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Business, Free Enterprise and Constitutional Issues; Pro-Life and Pro Second Amendment. Susan Lynn is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. She serves as Chairman of the Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee and on the Finance Ways and Means Committee. She holds a BS in economics and a minor in history.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

TENNESSEE CHALLENGES TRANS DIRECTIVE - Major Announcement from the Tennessee Attorney General's Office - Tennessee Joins Texas and other states to challenge the transgender directive by the Obama Administration.

Tennessee is Triple-A All the Way

The State of Tennessee now holds the highest bond ratings issued by all three major credit rating agencies. Tennessee’s triple triple-A status reflects the extremely strong confidence the rating agencies have in the State’s capacity to meet its financial commitments.

The State has been informed that it is now rated AAA by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. S&P conducted a mid-year review and upgraded Tennessee’s rating from AA+ to AAA. The other two rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Services and Fitch Ratings, have provided Tennessee with their highest ratings of AAA and AAA, respectively, since 2010.

S&P’s report cited Tennessee’s strengthening economy, growing reserves, positive year-to-date performance, and continuous sound management of its long-term liabilities. Tennessee’s preliminary unemployment rate for April 2016 was 4.3%, which is below the U.S. preliminary rate of 5%. Additionally, the Tennessee General Assembly recently appropriated an additional $100 million to the state’s rainy day fund, increasing the fiscal year 2017 balance to $668 million.

These first-class ratings will translate into lower interest rates when the state borrows money, and may result in substantial savings for taxpayers.

"For the first time since 2000 and for only the second time in state history Tennessee has a triple triple-A rating from the credit ratings agencies, one of 11 states to receive this status," Gov. Bill Haslam said. "The state's Rainy Day Fund is more than double what it was in 2011, and we have the lowest debt per capita of any state, no transportation debt and recently recorded the lowest interest rate in state history. The balanced budget the General Assembly just passed takes on no new debt. This historical accomplishment is a result of the strengthening Tennessee economy and the conservative fiscal strategy implemented by the General

Assembly, constitutional officers and this administration. Today's news from Standard and Poor’s will save Tennesseans' tax dollars and allow us to continue our efforts to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible cost."

"Tennessee has one of the lowest debt burdens in the country and our elected officials are committed to living within our means,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Our triple triple-A status is an extraordinary achievement that benefits all Tennesseans.”

“Tennessee’s low taxes, excellent balance sheet, and reasonable regulations have helped create one of the best business environments in the nation,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “The Governor and General Assembly should be commended for the state’s financial management.”

“Tennessee has one of the highest funded pension plans in the nation, and the General Assembly has appropriated money to fully fund employer contributions since 1972,” Treasurer David Lillard said. “The management of our long-term liabilities contributes to these outstanding ratings.”

Issued by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury

Email: comptroller.web@cot.tn.gov

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

100% FACT

Very Proud of my 100% rating from the Family Action Council of Tennessee. 

Ranked a FACT Champion!

See your yourself - click here

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Delay in the Restroom Bill

I regret that I have had to delay the restroom bill this session.  I have heard from many on both sides of this issue, and to those who support the bill I hope you will trust that my need to delay will strengthen our position in the long run. 

Please know that just because I am delaying the bill it does NOT mean that anything in our schools changes.  Currently biological boys use the boys room and biological girls use the girls room – schools find other solutions for students who do not like that arrangement.

Here is the current status; in actuality, few students across our state ever declare that they want to use the restroom of the opposite sex and of those most change their mind again.  As just stated, Tennessee school districts are largely already doing what my bill is seeking to ensure.  I struggle with discussing outstanding issues with the bill without at the same time stirring up opponents by exposing the various outstanding issues for which I need the bill to account. 

As for misconceptions; the restroom bill only applies to public school restrooms – not to businesses and not to local government facilities; rest assured that the societal norm of restrooms divisioned by biological sex is still the societal norm. 

My bill relies on authority derived from Title IX of the education act and the purpose of the bill is to protect the privacy rights of all students.  Very simply under the bill, boys use the boys room, girls use the girls room and accommodations can be made for anyone who is unhappy with that arrangement.  From what I have learned, the ACLU is only interested in protecting their client; any student who claims to be transgender. 

Rule of thumb, when you go to court you pick your case.  In our case, we already know that upon passage we will be sued and we have simply run out of time to correct outstanding concerns.  So with important details outstanding, are we willing to risk losing and having the will of the ACLU implemented across our entire state?  Our schools are already protecting the children as we would want so should we create a law with weaknesses or is it safer to leave things as they are for now? 

This bill has scratched the surface of something we did not know was going on - activist doctors who are immorally giving prepubescent children hormones of the opposite sex. This is done because in the words on one witness they horrifically “get a better result” when started when the child is so young.  

If we lose a statewide lawsuit in Tennessee, and a court determines that sex is not biological but whatever one may claim, how do we then stop such doctors from harming these small children? How do businesses continue to justify separate restrooms, and how do our local governments justify separate facilities at our community parks?   

My bill was championed by a public policy group and I am grateful for their efforts but when I and others realized constraints that needed to be resolved it seems that the group was too invested and had gone too far to allow us more time as if they couldn’t disappoint their members.  However, we can’t operate that way when making state law that will affect so many and stands to lose so much.  Unfortunately, whether they realize it or not, the group began to paint good legislators as villains to their own constituents when in fact the legislators were very supportive of the bill but they were simply trying to take the time needed to think it through.

There is an old saying that we use in the legislature quite often; sometimes the slower you go the faster you get there.

My goal is to protect the privacy rights of our students – from very small to college age.  I can easily pass a bill intended to do so but my concern is to craft the bill well enough to withstand an attack from those who would like nothing more than the opportunity to get their will implemented in our state with one sure and swift strike by the court. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Weekly Wrap - April 17, 2016

Budget Highlights

The 109th General Assembly is drawing to a close – we should dismiss sine die on this coming Tuesday.  Here are the highlights of this year’s budget.

·                 34.9 billion, balanced budget

·                 Budget includes no new debt, and all capital projects are funded with cash

·                 Includes over $356 million in projects for parks, veterans, military, corrections, and
children services

·                 Continued investment in employees — the budget includes over $85 million addressing employee compensation, health insurance premiums, and retiree’s health insurance

·                 A historic investment in K-12 education — the largest in state history without a tax increase — and includes recurring funds of $104.6 million to fund salary increases for teachers, $29.5 million to fund the 12th month of teacher insurance, $13.9 million for additional English Language Learning teachers and translators, and $3.6 million for training teachers and principals

·                 Total state funding for the BEP is nearly $4.5 billion in FY17. Funding to the BEP is increased by $38.8 million this year to address inflationary growth, plus $19 million for student enrollment growth

·                 Budget includes $1.7 billion for higher education, including $50 million recurring for outcomes formula productivity increases at UT and TBR institutions. Funds of almost $297.8 million non-recurring are included for capital improvements and maintenance at higher education institutions, and over $24 million non-recurring is provided for the Drive to 55 Program Capacity Fund

·                 $10 million non-recurring allocated for competitive grants to align local equipment needs with workforce needs for our community colleges and TCATS. $13.2 million recurring investment to award need-based scholarships to students

·                 The Department of Safety has additional funds to add 12 new Highway Patrol officers, plus an additional $4.1 million for salary adjustments for its commissioned officers. Budget ensures troopers will receive 100% of their salary survey funding
  • Budget includes funding to increase the number of drug recovery courts from 41 to 50 and for two additional veterans courts, funds for four additional TBI forensic agents to help analyze and process data confiscated in the course of investigating crimes like sex trafficking, and funding for support staff in training for elder abuse to the District Attorneys General Conference

·                 We are investing in our state parks by increasing maintenance funding by $3 million recurring. $54.7 million is provided for capital improvements and maintenance at state parks

·                 TennCare’s total budget is $10.9 billion and includes $54 million for a new initiative, the Employment and Community First Choices Program, to assist persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities

·                 Property tax relief for low-income elderly or disabled individuals and disabled veterans is funded at over $37 million

·                 ECD has over $133 million in new funding to recruit jobs and invest in our local economies and $10 million for the Rural Economic Opportunity Propelling Rural Economic Progress (PREP) program fund

·                 Budget includes several major investments to help keep communities safe and prisons secure, with $18 million for the Public Safety Act to help reduce state recidivism rates and more efficiently sentence violent offenders

·                 Budget repays $142 million taken from Highway Fund and designates $42 million to counties for local road and bridge projects

·                 Budget recognizes over $27 million in adjustments to reduce the Hall Income Tax from 6% to 5% — reducing the total amount paid by 17% over last year and with the legislative intent to eliminate the tax completely by 2021

·                 Budget appropriates $100 million to the state Rainy Day Fund, bringing the balance to $668 million on June 30, 2017. This is the highest balance since 2008

I serve on the House Finance Ways and Means Committee.  Each year at the end of Session there is a lot of anger over fiscal notes and bills that are not funded in the Finance, Ways and Means Committee. Bill sponsors are frequently surprised to learn how much their bill will cost the taxpayers.  Click to Read More...

Speaker Beth Harwell, House Republicans Announce Formation Of Healthcare Task Force
Task force to develop 3-Star Healthy Project

House Republicans joined with Speaker Beth Harwell this week to announce the formation of a Healthcare Task Force for the purpose of improving access to care, named the 3-Star Healthy Project. The group made the announcement on Tuesday, joined by the members of the Task Force, Governor Bill Haslam, and other healthcare stakeholders.

Tennessee is known for innovation in its Medicaid program. It was one of the first states to move all enrollees to Managed Care Organizations and is on the leading edge of implementing payment reform and rewarding value in healthcare delivery. The 3-Star Healthy Project will build on this reputation for innovation with Tennessee principles and Tennessee solutions.

The 3-Star Healthy Project’s Task Force will be charged with developing a list of options for making TennCare more efficient and increasing access to care for Tennesseans.

These options will be tested through a set of pilots. One concept under consideration is that the pilots would be launched in different areas of the state and successful pilots would be phased in over time. Staggered implementation would ensure that the rollout of the 3-Star Healthy Project proceeds only after key benchmarks are met. Phased implementation timelines are widely used in quality improvement initiatives in the health care sector: they would allow Tennessee to monitor the success of three pilots to determine which work best for Tennesseans and control costs the most.

Initial discussions among members yielded the following examples of conservative ideas for the pilots:

·                 Encouraging enrollees to take more responsibility for their health and use of healthcare services.

·                 Creating Health Savings Accounts funded by enrollees’ premiums to pay copayments for doctor’s visits and prescriptions.

·                 Providing support for enrollees who want to re-enter the workforce.

Another unique feature of the Project the Task Force will consider is the concept of thresholds and “circuit breakers.” In order for these pilots to be implemented beyond an initial area, costs from the previous phase of implementation could not exceed a predetermined benchmark. The Task Force is charged with identifying such benchmarks, as well as an overall “circuit breaker,” which would immediately end a pilot should the state’s share of costs increase.

The Task Force will evaluate these ideas and others brought to the attention of its members over the next two months. The Speaker has asked the Task Force to return a report to her in June.

House Of Representatives Approves Legislation To Help Citizens Wrongly Convicted of Violent Crimes

The Tennessee House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation this week to help ensure innocent individuals are not wrongly put to death for crimes they did not commit. House Bill 2377 requires law enforcement officials to indefinitely keep biological evidence collected for cases in which the defendant is sentenced to death or life without parole.

Under the legislation, all biological evidence gathered in relation to a crime in which the defendant received a death sentence must be preserved by officials until the person has passed away or all related charges that led to the conviction have been dismissed.

Over the years, there have been cases across the state where accused lawbreakers have been sentenced to death row, but that have later been released based on new advances in DNA and biological evidence examination.

By now requiring law enforcement to preserve this type of evidence, supporters hope that others will not have to experience wrongful conviction in the future.

Having passed both the House and Senate, the bill now will go to the Governor for his signature before becoming law. Additional information regarding this legislation can be found at the General Assembly website at http://goo.gl/IqR2Cx.

Prescription Safety Act Passes House With Bipartisan Support

Legislation spearheaded by House Republicans to make permanent the comprehensive prescription reform set forth in Tennessee’s Prescription Safety Act of 2012 has been approved on final consideration.

As passed in 2012, the law ensured that healthcare professionals tap into the state’s Controlled Substance Monitoring System when prescribing certain scheduled drugs.

The update to the Prescription Safety Act passed this week is in response to both the Governor’s Prescription for Success, a multi-year strategic plan to curb opiate abuse, and the 2015 comptroller’s audit of the state’s controlled substance monitoring database and prescription safety laws. In both documents, it was determined that while the state is making great strides in combating the prescription drug epidemic gripping the nation, more can be done.

This year’s proposal removes the sunset put in the 2012 law removes exemptions from reporting and checking of the controlled substance monitoring database recognized by the comptroller as potential loopholes.

Further, it increases the state’s ability to partner with federal agencies and other states to share information in an effort to stop prescription leakage from Tennessee’s borders, while still protecting patient records.

This year’s proposal makes bold but reasonable strides in cutting back the prescription opioids flooding Tennessee streets, while not overburdening healthcare practitioner’s care.

House Lawmakers Announce Selection Of Eight Tennessee Counties Chosen To Participate In ‘Select Tennessee Property Evaluation Program’
Counties chosen by state to help expand area economic development

House lawmakers joined with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) today to announce the selection of eight Tennessee Counties chosen to participate in the spring round of the Select Tennessee Property Evaluation Program (PEP). The areas selected include Fayette, Humphreys, Lawrence, Maury, Scott, Unicoi, Van Buren, and White Counties

Launched in 2015, the purpose of PEP is to improve the inventory of industrial sites and buildings in Tennessee by evaluating potential properties, advising counties on where investment may be most beneficial, and to discover what is needed to address issues found that may be impeding area economic development.

Based on economic development principles found in other ECD programs and with the assistance of site selection firm Austin Consulting, PEP will benefit counties by emphasizing the importance of and assisting with planning for future industrial development.

Supporters of the Select Tennessee Program note that available and up-to-date industrial properties are essential for a community to be competitive in recruiting new business to the area. However, developing and maintaining such an inventory is a difficult task, and many communities do not have a large range of quality properties available for the market. Through the Select Tennessee Program, counties will be able to get assistance from the state that will help in readying industrial properties for near-term development as well as creating a pipeline of properties for future development.

For each county selected to participate in Select Tennessee, the program includes an educational webinar on the site selection process, an on-site visit by Austin Consulting, and a comprehensive assessment addressing each area’s strengths, weaknesses, and recommended next steps to improve marketability.

Selection into the program is based on demonstrated local need for industrial properties and also on the county’s ability to assemble viable properties with market potential.

The application process begins with the submission of a letter of intent which is accepted at any time.

Upon receipt of the letter, counties are provided with the program application. The letter of intent, along with more information about the Select Tennessee Program, can be found by visiting http://goo.gl/Zms3nm.

Prior Wraps
Weekly Wrap - January 24, 2016
Weekly Wrap - March 27, 2016
Weekly Wrap - April 3, 2016
Weekly Wrap - April 10, 2016

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

House Finance, Ways and Means Committee

Each year at the end of Session there is a lot of anger over fiscal notes and bills that are not funded in the Finance, Ways and Means Committee. Bill sponsors are frequently surprised to learn how much their bill will cost the taxpayers. 

The fiscal note's source is the professional opinion of those who will carryout the law, and there is a process to dispute the amount. 

Fiscal note aside, bill sponsors know who is ultimately really at fault when their bill goes unfunded - themselves.  This is because it is up to each sponsor to workout getting their bill funded. While the sponsor isn't responsible for the amount of the fiscal note they are responsible to dispute the amount, find the funding or to amend the bill so that the price tag will go away. 

I am a big process person.  I think when everyone understands the process it empowers all.  I dug up this chart which illustrates the process for bills referred to Finance, Ways and Means.