High School students from Tennessee Christian Preparatory School and State Rep. Kevin Brooks lent their voices Thursday to share how their respective efforts were impacting the community.
The presentations were made to the Sunrise Rotary Club.
Students from the school’s Rotary Interact Club urged the Rotarians to help them fight hunger in the community. Brooks talked about how the state’s recently-finished General Assembly session had impacted the community.
The Interact Club at Tennessee Christian Preparatory School, sponsored by the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club, began in January. The club for high school students promotes community service, and it chose to focus on assisting The Caring Place.
The Caring Place, a local nonprofit, provides resources like food and clothing to the needy in the Cleveland area.
Over the course of the club’s first semester, the students raised $700 toward the organization’s “Sack Pack” program, which provides underprivileged children in local schools with sacks of food to take home.
The students shared statistics about hunger in unison, urging their audience to help them “fight hunger.”
Interact Club president Natalie Calfee then presented the $700 check to Chelsea Long of The Caring Place.
Rep. Brooks took to the podium to share about Tennessee’s most recent House General Assembly.
“Your taxes dollars are safe,” Brooks said jokingly, adding that the House not being in session meant no new legislation requiring taxpayer funding was being passed.
Brooks, who is the state House’s assistant majority leader, said he stayed really busy over the course of four months, but called his position “a wonderful opportunity to do good.”
“The most important thing we did … is balance your state budget,” Brooks said.
He shared other “highlights” of legislation that came about during the General Assembly, including a .25 percent reduction in the state’s 5.25 percent grocery tax, making it an even 5 percent.
Other tax cuts included progress toward eliminating the state’s death tax, something Brooks said should be gone by 2016.
The House also voted to raise the income exemption level of the Hall Tax on interest from bonds, stock earnings and the like for adults age 65 and older. The income exemption level was raised from $26,200 to $33,000 for single people and from $37,000 to $59,000 for people filing taxes jointly.
While Tennessee does not have a state income tax, Brooks said the Hall Tax still takes taxes out of people’s incomes.
“It’s still there. We’ve got to fix it,” Brooks said. “This mantra of ‘no income tax’ is a little bit cloudy.”
Brooks said he supported a bill to eliminate the Hall Tax entirely, but it had failed due to state budget concerns.
Other measures, including fully funding a $4 billion budget for education statewide and laws addressing issues like gang violence and human trafficking, passed. Other bills included a moratorium on property annexation and one that allowed homeschooled students to play on public school sports teams.
Brooks said the General Assembly is only allowed to pass a maximum of 15 bills per session, but he believed all the state representatives had at least one they supported introduced during that time.
He added he wanted people to know they were welcome to contact him and let him know what issues need to be addressed in the area. He said change happens when people speak up about what’s important to them.
“I can’t do anything unless you tell me,” Brooks said.
The Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club is a local community service club that meets weekly at the SkyRidge Medical Center.