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First Meeting of Tennessee Legislative Task Force on Opioid Abuse Kicks Off

 

Written by Curtis Johnson
Tennessee State Representative

Tennessee State Representative - District 68Nashville, TN – This week in Nashville, the first meeting of the legislative task force on opioid and prescription drug abuse kicked off in Nashville, with stakeholders from across the state coming to the Legislative Plaza to speak out about Tennessee’s growing drug epidemic.

The task force was created this month by House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) with the immediate goal of working on legislation and determining best strategies for tackling Tennessee’s opioid problems. Tennessee is consistently ranked at the top of the charts nationally with regards to prescription drug abuse.

Tennessee State Representative Curtis Johnson

Tennessee State Representative Curtis Johnson

In 2015, 1,451 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses, the highest annual number in the state’s history. In addition, the number of babies born who have been chronically exposed to opioids is high, particularly in East Tennessee.

The Tennessee Department of Health reports that from 2000 to 2012, the rate of babies born with exposure increased 15 fold.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that prescription opioid abuse has a total economic burden of $78.5 billion per year in the United States. There is an estimated $7.7 billion criminal justice cost across the country.

The first meeting saw testimony from different perspectives.  Dr. Danny Davis of Clarksville shared his personal tragedy of losing his daughter to opioid addiction.  Mr. Jeremy Kane of EdCom spoke of the importance of educating women of child-bearing age on birth control to prevent the birth of babies born addicted.  Ms. Karen Pershing, executive director of Knoxville’s Metro Drug Coalition told of some of their successes and challenges. 

Dr. Mitchell Mutter from the Department of Health made a presentation on how the problem is growing and help is needed at the local level.  Knoxville Chief of Police David Rausch shared experiences of dealing with pill mills and the difficulty in prosecuting those who overprescribe opioids.  Lastly, Judge Duane Slone spoke of his personal experiences and the difficulties in getting drug abusers who are trying to kick the habit out of their destructive environments.

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 16th, at 10:00am in room 16 in the Legislative Plaza.

WKRN-Channel 2 did a report about our Task Force and the challenges we face in solving this problem. 

The link is: http://wkrn.com/2017/02/08/tennessees-opioid-task-force-meets-for-first-time-thursday/

Austin Peay’s Board Takes One Step Closer In Becoming A Reality

Speaker Pro Tempore Curtis Johnson, Senator Mark Green and President of Austin Peay Alisa White with members of the Austin Peay University Board.

Speaker Pro Tempore Curtis Johnson, Senator Mark Green and President of Austin Peay Alisa White with members of the Austin Peay University Board.

The House Education Administration & Planning Committee Approved House Joint Resolution 47 which would confirm the appointment of the members of the Board for Austin Peay State University.  The Resolution is scheduled to be voted on by the full House on Monday night, February 13th.

The Governor appointed the following people to serve on this board:

  • Billy P. Atkins, Chairman and CEO of Legends Bank
  • Katherine Johnson Cannata, Wyatt Johnson Automotive Group
  • Larry W. Carroll, President and CEO of Carroll Financial Associates, Inc.
  • Don Jenkins, President and CEO of Jenkins & Wynne Ford
  • Dr. Valencia May, Dentist and owner of Plaza Dental Offices
  • Brigadier General Robin Mealer, United States Army (Retired)
  • Mike O’Malley, Partner and CEO of Wendy’s Bowling Green
  • General Gary E. Luck, U. S. Army (retired)

BEP Calculator

State’s new BEP Calculator makes Tennessee’s education funding more transparent and understandable

State Comptroller Justin Wilson appeared before the Senate Education Committee this week to explain his new educational tool that helps legislators, educators, stakeholders and citizens understand the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP).  The BEP, which provides education funding to K-12 public schools, represents a huge portion of the state budget totaling nearly $4.4 billion for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

For years, the BEP has been calculated by the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) without any way to verify the results.  However, the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has created a method to independently calculate and verify the BEP called the BEP calculator.  The purpose is to make Tennessee’s very complicated education funding formula as transparent and understandable as possible.

“It is in the best interest of all Tennesseans that the BEP formula be transparent, understandable, and verifiable,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson during his presentation before the committee.  “Although it is basic education, the BEP is not a basic calculation.”

The Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) has reconstructed the entire BEP calculation from scratch using input data for student enrollment, unit costs, and other factors.  Details and dollar amounts for every school district in Tennessee can now be viewed and downloaded from the Comptroller’s website. Users can even create their own scenarios using different inputs – teacher salaries, insurance premiums, etc. – to see how fiscal changes impact BEP allocations.  The Comptroller has also created an interactive map where interested persons can easily view of snapshots of essential BEP facts and figures for each of Tennessee’s 141 school districts.

The Comptroller’s independent calculation of the BEP found the Department of Education’s formula for fiscal year 2016-2017 was off by less than one one-hundredth of a percent. TDOE has indicated it will address the points the Comptroller’s Office identified for revision in fiscal year 2017-2018.

BEP formula base $4,204,743,000
ADM growth and unit cost inflation 40,400,000
Instructional salary unit cost increase 104,600,000
12th month of health insurance 29,480,000
Additional technology funding 15,000,000
Lowered English learner ratios 13,901,000
Changes in minimum funding adjustments 6,483,000
Condensed special education options 4,801,000
January insurance premium rate increase 15,186,600
Total BEP formula funds $4,434,594,600

 

In addition to money used to fund the formula, growth funding and teacher salary equity funds are included in the BEP appropriation:

BEP formula $4,434,594,600
Growth funding 19,000,000
Teacher salary equity funds 14,500,000
Sevier County supplement 1,840,00
Total BEP appropiation $4,469,934,600

 

Any unspent BEP funds revert to the General Fund at the end of the fiscal year. In fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15, approximately $7.6 million and $6.9 million reverted, respectively.

Contact Information

Rep. Curtis Johnson
15 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN  37243
615.741.4341

For more information about the Tennessee General Assembly, check our website at www.capitol.tn.gov


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