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Friday, April 20, 2018

Faison on legislative activities
State Representative Jeremy Faison, Republican of Cosby, has issued a report of this week's activities in the legislature. In the final few days of this year’s legislative session, the House of Representatives passed Tennessee’s $37.5 billion budget builds on previous legislative priorities by making strategic and thoughtful investments across state government. “Because of the conservative fiscal choices lawmakers have made over the last several years, Tennessee currently ranks as the lowest taxed and lowest debt state in the entire nation,” says Faison. As part of the budget debate, Representative Faison helped spearhead efforts to fix problems with one of the state’s standardized scholastic tests — called TNReady — that have once again plagued the 2018 testing assessments of schools across Tennessee. The discussions followed three days of problems tied to TNReady’s online testing platform, the most significant of which occurred on Tuesday when the Department of Education reported its testing vendor had experienced a cyber-attack on its computer system. The day before and after this attack, many students were unable to log into or complete their tests. “These tests are vitally important to students, teachers, and schools across Tennessee because they count for large portions of final student grades as well as final teacher evaluations and school rankings,” argues the lawmaker. The solution agreed upon by lawmakers to address the problems include giving local education agencies the option to not include TNReady test scores for the year, for both students and teachers. That move will allow each group to be held harmless as the result of the widespread TNReady failures experienced by school systems statewide this year. Specific highlights of the 2018-2019 budget include: Opioids — The multi-faceted plan, called Tennessee Together, is comprised of legislation, $30 million in funds through the budget, and other executive actions to battle opioids through the three major components of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. In 2016, there were over 1,600 opioid-related overdose deaths, one of the highest in the nation, and statistics show the numbers are only increasing. Each day in Tennessee, at least three people die from opioid-related overdoses — more than the daily number of traffic fatalities. Tennessee Together limits the supply and dosage of opioid prescriptions, with reasonable exceptions and an emphasis on new patients, as well as education for elementary and secondary schools through revisions to the state’s health education academic standards. The plan increases state funding to attack the illicit sale and trafficking of opioids through additional law enforcement and training and includes updates to the controlled substance schedules in order to better track, monitor, and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs — including fentanyl. Finally, the plan provides every Tennessee state trooper with naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose prior to a paramedic arrival. School Safety — House lawmakers approved recommendations made by a working group organized to make suggestions for immediate enhancements to school safety across the state as part of this year’s budget, including a review and risk assessment of all school facilities to identify vulnerabilities, an increase in available resources to help secure school resource officers, and a statewide technology application for anonymous reporting of security threats. The 2018-2019 budget and school safety plan doubles the amount of recurring school safety grant funding for schools, which can be used toward employment of school resource officers or other facility security measures. To address immediate needs while further state, local, and federal conversations around school security and budgeting take place, total state school safety grant funding will increase by more than 500 percent for the upcoming fiscal year. Education — The approved budget fully funds education in Tennessee with more than $200 million in new funding for K-12 education, $55 million for a teacher pay raises, $114 million in additional funding for higher education initiatives, $11 million for an energy-efficient schools program, and $9 million in nonrecurring funds to purchase equipment at the 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology to improve and modernize a broad variety of workforce development programs. Juvenile Justice — The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 includes $4.5 million in the 2018-2019 budget for targeted investments that support evidence-based programming and community resources — especially in the state’s rural and distressed counties. The measure overhauls the current system of juvenile justice for the first time in more than 20 years by tackling inefficiencies and variations in the system. The program empowers members of local law enforcement communities to intervene in instances involving minor offenses in order to better address a youth’s underlying issues. It also limits probation and incarceration for minor offenses while maintaining judicial discretion. Research suggests that taking youth out of their homes and schools for minor offenses increases the risk of recidivism, diverts resources from youth who pose a risk to the community, and unnecessarily uses taxpayer dollars. Often, studies show, community-based services are more effective and are a wiser use of resources. Economic Development — The 2018-2019 budget includes investments in several key business-friendly programs, including $128 million in new funding for employment job growth, funding to bring the state’s Rainy Day Fund to $850 million — the highest amount in state history, $15 million in broadband accessibility grant dollars, and $10 million in nonrecurring funds for the Aeronautics Development Fund to create jobs and investment opportunities in Tennessee’s aviation industry. Additional Investments — Other important funding contained in this year’s budget includes $3 million in funds for school districts to address the extra costs associated with purchasing buses equipped with seat belts, $10 million for repairs on the state’s important short-line railroads, $11.7 million to help individuals with developmental disabilities, an additional $136 million for TennCare — the state’s version of Medicaid, and funding for capital construction projects and maintenance across the state. With the budget officially passed, lawmakers now turn their attention to debating the last few legislative items for the year while remaining focused on continuing work to make Tennessee an even better place to live, work, raise a family, and retire.


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Monday, May 21, 2018

  • Rolling Thunder to stop off in Cocke County
  • Cocke Fire
  • Paramedics attacked
  • Lawson arrest in shooting
  • Trump to visit Nashville
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    Saturday, May 19, 2018

  • Tiny Homes purchases former Ace Products site
  • Qualifying is underway for Newport and Parrottsville posts
  • Do not disturb young wildlife
  • Farm Bill defeated
  • TBI investigating Greene County officer involved shooting
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  • Friday fuel leak

    Friday, May 18, 2018

  • Partnership update
  • Fancher is candidate for Newport mayor
  • Missing Retreivers
  • Corley arrest
  • Safe Boating Awareness

    Thursday, May 17, 2018

  • SNAP could be cut to pay for tax cuts
  • Marijuana sentencing
  • Candidates for governor poll
  • Bredesen /Blackburn poll
  • Tennessee sues Oxycontin maker
  • In lieu of tax payments

    Wednesday, May 16, 2018

  • Trouten pleads to arson
  • Phone wire cut in Del Rio
  • Cocke County School Board meets
  • Cocke County Jail assaults
  • Buckner injury
  • Burger search
  •    

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