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Tennessee State Representative Joe Pitts’ Legislative Update, June 1st 2013

 

Update detailing the first session of the 108th Tennessee General Assembly

Tennessee State Representative - House District 67Nashville, TN – Eligibility of military dependents for the Hope Lottery Scholarship remains unresolved.

House Bill 427/Senate Bill 57, filed by Tennessee State Representative Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) and Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville) was not heard in the House Finance Subcommittee this session. For the third year in a row, the subcommittee did not approve funding this important legislation for military dependents due to budget restraints. The cost of the funding to address an inequity in the eligibility requirements for military dependents is $364,000.

Tennessee State Representative Joe Pitts

Tennessee State Representative Joe Pitts

“I will meet with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam later this year to re-emphasize the importance of this legislation to our soldiers and their families,” said Pitts. “The Tennessee Attorney General has issued an opinion indicating our current method of classifying dependents of our military because of their “Home of Record” status with the military is constitutionally suspect. Like other important issues that have failed in previous years, it is time to address this issue.”

House Bill 0431/Senate Bill 251

Uninsured Motorists beware: House Bill 0431/Senate Bill 251 puts teeth into the Financial Responsibility statute

House Bill 0431 (Senate Bill 0251) enhances the penalty for driving without insurance and causing an accident that results in bodily injury or death. Prior to passage of HB0431, the fine for driving a vehicle in the state without insurance was a $100.00 fine, even if an accident had occurred.

The legislation increased that penalty to a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to 11 months 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500) when the offender is at fault for an accident resulting in bodily injury or death due to criminal negligence and was recently signed by Governor Haslam.

“Richard and Mary Ann Brewster, along with Amber Tuchscherer (3 of the 4 people seriously injured by an uninsured motorist in 2012) were champions of this legislation,” said Pitts. “I am hopeful this legislation will send a strong message to those who drive our streets and are uninsured. This is how government is supposed to work.”

Funding requests that were NOT included in the 2013-14 Budget

The total state budget exceeded $32 billion which is the largest budget in our state’s history.  While there were some very positive moves made in the budget, there were some items of unfinished business not addressed in this budget.

Teachers

Budget amendment #66 would appropriate funds to reimburse teachers for the cost of the certain Praxis tests.

“In 2012, Public Chapter 1020 was enacted which requires teachers to sit for and pass a Praxis exam, when that teacher is asked by their local education association (LEA) to teach a course of study outside their subject specific license  endorsement,” Pitts said. “Teachers are already buying supplies out of their own pockets and I believe we should help them with the expense of this test, especially when they are being asked by the school district to teach a specific course.”

Disabled Adults

Budget amendment #65 would appropriate $5 million to the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) for the sole purpose of providing home and community based services waivers for individuals currently on the waiting list.

As of December, 2012, there were 7,274 people and increasing monthly. Also, 94 individuals are categorized as “crisis”, meaning their primary caregiver passed away, they are homeless, or experience such aggressive behavior that they are a danger to themselves or others.

“Giving families with a developmentally disabled family member hope is what this amendment was about,” said Pitts. “We must take care of our most vulnerable citizens and their families. I will continue to propose more money be appropriated to this very important cause.” The $5 million in state funds proposal would total $15 million when matched with federal dollars.

Dunbar Cave State Park

No additional funding was appropriated for the Dunbar Cave land acquisition. The Friends of Dunbar Cave, by virtue of a very generous gift from the Clarksville Jaycees, have asked the State to appropriate funding to expand the park by acquiring available adjacent land.

“Dunbar Cave Sate Park is a local and state treasure and I am hopeful we can complete this transaction next fiscal year,” said Pitts.

Methamphetamine

Tennessee continues to be among the leading states in the production of methamphetamine in the country.  Additional resources are needed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and our local law enforcement agencies to combat this epidemic.

Transportation

Clarksville-Montgomery County continues at a torrid pace of population growth and the traffic on our highways and streets are straining to the limits. Funding for Clarksville-Montgomery County and other communities like ours, to improve our transportation infrastructure is critical. I am hopeful we can enlist the Tennessee Department of Transportation to partner with our community to begin addressing this important need.

If you have questions about any item above or other issues of concern, please call me at 615.741.2043, or email me at rep.joe.pitts@capitol.tn.gov


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