The Tennessee General Assembly
Susan M. Lynn
House of Representatives
CAPITOL HILL REVIEW
A weekly wrap-up of legislative news
Republican Leaders Unveil ‘Tennessee Together’ Plan To Help Combat Opioid Epidemic
While the federal government has only just commenced conversation about the opioid epidemic, Tennessee leads the way in fighting the situation here at home. On Monday afternoon, Governor Haslam joined with Republican leaders to unveil a new initiative to combat the state’s opioid problem head on: Tennessee Together.
Tennessee Together is a multi-faceted plan comprised of legislation, $30 million in funds through Governor Haslam’s proposed 2018-2019 budget, and other executive actions to battle opioids through the three major components of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. The plan incorporates recommendations made by Speaker Beth Harwell’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Opioid Abuse.
In 2016, there were over 1,600 opioid related overdose deaths, one of the highest in the nation, and statistics show the numbers are only increasing. Each day in Tennessee, at least three people die from opioid-related overdoses — more than the daily number of traffic fatalities.
Potential legislative solutions through Tennessee Together include limiting the supply and dosage of opioid prescriptions, with reasonable exception and an emphasis on new patients, as well as education for elementary and secondary schools through revisions to the state’s health education academic standards.
Additionally, the plan suggests investing more than $25 million for treatment and recovery services for individuals with opioid use disorder. These services will include an increase in peer recovery specialists in targeted, high-need emergency departments to connect patients to treatment immediately.
Tennessee Together increases state funding to attack the illicit sale and trafficking of opioids through additional law enforcement agencies and training, and includes updates to the controlled substance schedules in order to better track, monitor, and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs — including fentanyl. Finally, the plan provides every Tennessee state trooper with naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose prior to paramedic arrival.
House Republicans are dedicated to working closely with the Governor to address Tennessee’s opioid problem as the Second Regular Session of the 110th General Assembly continues. While steps have been taken in the right direction over the last several years, there is still much work to do on the opioid front.
Next week, the Governor will deliver his annual State of the State Address where additional details of the Tennessee Together plan are expected to be unveiled and discussed.
Welfare Reform Initiative Gains Support From House Republicans
This year, House Republicans are leading efforts to reform Tennessee’s welfare system. Last fall, the Haslam Administration announced an initiative to reinstate the work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents who rely on the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for assistance.
By reinstituting work requirements, approximately 58,000 able-bodied adults who are not currently meeting the work requirement but still receive assistance will now be able to capitalize on an overabundance of jobs in order to secure meaningful employment. This will help move them along a pathway from dependency to independence and self-sufficiency.
The restoration of these stipulations will not impact residents who currently depend on these key benefits in 16 Tennessee counties still designated as distressed by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. They will also not apply to Tennessee’s senior citizens or disabled residents.
This new welfare reform initiative not only encourages more Tennesseans to utilize their job skills to go back to work and be productive citizens, but also strengthens the overall integrity of the SNAP program by reinstating work requirements
As Republican leaders, the House GOP Caucus want Tennessee residents to have meaningful employment so they can take care of their families and make contributions that enable communities to continue their economic development and prosperity.
House Republican Caucus Rebrands
Earlier this week, the House Republican Caucus announced a statewide rebranding initiative — including a new logo and video — which recaps the successes Tennessee has experienced since Republicans became the majority party in 2011.
Under Republican leadership, nearly 400,000 new private sector jobs have been created. Last September, the state unemployment rate reached a record low of 3.0 percent. The current unemployment rate is 3.2 percent — almost a full percent lower than the national average. Additionally, the Republican-led General Assembly has cut nearly three times as much in taxes as any other Administration and General Assembly in state history.
Tennessee students are also the fastest improving in the entire country, and Tennessee is the first state in the nation to offer all kids and adults access to community college free of tuition and fees.
Tennessee has the lowest debt per capita, lowest overall taxes, no transportation debt, and the lowest interest rate in state recorded history. House Republicans have also more than doubled the state’s savings account since 2011, and the fund is now at its highest level ever.
Recently, WalletHub ranked Tennessee the number 1 state to be a taxpayer, based on the state’s conservative monetary decisions, low tax structure, and other key fiscal indicators. Other studies rank Tennessee similarly.
The new rebranding initiative by House Republicans outlines the commitment to Tennessee’s values, and highlights the hard work completed and still needed to advance the state.
To view the new House GOP Caucus logo and video, visit: www.facebook.com/tnhousegop.