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Haslam highlights legislative successes

Posted on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 9:15 am

Budget and Governor’s Priorities Address Opioid Crisis, Safer Schools, Juvenile Justice Reform and a More Efficient and Effective UT Board of Trustees

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today thanked members of the 110th General Assembly for keeping Tennessee on pace to lead the nation in jobs, education and efficient and effective government.

“The investments in this budget and our legislative priorities this session will impact Tennesseans for years to come,” Haslam said. “I am grateful to the General Assembly for partnering with us to pass meaningful legislation and for its commitment to conservative fiscal principles.”

The $37.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2018-19 includes more than $15 million in new state dollars to fund treatment and services in the fight against opioid addiction and $30 million to improve school safety across the state. The budget invests $119 million in higher education initiatives and $247 million in new state funding for K-12 education, including additional funds for teacher compensation, bringing the total compensation investment of this administration and the General Assembly to more than $500 million. It provides $124 million in job growth investments, targeting programs in rural communities in particular, and it increases the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $861 million, more than three times its size in 2011.

The General Assembly this session passed governor’s measures including:

TN Together, the comprehensive plan to end the opioid crisis in Tennessee, is supported by two key pieces of legislation. The first bill, sponsored by Sen. Ferrell Haile and Rep. David Hawk, limits the duration and dosage of opioid prescriptions for new patients, with reasonable exceptions for major surgical procedures and exemptions that include cancer and hospice treatment, sickle cell disease as well as treatment in certain licensed facilities. With initial opioid prescriptions limited to a 3-day supply, Tennessee will have one of the most strict and aggressive opioid policies in the nation.

The second bill, sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager and Rep. Bill Dunn, creates incentives for offenders to complete intensive substance use treatment programs while incarcerated and updates the schedule of controlled substances to better track, monitor and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of opioids. Notably, it adds synthetic versions of the drug fentanyl, linked to an alarming number of overdose deaths, to the controlled substance schedules.

The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 will make Tennessee’s juvenile justice system more effective, improve outcomes for youth offenders, and advance public safety. It balances judicial discretion with new guardrails on placing children in out-of-home custody, brings needed investment in treatment and other services, and ensures individualized case planning, among other improvements. Sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. Jason Zachary, the bill will improve juvenile justice results and serve as a starting point for further reform.

The University of Tennessee FOCUS Act, sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. David Hawk, reduces the current size of the UT Board of Trustees to 12 members, empowering the reconstituted board to better oversee the multiple campuses that comprise the UT system. In addition to modernizing the focus and responsibilities of the UT Board of Trustees, the legislation establishes advisory boards for the primary UT campuses, allowing each campus to have a local focus.  The General Assembly confirmed seven members appointed by the governor during legislative session, and three additional members will be named at a later date to join a student member and the Commissioner of Agriculture on the board.

The 2018 legislative session marks the final session of the Haslam administration. The governor’s two terms, which, in partnership with the General Assembly, included enactment and implementation of numerous pieces of major legislation and reforms, represent a period of unprecedented success and growth for Tennessee as the state strives to meet the governor’s goal, announced during his final State of the State Address, of leading the nation in jobs, education and efficient and effective government.

Record job creation and the lowest unemployment in the state’s history; unparalleled improvement in K-12 education, outpacing every other state in the nation; unprecedented opportunity through two years of college free of tuition and fees; tax cuts totaling more than $572 million; more than $500 million cut from the state budget and the lowest debt per capita of any state in the nation all prove Tennessee can not only compete against the very best, but can in fact be the very best. Tennessee can and will lead.