State Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland who represents the 24th Legislative District, and who is a member of the Cleveland Rotary Club, highlighted the ways taxpayer money had been saved during the session.
One was by finishing everything early. Brooks noted the legislative session ended in April.
“We haven’t adjourned in April in about 70 years,” Brooks said.
He said ending early saved taxpayers $200,000 a week.
Fellow state Reps. Mike Carter and Joe Carr joined Brooks for a question-and-answer session about legislation. The three representatives have worked together in subcommittees and in developing bills.
Rotarian Mike Callaway asked what the state was doing about tuition increases at state schools. Brooks said he felt the answer was in finding ways to eliminate some of the administrative costs associated with colleges at the state level.
“(It’s) an incredibly large administrative burden that we are depositing on the backs of students,” Brooks said.
Carter said he has talked to many teachers asking them, “What can we do to help you?”
“You know it didn’t matter if they were Democrat or Republican, east or west ... they said, ‘Let us teach,’” Carter said.
He said administrative costs have become a burden to the system.
Carr said funding college tuition through tax revenue is not the answer.
“What we need to do is create other channels for people to get postsecondary education after high school than a four-year institution,” Carr said.
Rotarian Harrison Brown expressed concern at the state’s current pension plan. Carter said legislation has passed that reduces the amount the state must pay for employee pension plans.
Other questions touched on term limits, state retirement benefits and health care.
“I support term limits,” Brooks said in response to a question.
Rotarian John Stanberry said establishing term limits would have to be done through a state constitutional amendment. Brooks said residents could start the move in that direction.
Those present were encouraged to be in contact with their representatives.
“I can’t tell you how important it is for us to hear from you,” Brooks said.
During the most recent legislative session, the Legislature reduced the food sales tax by .25 percent and worked toward ending the so-called death tax.
Brooks said the Legislature was also able to put $100 million aside for when revenues may be slow.
“So when we need it for schools, or bridges or Exit 20 (on Interstate 75, it will be there),” Brooks said.
Recent legislation that has brought a temporary statewide halt to residential annexation started with Carter. Many in Ooltewah, part of the district Carter represents, have concerns about Chattanooga one day annexing the area. Carter said people who are going to be annexed should have a say in what happens.
“I promised the people of Ooltewah when I ran ... my No. 1 challenge would be to allow them to have a say in annexation,” Carter said. “Tennessee is only one of three sates in the nation that does not allow you any protection from annexation. “
The bill passed has halted annexation until a study could be done of cities on how annexation is being done across Tennessee.
Carr highlighted a recent bill he introduced which was later passed allowing for captive insurance policies for businesses or organizations. Carr said the law allows these entities to become their own insurance companies.
At the state level the largest part of revenue goes to TennCare, with incarceration the second-largest expense.
Tennessee has been ranked No. 1 in the nation for retirement and No. 4 for doing business and for roads and infrastructure, according to Brooks.