Written by Curtis Johnson
Tennessee State Representative
Nashville, TN – Last Friday, the threat of bad weather caused Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to close state offices in Middle and West Tennessee. Some agencies that have “mission critical employees” who have life, health and/or safety responsibilities still reported to work during the closures.
All state employees and citizens were urged to exercise caution when traveling under bad weather conditions.
House Finance, Way and Means Committee Receives Update on TN Broadband Accessibility Act (TBAA)
Amanda Martin, Special Products Director, briefed members on the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee on the progress of the Department of Economic and Community Development has made in implementing the TN Broadband Accessibility Act, passed by the General Assembly last year.
The three main objectives were to invest over $45 million over three years through grants and tax credits, focusing on unserved or underserved areas. Second was to deregulate which would allow private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to provide broadband and cable services.
And third is education. TBAA will provide grant funding opportunities to the state’s local libraries to help residents improve their digital literacy skills and maximize the benefits of broadband.
Those applicants included telephone companies, cable companies, satellite, municipal providers, telephone and electric cooperatives and other private provider—71 applications in all. The first grant recipients will be announced the week of January 29th, 2018 and the contracts should be confirmed by March 2018.
The Department will constantly be monitoring the grants with quarterly project status reports and in person monitoring. Hopefully an additional round of applications can be launch in August 2018 if funding is available.
Teacher Preparation Programs
In the Education and Planning Committee’s presentation Executive Director Mike Krause addressed teacher preparation programs. Approximately 4,000 teachers graduate from teacher preparation programs each year with the majority being from public universities.
The committee addresses that nearly half of all teacher preparation programs in the state’s colleges and universities are in the second to lowest performance categories for effectiveness. The program wants to improve teacher effectiveness, and also introduce the State Board’s redesigned report card.
The state Board’s redesigned report card is user-friendly, focused, informative, and accessible. The report card will focus on candidate profile, employment, and provide impact. The report card will be able to show the progression of the school overtime by comparing years, and by examining overall scoring.
The report card will also allow people to see which school has better employment rates after the teacher has graduated. For example UT Martin is doing very well with their students getting teaching jobs after graduation.
The reaction from the universities has thus far been overwhelmingly positive. The only obstacle that the program has faced is the requirement that the school must produce a certain amount of graduates. In order for this program to be as effective as possible the President of the college needs to be involved.
The General Assembly is expected to take up legislation this year to improve the programs.
House Republicans Look Forward to Successful 2018 Session
The House of Representatives started its second week of session with committee hearing proposed legislation and speakers on how programs approved by previous legislation action are progressing.Governor Haslam is also working on his legislative agenda, notifying lawmakers he will soon unveil his agenda for the year.
On Monday, January 29th, lawmakers will hear from the Governor as part of his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature. During this televised speech, the Governor will unveil his full legislative package for 2018, and legislators and the public will receive details about his proposed state budget.
While many politicians in Washington and around the country continue policies of reckless spending and partisan bickering, lawmakers in Tennessee proudly passed a state budget that exercised fiscal restraint, saved money for the future, and fully-funded the state’s educational priorities.
Because of this stark contrast with the rest of the nation, Tennessee has rapidly climbed the ladder over the last several years as one of the overall best-managed states in the nation. Coupled with the fact that Tennessee is one of only a handful of states with a higher bond rating than that of the federal government — a major indicator that showcases our state’s stable fiscal environment — it is easy to see why so many are looking to Tennessee for economic guidance.
Awards for the most recent round of rankings for the state include:
- Being named the 3rd best state in the nation for business by Business Facilities Magazine;
- Placing 2nd place in Site Selection magazine’s annual Prosperity Cup, which ranks states based on overall tax and business climate;
- Ranking 2nd in the country for transportation/road quality and 2nd in cost of living by CNBC;
- And being named the #1 state in the nation for retirement by Bankrate.com.
These accolades are in addition to the other accomplishments Republican lawmakers have achieved since 2011, including cutting more than $800 million in taxes over the last 7 years, the lowest unemployment rate in state history, and education advancements that have led to the fastest improving student test scores in the entire country.
There is no doubt that in Tennessee, things are moving in the right direction. Through a strong partnership of the General Assembly’s Republican majority and the work of Governor Bill Haslam, Tennessee has been successful in attracting job-creators, inspiring entrepreneurs, and putting people back to work. While Washington and many states around the country are struggling to come together, Tennessee is truly doing things the right way.
Rep. Curtis Johnson
606 Cordell Hull Building
Nashville, TN 37243
For more information about the Tennessee General Assembly, check our website at www.capitol.tn.gov