NASHVILLE, Feb. 19, 2017– For this session, over 1,400 bills have been introduced. It was a full week on Capitol Hill that began
Last Thursday was the bill-filing deadline. Now that the deadline has passed, no new legislation may be introduced. Frequently, representatives will use their existing legislation as a bill, which can later be amended. That means some legislation could change significantly from the version that was originally filed. Many times, I don’t sign on to Legislation until it reaches the House Floor. This is because the original legislation often changes substantially through the committee process. There have been over 1,400 pieces of legislation filed with the House Clerk’s office, which is about the same as in previous Sessions.
I will be sponsoring several pieces of legislation this session. The House of Representatives rules allow each member of the House to submit a maximum of fifteen bills per session. My legislative priorities focus on improving our education system (both K-12 and higher education), shrinking the size of government, lowering taxes,and simplifying taxes. I look forward to keeping you informed about these initiatives as the session moves along.
Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program a Success Story
On Tuesday the Commissioner of Agriculture, Jai Templeton, testified before the Agriculture Committee and described components of the TN Agriculture Enhancement Program or TEAP.
TAEP allows farmers to apply for cost sharing to supplement the building of hay, grain, and other storage facilities. It also assists in farm animal genetic improvement programs, safe animal handling equipment and a number of other infrastructural upgrades. Farmers may apply for the program if certain conditions are met and maintained by the applicants. The commissioner explained that over 5,400 applications were received last year for the cost sharing program.
“The Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program is a cost-share program for Tennessee’s agricultural community. It helps producers maximize farm profits, adjust to shifts in the market, and improve operation safety and efficiency,” said Tennessee Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs, Corinne Gould. “The impact goes beyond the farm. It’s estimated that for every dollar the state invests in TAEP, nearly $4 is generated in the local economy through retail sales and labor expenses. Our goal is to meet the needs of Tennessee’s farmers, and TAEP is constantly improving and adapting to meet those changing needs,” added Gould.
As explained in the hearing, the number of applications for the program has dropped from 6,100 in 2015, to 5,400 in 2016. Although the number of applications dropped, the amount of money distributed through the program remained the same as 2015 at $21 million. This amount, as the committee recognized, is the statutory limit on the program.
The decrease in applications could be explained by the drop in the number of farms in the state or the sharp downturn in the nation’s agricultural economy. However, as Commissioner Templeton explained, the decrease in the number of farms and those participating in agriculture echoes what the rest of the country is going through.
Members of the committee expressed that they were excited to see that despite the drop in applications, the program was doing well and that all the funds were being used to successfully grow Tennessee’s farm infrastructure. Stan and I have used the TAEP cost sharing Program to help with building a hay barn and buying farm operation equipment ourselves. It has helped us to significantly enhance or productivity.
The application period for TAEP is throughout the month of October. Applications and other information can be found online on the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s website. You can also contact our extension office by phone at 931-375-5301.
University Boards Confirmed
The House and Senate confirmed members to six newly structured university oversight boards on Monday evening. The confirmations were required after last year’s passage of the FOCUS Act. The Act, which was an initiative of Governor Haslam, divided the single Board of Regents and created six new individual oversight boards. The objective of the reorganization was to allow each university to make decisions on an autonomous basis. Each board now has the ability to make university specific decisions, whereas prior to the restructure, they were made more broadly. Members were confirmed to serve on governance boards for The University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University, Austin Peay State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Tech University, and East Tennessee State University.
To establish staggered terms for members of the new boards, the Act “provides that the initial terms of the members appointed by the governor to a state university board shall be three (3), four (4), and six (6) years. Three (3) members shall serve a three year term; three (3) members shall serve a four year term; and two (2) members shall serve a six year term.”
The Tennessee Board of Regents remains intact to focus squarely on Tennessee’s 13 community colleges and 27 technical colleges (Including CSCC). This is a role that has grown increasingly important since the state began offering the Tennessee Promise.
Also, noted Economist, Art Laffer, gave a presentation to the Transportation Committee and hailed the great work that Tennessee has accomplished through lowering taxes in the last six years. There is a reason that Tennessee is the place to be! I will elaborate more as the session progresses.