House Republicans Pass Legislation Creating Balance Within Community Oversight Boards

This week in Nashville, House Republicans passed House Bill 658, which will create balance within community oversight boards across Tennessee.

House Bill 658 balances both the interests of our citizens to voice their opinion while also protecting the fundamental rights of police officers and their families from malicious or politically focused persecution.

Community oversight boards have existed since the 1950s, and there are presently no guidelines outlined in Tennessee state law that defines how they are created, who can serve on them, and what their specific function is. This measure provides much needed structure to all current and future community oversight boards in Tennessee, which is critical to their overall success, as well as overall safety in our state.

House Republicans agree that no officer who acts in an unprofessional or unlawful manner should receive a free pass. In fact, Republican lawmakers believe those who protect and serve our communities must be held to higher standards. Additionally, we understand the critical need for transparency, and we appreciate the desire of our citizens for more oversight.

House Bill 658 now awaits action in the Senate.

Civic Seal Legislation Moving Through Committee Process In The House

This week, Republican leaders advanced legislation that establishes the Governor’s Civics Seal program.

House Bill 944 recognizes Tennessee’s public schools and school districts that implement high-quality civic education because it is essential to preserving our constitutional democracy. This initiative seeks to promote efforts to increase access to quality civics education, while also developing specific standards by which schools can implement the Civics Seal program. These standards include instructional criteria, professional development for teachers, project-based assessment implementation, real-world learning activities, and high-performance on Tennessee’s mandated exam for our high school seniors.

While our state currently mandates civics exams, Tennessee’s high school seniors are not required to pass this exam to graduate. Currently, schools are also insufficiently teaching students the basic principles of civics. As a result, fewer and fewer individuals are obtaining basic institutional knowledge. According to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, a majority of Americans in each state except Vermont would fail a test based on questions included in the U.S. citizenship test.

Only 38 percent of Tennesseans would currently pass the citizenship test and just 13 percent would score a B or higher. While these numbers are higher than most of our neighboring states in the southeast, we can, and we must improve.

House Republicans will continue to support legislation like House Bill 944 because these initiatives strengthen the academic foundations of Tennessee’s future leaders.

School Safety Legislation Passes Out Of Education Committee

On Wednesday, members of the House Education Committee supported a new investment to secure our Tennessee schools.

Backed by Republican leadership and Governor Lee, House Bill 947 proposes a $40 million investment for the school safety grant fund and additional changes to existing law to prioritize the distribution of these grants to help secure school resource officers and additional safety measures.

Currently, 500 Tennessee schools do not have SROs. Legislation filed will provide additional changes to existing law to prioritize the distribution of these grants to fill these positions.

The proposal also focuses on our underserved counties working to secure schools and fill SRO positions by adjusting limited match requirements.

House Bill 947 now heads to the House Finance, Ways, & Means Committee for additional review and discussion.

Sergeant Baker Bill Continues To Advance In The House

Republicans continue to advance House Bill 258, commonly known as the Sergeant Baker Act.

This bill removes the intermediate appeal to the court of criminal appeals in death penalty cases and provides for automatic direct review by the Tennessee Supreme Court for convictions for which a sentence of death is imposed. Additionally, House Bill 258 removes the direct appeal from the trial court to the court of criminal appeals and instead provides that when the judgment has become final in trial court, the conviction and death sentence will be automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court.

As referenced by media reports, this bill is named after Sgt. Daniel Baker, a Dickson County Sheriff’s Sergeant who was shot and killed in May of last year. Steven Wiggins and Erika Castro-Miles have been charged with first-degree murder, and the district attorney’s office is seeking the death penalty for both.

House Republicans stand with Sgt. Baker’s family and the families of all of our police officers and emergency personnel we have lost in the line of duty. We are grateful for their service to our state, and we will fight to ensure their legacies are not forgotten.

Republican Leaders Pass Legislation To Stop Elder Abuse

This week, House Republicans supported House Bill 249 on Thursday, in efforts to stop elder abuse in Tennessee.

House Bill 249 requires the task force to assess the current status of elders and other vulnerable adults covered by the Tennessee Adult Protection Act related to financial exploitation. The panel will also examine existing barriers, services, and resources addressing the needs of these elder persons and vulnerable adults. Additionally the group will develop recommendations to address problems associated with the financial exploitation of these important groups. 

Elder abuse has many forms, including physical abuse, neglect, emotional or psychological abuse, financial abuse and exploitation, sexual abuse, and abandonment. According to the National Council for Aging, 1 in 10 Americans age 60 or older have experienced some form of elder abuse.

Our senior citizens have made lasting contributions to their communities, and they desperately need our help. House Republicans will continue working to address this important issue so we can protect our elderly and vulnerable citizens. 

Lawmakers Celebrate Annual ‘Ag Day On The Hill’ Event

House lawmakers joined with farmers and agriculture groups from across the state this week to celebrate Tennessee’s annual ‘Ag Day on the Hill’ event at the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville.

The event coincides with National Agriculture Week and recognizes the important contributions of farmers and forestland owners provide to the state and nation.

This year’s ‘Ag Day on the Hill’ focused on forestry as House and Senate Leadership, as well as the Governor squared off in a log sawing competition. The day also included farm animals and gave representatives from agricultural organizations and agencies an opportunity to discuss farming and forestry in Tennessee.

According to Tennessee Farm Bureau, the USDA, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Tennessee has more than 66,000 farms representing 10 million acres in production. Approximately 80 percent of land is used for agricultural purposes — including forestry. Additionally, 98 percent of our farms are owned by families and agriculture has a $3.3 billion economic impact on Tennessee.  

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