April 20, 2018
The End is Near
The 110th General Assembly is expected to come to a close next week, with talk of a Tuesday or Wednesday adjournment.
The budget is typically one of the last things on the agenda for the House and Senate, and this year is proving no different. The House passed its version of the state’s $37.5 billion budget on Tuesday, which included a controversial amendment that would strip $250,000 in funding from Memphis. The Memphis delegation hailed the amendment as both retaliatory and vindictive. The sponsors of the amendment, Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads) and Rep Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), explained it was in response to Memphis removing confederate monuments last year. The amendment was notably left out of the Senate’s version of the budget passed on Wednesday and later agreed to by concurrance on the House floor.
Highlights in the budget include over $16 million to increase the pay of direct care staff serving the intellectually disabled; $460 million in capital construction and maintenance; $30 million for school safety, and $114 million in higher education funding.
TN Ready complicated the final days
After days of statewide student assessment failures, the House and Senate both had their own plans to fix issues with TNReady. The House had previously amended legislation to require the tests to be administered on paper rather than on computers and when the Governor objected, the House made it clear that many were willing to hold the budget hostage until a compromise was reached. Eventually, after floor recesses to accomodate meetings with the Governor and discussions in a joint conference committee, both chambers reached agreement. This year’s TNReady testing will not be used to determine employment and compensation for teachers or school rankings in an A-F system. The data from testing will also not be counted in students’ final grades, unless local school boards decide otherwise. Finally, the grades cannot count for more than 15%.
Opioid Bills One Step Closer to Governor’s Signature
The Senate passed two bills that were part of Governor Bill Haslam’s TN Together plan. SB 2257/HB 1831 would limit prescriptions of opioids to patients. Physicians may now offer three, five, or 10 day prescriptions, with no more than a 10-day supply and with a dosage that does not exceed a total of 500 morphine milligram equivalent dose. There are exceptions for serious cases, such as a “more than a minimally invasive procedure”. SB 2258/HB 1832 creates incentives for incarcerated individuals to complete substance abuse treatment programs. The bill would also add measures to track the distribution of opioids in the state. The two bills now head back to the House for concurrence.
Fundraising Heats Up in United States Senate Race
The contest to replace retiring U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R) heated up considerably this week when Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R) and former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen released their First Quarter of 2018 fundraising totals. Congresswoman Blackburn's campaign reported raising just over $2 million dollars from donors and political action committees during the reporting period covering mid-January to late March. During the same period, former Governor Bredesen reported raising $1.8 million dollars from donors and political action committees. The strong First Quarter of 2018 fundraising totals from both candidates is leading many Tennessee politicos to believe this will be one of the most expensive races in Tennessee history. Smith Harris & Carr will continue to monitor this race closely as we head into the heart of campaign season.
Flags dedicated on the Cordell Hull Building Plaza
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