For the first bill, the amended legislation includes a full repeal of the death tax, phasing it out over the next four years. By 2016, the tax will be completely eliminated. Tennessee is one of only two states in the South with a death tax.
The food tax cut, House Bill 3671, reduces the food tax from the current rate of 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent after an amendment was placed on the bill by legislators.
The House received Gov. Bill Haslam’s Fiscal Year 2012-13 budget amendment early in the week. The request from the governor restores funding to some areas after other savings were recognized. This is a thoughtful and fiscally conservative budget amendment that reflects the priorities of Tennesseans. I appreciate the governor working with us to fashion a responsible blueprint that balances Tennessee’s budget and lowers taxes.
Notable funding priorities in the governor’s budget amendment include:
n $3.3 million to reduce the sales tax on food from the current rate of 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent, which is lower than the governor’s original proposal to reduce it to 5.3 percent.
n $4 million to increase the daily per diem payment to local jails by $2 from $35 to $37.
n $1.4 million for mental health peer support centers across the state.
n $1 million for continued statewide family support services through the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in addition to $4.5 million of restoration in the initial budget proposal.
n $300,000 for maintenance of the West Tennessee River Basin Authority.
n $3 million to fund family resource centers across the state.
n $3.9 million to fund Healthy Start, and Child Health and Development, programs across the state.
n $250,000 for child advocacy centers in Tennessee.
n $250,000 to support the Amachi mentoring program for children of inmates through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.
n $375,000 to fund a poison control center that provides statewide services.
n $5 million for Tennessee career centers to address the past practice of funding annual operating expenses with non-recurring federal dollars.
n $122,000 to fund legislation that requires unemployment recipients to verify their job search efforts.
n $115,500 to fund an online system to send businesses unemployment insurance notices electronically and to allow employers to submit relevant information electronically.
n $1 million for land acquisition and maintenance efforts at Radnor Lake State Park in Nashville.
The governor’s original budget proposal restored more than $100 million of a total of $160 million in cuts to “core services” first identified as reductions in the FY 2010-2011 budget, but delayed until this year due to the use of one-time federal money.
This budget amendment will include an additional $10 million of funding dedicated directly to further restoring those cuts to core services. At his unveiling of the amendment, the governor stated, “It is state government’s job to provide services that citizens can’t get on their own. Our budget proposal earlier this year reflected a thoughtful and strategic process to allocate taxpayer dollars to serve Tennesseans in the most customer-focused, efficient and effective way possible.”
I appreciate the governor working with my colleagues and me to fund these important programs for the children of our state. This has been a personal priority since joining the Legislature and helping children has always been a passion of mine. His amendment reflects a thoughtful assessment of how to best serve Tennesseans while helping our youngest generation.
CHAD reaches 997 children, targeting teen parents under 18, families with children under 5 years old, other parents the Department of Children’s Services refers as being at risk of abuse and neglect, and low income families. The program provides family assessment, developmental screening, nutrition assessment, referral for other services as needed and monthly home visits.
Healthy Start reaches 1,148 families and 1,295 children. The program targets prenatal women, families with children under 5 years old and low-income families. Healthy Start provides family assessment and stress inventory, developmental screening, referral for needed services and home visits with intensity based on the assessed needs of the family.
for public officers
House lawmakers are sending legislation to the governor that raises standards for those holding public office in Tennessee. House Bill 2763, passed by the House unanimously, makes elected and appointed public officials ineligible for diversion for criminal offenses committed in their official capacity or that involve the duties of their offices.
Pre-trial and judicial diversion are the processes in criminal law when a person pleads guilty to a crime and can later have the charge expunged, or removed, from their record following a period of probation. The Senate previously passed its version of this same legislation on Feb. 6, 2012.
Following the passage of the legislation, the representative who sponsored the bill, stated, “I am proud to have the unanimous support of my House colleagues on this legislation. In the past few years, we have seen the public grow more and more skeptical of public officials because many of them have abused the powers of their office. I believe that must end. I think it is important we hold ourselves, and other officials, to a higher standard. All Tennesseans agree with that principle.”
The legislation now goes to the governor for his signature to become law.
getting a big boost
Efforts to combat meth in Tennessee are getting a boost from the governor who has rolled out a comprehensive statewide campaign designed to inform Tennesseans about the consequences of violating the “I Hate Meth Act,” which took effect on July 1, 2011.
The announcement took place in coordination with the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association meeting in Nashville.
The “Meth Stops Now” campaign is a step in the administration’s public safety action plan and specifically addresses the portion of the anti-meth law that increases the penalties for making or using meth in the presence of children and for purchasing pseudoephedrine products for non-medical uses.
I applaud the governor for raising awareness about the tough new law. I am very pleased the “I Hate Meth” Act is doing exactly what it was designed to do: stop would-be meth cooks from getting the ingredients they need to make this dangerous drug. This awareness campaign will spread the word that Tennessee law enforcement stands ready to crack down on the manufacture and sale of this dangerous drug.
(Editor’s Note: Part 2 of state Rep. Eric Watson’s “Capitol Hill Review” summary will be published in Tuesday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.)