Norris News – April 13, 2018

On April 13, 2018, in News from Nashville 2018, by Mark Norris
On Thursday we honored retiring state Senator Thelma Harper of Nashville. Senator Harper has served in the Legislature since 1990. She is the first African-American female to be elected to the Senate, and the longest-serving female in the history of the General Assembly. During her legislative career she has focused her efforts on the most vulnerable children and the elderly.

On Thursday we honored retiring state Senator Thelma Harper of Nashville. Senator Harper has served in the Legislature since 1990. She is the first African-American female to be elected to the Senate, and the longest-serving female in the history of the General Assembly. During her legislative career she has focused her efforts on the most vulnerable children and the elderly.

Legislation preparing Tennessee for the next wave of economic development in the digital economy via 5G technology headlines Capitol Hill Week

This week’s action on Capitol Hill was highlighted by passage of a number of important initiatives as lawmakers continue discussions on the state’s budget. This includes legislation which accelerates investment in mobile broadband infrastructure and prepares Tennessee for the next wave of economic development in the digital economy via 5G technology.

Senate Bill 2504, sponsored by Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), creates a uniform, statewide and predictable application and deployment process for small cell wireless broadband providers no matter what community is being served. Once implemented, it would enhance existing networks and encourage wireless broadband providers to invest in the latest small cell technology.

“When installed, these small cells will increase capacity to handle a huge amount of data,” Senator Ketron said. “There could be anywhere from ten to one hundred times faster connectivity than what we currently have with 4G. Over six million Tennessee wireless consumers want this technology, local governments want this technology, and providers want to deliver it. This bill will help accomplish this for communities across the state.”

The legislation, called the Competitive Wireless Broadband Investment, Deployment, and Safety Act of 2018, creates a predictable “how to manual” for providers and local governments to work together to manage the right-of-ways and to get investment deployed as soon as possible. While the legislation calls for a statewide application process to reduce local hurdles, it affirms that local governments retain their nondiscriminatory authority to:

  • manage placement of utility poles and facilities in the right of way;
  • establish aesthetic plans that govern facilities in the right of way;
  • protect historic districts;
  • manage and protect areas with underground utilities;
  • require damage repair in the right of way;
  • manage and reject any deployment based on public safety concerns; and,
  • apply right of way permitting and fees.

“The world is operating at a much faster pace,” added Ketron. “This bill will change our world as we currently know it on many activities from telemedicine to texting, and from documentation to autonomous vehicles because of the connectivity speed through the bandwidth that 5G brings.

Studies show that deployment of 5G alone will create more than 16,000 new jobs in Tennessee. It would also lead to more than $1 billion in investment and grow the state GDP by nearly $3 billion.

Presently 14 other states have passed legislation to make investment easier, with 19 considering similar legislation this year.

The bill now goes to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature.

Also on Thursday the Senate recognized the career of Jess Hale, a legislative attorney with the Office of Legal Services. Jess has been the principle attorney for the Health and Welfare committee for numerous years. He is pictured here with Senator Rusty Crowe, the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee.

Also on Thursday the Senate recognized the career of Jess Hale, a legislative attorney with the Office of Legal Services. Jess has been the principle attorney for the Health and Welfare committee for numerous years. He is pictured here with Senator Rusty Crowe, the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee.

Tennessee Reconnect Scholarship Program draws 10,000 adult applicants

More than 10,000 adults have applied for Tennessee Reconnect, the state’s program for adult learners to earn an associate degree or technical certificate tuition-free, since applications opened mid-February. The groundbreaking program covers tuition and mandatory fees at a Tennessee community or technical college for eligible adults that do not yet have a college degree. It was implemented as a result of Senate Bill 1218, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) that was approved last year. It is also part of Governor Bill Haslam’s initiative to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025.

Among those who have applied for the scholarship, more than two-thirds have previously enrolled in college and just more than half of all applicants have attended college in the past five years. The average age of applicants is 34 years old and nearly 90 percent of those who applied plan to work while enrolled through Reconnect.

“Tennessee Reconnect, like Tennessee Promise, is an immediate game-changer for our communities and we are very pleased with the number of applications that have already been submitted. It directly aligns with our goals to increase the number of Tennessee residents with some form of postsecondary education or training – and to connect more Tennesseans with the high demand jobs moving into our state,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) sponsor of the legislation.

The Tennessee Reconnect application will remain open year-round; adults hoping to enroll in community or technical college in fall 2018 are encouraged to apply by April 15 to ensure time to complete all enrollment steps. The application for Reconnect requires four simple steps:

  • Complete the application at TNReconnect.gov;
  • Apply to a local community college or eligible Tennessee Reconnect institution;
  • File the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) at FAFSA.ed.gov; and
  • Enroll in a degree or certificate program at least part-time.

Tennessee is the first state in the nation to offer all citizens, both high school graduates and adults, the chance to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate tuition-free.

The YMCA Youth in Government program is happening this weekend at the Capitol. On Wednesday afternoon I was visited by three of my counterparts (Majority Leaders) for the program. They are Luis Sanchez (Franklin HS) Jackson McNabb (Brentwood HS) Joseph Azevedo (E. Hamilton HS).

The YMCA Youth in Government program is happening this weekend at the Capitol. On Wednesday afternoon I was visited by three of my counterparts (Majority Leaders) for the program. They are Luis Sanchez (Franklin HS) Jackson McNabb (Brentwood HS) Joseph Azevedo (E. Hamilton HS).

In Brief

Seven-day sales of wine – Final approval was given this week to legislation that permits 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), puts 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. As amended, the measure allows Sunday sales to take place between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The bill prohibits sales on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. The bill now goes to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature. The bill will become effective for liquor sales upon the governor’s signature, and for grocery stores, it will take effect on January 1, 2019.

Charles Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center — The full Senate approved legislation this week to aid the Charles H. Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center in Chattanooga. The Medal of Honor, which was created by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861, is our nation’s highest and rarest military decoration. It is bestowed by the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against the enemy of the United States.” Approximately 3,500 individuals have received the Medal, many of which were posthumously awarded. The center teaches about the six character traits all Medal of Honor recipients share, which are courage, commitment, sacrifice, patriotism, integrity, and citizenship. Senate Bill 2346, sponsored by Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), exempts from property taxes all tangible personal property owned and used by a nonprofit organization that has a historic sole purpose for the provision of educational programs about recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. The museum plans to open in February of 2020.

Henry’s Law – Drug dealers or others who unlawfully distribute Schedule I or II drugs to minors will be facing more jail time when it results in a death under legislation unanimously on final Senate consideration this week. Senate Bill 1875, sponsored by Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), is named Henry’s Law for a Knoxville teenager, Henry Granju, who died due to a lethal opiate overdose. The killing of a minor in Tennessee when the drug is a proximate cause of death is second degree murder, which is a Class A felony. Under the state’s current sentencing guidelines, a standard Range I offender for a Class A felony can receive 15 to 25 years in jail, but the 30 percent requirement places the actual sentence at 4.5 to 7.5 years. The bill proposes to make that same Class A felony a Range II offense, carrying a 25 to 40 years sentence at a 35 percent requirement. This means offenders would serve a minimum of 8.8 to 14 years behind bars. Schedule I drugs include heroin and other psychedelics, while Schedule II drugs include opiates, cocaine, methadone, methamphetamines and amphetamines. Approximately 70 to 80 juveniles die each year in the state of Tennessee due to opioid overdose.

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