businesses while supporting future economic growth. The legislation includes a three-month grocery tax holiday beginning August 1. Tennessee’s legacy of responsible fiscal stewardship has allowed our state to weather national economic storms while maintaining a balanced budget and cutting taxes for Tennesseans,” said Governor Bill Lee. “We thank the General Assembly for partnering with us to make the right investments for Tennessee families and businesses while supporting our state’s future economic growth and success.” The Tennessee Works Tax Act totals more than $400 million in tax cuts for Tennessee families and businesses, including a three-month grocery tax suspension: Tennessee Works Tax Act (SB275/HB323) provides $273 million for a one-time, three-month sales tax holiday on grocery items to direct relief for Tennessee families from August 1 through October 31 and more than $150 million in annual small business tax relief, including raising the exemption threshold for the business tax, exempting the first $50,000 of net income from excise tax and protecting the first $500,000 in property investment from the franchise tax. Also provides $64 million to simplify tax administration and conform with the federal bonus depreciation provisions of 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, allowing businesses to more quickly recover costs and further incentivize investment in Tennessee production along with providing foundation for supporting Tennessee’s continued economic growth, aligning Tennessee with more than 30 states by adopting “single sales factor” apportionment for franchise and excise tax.

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Tennessee Celebrates Record $27.5 Billion In Travel Spending In 2022. Recognizes Historic Milestones During National Travel and Tourism Week.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 9, 2023) - This National Travel and Tourism Week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell and Sevier County tourism leaders announced new milestones today in Pigeon Forge, including a record $27.5 billion in travel spending in 2022, according to preliminary data from U.S. Travel and Tourism Economics. Among the top 25 states, Tennessee is the fastest-growing state in travel spending since 2018 and has risen from 14th to 11th in the nation for travel spending. “Tourism is a top driver of economic growth and job creation across our state, giving Tennesseans even greater opportunities to thrive,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “As we celebrate another record year for tourism in Tennessee, we’re committed to ensuring that our state remains a top destination for travel.” The leisure and hospitality industry plays an essential role in Tennessee’s economy and employs over 352,000 Tennesseans. While good for the industry, the news also benefits the entire state. As the state’s 2nd leading industry, tourism is a significant source of tax revenue for Tennessee contributing $1.8 billion in state sales tax collections in 2022. “Tennessee’s tourism, leisure and hospitality industry is leading the nation, and we are grateful to our hardworking industry for making these historic new milestones possible,” said Commissioner Mark Ezell, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “Visitors come for our incredible scenic beauty, dining and world-class attractions, and keep coming back for our unmatched hospitality. There’s nowhere better to live, work and play than Tennessee.” This news comes during National Travel and Tourism Week, an annual celebration of the industry which spotlights the essential role travel plays in economic growth and innovation. Visitors are invited to stop in any of Tennessee’s 16 Welcome Centers this week to get a taste of area destinations.

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BY THE NUMBERS.

Tennessee reached a record $27.5 billion in visitor spending in 2022, marking a $3 billion increase (+14%) over 2021, according to U.S. Travel. Travel spending propelled Tennessee to 11th in the nation for travel spending in 2021 and 2022, up from its previous record of 14 in 2020. (Preliminary rankings released April 2023 by U.S. Travel). The industry contributed $1.8 billion in actual state sales tax collections in 2022. New county-level data is expected in August 2023. The National Travel & Tourism Week  (NTTW) was established in 1983 and is an annual tradition to celebrate the U.S. travel community and travel’s essential role in stimulating economic growth, cultivating vibrant communities, creating quality job opportunities, inspiring new businesses and elevating the quality of life for Americans every day. May 7-13, 2023, marks the 40th anniversary of NTTW. Travel is integral to every industry and nearly everything we do. Tennessee is the home of the blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, soul, rockabilly, and rock ‘n’ roll — delivering an unparalleled experience of beauty, history, and family adventure, infused with music that creates a vacation that is the “Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.” Explore more at TNvacation.com and join other Tennessee travelers by following “TNVacation” on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, and “Tennessee” on Snapchat.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – MAY 19, 2023

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Gov. Lee Signs Historic Bill to Raise Teacher Pay, Protect Taxpayer Dollars & provides largest teacher pay raise in state history, ensures union dues are not collected by school districts.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Thursday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee marked the signing of the Teacher Paycheck Protection Act, a landmark bill that will give teachers the largest pay raise in state history and protect Tennessee teachers and taxpayers by ensuring that union membership dues are no longer collected by school districts. “Teaching is more than just a career - it’s a calling,” said Gov. Lee. “The Teacher Paycheck Protection Act provides the largest salary increase in Tennessee history and ensures union dues are no longer collected by school districts, giving teachers control of their own hard-earned paycheck. I thank the General Assembly for their continued partnership to support Tennessee teachers and ensure taxpayer dollars are used to educate students, not fund politics.” The Teacher Paycheck Protection Act continues Gov. Lee’s commitment to increase teacher pay each year since taking office and will support students and teachers by making Tennessee a top-10 state for teacher pay to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers; raising the minimum teacher salary to $50,000 by 2026, a significant increase from $35,000 in 2019 and protecting teachers and taxpayers by ensuring that union membership dues are never automatically deducted from teacher paychecks. Gov. Lee appreciates the Tennessee General Assembly’s partnership to invest in teachers and protect taxpayer dollars. “Teachers are tasked with the incredibly important job of educating the next generation,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R - Franklin). “This legislation recognizes the importance of teachers’ work by raising their pay and protecting their paychecks. It will also enhance the quality of our education system by helping attract and retain talented teachers. I am grateful to Senator Powers for helping pass this legislation in the Senate and appreciate Governor Lee for proposing this initiative.” “When we invest in the people who guide, teach and nurture our students, it pays big dividends down the road,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R - Portland). “The efforts of Governor Lee and the General Assembly to prioritize students and elevate the teaching profession will prove to be transformative for our state. We are investing in education at every level in Tennessee. By providing competitive compensation, we will create a pipeline of highly effective and talented individuals eager to become educators.” “Through this legislation we are reinforcing our commitment to Tennessee teachers and improving education,” said Senator Bill Powers (R - Clarksville). “These pay raises will help recruit talented individuals and mitigate teacher shortages. I was glad to work with Governor Lee, Leader Johnson and my colleagues in the Senate to pass this important initiative. I look forward to continuing our work to support Tennessee teachers.” “Tennessee’s teachers inspire, empower and transform the lives of students across our state each year,” said State Representative Debra Moody (R - Covington). “These dedicated individuals should receive the compensation they deserve. The Tennessee Teacher Paycheck Protection Act represents the largest salary increase for educators in our state’s history. It also protects tax dollars from being used to benefit organizations like labor unions. I was honored to help guide passage of this important piece of legislation to help Tennessee become one of the top states in the nation for teacher pay.”

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TNECD Requesting Letters of Intent for Tennessee Historic Development Grant.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Monday, The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced today that letters of intent are now being requested for the Tennessee Historic Development Grant Program (HDGP). Developed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2021, the first and second rounds of the program provided $15 million for projects that aim to renovate and preserve the state’s commercial historic buildings. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly approved a third round of this program in April 2023 after overwhelming support and interest. The funds encourage communities and private developers to invest in buildings that have contributed to a community’s history but now sit idle. These buildings can once again contribute to the economy through job creation and commercial opportunities. A letter of intent is required to participate and can be submitted from May 15 to June 23, 2023, to confirm eligibility of the historic property by TNECD and the Tennessee Historical Commission. Applications will be accepted from July 10 to August 25, 2023. This program will be highly competitive, and applications will be scored based on project need, impact, overall plan, financing, feasibility, support and location. Various criteria must be met for a structure to be eligible for a grant. Eligible properties that qualify as certified historic structures are defined here. Additionally, frequently asked questions can also be found on the website. Applicants will be notified of award later this fall, and contracts are expected to begin within a month of announcing the awards. TNECD will be hosting a webinar for those interested to learn more about the letter of intent and program guidelines. Webinar information: HDGP Application Webinar Thursday, May 18, 2023 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. CDT. The webinar will be recorded and uploaded to the website for those unable to attend. Additional information about the grant, eligibility and application can be found at https://www.tn.gov/ecd/rural-development/historic-development-grant-program.html

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – JUNE 2, 2023

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Gov. Lee Announces Statewide "Build With Us" Tour. Stops planned across rural & urban Tennessee to celebrate $3.3B Transportation Modernization Act.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Wednesday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced a statewide “Build with Us Tour” to celebrate the landmark Transportation Modernization Act and highlight key infrastructure priorities across rural and urban Tennessee. Gov. Lee’s travel will include stops in all three Grand Divisions throughout June and July, beginning in Fentress County on Thursday, June 1. “As Tennessee continues to experience record growth, the Transportation Modernization Act will ensure our roads keep up with the pace,” said Gov. Lee. “This summer, I look forward to seeing how our new transportation strategy will prepare rural and urban Tennessee for continued economic growth and opportunity, without new taxes or debt, and I thank the legislature for its partnership to ensure our state’s success.” Gov. Lee introduced the Transportation Modernization Act this year and signed it into law on April 17, following successful bipartisan passage in the Tennessee General Assembly. The plan creates a new transportation strategy and will invest an additional $3.3 billion to accommodate Tennessee’s record growth, address traffic congestion and meet transportation needs across rural and urban communities. The strategy will give the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) the resources needed to solve the state’s current and future mobility challenges, including seeking the use of public-private partnerships to preserve state funds for rural infrastructure priorities, exploring Choice Lanes to decrease congestion and increase economic impact statewide, and expanding the alternative delivery model to save taxpayer dollars and deliver road projects more efficiently. “Tennessee is at a critical juncture when it comes to mobility, and the Transportation Modernization Act will meet the infrastructure needs of our growing state, without incurring new debt or raising taxes,” said TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley. “I commend the Governor and the General Assembly for their work to prepare our state’s rural and urban communities for continued prosperity.”

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Tennessee Department of Human Services Opens 2023 Families First Community Grant Program Applications with approximately $30 million which will be made available in funding to non-profits dedicated to strengthening Tennessee families, support self-sufficiency.

NASHVILLE, TN– The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) has opened applications for the 2023 Families First Community Grant Program, an initiative that will make available approximately $30 million in funding to non-profit organizations providing direct services to strengthen Tennessee families in need and promote self-sufficiency. Qualifying non-profit organizations are invited to apply here through July 7 at 5 p.m. CST. “We’re extending an invitation to eligible nonprofit organizations to unite with us in pursuit to expand supportive services to families in Tennessee that generate positive, sustainable outcomes. We believe that together we can make a profound difference in the lives of those who need it most,” commented TDHS Commissioner Clarence H. Carter. “Through community partnerships we can ensure that all state residents have an opportunity to reach their full potential as contributing members of our community, and together, we can build stronger families, stronger communities and a stronger Tennessee.” The Families First Community Grant program was created as an additional method to invest TANF funds in ways to provide assistance to low-income families and help them move towards sustainable economic stability. The grants will support a wide range of services in the areas of education, health and well-being, economic stability and fostering safe, stable, and nurturing relationships. The grant recipients will be selected through a competitive application process and evaluated based upon their ability to provide effective services and programs that address the specific needs of the community. TDHS encourages all community-based, nonprofit organizations ready to play a central role in the design and implementation of programs that address the unique problems of low-income families in their communities and fosters at least one of the federal TANF goals to submit an application for a Families First Community Grant. The department is focused on partnering with organizations that can provide family-focused solutions that demonstrate measurable impacts designed with the goal of transforming Tennessee’s safety net by growing the capacity of vulnerable families to self-sufficiency and economic prosperity. The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) consists of multiple divisions with a unified mission to build strong families by connecting Tennesseans to employment, education, and supportive services. Led by governor-appointed Commissioner Clarence H. Carter, TDHS serves nearly two million Tennesseans to ensure that all state residents have an opportunity to reach their full potential as contributing members of their community. Among the many services and programs provided by TDHS, some of the leading programs include the Child Support Program, Child and Adult Day Services and Licensing, Families First (the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Rehabilitation Services for people with disabilities, and Adult Protective Services, along with many others. TDHS is an organization committed to connecting people to resources that help individuals, families and communities thrive towards long-term economic freedom and prosperity. For more information, please visit: Tennessee Department of Human Services at http://tn.gov/humanservices.html 

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – JUNE 7, 2023

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Gov. Lee Launches ‘Tri-Stars and Stripes’ Council to Position Tennessee as the Leading State for Military and Veterans.

The Tennesseans who have courageously served our state and nation deserve our highest honor and strongest support. This week, Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order to create the ‘Tri-Stars and Stripes’ Council and develop a strategic plan that will better serve and support members of our armed forces. Executive Order 102 reconstitutes an existing council as Tri-Stars and Stripes: The Governor’s Council for Service Members, Veterans and Their Families, bringing together state agencies – as well as local and private partners – to collaborate and seize every opportunity to position Tennessee as the best state for service members, veterans and their families to live, work and prosper, including increasing coordination between all state agencies related to military and veterans; ensuring collaboration of key public and private military and veterans programs; promoting Tennessee as the best state in the nation for military and veterans by pursuing strategic initiatives to enhance their quality of life. To learn more about the ‘Tri-Stars and Stripes’ Council visit https://www.tn.gov/governor/news/2023/7/3/video--gov--lee-launches--tri-stars-and-stripes--council.html and to o see the official video announcement, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yDJubHb8ho

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – AUGUST 4, 2023

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Gov. Lee Announces Three Months of Grocery Tax Savings Starting August 1. Tennessee families to save on state and local grocery sales tax this August through October.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee invited Tennessee families to save during the state’s three-month grocery tax suspension, starting tomorrow, August 1 through October 31. This year, Gov. Lee and the General Assembly passed the Tennessee Works Tax Act, the single largest tax cut in Tennessee history, which includes the three-month grocery tax suspension. During the tax holiday, Tennesseans are expected to save an estimated $273 million in taxes total. “In Tennessee, we cut taxes any chance we get because families should keep more of their own hard-earned dollars. Starting Tuesday, we’re inviting Tennesseans to take advantage of savings at the grocery store this August through October,” said Gov. Lee. “I thank the General Assembly for partnering to deliver three months of savings for Tennessee taxpayers.” The three-month grocery tax holiday starting Tuesday, August 1 through Tuesday, October 31 will give Tennesseans the opportunity to save up to 6.75 percent in state and local option sales tax on food and food ingredients. Tennesseans can learn more about the tax holiday here. “We’re proud to be able to offer three months of tax-free groceries to help hardworking Tennesseans save money,” said Department of Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano. “I thank the Governor and General Assembly for their efforts to steward taxpayer dollars responsibly and cut taxes for Tennessee families.”

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Gov. Lee Applauds Financial Stimulus Accountability Group Actions. Highlights three years of fiscal responsibility, key investments to support Tennessee’s economy. 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Last Thursday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the conclusion of the bipartisan Financial Stimulus Accountability Group (FSAG), highlighting the group’s work to support Tennessee’s economy and ensure the responsible stewardship of federal relief funds since April 2020, and launched the FSAG Tennessee Resiliency Plan data dashboard. “Tennessee’s legacy of fiscal responsibility has ensured that our state’s economy can thrive, even amid significant challenges,” said Gov. Lee. “I thank the General Assembly and all members of the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group for their efforts over the past three years to manage federal dollars wisely, prioritize transparency for Tennessee taxpayers and make strategic investments to strengthen businesses and families across the state.” For three years, the group of executive and legislative branch leaders met publicly and reported regularly to bring transparency to the process. The Financial Stimulus Accountability Group strategically dedicated funding to support Tennessee’s economy, business recovery and workforce through the Tennessee Resiliency Plan, which allocated American Rescue Plan funds ahead of the December 2024 deadline, and the CARES Act. The group will monitor the impact of allocated funds as needed. Notable Tennessee Resiliency Plan investments include more than $1.3 billion for water and sewer infrastructure projects across the state; $500 million to support broadband infrastructure, providing connectivity to Tennesseans across 150,000 households and businesses; $500 million invested in local public health and medical system supports, including the Healthcare Resiliency Program; more than $150 million to support the agriculture and forestry supply chain and related research and $102 million for K-12 summer learning camps to address learning loss marked by time spent outside of the classroom. Notable CARES Act investments include proactively investing in the state’s unemployment trust fund, successfully protecting jobs and preventing an estimated $837 million in tax hikes; more than $325 million in small business grants, including the Small Business Relief Program and the Supplemental Employer Relief Grant (SERG) program, which included grants for small, minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses; the development and launch of the Virtual American Jobs Center, through the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, to connect Tennesseans to free career counseling and employment assistance and $55 million in agriculture and forestry business grants to ensure the stability of the food supply chain and agribusiness economy. For a complete list of investments, visit the Tennessee Resiliency Plan dashboard and the CARES Act dashboard at https://www.tn.gov/finance/looking-for/stimulus-financial-accountability-group/cares-act-awards-.html

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Legislative members of the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group voiced strong support for the group’s actions to benefit Tennessee families and businesses over the past three years

"I am grateful for the excellent work of the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group. Every member took great care to make sure each dollar was spent wisely and appropriately,” said Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge). “Through outstanding fiscal stewardship, the group protected our businesses, bolstered our non-profit sector and kept our economy moving. The investments made with these dollars will pay great dividends in the future. My sincere thanks go to Governor Lee and each and every member of the group." “Tennessee is known for fiscal responsibility,” said Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville). “Through strategic investments in agriculture, education, health care, infrastructure, small businesses, and other areas, we were able to address the immediate, emerging, and long-term needs of Tennesseans. I appreciate Gov. Lee, Lt. Gov. McNally, Chairlady Hazlewood, Chairman Watson, and our members for their dedicated partnership; together, we have strengthened Tennessee’s future, ensuring we will always lead.” “Over the last three years, the FSAG has made important, fiscally conservative investments to alleviate the strain on small businesses, improve state and local infrastructure and reduce the stress on the healthcare system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chairman Bo Watson (R-Hixson). “We worked hard to prioritize transparency and accountability with every investment, while strengthening Tennessee’s economy and expanding citizens’ access to quality health care. I’m particularly proud of our investment in the state’s unemployment trust fund, which ensured Tennessee small business were not burdened by unemployment rate increases, unlike in many other states. The work done in this group will certainly have positive impacts for many years to come and I was honored to be a part of it.” “The Financial Stimulus Accountability Group has focused on providing critical resources to all Tennesseans both responsibly and effectively, and together, we’ve accomplished this goal while addressing the unique challenges our state has faced,” said Chairlady Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain). “Our targeted approaches have ensured hospitals and health facilities can continue serving their communities. The educational resources we’ve provided parents, teachers, and schools will set our children up for future success, and we have continued to effectively address the infrastructure demands of our growing state. The Financial Stimulus Accountability Group has played a critical role in ensuring that these dollars were used to not only deal with a crisis but also to position Tennessee to meet the future needs of its citizens by investing in projects with long-term benefits. Our work maintains Tennessee’s status as a leader in fiscal responsibility, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have served.”

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Governor Lee, Commissioner McWhorter Announce up to $185 Million in Grants to Expand Broadband Access in Tennessee. TNECD to introduce two new programs aimed at expanding internet access across the state and grants to enhance service in most underserved and unserved communities.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter announced today the department will offer up to $185 million in grants to expand internet access in Tennessee. Starting in September 2023, TNECD will provide grants allocated through the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group to expand broadband access in Tennessee’s underserved and unserved areas through two programs: TNECD Last Mile and Middle Mile Grants. “As Tennessee continues to experience record economic growth and job creation, we’re committed to furthering our administration-wide mission to expand opportunity in rural and underserved communities across our state,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “What happens in rural Tennessee matters to all Tennesseans, and I thank the General Assembly and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group for partnering with us to expand broadband infrastructure and provide critical resources to Tennesseans across our state.” The Last Mile Grant Program will offer up to $60 million to internet service providers across unserved and underserved areas in Hardin, Wayne, and Polk counties. These communities lack broadband at speeds of 100/20 Megabits per second (Mbps) and were selected due to their percentage of unserved and underserved residential locations compared to other counties in the state. The Middle Mile Grant Program will offer up to $125 million to internet service providers in all other counties in Tennessee that lack internet at speeds of 100/20 Mbps. Each middle mile grant must have a last mile component and provide new and/or improved service in unserved or underserved areas. “Today marks another milestone for rural Tennessee as we unveil two programs that will help more Tennessee communities achieve economic growth and prosperity,” said Commissioner McWhorter. “The Last Mile and Middle Mile Grant Programs allow TNECD to provide enhanced support to some of our state’s most rural regions, and we encourage all our local partners to take part in this latest round of broadband funding.” Grant applications will open for both programs on September 4, 2023, and close on October 16, 2023. TNECD anticipates making these grant announcements by early 2024. Prior to the grant application window, internet service providers will have the opportunity to challenge the state’s eligibility maps to ensure that served and unserved areas are accurately represented. The challenge process will begin July 24, 2023, and close on August 11, 2023. According to the 2020 Broadband Deployment Report published by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), one in six rural Tennesseans lacks access to broadband, and since 2018, TNECD has awarded nearly $566.6 million in broadband grants through state and federal funding to serve more than 660,000 Tennesseans across 260,000 residential locations. To learn more about Tennessee’s broadband initiatives and review program guidelines, please visit http://tn.gov/broadband

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – AUGUST 11, 2023

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Gov. Lee Issues Official Call, Presents Legislative Priorities Ahead of Public Safety Special Session.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - On Tuesday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued the special session proclamation and presented the administration’s legislative and budget priorities that will go before the Tennessee General Assembly during the special session on public safety, convening August 21. “As our nation faces evolving public safety threats, Tennessee remains vigilant and is taking continued action to protect communities while preserving the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “In the months leading up to the public safety special session, we have listened to Tennesseans and worked with members of the General Assembly to identify thoughtful, practical measures to strengthen public safety across our state, including steps to support law enforcement, address mental health, prevent violent crime and stop human trafficking. I thank the General Assembly for its continued partnership and look forward to achieving meaningful results for Tennesseans.” Gov. Lee will present legislative and budget priorities during the public safety special session to keep Tennessee communities safe, support law enforcement and address mental health, all while preserving constitutional rights. In addition to bringing the following solutions in the administration package, the Governor will continue to work with members of the General Assembly on other legislation specified in the call. Codification of EO 100 and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Report Implementation: Requires reporting of accurate, complete and timely records from court clerks to the TBI within 72-hours and requires electronic submissions of dispositions and expungements to the TBI. TennCare Mental Health Coverage Waiver: Directs TennCare to seek a waiver from the federal government to allow federal matching funds for Medicaid to cover services for mental illness and substance use disorders at institutions of mental diseases. Addressing Mental Health Workforce Challenges: Budget initiatives that prioritize opportunities to grow and retain mental health professionals in the state. Reforms for Mental Health: Expands access to mental health treatment by eliminating certain collaborative practice requirements for Advanced Registered Practice Nurses with psychiatric training. Strengthening the Identification of Individuals Arrested for Felonies: Provides for the collection of DNA at the time of an arrest for all felonies. Human Trafficking Report: Resolution directing TBI to report on the state of human trafficking in Tennessee. Promoting Safe Storage: Eliminates taxes on firearm safes and safety devices, provides free gun locks, expands safe storage training in state-approved safety courses, and creates a public service announcement to promote safe storage. To date, more than 20,000 Tennesseans have submitted public comments on strengthening public safety, and the form will remain open through the entirety of the special session to ensure that Tennesseans can continue engaging in the conversation. The full special session proclamation can be viewed at https://sos.tn.gov/publications/services/governors-proclamations

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 1, 2023

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Lawmakers approve $111 million for mental health, public safety. Republicans permanently remove tax from gun safes and storage devices.

 The House of Representatives concluded the 66th Extraordinary Session of the General Assembly on Tuesday, approving a $111 million budget appropriation to incentivize the safe storage of firearms, support public safety and increase access to mental health care. Prior to the special session called by Gov. Bill Lee, House Republicans worked through the summer to identify several practical solutions to support law enforcement and public safety, decrease juvenile crime, and help vulnerable citizens in crisis. House members filed more than 114 pieces of legislation dealing with the scope of the governor’s call prior to the special session. House Republicans worked diligently through the eight-day session, meeting with constituents, debating legislation and considering testimony from citizens on various issues. House Republicans successfully defeated a proposed red flag bill up for consideration in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. In all, the House chamber approved 20 bills, all of which preserved the civil liberties of law-abiding Tennesseans. This work builds on Republicans’ continued efforts to lead the nation in public safety. Earlier this year, Republicans strengthened school security by including $232 million in the budget to provide a school resource officer (SRO) at every Tennessee public school, boost physical security at public and private schools, and provide additional mental health resources for Tennesseans. Since 2018, the General Assembly has invested approximately $750 million in safer schools. Only three bills, along with a budget amendment for $111 million, passed in both chambers and now head to the governor’s desk for his signature. The appropriations bill approved by the full General Assembly will significantly bolster safety at Tennessee’s institutes of higher education by providing $30 million for safety grants. It will provide an additional $10 million for school safety grants to cover public charter schools within local school districts that do not have a full-time SRO for the upcoming school year. To support mental health, lawmakers approved $50 million to fund provider reimbursement bonuses for mental health services. It provides another $4 million for additional health care services to people who are uninsured and not eligible for TennCare. To encourage more highly effective individuals to enter the mental health care field, more than $12 million will be directed toward the recruitment and retention of current and prospective mental health care professionals in Tennessee. Lawmakers also allocated an additional $3 million to a Public Behavioral Health Scholarship Program. This scholarship will provide tuition stipends to Tennessee residents pursuing a degree in a behavioral health-related field. House Republican leaders on Tuesday said while they weren’t in agreement with the Senate on all bills, the General Assembly made progress by taking immediate steps that will provide funding for mental health resources and safety. “We didn’t get everything we wanted to, but we are going to work every day now until the start of our regular session to try to make Tennessee a safer place to live,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland. Only three of those bills, along with a budget amendment for $111 million passed in both chambers and now head to the governor’s desk for his signature. Appropriations include: $50 million to mental health care provider bonuses; $30 million for higher education safety grants; $10 million to the Tennessee Department of Education for the purpose of offering school safety grants; $12.1 million for current and prospective mental health professionals’ recruitment and retention; $3 million to a Public Behavioral Health Scholarship Program; $4 million for the Behavioral Safety Net Program to be used for mental health services; $1.6 million reduction in sales tax from permanent elimination of tax on gun safety devices; $1.1 million to promote safe storage of firearms. Legislation increases firearm safety through tax cuts, expands free gun lock program. The Tennessee General Assembly approved legislation encouraging the safe storage of firearms by permanently removing taxes on safes and locking devices beginning Nov. 1. House Bill 7012, co-sponsored by State Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, also expands and streamlines a state program that provides free gun safety devices to the public. “As adults and responsible citizens, when we have something in our homes such as a firearm we [must] do everything we can to make sure that it is stored safely,” White said. “If you have a gun, lock it up when it’s not in your possession.” Additionally, the legislation requires all state-approved handgun safety courses to include instruction regarding safe storage. It will also create a robust public service announcement campaign aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of minors and criminals. A recent Tennessee Department of Health report found that 5 percent of child firearm deaths in 2021 were accidental while 24 percent were suicides. House Bill 7012 will now head to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to be signed into law. TBI to report human trafficking crimes, trends annually. Republicans continue to fight against child and human trafficking in Tennessee. Lawmakers approved House Bill 7041 which requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to publish an annual report on child and human trafficking crimes and trends in Tennessee. The report must be submitted to the governor and the speakers of the House and Senate by Dec. 1 of each year beginning in 2023. “We have not done a report like this in about a decade. It is time that we do so,” said bill sponsor and House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland. “One of the first steps that we can do [to combat human trafficking] is to make sure that we have a report indicating exactly the scope of the problem in Tennessee and where we can focus on it.” The U.S. Department of State estimates that there are 27.6 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. According to the TBI, it is the second-fastest growing criminal industry just behind drug trafficking. In recent years, state lawmakers have increased the punishment for multiple crimes related to human trafficking, ensured those convicted of sex trafficking are ineligible for early parole or release, and allowed individuals to use deadly force in self-defense when threatened with “grave sexual abuse” like rape. Legislation was also passed earlier this year to allow victims of human trafficking to be eligible to receive financial assistance from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund for personal injury or loss incurred as a result of the crime. Efforts to improve responses and support services available to victims are also underway. Last year, Tennessee was ranked by Shared Hope International as the top state in the nation for its efforts to address and prevent the sex trafficking of children and youth. Anyone who suspects an individual may be a victim of human trafficking should call the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-55-TNHTH (86484). According to the TBI, the hotline received 1,291 tips statewide last year – a 5 percent increase from 2021 and 183 percent more than in 2018. Information and resources about human trafficking in Tennessee can be found online at ItHasToStop.com.

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Bill streamlines background check information.

Background check information will be updated more quickly and efficiently in Tennessee with passage of House Bill 7013. This legislation now requires criminal history and court-related mental health information to be reported by court clerks to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or entered into the Tennessee Instant Check System within 72 hours. The information is currently required to be reported within 30 days. “This coincides with the governor’s Executive Order 100, which was put in place back in [April]” said bill co-sponsor State Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville. “This will expedite communication between our courts and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in regards to background checks and things like that.” By requiring electronic submission of the information, House Bill 7013 will ensure the notification process is uniform and delays are eliminated. The legislation will now head to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to be signed into law.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 22, 2023

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Gov. Bill Lee, First Lady Maria Lee Celebrate Participants of Kids Service Challenge at Tennessee Residence

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and First Lady Maria Lee hosted a carnival at the Tennessee Residence to celebrate more than 200 kids from across the state who completed the Tennessee Kids Serve Summer Challenge. The First Lady launched the summer service challenge in 2019 through her initiative Tennessee Serves to encourage rising kindergarten through sixth grade students to devote a portion of their summers to serving their neighbors. This year, more than 1,125 children across the state participated, serving a record-breaking number of 3,310 hours in their communities. “Each year, Bill and I are touched by the creative acts of kindness kids across Tennessee complete in service to their communities,” said First Lady Maria Lee. “No matter our age, we all can make a difference in the lives of those around us. We’re confident these young Tennesseans will continue to transform our state through service and will make immeasurable impacts on those around them for years to come.” During the event, the Governor and First Lady met with the participants and their families, congratulating them on their success over the summer and encouraging them to continue serving others throughout the year. The carnival also featured games, prizes, snacks and special appearances from local sports teams’ mascots.

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TNECD Announces Lenders for Fund Tennessee’s LendTN Program

Five lenders to provide equitable access to capital across Tennessee. Nearly $47 million allocated through the Fund Tennessee program for small businesses and entrepreneurs. NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) announced today five new lenders to participate in LendTN, a Fund Tennessee program announced in February 2023. Nearly $47 million has been allocated through the Fund Tennessee program and will provide equitable access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs across Tennessee. “Tennessee’s small businesses are the backbone of our state’s economy, and I am excited that through LendTN we can better support them so that they have the opportunity to grow and expand,” said TNECD Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter. “Thank you to these five lenders for stepping up to financially support the entrepreneurs and small business owners across our state.” These lenders will make LendTN dollars accessible statewide, giving small business owners and entrepreneurs, especially those in underserved communities, more tools to start and expand. The lenders participating in LendTN: Communities Unlimited, Pathway Lending, River City Capital, Tennessee Rural Development Fund,

Three Roots Capital. Small business owners and entrepreneurs who are interested in becoming potential borrowers should go to FundTennessee.org to learn more. Each lender is currently accepting applications and working with interested applicants to expand access to capital. Loan types, amounts of loans and rates will vary from lender to lender depending on borrower needs. In general, loans may include startup funds, working capital or equipment purchases and will range from microloans to loans up to $5 million. In early 2023, eligible lenders completed an Intent to Participate process with TNECD. The program was open to available non-depository Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFI) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDI) that serve Tennessee. CDFIs are mission-driven financial institutions that provide credit and financial services to underserved markets and populations who have been certified by the U.S. Department of Treasury. To learn more about CDFIs visit here. To learn more, visit FundTennessee.org or the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI 2.0) visit https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/small-business-programs/state-small-business-credit-initiative-ssbci .

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 29, 2023

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Governor Bill Lee Calls For Border Security

 America is facing a national security crisis, & Tennessee has not escaped it. Last week, Gov. Lee joined fellow Republican governors in calling on the federal government to secure the Southern border & restore public safety. In the meantime, Tennessee will continue to step up by investing in law enforcement to keep communities safe & stop trafficking at the source. Read more at https://www.rga.org/25-republican-governors-send-letter-president-biden-impact-border-crisis .

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Governor Bill Lee Announces Judicial Appointments

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced three key judicial appointments for newly created state courts. “I am proud to announce the appointment of these highly qualified individuals and value the significant experience they will bring to their respective roles,” said Gov. Lee. “I appreciate their leadership and am confident they will serve Tennesseans with integrity.” The following Tennesseans have been appointed: Shawn Fry – 13th Judicial District Criminal Court, Ashleigh Travis – 19th Judicial District Circuit Court, Julie Heffington – 22nd Judicial District Circuit Court. Shawn Fry currently serves as an attorney at Fry, Fry, Knight & Looper. Fry earned his bachelor’s degree at Tennessee Technological University and juris doctor at Nashville School of Law. The 13th Judicial District covers Clay, Cumberland, Dekalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam and White counties. Ashleigh Travis currently serves as a magistrate judge in the 19th Judicial District. Travis earned her bachelor’s degree at Austin Peay State University and juris doctor at Nashville School of Law. The 19th Judicial District covers Montgomery and Robertson counties. Julie Heffington currently serves as at attorney at Middle Tennessee Law Group. Heffington earned her bachelor’s degree at Middle Tennessee State University and juris doctor at Nashville School of Law. The 22nd Judicial District covers Giles, Lawrence, Maury and Wayne counties.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – NOVEMBER 13, 2023

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Tennessee Announces Process to Request Replacement of SNAP and D-SNAP Benefits

NASHVILLE, TN – The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) today announced that the department will begin accepting requests for replacement of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP) benefits stolen from households impacted by EBT card skimming, cloning, and similar fraud between October 1, 2022 and September 30, 2024. The review period will open on November 6, 2023 and close on September 30, 2024. Starting November 6, 2023, TDHS will accept and process households’ replacement requests within the One DHS Customer Portal at OneDHS.tn.gov. Customers that cannot access the online portal to submit a request can retrieve a paper form at their local TDHS office. For skimming incidents occurring between October 1, 2022 – November 5, 2023, reports must be submitted by February 5, 2024 to be considered. For skimming incidents occurring between November 6, 2023 - September 30, 2024, reports must be submitted within 30 days of the date the customer discovered the fraud. Only the following types of fraud are eligible for replacement: Card skimming (when devices illegally installed on ATMs or point-of-sale [POS] terminals capture card data or record households’ PINs). Card cloning (when data captured by skimming are used to create fake EBT cards and then steal from households’ accounts). Other similar fraudulent methods (including but not limited to scamming through fraudulent phone calls or text messages that mimic official TDHS messaging and phishing). All reports of skimming, cloning, or similar fraud will require confirmation from the customer verifying that all information reported in the request is true and correct. Customers who purposefully give false information may be prosecuted under applicable state and federal criminal laws. Customers may be contacted to provide further validation of their request. Replacement requests may be denied in some cases in which there is insufficient evidence to support the request or the customer’s request for replacement is outside the allowed scope, including: No transaction(s) exist. Transaction(s) occur prior to 10/1/2022 or after 9/30/2024. Transactions did not involve SNAP or D-SNAP benefits (P-EBT benefits are not eligible for replacement). Household already received two replacement issuances for stolen benefits within the federal fiscal year. Request not submitted timely. Only fraudulent transactions related to skimming, cloning or similar fraud (text and phone schemes) can be submitted through this process. Customers can track their fraud replacement request status through their One DHS Customer Portal account, where they will also receive notification of the request outcome. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutritional assistance initiative administered at the state level. In Tennessee, SNAP is managed by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS). SNAP benefits are 100% federally funded. The ability to reimburse SNAP benefits related to fraudulent activity is made possible by the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023. For more information on replacement benefits related to fraud, please visit https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/need-help-/tdhs-fraud.html . To report fraud, call the Office of Inspector General fraud hotline at 800-241-2629. More information can be found at https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/stolen-benefits

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Gladeville Elementary School Hosts First Responders Event

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Rep. Lynn was honored to participate in Gladeville Elementary School's Neighborhood Heroes K-2nd Grade event. The students and their families enjoyed a night of learning about her role as a state representative and the roles of different state departments.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – NOVEMBER 22, 2023

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Community Leaders Join New Local Board to Encourage Availability of Mental Health Support, Education, and Advocacy

November 14, 2023 (Hendersonville, Tenn.) NAMI Sumner and Wilson Counties, the community’s revitalized NAMI Affiliate and largest grassroots mental health organization, announced the addition of eight new members to its Board of Directors: Jim Briggs, Laura Tadesco, Daniel Gilbert, Brenda Kulhanek, Beth Baxter, Nancy Corley, Judge Kee Bryant McCormick, and Jinny Glasco. These individuals began serving in November. Each of these new Board members offers a unique perspective and a true drive to improve the lives of individuals, families, and friends of those in our communities who struggle with mental health conditions. “I am proud to welcome these seven incredible leaders as new colleagues on the NAMI Sumner and Wilson Counties Board,” said Jim Briggs, Board Chair. “These leaders will add tremendous value to the organization with their various perspectives and expertise as we build a new, expanded affiliate to serve the people in our two counties.” As the NAMI Sumner and Wilson Counties Board prepares to guide and serve the organization, its staff is preparing to expand access to free and essential peer-led support, education, advocacy, and awareness offerings and support existing volunteers while onboarding new champions. “We know that 1 in 5 of us are affected by a mental health condition each year, and that many of our youth are facing an even greater crisis. Through the power of community and the wisdom of those with shared experience, NAMI’s peer-led programs and services can be a powerful foundation in the journey to mental wellness, offering a sense of belonging and the assurance that none of us is alone,” said NAMI Sumner and Wilson Counties Executive Director, Katrina Gay. “As we work to expand and enhance our affiliate to serve our community, I look forward to the benefit the expertise of these individuals will offer our community.” Jim Briggs, Retired Occupational Therapist – Founder, Jim Briggs Consulting LLC. With extensive experience in an array of industries, Jim actively collaborates on strategic planning, budgeting, training, and consulting to help minimize workplace injuries. He has traveled globally and domestically, presenting and publishing articles on employee selection, injury reduction, and employment testing. With a background in law enforcement, healthcare management, and therapy, he also serves on the NAMI Tennessee state board of directors. Jim lives in Lebanon and is serving as President of NAMI Sumner and Wilson Counties. Laura Tedesco, MSSW, LCSW—SVP, Crisis Services and Clinical Director, Volunteer Behavioral Health Care Systems. An experienced professional with more than two decades of experience in the field of crisis services and clinical management, Laura oversees the Mental Health Crisis Continuum for 29 counties in Tennessee. Her responsibilities include supervising Crisis Walk-in Centers and Crisis Stabilization Units in Cookeville and Chattanooga, managing the Crisis Call Center and 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline, and coordinating programs such as Pre-arrest Diversion, Co-response Program, and Mobile Crisis Response Teams. Laura lives in Mt. Juliet and is serving as Vice President. Daniel Gilbert – SVP, Primerica. As a financial representative, Daniel is dedicated to helping his neighbors in Mount Juliet and nearby communities achieve their financial and life goals. With personalized investment strategies, he aims to bring value and peace of mind to his clients. He takes pride in delivering excellent customer service and treats each person with the respect and integrity. Daniel lives in Lebanon and is serving as Treasurer. Brenda Kulhanek, Ph.D., DNP – Nurse Educator. With over 20 years in the field, Brenda has taught at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and other universities and has a strong background in graduate-level education. In addition to her academic work, Brenda has held notable positions in the healthcare industry, including Division VP of Clinical Education for TriStar Health and AVP of Clinical Education at HCA. Passionate about mental health, Brenda has personal experiences that have driven her commitment to helping those affected by mental health issues. Brenda lives in Mt. Juliet and is serving as Secretary. Beth Baxter, M.D. – Psychiatrist, Babb Center and Private Practice. A graduate of Vanderbilt University Medical School, Beth is passionate about her profession and service to others. She openly shares her experiences as both a mental health care provider and peer. Since 1996, she has captivated audiences at academic, advocacy, and faith-based conferences and has also received the prestigious Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from NAMI National. Committed to making a difference, Dr. Baxter continues to actively participate in various local and national organizations dedicated to advancing education, treatment, and advocacy for those affected by mental illness. Nancy Krider Corley, J.D. – Corley, Henard, Lyle, Levy, Langford PLC. In addition to being a firm partner, Nancy is a Charter Member of LAW, TLAW, and CABLE. She is a fellow of the Tennessee and Nashville Bar Associations. In 2019, Nancy was the Athena Recipient and awarded the Ralph Hanning Lifetime Community Service Award. She has also been awarded the Nashville School of Law Outstanding Faculty Award, Sumner County Commissioner of the Year, and Outstanding Young Women of America award. Nancy serves on numerous boards of organizations, including the Salvus Center, and is a member of many organizations, including serving on the Advisory Board of TLAP and Grace Place Alliance. Nancy resides in Hendersonville. Jinny Glasco, LCSW – Mental Health Care Counselor, Matters of the Heart. With over twenty years of counseling experience, including work with youth in our public school system, Jinny provides professional mental healthcare services in Hendersonville and Goodlettsville. With her compassion for others who are hurting and her empathetic skills, she walks alongside clients through crisis, change, or loss. Her therapeutic approach is client-centered, and she strives to meet people where they truly are. She is an active member of the nondenominational Community Church in Hendersonville. In her personal and professional journey, she believes the therapeutic process is much like the Maya Angelou quote, “Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.” Jinny lives in Hendersonville. The Honorable Kee Bryant McCormick – General Sessions and Mental Health Court Judge for Division III in Gallatin, Tennessee. With a dedication to justice and a wealth of experience in civil and criminal law, Judge McCormick is not only a respected legal professional but also a beloved community leader. With over 15 years of private law practice under her belt, she has proven herself as a true servant leader. She is a loving mother, devoted wife, and a trusted friend to those who know her. What truly sets Judge McCormick apart is her unwavering commitment to mental health. As the Mental Health Court Judge in Sumner County and as a tireless advocate, she passionately speaks about the importance of supporting recovery and resiliency for those struggling with mental health conditions. Judge McCormick lives in Gallatin.

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Tennessee State Hazard Mitigation Plan Receives FEMA Approval

NASHVILLE, Tenn. –The state of Tennessee has taken a significant step towards safeguarding its communities and citizens from future disasters, as the update to the 2023 Tennessee State Hazard Mitigation Plan has received formal approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on October 3, 2023, and is effective until October 2028. The Tennessee State Hazard Mitigation Plan was developed through a collaborative effort involving the State Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee, representing a cross-section of stakeholders that supported the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) in developing this update, in addition to East Tennessee State University. “The Tennessee State Hazard Mitigation Plan is a crucial tool in our efforts to protect our communities and strengthen our state’s resilience,” said TEMA Planning Branch Administrator Trip Voss. “It is always a significant achievement to have a plan like this approved, and it reflects the hard work and dedication of everyone involved.” The adoption of the Tennessee State Hazard Mitigation Plan illustrates the state’s commitment to making continuing improvements to the state’s mitigation strategy and program to best protect its people and assets from known natural, technological, and human-caused hazards that the state is exposed to. Reiterating this point, Kim Anthony, TEMA Regional Planning Manager, says, “We want our citizens to understand that this approval is more than a plan; it’s an actionable pathway towards a more resilient Tennessee.” FEMA requires states to have an approved hazard mitigation plan to remain eligible for various federal assistance and mitigation grants. The updated plan can be found on the TEMA planning library website.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – DECEMBER 1, 2023

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Federal Disaster Declaration Granted to Tennessee Counties Recovering from Severe Weather

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced approval of his request for an Expedited Major Disaster Declaration, making recovery assistance available to four counties impacted by tornadoes and severe storms on December 9, 2023. “State and local officials, first responders and volunteers continue to provide critical support to impacted Tennessee communities following significant storm damage,” said Gov. Lee. “As Tennessee rebuilds, I thank our federal partners for granting resources to further our severe weather response and recovery across the state.” The Tennessee counties named in the Expedited Major Disaster Declaration are Dickson, Davidson, Montgomery and Sumner. The disaster declaration includes FEMA’s Individual Assistance (IA) Program, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, and Direct Federal Assistance.

“With the approval of this declaration, we are able to meet survivors’ immediate needs in those most widely impacted communities,” said TEMA Director Patrick C. Sheehan. “We will continue working to make sure Tennesseans have the resources needed for a swift recovery.” Gov. Lee and TEMA Director Sheehan also shared guidance and resources that are available to Tennesseans in impacted areas:

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FEMA Individual Assistance Program

Individuals in the declared counties can apply now for direct assistance through FEMA’s IA program online anytime or by phone at 1-800-621-3362 between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. CT. Multilingual operators are available. Those eligible for FEMA’s IA program may receive help with rental assistance, home repair and personal property replacement, in addition to other uninsured or underinsured disaster losses. Tennessee experienced seven confirmed tornadoes and severe weather on December 9. This weather event claimed six lives and left significant damage across West and Middle Tennessee. Resources and updates for survivors can be found on the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency website. More information on FEMA’s IA program can be found at https://tn.gov/tema.html .

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Governor Lee, Commissioner McWhorter Announce NewBasis, LLC to Establish Manufacturing Operations in Wilson County

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter and NewBasis, LLC officials announced today the company will invest $16.3 million to establish its first operations in Tennessee. Through the project, NewBasis will create 249 new jobs in Wilson County. Located in the Alligood Industrial Park, NewBasis’ Lebanon facility will be the company’s first location outside of its headquarters in California and will directly support its increased customer demand across the East Coast. Founded more than 80 years ago, NewBasis, LLC is a leading manufacturer of fiberglass and polymer concrete below-ground enclosures and utility pads. Today, NewBasis serves a variety of utility, municipality and telecom customers. Since 2019, TNECD has supported nearly 20 economic development projects in Wilson County, resulting in approximately 6,200 job commitments and $1.3 billion in capital investment. “Companies continue to choose Tennessee because of our exceptional workforce and strong business climate. I welcome NewBasis to the Volunteer State and thank them for creating nearly 250 highly skilled jobs for families across Wilson County.” – Gov. Bill Lee  “With more than 2,600 manufacturing businesses across the state, this industry is one of Tennessee’s strongest sectors. Lebanon and Wilson County have the right workforce and infrastructure to support these 250 new jobs, and we are excited to see the success that follow today’s announcement.” – TNECD Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter

NewBasis is all about providing unparalleled service and best-in-class products to our customers. After an exhaustive search, we found the State of Tennessee to be the ideal partner for our new state-of-the-art facility as we look to better serve our central and southeastern U.S. markets. With access to the vibrant workforce in and around Wilson County, Tennessee’s business-friendly environment and the area’s unsurpassed logistics network, we couldn’t be more excited about our future.” – NewBasis, LLC President Tony Helf.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – DECEMBER 15, 2023

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Gov. Lee, Legislative Leadership Call for Statewide School Choice, Unveil Education Freedom Scholarship Act

“Tennessee parents should have the freedom to choose the right education for their child.” ~ Governor Bill Lee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee presented the Education Freedom Scholarship Act of 2024, his administration’s legislative proposal to establish statewide universal school choice, alongside members of the General Assembly, Tennessee families and education stakeholders. This legislation aims to provide every Tennessee parent with the opportunity to choose the right education for their child, while prioritizing families with the greatest need. View the Education Freedom launch event at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D3esdgoDu8

“A high-quality education has the power to change the trajectory of a child’s life, and there’s no question that now is the time to make school choice a reality for every Tennessee family,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Tennessee’s Education Freedom Scholarships will empower parents with the freedom to choose the right education for their child, while also giving them a say in how their taxpayer dollars are invested. In the coming months, I look forward to working with Tennessee families and members of the General Assembly to accomplish this historic legislative initiative and establish Tennessee as a leader in providing choice for families while also striving toward the best public school system in the country.” "Working to expand the educational choices parents and students have available to them is always a worthy goal,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. “I am grateful Governor Lee has brought forth this proposal and I look forward to working with him, Speaker Sexton and all members of the General Assembly in pursuit of that goal."

“We all agree that every child should have an opportunity for a quality education that meets their needs, and I strongly believe the ultimate decision should be made by parents, not government bureaucrats,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton. “This scholarship opportunity is funded outside the current K-12 funding model, TISA, which means dollars do not follow students. We all know a quality education changes one’s life and reduces poverty and crime within communities. In the future in Tennessee, students and parents will be in control of their education success, without the government limiting their opportunities.” “Across the state, parents should be empowered to make the best education decisions for their children by having input over where their taxpayer dollars are spent,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. “Students should not be boxed in to attending a school that doesn’t fit their needs. I am grateful to Governor Lee for proposing the Education Freedom Scholarship Act to give Tennessee parents the ability to make a fundamental choice: where their child goes to school. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly and Governor Lee and his team to pass this legislation."

“Tennessee is serious about student achievement,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth. “This is a bold idea that will empower families and change lives. This initiative, combined with our historic investments in public education, will launch a new era of student success in Tennessee.” The Education Freedom Scholarship Act will empower Tennessee parents with the freedom to choose the right school for their child and give families a choice where their taxpayer dollars are spent. Tennessee residents entitled to attend K-12 at a public school, including homeschoolers enrolled in umbrella or church-related schools, will be eligible for the program. The bill is structured to prioritize eligibility for the most at-risk students before ramping up to universal eligibility. 2024-25 school year: A total of 20,000 scholarships will be awarded on a rolling first-come, first-served basis. 10,000 scholarships available for Tennessee students who are at or below 300% of the federal poverty level, have a disability, or are eligible for the existing ESA pilot program. 10,000 additional scholarships available to a universal pool of students entitled to attend a public school. 2025-26 school year and beyond: Universal eligibility for all students entitled to attend a public school. If applications exceed available scholarships due to funding, lower income, public-school and returning scholarship students will receive priority. Since taking office in 2019, Governor Lee has been passionate about expanding choices for parents regarding their child’s education, while also making historic investments in Tennessee’s public schools, with an emphasis on funding students, not systems. In 2022, the Lee administration worked in partnership with the General Assembly to pass the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) Act, transitioning Tennessee’s K-12 public schools to a student-based funding approach and investing an estimated $9 billion into education funding for the state, which included an additional recurring state investment of $1 billion annually. In 2023, Gov. Lee signed Teacher Paycheck Protection Act, a landmark bill giving teachers the largest pay raise in state history. As a result, Tennessee is currently on track to become a top ten state for starting teacher pay by 2026.

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First Lady Maria Lee Encourages Tennesseans to Give Back Through 12 Days of Giving Campaign

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – First Lady Maria Lee is encouraging Tennesseans to give back this holiday season by supporting various nonprofits from each Grand Division through Tennessee’s 12 Days of Giving campaign.

The 12 Days of Giving will feature a different nonprofit and a unique call to action each day in an effort to connect those looking to give back this Christmas with opportunities to serve alongside nonprofits from across the state. The campaign will begin on Giving Tuesday, November 28, 2023, and continue through the following 12 weekdays. “Tennessee is blessed to be home to thousands of incredible nonprofits that work to address the needs of their communities, and we’re forever grateful for their commitment to serving their fellow Tennesseans,” said First Lady Maria Lee. “We hope Tennesseans looking to make an impact on their communities this holiday season will join us in in serving our neighbors by supporting our states nonprofit.”

The 12 Days of Giving will highlight the following nonprofits:

Day One, November 28: Creative Aging Memphis
Day Two, November 29: Birthright of Memphis
Day Three, November 30: Dismas House
Day Four, December 1: Caring for Covenant Fund
Day Five, December 4: Jonathan’s Path
Day Six, December 5: Hope Smiles
Day Seven, December 6: Cocke County Cradle to Career Coalition
Day Eight, December 7: Heartland Services
Day Nine, December 8: Cul2vate
Day Ten, December 11: Sevier County Food Ministries
Day Eleven, December 12: Gary Sinise Foundation
Day Twelve, December 13: The Jason Foundation

Examples of ways to serve the highlighted nonprofits include using your career, talents, or resources to serve neighbors with disabilities, joining a re-entry mentoring program, donating new and used items, or hosting a food or clothing drive. The campaign is part of the First Lady’s Tennessee Serves initiative which is designed to transform the state through service while highlighting nonprofits from across the state and mobilizing Tennesseans to get involved in their communities. For a complete list of ways to serve and additional information about the 12 Days of Giving, visit the Tennessee Serves website @ https://www.tn.gov/firstlady/tennessee-serves/12-days-of-giving-2022.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – JANUARY 12, 2024

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Tennessee General Assembly Gavels in for 2024

 

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(http://securenets1.com/TNAssembly-01122024.jpg) - The TN 113th General Assembly reconvened in Nashville this week for the start of its second legislative session. Republicans this year will continue focusing on making strategic investments in education and public safety while also strengthening the economy and cutting taxes. Among the top priorities for 2024 will be to approve a spending plan that addresses the needs of all Tennesseans. After nearly a decade of unprecedented economic growth, lawmakers will have to be even more conservative with their spending in 2024 as experts expect a $300 million shortfall in the budget. The State Funding Board estimated revenue growth for the 2023 fiscal year to be at 7.7 percent, however, actual growth was closer to 5.39 percent.

 

Despite lagging revenue collections and record-high inflation, the Volunteer State remains in a strong overall financial position with its economy continuing to outperform the national average. Tennessee has a long tradition of being a well-managed state with an incredibly low tax burden for residents. The General Assembly in 2023 invested an additional $250 million into the state’s Rainy-Day Fund, bringing it to more than $2 billion in total. This increases Tennessee’s financial stability and will benefit the state in the event of an economic downturn.

 

Supporting students and educators will also continue to be a priority for the Republican supermajority this session. Lawmakers have increased funding for K-12 education by $1.3 billion since fiscal year 2022-23, prioritized the individual needs of students with passage of the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act and approved the largest pay increase for teachers in state history. Members of the General Assembly this year will explore a proposal from Gov. Bill Lee that would expand school choice statewide through the Education Freedom Scholarship Act. This legislation would give families more control over how their tax dollars are used for their child’s education.

 

Improving public safety and protecting communities from crime will be another key area of focus this session. The General Assembly will consider measures to provide law enforcement with additional tools to keep criminals off the streets along with proposals to ensure offenders receive the appropriate sentences for their crimes. Last year, lawmakers approved $232 million to enhance school safety in Tennessee and will continue looking for additional ways to keep classrooms safe. Republicans will also look for ways to provide additional mental health support for residents as well as improve access to health care in rural communities along with other legislative initiatives that address various needs statewide. Tennessee continues to thrive under conservative leadership, and House Republicans seek to build on that momentum in 2024.

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Bill Aims to close Loophole for Defendants Found Incompetent to Stand Trial

 

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(http://securenets1.com/MajorityLeaderWilliamLamberth.jpg) - As part of an aggressive push to improve public safety in Tennessee, a Republican bill would close a legal loophole for defendants found incompetent to stand trial. House Bill 1640, sponsored by, would require criminal defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial to be committed to an appropriate treatment facility. Current state law does not provide this requirement.

“This closes a loophole that puts the public’s safety at serious risk by allowing dangerous individuals back into society to languish and re-offend without receiving the appropriate mental health services and supervision they desperately need,” Lamberth said.

 

The legislation was introduced following the murder of Jillian Ludwig, an 18-year-old Belmont University freshman who was fatally shot while walking in a Nashville park on Nov. 7. Her killer, Shaquille Taylor, was a repeat violent offender prosecuted in April 2023 for a separate crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The case against Taylor was dismissed after three court-appointed physicians testified he was incompetent to stand trial and was released from custody. “This loss is an incomprehensible, senseless tragedy that exposes a critical failure in our judicial and mental health care systems,” Lamberth said. “I expect this legislation to close the wide gap in current law so that law-abiding citizens are protected from anything like this ever happening again in our state.” The legislation would additionally require individuals deemed incompetent to stand trial to be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which serves as a namecheck database of people prohibited from buying or owning firearms.

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AI Protections for Music Industry

 

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(http://securenets1.com/AIProtectionAct.jpg) - Republicans unveiled legislation to address the damaging impact artificial intelligence (AI) can have on the music industry in Tennessee. Gov. Bill Lee announced the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act this week, which will add protections for songwriters, performers, and music industry professionals’ voice from the misuse of AI to Tennessee’s Protection of Personal Rights law. Overall, the music industry supports more than 61,617 jobs across the state, contributes $5.8 billion to Tennessee’s GDP and fills more than 4,500 music venues.

 

“From Beale Street to Broadway, to Bristol and beyond, Tennessee is known for our rich artistic heritage that tells the story of our great state,” Gov. Lee said. “As the technology landscape evolves with artificial intelligence, we’re proud to lead the nation in proposing legal protection for our best-in-class artists and songwriters.” While Tennessee’s existing law protects name, image and likeness, it doesn’t specifically address new, personalized generative AI cloning models and services that enable human impersonation and allow users to make unauthorized fake works in the image and voice of others. Artists and musicians at all levels are facing exploitation and the theft of their integrity, identity, and humanity.

 

“Tennessee is home to a remarkably diverse music community that is important not only to the culture of our state, but its economy as well,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland. “As technology advances, we must ensure the intellectual property of these incredibly talented artists, such as their voice, is fully protected. I am incredibly proud to carry this legislation that will benefit the performers who make our music industry so successful.” The ELVIS Act would be the first legislation of its kind in the nation to build upon existing state rule protecting against the unauthorized use of someone’s likeness by adding “voice” to the realm it protects.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – JANUARY 26, 2024

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Republicans propose penalties for abortion trafficking

(http://securenets1.com/TNAssembly-01262024.jpg) - House Republicans this week reaffirmed their commitment to protecting the unborn by introducing legislation to make abortion trafficking of a minor a Class C felony. House Bill 1895, proposed by State Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, seeks to stop anyone who attempts to circumvent the state’s current abortion law by helping to facilitate an abortion for the minor without parental consent. If the bill becomes law, it will become illegal for any adult to recruit, harbor, or transport a pregnant, unemancipated minor for a criminal abortion, help a minor obtain an abortion-inducing medication, or conceal an act resulting in a criminal abortion.

“Tennessee Republicans will never stop working to advance and uphold the pro-life and pro-family values held by an overwhelming majority of people in this state. We will continue our commitment to protect parents’ rights and defend the defenseless,” Zachary said. Republicans in the General Assembly in 2019 laid the groundwork to ensure life is protected at conception in Tennessee should the U.S. Supreme Court ever reverse its decision to legalize abortion. The General Assembly that year passed the Human Life Protection Act, a conditional trigger law written to go into effect 30 days following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade. When the high court overturned its 1973 decision on June 24, 2022, the Human Life Protection Act became law and automatically made abortion for any reason a felony in Tennessee. House Bill 1895 is expected to begin moving through committees in the coming weeks.

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Republicans introduce Protecting Children from Social Media Act

(http://securenets1.com/ProtectingChildrenFromSocialMedia.jpg) - Republicans have introduced legislation to restore parental authority on social media platforms by requiring online companies to verify ages of account holders. The Protecting Children from Social Media Act, filed by State Rep. Jake McCalmon (R-Franklin), in partnership with Gov. Bill Lee’s administration, requires social media companies to verify parental consent for minors who wish to become account holders. It gives parents a high level of access to supervise their child’s online interactions as well as the ability to revoke consent. “Social media has hurt a generation of young people by exposing them to unhealthy content and dangerous interactions with strangers online. They have become victims of companies who have deliberately targeted them for profit through addictive algorithms designed to maximize the amount of time kids use them,” McCalmon said. “This bill applies meaningful safeguards to protect children but ensures parents are the only decision-makers when it comes to who communicates with their children online.”

House Bill 1891 would require social media companies to provide privacy monitoring tools and control daily usage, scheduled breaks, and parent notifications. It directs the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, specifically the Division of Consumer Protection, to enforce the law and handle complaints. The U.S. Surgeon General in 2023 released an advisory warning to the public about the “profound risk of harm” social media use has on young people. The advisory cites several studies and includes a review of available evidence and further studies noting social media use is up 95 percent among minors ages 13-17, with more than a third saying they used social media “almost constantly.” Although age 13 is commonly the required minimum age used by social media platforms in the United States, nearly 40 percent of children ages 8–12 use social media. Similar legislation requiring age verification on social media sites has passed in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Utah.

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Tennessee children living in poverty continues to decline

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Description automatically generated(http://securenets1.com/TNStateOfTheChild.jpg) - The number of Tennessee children living in poverty has declined more than 8 percent over the last decade, according to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth’s State of the Child 2023 report. The commission reports 17.6 percent of Tennessee children were living below the federal poverty level in 2022, compared to 25.8 percent in 2012. A family of three earning less than $23,030 is considered to be living below the federal poverty level, a metric of income used to determine eligibility for public programs. The annual data book tracks the status of children by analyzing state-level statistical indicators of child well-being using social, educational, economic and health data.

“[This report] is a compilation of existing data around how our children are doing in a variety of areas,” Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Executive Director Richard Kennedy told committee members during a presentation Wednesday. “With the report, it’s really important for us to try to be as balanced as possible, so we are very mindful that there are lot of things that we are doing very well as a state and there are lots of opportunities that we have.”

Additional highlights from the presentation include: 29% of Tennessee high school students in 2021 reported their mental health was either most of the time or always not good within the past month. 42% of Tennessee high school students in 2021 reported symptoms of depression within the previous year – a 63% increase from 2011. The suicide rate among Tennessee youth 13-18 increase from 7 per 100,000 to 9.4 per 100,000 between 2019 and 2021. 11th graders across all measures had the highest rate of suicidal behaviors and were the most likely to have asked for help. 1 in 10 households with children in Tennessee reported having a child that needed mental health treatment in September 2023. There were 511 social workers serving 975,545 students statewide in 2022-23. There were 660 school psychologists employed by Tennessee districts in 2022-23. The complete State of the Child in Tennessee 2023 report can be found at https://www.tn.gov/tccy/programs0/kc/kc-pubs-nav.html

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2, 2024

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Jillian's Law Honors Slain Belmont Student

 (http://securenets1.com/JillianLudwig.jpg) - An amendment naming a new law in honor of Jillian Ludwig, an 18-year-old Belmont University freshman who was fatally shot while walking in a Nashville park last year, advanced out of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday. House Bill 1640, also known as “Jillian’s Law,” aims to improve public safety by requiring criminal defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial to be committed to an appropriate treatment facility. Current state law does not provide this requirement.

(http://securenets1.com/StateRepRyanWilliams.jpg) - “The trauma inflicted on the Ludwig family, her friends, and the Belmont community by this senseless act is inconceivable,” said State Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, who introduced the amendment. “Every day that a dangerous criminal is free on a technicality is a day that the public safety is a serious risk.” House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland. filed House Bill 1640 following the murder of Ludwig, who was fatally shot while walking in a Nashville park on Nov. 7. Her killer, Shaquille Taylor, was a repeat violent offender prosecuted in April 2023 for a separate crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The case against Taylor was dismissed after three court-appointed physicians testified he was incompetent to stand trial and was released from custody. The legislation would additionally require individuals deemed incompetent to stand trial to be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which serves as a namecheck database of people prohibited from buying or owning firearms. Jillian’s Law is scheduled to be heard in the House Criminal Justice Committee on Feb. 6.

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Tennessee Republicans Stand with Texas to Secure Southern Border

(http://securenets1.com/SecureTheBorder.jpg) - House Republicans have filed several pieces of legislation in support of Texas and its fight to secure the southern border amid surging illegal immigration. House Joint Resolution 801, sponsored by State Rep. Jake McCalmon, R-Franklin, urges the federal government to do everything in its power to get the border crisis under control. A separate resolution filed by State Rep. Jody Barrett, R-Dickson, also encourages Gov. Bill Lee to continue allowing the Tennessee National Guard to assist Texas in its efforts to combat illegal immigration.

“What’s happening at the southern border is a foreign invasion and the Biden administration is complicit,” McCalmon said. “President Biden has been derelict in his duty to protect American citizens and secure our nation’s borders. The federal government’s inaction has put Tennesseans and Americans across the country at risk. We cannot afford the current administration’s open border policies, which is why I am calling on Biden to do his job and use every resource possible to stop the invasion.”

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House Joint Resolution 801 is scheduled to be heard in the Departments and Agencies Subcommittee on Feb. 7

 (http://securenets1.com/StateRepMontyFritts.jpg) - Additionally, a proposed amendment to House Bill 2190, sponsored by State Rep. Monty Fritts, R-Kingston, would also authorize the governor, in accordance with the state constitution, to deploy a brigade-sized force of between 3,000 and 5,000 troops to Texas for up to a year. The deployment could be extended for up to six months at a time upon approval of the General Assembly. There have been more than 10 million reported illegal border crossings within the last three years, which include apprehensions by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and those who evaded capture. Since 2019, Tennessee has sent 562 National Guard soldiers to help secure the southern border.

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State of the State: Gov. Bill Lee will deliver his sixth State of the State address

 (http://securenets1.com/GovBillLee.jpg) - Gov. Bill Lee will deliver his sixth State of the State address to members of the General Assembly and Tennesseans on Monday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. Central Standard Time. The joint session will be held in the House chamber at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. The address will be available on Lee’s Facebook https://facebook.com/GovBillLee and YouTube channels https://youtube.com/c/govbilllee and aired statewide.

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