NASHVILLE, May 15, 2017– Last week in the General Assembly, we put the finishing touches on the first half of the 110th TN General Assembly.
On Monday and Tuesday, all House committees completed their business. Bill after bill moved through the House Finance Ways and Means Subcommittee, then subsequently the entire Finance Committee. Weeks ago, we passed an exception to House rules that is commonly referred to as the “flow motion.” The flow motion is typically implemented to allow budget procedures to move quickly through the committee process without meeting obligatory waiting periods before becoming eligible to be heard in another committee. The rule applies to all pieces of viable legislation moving through the House. This makes it extremely important to remain vigilant as we consider bills near the end of the session.
Since the budget was officially completed on Monday (see more below), there were still several pieces of legislation we needed to consider which either had no fiscal impact or were included in the budget. If a proposal is not funded in the budget and is expected to cost the state, it is effectively removed from consideration.
The Finance Committees continued their work throughout Tuesday by moving bills on to the House floor. As result of a backlog in the Senate, we recessed for the evening around 6 PM on Tuesday. We returned Wednesday morning to take up final rounds of legislation and reconcile any differences in those bills with the Senate. Just after 2 PM on Wednesday the first session of the 110th General Assembly adjourned until January 9, 2018.
General Assembly Passes FY17-18 Budget
This week, the General Assembly passed its $37 billion budget.The budget takes into account $17.9 million in state revenues and 13.5 billion federal dollars. It considers a conservative economic growth factor of 3.17% annually and realizes a reduction of $127 million in the base budget.
Among the appropriations in this year’s budget is nearly a $250 million increase in health-related investment including: $1 million for home and community based care choices for elderly, $1.4 million to combat elderly abuse and exploitation, $10 million for children’s services, $26 million for mental health,$181 million increase for TennCare, $10.5 million for fire relief for East Tennessee, and $1 million for food banks across the state. Other appropriations include:
• Business Growth:
o $113 million in franchise and excise tax cuts
o Over $200 million additional for fully funding BEP
o Over $200 million for teachers
o $8.9 million for the STRONG Act
• Infrastructure Investments
o $150 million in new recurring revenue for infrastructure
o $175 million in one-time funding for infrastructure
o Over $20 million for new rural investments
o Over $45 million for broadband
• $130 million for rainy day fund
• $660 million for capital improvements
These budget bills have been sent to Governor Haslam for his signature. In my opinion this budget reflects a great deal of overspending. When we have extra cash at our house, we pay down debt, save more and are very cautious about what we spend. We should not have had to raise taxes when the state has collected two billion dollars in excess tax revenue for the past two years. Also, the budget has grown substantially in the last few years. We should learn to live within our means in our state just like we do in our homes. Government should not grow at a greater pace then the growth of our citizens.
Autonomous Vehicles Allowed to Be Tested in Tennessee
On Tuesday, the Senate passed (HB0381/SB0151) allowing autonomous vehicles to begin testing on Tennessee roads. The House passed the legislation last week. While the bill allows the deployment and use of autonomous vehicles on public roads within the state, there are a number of restrictions on those using the vehicles. Restrictions include: a minimum liability insurance amount of $5,000,000, must have a human in the driver’s seat as a backup driver in cases of vehicle automation malfunction, and must maintain meticulous incident records for each vehicle.
The new law will only apply to vehicle manufacturers who wish to design and test their vehicles on public roads. These manufacturers will be liable for any damages their vehicles cause where the vehicle is at fault. However, the manufacturer will not be liable if anyone has tampered with the autonomous software without the manufacturer’s consent.
The manufacturer will also be required to fulfill the amount the state deems necessary to implement the bill. Additionally, the autonomous vehicle and the manufacturer must still comply with all applicable federal laws. It also creates the offense of driving without a person in the driver’s seat of the vehicle and assigns a class A misdemeanor.
Automobile manufacturers project autonomous vehicle usage will increase significantly in the coming years. The technology has been in place for a few years and testing continues to be carried out.
Our Office is Always Available for You
I am extremely thankful for the support everyone throughout our district has shown my office this session. Your input is key to my ability to effectively serve Maury County. I also owe a heartfelt thank you to Jan Wright who selflessly serves my office every day. She is a tremendous asset to District 64.
As always, I hope you will feel free to stay in touch with me anytime you have questions or concerns. To contact our office you may call (615) 741-3005.