Norris News – March 9, 2018

On March 9, 2018, in News from Nashville 2018, by Mark Norris
Tuesday was ‘Doctors Day on the Hill.’ We welcomed several doctors from Shelby County to Capitol Hill.

Tuesday was ‘Doctors Day on the Hill.’ We welcomed several doctors from Shelby County to Capitol Hill.

Senate Health and Welfare Committee approves welfare reform legislation

The State Senate approved a wide variety of issues this week as committees worked at full steam. This includes passage of a major bill in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee strengthening the integrity of Tennessee’s temporary assistance programs for needy families by reducing fraud and abuse, incentivizing work, and encouraging self-sufficiency. Senate Bill 2247, sponsored by Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), is one of Governor Bill Haslam’s legislative priorities.

The proposal seeks approval for Tennessee to join a multi-state cooperative to identify dual recipient participation in the state’s programs. It also strengthens investigations of multiple Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card replacements, as well as providing other tools which will help the state investigate fraud and abuse. EBT is a system for delivering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, and Families First benefits to eligible Tennesseans.

In addition, the welfare reform legislation encourages family stabilization by linking the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) maximum benefit to the current standard of need in Tennessee. The state has the second lowest TANF allotment in the U.S. The boost in monthly payments for those enrolled in the program would be the first in 21 years.

The legislation follows action by Governor Bill Haslam in September to reestablish work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) receiving SNAP benefits in 70 counties beginning February 1. The waiver, which was put into place during the 2008 recession, only remains in 16 counties designated as distressed.

Working group is appointed to review school safety in Tennessee

School safety headlined this week’s action on Capitol Hill as Governor Bill Haslam appointed a working group on Monday to review school safety in Tennessee. The 17-member group is comprised of leaders from education, mental health and safety, as well as members of the General Assembly and the executive branch of government.

The Governor’s School Safety Working Group wasted no time in getting down to work, meeting on Thursday to start their review. While all schools in Tennessee have safety plans in place, the Governor’s School Safety Working Group is reviewing the policies, procedures and process of developing and implementing those plans, as well as other school safety measures. The panel will collaborate with law enforcement, educators, mental health professionals and others in developing their recommendations. The first recommendations from the group are expected to be delivered before the General Assembly adjourns in April.

Opioids / TN Together

Legislation addressing the law enforcement and treatment components of the three-pronged plan to fight Tennessee’s opioid epidemic was approved by the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. Senate Bill 2258, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston), revises various provisions of the law regarding the scheduling of controlled substances and their analogues and derivatives, including updated identifications of drugs categorized in Schedules I-V.

The updated schedule of controlled substances would allow law enforcement to better track, monitor and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs, including substances that mimic the effects of fentanyl, a drug that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and is linked to an alarming number of overdose deaths. The legislation provides incentives for offenders in correctional facilities to complete an intensive substance use treatment program while incarcerated. An increasing number of offenders suffer from substance use disorders. These evidence-based programs are proven to reduce recidivism and improve lives while saving taxpayer dollars.

Wednesday was ‘Arts Advocacy Day’ in Nashville. Representatives from Brooks Museum, Theatre Memphis, New Ballet Ensemble & School, TN Shakespeare Company, Arts Memphis and Voices of the South Theatre Company visited the office.

Wednesday was ‘Arts Advocacy Day’ in Nashville. Representatives from Brooks Museum, Theatre Memphis, New Ballet Ensemble & School, TN Shakespeare Company, Arts Memphis and Voices of the South Theatre Company visited the office.

Seven-day sales legislation overcomes first hurdle with passage in Senate State and Local Government Committee

The Senate State and Local Government Committee approved legislation on Tuesday permitting retail food stores to sell wine and retail package stores to sell alcoholic beverages seven days a week. Senate Bill 2518, sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), would put retailers on par with restaurants, hotels, convention centers, tourist resorts and other businesses in Tennessee which are already allowed to sell wine and spirits any day of the week under state law.

Presently, retailers can sell beer seven days a week in Tennessee, while the sale of wine and distilled spirits is limited to Monday through Saturday and is not allowed on certain holidays. The legislation would allow retail businesses to open from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, including holidays. Retail package stores would be allowed to choose whether or not to be open seven days a week upon the bill becoming law, while it would become effective for retail food stores on January 1, 2019.

Forty states allow for seven-day sales by retailers, including five which border Tennessee.

Great, Great, Great, Great- Granddaughter of Sen. Virginius Leake who died 145 years ago this week while the Senate was in session. The home Sen. Leake and his family inhabited in Shelby County at the time of his death on March 7, 1873 is home to Sen. Norris and his family.

Issues in Brief

Financial Asset Management Companies / F&E Taxes — A bill which allows publicly traded financial asset management companies to use the single sales factor apportionment formula for Tennessee Franchise and Excise (F&E) taxes has passed final Senate consideration. Senate Bill 2256, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), helps to keep Tennessee competitive with states offering similar accounting formulas. Manufacturers were afforded a similar tax option under the Tax Reduction Act of 2017 (IMPROVE Act) passed last year.

Response to InterventionSenate Resolution 158, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), passed the Senate Education Committee this week. This resolution, which is funded in Governor Bill Haslam’s budget, approves changes to the Basic Education Program (BEP) formula to include $13.3 million in recurring funds for Response to Intervention positions. This funding will provide a framework for teaching and learning that includes regular screenings to identify student areas of need and a tiered model of intervention for those who need additional help. The resolution now moves to the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee.

Victims’ Rights / Electronic Notification — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation this week giving crime victims a choice to receive notifications electronically. Tennessee’s Victims’ Bill of Rights declares that victims and witnesses have the right to be notified by the Department of Correction of an offender’s parole hearing date and when that offender will be eligible for parole. Senate Bill 2235, sponsored by Senator Art Swann (R-Maryville), permits victims or their victim representative to be notified by electronic means, provided they have registered with the state’s electronic notification service. It also allows for cancellation of this notification service electronically.

Moratorium on Additional Statewide Testing – The Senate Education Committee voted this week to put a two-year moratorium on any additional statewide testing in Tennessee’s K-12 schools. This legislation prevents any additional assessments from being implemented until the current system is operating correctly. Further, Senate Bill 1806 ensures stability in the state tests because nothing new will be added. The bill is sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro).


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