Each Friday Clarksville Online will publish the House Republican Caucus Weekly Wrap as a service to the community. This week’s topics include:
- Tennessee to receive $3.7 billion in federal money
- Environment and Conservation Committees hear testimony on TVA coal ash spill
- General Assembly website receives makeover, features improved bill tracking
Legislators were updated this week on the estimates from the bailout package passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier this week, learning that Tennessee stands to receive anywhere from $3.7 to $4.3 billion over roughly two years. Most of the money is already allocated by the federal government to specific purposes, with only $171 million left for “general purpose.”
TennCare will receive the largest sum of money, with $1.1 billion allocate specifically for the program. Other health-related programs that will receive money are foster care and adoption assistance services, immunization programs, elderly nutrition programs, and child care, which together total approximately $70 million.
Another area that stands to receive a substantial amount of the money is education. Tennessee’s K-12 education system will receive $224.5 million for school improvement projects and grants. Another $236 million will be targeted toward students with disabilities, in the areas of special education and early intervention. The final three subcategories—education technology, education for the homeless, and school lunch equipment—will receive roughly $13.6 million, bringing the total amount for education to $474.4 million.
Another $171 million will be aimed at a myriad of different programs, including justice assistance, crime victim assistance, workforce investment, employment services, unemployment insurance, and dislocated worker programs. The final numbers will be revealed by the Administration during the Governor’s budget address to the Senate and House Environment and Conservation Committees.
Joint House and Senate Environment and Conservation Committees hear testimony on TVA coal ash spill
A joint meeting of the Senate and House Environment and Conservation Committees heard testimony on Wednesday from Tennessee Valley Authority officials regarding the clean-up efforts of the December 22nd coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee. The accident released more than 5.4 million cubic yards of ash into the river from an on-site holding pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant.
Fly ash is a fine, glass-like powder recovered from gases created by coal-fired electric power generation. Power plants within the United States produce millions of tons of fly ash annually, which is disposed of in landfills or retaining ponds.
Tom Kilgore, CEO of TVA, told the Joint Committee that the cause of the massive accident, which covers more than 300 acres of surrounding land and water, is still being investigated. Kilgore has been working with Deputy Conservation and Environment Commissioner Paul Sloan as TVA constructs a plan to remediate and restore the site, as well as prevent such accidents from occurring in other localities where coal fly ash is stored.
Sloan said the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has been on site in Roane County since the spill occurred. They have been sampling public drinking water systems to assess whether the raw water entering and the finished water produced by the Kingston Water Treatment Plant meets public health standards. Sloan said the samples received to date indicate municipal water supplies are safe, even though aquatic life at the site of the spill has been destroyed.
Sloan and Kilgore pledged to continue ongoing water quality monitoring and assessment within the major waterways impacted by the ash slide, which includes the Emory River, Clinch River and Tennessee River. They have also consulted with the Tennessee Department of Health to provide public health guidance and recommended precautions for citizens that come in contact with coal ash.
Moving to the cleanup and safe disposal of recovered coal ash at the site of the spill, Kilgore said TVA is working to get the ash sludge “out of the river as quickly as we can.” The fly coal ash contains a small amount of arsenic, which means it must be treated as a “hazardous substance” as it is moved. This means the ash, which is 85 percent water, must be “dewatered” before either being moved to another site or buried. Engineers are working to prepare the comprehensive plan to remove the sludge, which is expected to cost $525 to $825 million.
The state is looking at the possibility of using the dry coal ash in concrete and other products. Fly ash is an inexpensive replacement for a type of cement used in concrete. It is also used as an ingredient in brick, block, paving, and structural fills. The House Environment and Conservation Committee will likely continue to monitor the progress of the clean up and environmental impact of the spill, as well as preventative measures, during the remainder of this legislative session.
Tennessee General Assembly website receives makeover, features improved bill tracking
The Tennessee General Assembly overhauled their website design this year, and the new website includes many new features in addition to its fresh look. Visitors can now easily find out who their representatives and senators are, see more detailed maps of their districts, and track legislation—even flagging certain bills in which they take an interest.
One of the most useful features on the newly designed website is the new bill tracking mechanism that allows users to make a list of legislation they would like to follow through the committee and floor session process. The site allows for the creation of up to three lists of ten bills each that a user can “flag.” Users can then log in at any time and see the progression of the legislation they chose to follow, even allowing for modification of the lists at any point. The updates will also include a listing of how each member present in the subcommittee, committee, and floor session voted on a particular bill.
In addition to simply getting a fresh new look, the website also has a different
web address: capitol.tn.gov (formerly legislature.state.tn.us). The e-mail addresses for legislators and staff have also been updated to match the new address. House Republicans are very pleased to see the user-friendly changes, having advocated for a more simply formatted website for several years.
The week ahead…
- HOUSE SESSION: 5:00p.m. Monday, February 23, 2009 in House Chambers
- HOUSE SESSION: 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 25, 2009 in House Chambers
- HOUSE SESSION: 9:00 a.m. Thursday, February 26, 2009 in House Chambers
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
- Committee or Subcommittee Time Room Number
- Professional Occupations Subcommittee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 31
- Agriculture Committee 9:15 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
- Family Justice Subcommittee 9:15 a.m. Legislative Plaza 30
- Conservation & Environment Committee 10:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
- State & Local Government Committee 12:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
- Civil Practice & Procedure Subcommittee 12:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 31
- Finance Committee 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
- Small Business Subcommittee 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 30
- Rural Roads Subcommittee 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 31
- Transportation Committee 3:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
- Public Safety Subcommittee 4:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
- Public Health & Family Assistance Subcommittee 4:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 30
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
- Committee or Subcommittee Time Room Number Children & Family Affairs Committee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
- State Government Subcommittee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
- Judiciary Committee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 31
- Local Government Subcommittee 9:15 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
- Government Operations Committee 10:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
- Education Committee 11:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
- Budget Subcommittee 11:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
- Criminal Practice & Procedure Subcommittee 12:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 31
- Parks & Tourism Subcommittee 12:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
- Domestic Relations Subcommittee 12:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Summary provided by Kara Watkins, Press Secretary, TN House Republican Caucus