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HomePoliticsCurtis Johnson: News from the Tennessee Capitol, April 8th, 2018

Curtis Johnson: News from the Tennessee Capitol, April 8th, 2018

Written by Curtis Johnson
Tennessee State Representative

Tennessee State Representative - District 68

Nashville, TN – Thursday, April 5th, was a great day for Austin Peay State University as the Animal Science Facility was named for Brock Blick, an 11-year old boy who died tragically in a hunting accident 18 months ago. 

Because Brock had a real love for cows and farming,  the family decided to honor their son and his memory by establishing the Brock Blick Endowed Scholarship in Agriculture at Austin Peay State University. 

The Building was named in Brock’s honor.

Austin Peay State University dedicates Brock Blink Animal Science Facility.
Austin Peay State University dedicates Brock Blink Animal Science Facility.

Tennessee Reconnect

Application Process Remains Open for Tennessee Reconnect until April 15th

House Republicans joined with Governor Bill Haslam this week to announce the application process remains open, until April 15th, for adults to enroll tuition-free this fall at a community or technical college through Tennessee Reconnect.

Following the first week of the application process being open, over 4,000 applications were submitted — a record start in helping adults who want to go back to school to advance their futures.

Tennessee Reconnect builds off the groundbreaking Tennessee Promise program — which provides high school graduates two years of tuition-free community or technical college — by establishing a last-dollar scholarship for adults to earn an associate degree or technical certificate free of tuition or mandatory fees.

Both Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Promise are programs under the Drive to 55, an initiative spearheaded by lawmakers to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. Studies show that by 2025, at least half the jobs in Tennessee will require a college degree or certificate.

Early results of the Tennessee Promise program show that students participating in the program are succeeding at higher rates than their peers. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to offer all citizens, both high school graduates and adults, the chance to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate tuition-free.

Those interested in applying for Tennessee Reconnect can do so by following these 4 simple steps:

  • Complete the application at TNReconnect.gov;
  • Apply to a local community college or eligible Tennessee Reconnect institution;
  • File the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) at http://FAFSA.ed.gov;
  • And enroll in a degree or certificate program at least part-time.

To be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, a student must not already hold an associate or bachelor’s degree, must be a Tennessee resident for at least one year, and be determined as an independent student on the FAFSA.

For additional information about how to get involved with Tennessee Reconnect, click here.

Juvenile Justice Bills

Juvenile Justice Bills To Be Heard In House Finance, Ways and Means Next Week

The House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee will take up legislation to allow Basic Education Program (BEP) funds to “follow the child” to a learning center when a youth has been ordered by a juvenile court to attend a non-public school.  Currently, there are only two caveats for BEP dollars going to non-Local Education Agency (LEA) settings–children for whose education the state is directly responsible and those in residential mental health facilities.

House Bill 1607 would add a third caveat for youth who are court ordered to attend a Tennessee Department of Education-approved non-public school in order to prevent children from entering state custody.

There are presently four Teen Learning Centers in Tennessee funded with the Department of Children’s Service’s Custody Prevention Funds.  All youth served in these centers come through their respective county juvenile court orders and have a variety of status and juvenile offenses that put them at serious risk of entering state custody. 

The vast majority of youth served by these prevention and early intervention programs has either been removed from their local school system due to zero-tolerance offenses or have chronic truancy issues.  Approximately 90 percent of students discharged from the centers remain out of juvenile court.

The House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee will also consider legislation authorizing certain courts to establish pilot regional juvenile drug court treatment programs.  House Bill 1774 would allow parents to opt their children into supervision by regional juvenile drug courts in order to get structured treatment to aid in recovery from addiction.

Presently, the only way to get at-risk youth into treatment is for the child to be in the criminal court system or under the Department of Children’s Services. This legislation allows parents, through a pilot program of 500 individuals, to put their children under the care of a judge and allows the judge to be the quarterback of their care.  This pilot program would begin July 1st, 2018 and end June 30th, 2023. 

Elderly or Vulnerable Adults

House Criminal Justice committee To Consider Legislation To Continue Efforts To Protect Elderly and Vulnerable Adults

Legislation increasing penalties for exploitation or abuse of an elderly or vulnerable adult will be considered next week, by the House Criminal Justice Committee.  Continuing the General Assembly’s ongoing efforts to protect Tennessee’s senior citizens, House Bill 2159 enacts the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2018. 

This legislation follows an enactment of a series of bills passed over the last two years protecting Tennesseans who are elderly or have diminished capacity from physical abuse and various forms of financial exploitation. 

The proposed act is designed to streamline and complete the organization of existing code provisions addressed in legislation passed by the General Assembly last year, and to close a loophole which exist in Tennessee’s elder abuse law.  The legislation defines certain crimes more broadly; thereby, ensuring that certain criminal activities don’t fall through the cracks because they don’t fit neatly into some of the existing definitions set out in current law.

The legislation draws distinctions between types of physical abuse of the elderly, increasing penalties for certain types of aggravated abuse including rape and murder.  It creates a Class E felony offense for a person to knowingly abuse, neglect, or sexually exploit an elderly person, and Class D felony offense for doing the same to a vulnerable adult.  It also increases fines for elder physical abuse and sexual exploitation.

Statue of Limitations / Sexual Offenses

On the House Floor Calendar next week, House Bill 2536 will be voted on to instruct the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to conduct a study and report back next year on the effectiveness of the state’s statutes of limitations, including crimes involving sexual offenses against children. 

According to the National Center for Victims Rights, most states have a basic suspension of the statute of limitations for civil actions while a person is a minor.  Many states have also adopted additional extensions, specifically for cases involving sexual abuse of children and a handful of states have removed the statute of limitation completely for child sex crimes.

Controlled Substances / Medication Assisted Treatment

Legislation seeking to update Tennessee law to keep up with changing pharmacology regarding treatment options for patients with substance abuse disorders passed both Houses and is on its way to the Governor for his action.   There are two medications generally used to treat substance abuse disorders: the mono-product, buprenorphine, and the combination product, buprenorphine and naloxone.  

Current law provides that only in specific circumstances can patients be prescribed the mono-product to treat substance abuse disorders due to its desirability on the street and potential for abuse.  In all other circumstances, a patient is prescribed the combination product which counters a potential overdose.  However, a new injectable version of the mono-product that must be administered by a healthcare professional is now on the market.

House Bill 2002 allows for the new injectable mono-product to be used for people with substance abuse disorder, while also maintaining that only the same specific subset of patients are allowed to receive the mono-product in forms other than the injectable version. 

Volunteer Firefighters – Vehicle Registration Fees

The House Finance Ways, and Means Committee will consider legislation that would exempt volunteer firefighters or rescue squad members from having to pay the regular registration fee for their license plate.  Funding for this legislation, House  Bill 268 is included in Governor Haslam’s appropriation amendment submitted to the legislature last month. 

TDOT / Three-Year Transportation Program 

The Tennessee Department of Transportation released their annual three-year transportation program this week, featuring approximately $2.6 billion in infrastructure investments for 143 individual project phases on 116 projects.  The program also places a high emphasis on the repair and replacement of bridges, with activities beginning on 80 structures.  Ten of those bridges are on the state highway system, with the other 70 on local roads. 

The comprehensive program continues to build on the progress of the IMPROVE Act, which provides for infrastructure investments in all 95 counties.  This year’s program budgets dollars for 195 of the 962 projects listed as part of the 2017 legislation.  A complete list of projects and programs funded through the 2019-2021 three-year multimodal program can be viewed on the department’s website.  

For an interactive map view of the 962 IMPROVE Act projects, please visit www.tdot.tn.gov/projectneeds/spot#

Small Cell / 5G Technology

Major legislation passed the House this week to accelerate investment in mobile broadband infrastructure and prepare the State of Tennessee for the next wave of economic development in the digital economy via 5G technology.  House Bill 2279 creates a uniform, statewide and predictable application and deployment process for small cell wireless broadband providers no matter what community is being served. 

Once implemented, it would enhance existing networks and encourage wireless broadband providers to invest in the latest small cell technology.  Studies show that deployment of 5G alone will create more than 16,000 new jobs in Tennessee.  It would also lead to more than $1 billion in investment and grow the state GDP by nearly $3 billion.  The legislation now goes to the full Senate for final consideration.

Contact Information

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 


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