Diverse legislation running the gamut from healthcare to elder financial abuse to a future workforce initiative by Gov. Bill Lee highlighted the weekly “Wrap” report filed by state Reps. Dan …
Diverse legislation running the gamut from healthcare to elder financial abuse to a future workforce initiative by Gov. Bill Lee highlighted the weekly “Wrap” report filed by state Reps. Dan Howell and Mark Hall.
Originated through the House Republican Caucus, the legislative report is distributed locally by Howell (R-Georgetown) who represents the 22nd Legislative District, and Hall (R-Cleveland), representing the 24th Legislative District.
Howell’s district includes Polk, Meigs and part of Bradley County; Hall’s district is dominated by the city of Cleveland. He succeeded longtime lawmaker Kevin Brooks last November.
Brooks, who was elected Cleveland mayor in August, closed a 12-year tenure representing District 24 when he chose to seek the City Hall seat previously held almost 28 years by Mayor Emeritus Tom Rowland.
One of the 111th General Assembly’s key actions last week was the elder financial abuse and fraud bill, a statewide issue that was dear to Brooks’ heart during his years in Nashville. In a 2018 interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner, Brooks acknowledged elder financial abuse legislation was among the top in his list of priorities.
Last week’s actions by legislators — which are just now getting underway — seeks to increase the penalty for those who are financially exploiting Tennesseans through telephone and electronic scams.
As introduced, House Bill 799 hardens the state’s focus on these types of crimes.
“House Bill 799, as it was introduced, increases the penalty and broadens the offense of financial exploitation of an elderly or vulnerable person to include the use of a telephone or other electronic or communication device,” Howell explained.
The legislation specifies its target; that is, the use of these devices with the intent “… of fraudulently or deceptively obtaining, or attempting to obtain … money, property or anything of value from the victim,” the Georgetown lawmaker added.
Hall concurred with Howell’s interpretation, and pointed out these types of crimes, or attempted crimes, are being reported statewide.
“According to media reports, law enforcement officials have been warning Tennesseans, especially our elderly and vulnerable adults, about potential scams targeting these groups during tax season,” Hall stressed. “Some of these scam artists will call or email, and pose as an Internal Revenue Service official, asking for sensitive information.”
Like Howell, as well as Tennessee legislators as a whole, Hall cautioned his constituents of District 24 and all state residents, “Don’t be fooled by these callers. Ask for a name, title and phone number, but don’t call back. Report any suspicious activity to the proper authorities.”
Tennessee is one of many states tackling elder abuse legislation. The issue is peaking in exposure, and in this state one of the leading advocates against these types of crimes is the Tennessee Bankers Association. For the past few years, TBA has advocated for stronger laws governing the financial abuse of senior citizens.
During his years in the state House, Brooks worked closely with the TBA to sponsor this type of crime-fighting legislation.
on the agenda
Legislation proposed in the 111th General Assembly hopes to “… empower Tennessee to lead on healthcare and create a patient-centered system that addresses the unique needs of our citizens, while lowering costs,” as explained in the legislative summary.
“House Bill 1280 calls on the governor, acting through the commissioner of Finance & Administration, to submit a waiver to the federal centers for Medicare and Medicaid services to immediately provide assistance to the state’s TennCare population through the implementation of block grants,” Hall explained.
Block grants authorized through House Bill 1280 must convert the federal share of all medical assistance funding for Tennessee into an allotment that is tailored to meet the state’s specific needs, the summary cited.
“All grant funding must be indexed to take into account both inflation and population growth,” Howell noted.
The District 22 lawmaker added, “In recent years, Tennessee has become a national leader in innovation, whether it is job creation or improving our education system. This legislation enables us to once again lead on a critical local and national issue, without federal mandates.”
Hall and Howell were among the army of legislators who applauded last week’s unveiling by the new governor of the Future Workforce Initiative, a strategy “… to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics training in K-12 schools.”
The initiative is part of Lee’s first-year legislative agenda for education, the summary stated.
“This investment in STEM-focused early college and career experiences supports the Tennessee Department of Education’s ‘Tennessee Pathways’ certification process,” Hall said. “[It also supports] the STEM School Designation partnership with groups like STEM Innovation Network and Code.org.”
The Future Workforce Initiative aims to put Tennessee in the top 25 states for job creation in the technology sector by 2022 through three areas of emphasis.
• Launching new CTE programs focused in STEM fields with 100 new middle school programs and tripling the number of STEM-designated public schools by 2022.
• Growing the number of teachers qualified to teach work-based learning and advanced computer science courses through STEM teacher training and implementation of K-8 computer science standards.
• Expanding postsecondary STEM opportunities in high school through increased access to dual credit, AP courses and dual enrollment.
Also included in the legislative summary is a growing debate involving the struggles of rural hospitals. At issue is the scheduled closing of Cumberland River Hospital on March 1.
On the lips of many lawmakers is the reason. According to the General Assembly wrap report, the Democrat argument is that an expansion of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) might rescue many rural medical centers.
The Republican base differs. The GOP Caucus-driven summary quoted the Upper Cumberland Business Journal which reported, “… The decision to close Celina’s Cumberland River Hospital ultimately came down to three major factors: declining reimbursements from all payers, increased operating costs and decreasing patient volume.”
The ongoing struggles of rural hospitals, and the partisan arguments between political parties as to what, or who, is to blame, is a longtime debate that is not confined to Tennessee or Nashville lawmakers.
The legislative summary pledged “… in the days, weeks and months ahead,” the Republican-dominated House of Representatives will “… unveil a new plan that focuses on the unique needs of our citizens.”
The summary added, “By implementing a patient-centered approach to address healthcare, we will achieve our goals of increasing access, improving the quality of care, and lowering costs through increased competition and transparency.”
In one other development, the legislative wrap-up acknowledged last week’s joint announcement by Lee and FedEx Logistics that the company will move its headquarters to downtown Memphis. The move represents a $44 million investment that will create 689 jobs.
A subsidiary of FedEx Corporation, FedEx Logistics provides worldwide freight-forwarding services “… that can help increase supply chain efficiency and drive down costs by replacing a maze of channels with one global distribution command and control center,” the summary explained.
It added, “FedEx Logistics integrates international freight forwarding, customs brokerage, trade and customs advisory services, and other cross-border services to create comprehensive solutions tow international trade.”
FedEx is reported to employ more than 30,000 people in the Memphis area.
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