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News laws sponsored by Haile to curb opiate abuse, promote adoption will become effective July 1

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) – July 1 marks the enactment of 153 new laws in Tennessee, including major legislation sponsored by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) to curb opiate abuse.  The new law, which is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s TN Together initiative, seeks to prevent opioid addiction, and ultimately, misuse and abuse by limiting the supply and dosage of opioid prescriptions with emphasis on new patients.

“At least three people die each day in Tennessee from an opioid-related drug overdose,” said Senator Haile, a pharmacist who served on Governor Bill Haslam’s Opioid Abuse Task Force.      “We must stop the pipeline, especially on opioid naïve patients, to prevent addiction.  The purpose behind the prevention legislation is to place more speed bumps on the road that leads to addiction.”

Haile said the legislation is meant to address higher dosages of opioids which have been associated with increased risk of overdose and death, while including exceptions for individuals undergoing extreme pain.  He also said the new law helps prevent unused opiates from ending up in the family medicine cabinet where they are often abused.  Research shows 27 percent of those who are at the highest risk of overdose get opioids from their physician, while 26 percent receive them for free from their family or friends.  This includes up to 80 percent of teenagers who begin abusing drugs by getting them from family members.

The other half of the TN Together legislation allows the state to better track, monitor and penalize the use and distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs.  That new law, which Haile co-sponsored, also provides incentives for offenders to complete treatment programs while incarcerated.

Another key bill sponsored by Haile and set for enactment on July 1, makes adoption easier in Tennessee.

“As an adoptive parent, adoption is very close to my heart,” said Sen. Haile.  “This new law will help clarify Tennessee’s adoption law and make it easier for children to be adopted into loving homes.”

The legislation simplifies the document that parents sign before a judge releases a child for adoption.  It also clarifies grounds for termination of parental rights, including making Tennessee law consistent with U.S. Supreme Court cases when it involves absentee fathers who have taken no steps to pursue a parental relationship.  The new law further calls for elimination of the six-month prior residency requirement for adoption petitioners and expands the opportunity for active duty military personnel to use Tennessee as their state of legal residence to adopt children, regardless of where they are stationed.

Haile said state officials are working with a group called Family Match, which is a website that deals with compatibility matching technology for families in state care.  Tennessee has been offered access to Family Match’s network services created exclusively for state workers to match adoptive families, foster families, and foster to adopt families with children in state care.

“This will inspire even greater confidence in prospective resource families, opening the door for more families to become foster and adoptive families,” he concluded.

 

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SENATOR BELL RECEIVES TENNESSEE DISTRICT ATTORNEYS’ GUARDIAN OF PUBLIC SAFETY AWARD

RICEVILLE, Tenn. (June 22, 2018) – The state’s 31 District Attorneys have recognized state Sen. Mike Bell (R–Riceville) with the Guardian of Public Safety Award.

The Guardian of Public Safety Award is given to a legislator who recognizes the necessity of protecting our citizens and takes action to advance public safety.

“Senator Bell is keenly aware of the public safety issues faced by Tennesseans on a daily basis. He has taken action, by his support of legislation initiated by the District Attorneys Conference, to provide stronger protection to elder and vulnerable citizens and to child victims of sexual abuse, as well as to punish drug dealers more severely,” said Jerry Estes, Executive Director of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference. “He is a committed leader and is more than deserving of this award.”

Bell serves District 9, which includes Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk counties, in the Tennessee State Senate.

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Photo is of Senator Mike Bell and District Attorney General Steve Crump


Senators Ketron and Reeves announce $76,350 in art grants awarded in Rutherford County

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Senators Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Shane Reeves (R-Murfreesboro) announced today that 11 organizations in Rutherford County will receive a combined $76,350 in grants from the Tennessee Arts Commission. These grants were allocated after being reviewed by citizen advisory panels made up of Tennesseans with expertise in appropriate disciplines and a final review by the full Arts Commission.

The organizations benefitting from the grants include Generation for Creation, Center for the Arts, Inc., Children’s Museum Corporation of Rutherford County, Ethos Youth Ensembles/Murfreesboro Youth Orchestra, Kids for the Creative Arts, Inc., Main Street: Murfreesboro/Rutherford County, Inc., Middle Tennessee Choral Society, Tennessee Association of Dance The Tennessee Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra benefitting the Murfreesboro Symphony Orchestra, International Folkloric Society, Generation for Creation, and Middle Tennessee State University.

“Congratulations to all of the organizations receiving these grants,” said Senator Ketron. “By giving our residents a chance to experience art and culture, these grants are an investment in the future of our community and state.”

“These funds are very important to our arts organizations and benefit many citizens in Rutherford County,” added Sen. Reeves. “This investment in arts and culture offers all of us an enhanced quality of life, provides our children with a more complete education, stimulates economic development and helps attract tourists to our community.”

“Tennessee is fortunate to have elected leaders who understand the positive impact the arts and culture have on Tennesseans and their communities,” said Anne B. Pope, Executive Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission.  “The arts are a vital tool for attraction and retention of business, and help build stronger communities by enhancing the distinctive character of Tennessee places.”

According to Pope, the Commission will award approximately 1000 grants during the 2019 fiscal year, totaling more than $5.5 million dollars.

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SENATOR BAILEY RECEIVES TENNESSEE DISTRICT ATTORNEYS’ PUBLIC SAFETY ADVOCATE AWARD

SPARTA, Tenn. (June 20, 2018) – The state’s 31 District Attorneys have recognized state Sen. Paul Bailey (R–Sparta) with the Public Safety Advocate Award.

The Public Safety Advocate Award is given to a legislator who recognizes the necessity of protecting our citizens and takes action to advance public safety.

“Senator Bailey is keenly aware of the public safety issues faced by Tennesseans on a daily basis. He has taken action, by his support of legislation initiated by the District Attorneys Conference, to provide stronger protection to elder and vulnerable citizens and to child victims of sexual abuse, as well as to punish drug dealers more severely,” said Jerry Estes, Executive Director of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference. “He is a committed leader and is more than deserving of this award.”

Bailey serves District 15, which includes Bledsoe, Cumberland, Jackson, Overton, Putnam and White counties, in the Tennessee State Senate.

 

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PHOTO:  L. to R. Jerry Estes, Executive Director; Guy Jones, Deputy Director; Sen. Bailey; District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway and District Attorney General Steve Crump


Legislation sponsored by Senator Ed Jackson set to take effect July 1 will positively impact the lives of many Tennesseans

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) – Two major bills sponsored by Senator Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) and passed by the General Assembly are among 153 new laws which will become effective in Tennessee on July 1.  One new law addresses opioid addiction by helping to ensure effective treatment methods are utilized, while the other aims to reduce recidivism through an innovative grant program for local jails that conduct successful reentry programs.

“Each year, about 5,000 Tennesseans leave our prisons after serving for crimes they have committed,” said Sen. Jackson, who is Chairman of the Senate Corrections Subcommittee.  “We can either help them become productive, taxpaying citizens, or we can risk them turning back to a life of crime and create a never-ending cycle.  This pilot program will help identify and formulate better policies that can be scaled throughout the state to reduce recidivism, make our communities safer, and help save taxpayer money.”

Tennessee spends over $1 billion for corrections or 6.74 percent of the state’s budget.  It is the fifth largest line item in the budget.

The legislation addressing opioid abuse prevents over-prescription of addiction treatment drugs to ensure they're used to treat addiction rather than perpetuate it.  The bill is one of many General Assembly initiatives that complement the Haslam administration’s comprehensive opioid legislative package, TN Together, which is also set for enactment on July 1.

“Opioid addiction devastates our communities and our people,” added Sen. Jackson.  “Too many Tennesseans have fallen prey to this debilitating pandemic.  The goal of this new law is to get the prescriber and the patient focused on a full recovery from addiction.  That includes the drugs used to treat opiate addiction.”

In addition, Sen. Jackson co-sponsored several other key laws that will take effect on July 1 including:

  • Juvenile justice reform legislation which invests in treatment and addresses the problem of longer and ineffective incarceration for minor offenses, including those which would not be crimes for adults;
  • A new law which aims to provide low level criminal offenders a fresh start in finding employment after serving time in prison by reducing barriers to obtain a professional license if the license sought is unrelated to past crimes;
  • A new statue creating greater cooperation between the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and local authorities in order to prevent those with mental health issues from purchasing firearms;
  • A measure to cut off the flow of funds used in the purchase of illegal drugs by addressing the use of gift cards obtained through retail theft which are very commonly linked to the purchase of opiates;
  • Henry’s Law, named for a Knoxville teen who tragically died of an opioid overdose, which will increase jail time for drug dealers who distribute drugs to minors who die from an overdose; and
  • The Rural Hospital Transformation Act which supports the financial viability of the state’s rural hospitals through a program that gives them the resources to assess and implement operational changes to help ensure financial viability in an ever-evolving healthcare marketplace.

“These new laws will positively affect Tennesseans in a wide variety of ways.  I am very pleased they passed our General Assembly and believe they will change many lives for the better,” Jackson concluded.

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EDGE set to act on applications for redevelopment of blighted areas as a result of legislation sponsored by Kelsey and Vaughan

(MEMPHIS) – The Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County (EDGE) is scheduled to take action on two project applications at their meeting on Wednesday for the redevelopment of blighted properties as a result of legislation sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Representative Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville).  Kelsey and Vaughan sponsored a new law in the Tennessee General Assembly this year to allow the industrial development corporation to grant PILOTs (payments-in-lieu-of-taxes) for projects that include apartments and hotel developments in Shelby County that are outside of the center city district.

 

“These projects will help reinvigorate Binghampton and will lead to more investments and jobs in the neighborhood,” said Sen. Kelsey.  “Blight affects all types of communities – rural, urban and suburban.  Lifting the restriction allows for the redevelopment of blighted areas in Binghampton and beyond.” Senator Kelsey represents part of the Binghampton neighborhood.

 

Both projects are in the Binghampton area of Memphis. The Broad Avenue Residential project includes 413 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retrial space, with a capital investment of $51 million. The Thrive at the Park project will include 176 apartments with a capital investment of $22 million. It is located at Sam Copper Boulevard and East Parkway.   Neither project could be done without PILOT support provided under the legislation.

 

“I am very pleased that EDGE will review the first two applications submitted under the new law,” added Rep. Vaughan.  “The people of these communities deserve to live in safe communities that have a vibrant economy.  We will continue to work to help transform and strengthen our local communities.”

 

“It will be a great shot in the arm for these communities,” continued Sen. Kelsey.  “We look forward to seeing positive effects from this legislation, beginning with these two projects, to increase public safety, property values and economic development opportunities.”

 

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New Laws Approved by the Tennessee General Assembly to Protect Elderly and Vulnerable Adults 2014-2018

New Laws Approved by the Tennessee General Assembly to Protect Elderly and Vulnerable Adults

2014-2018

2018:  Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2018 –  Legislation was approved in 2018 that modernizes Tennessee’s laws pertaining elder abuse to make it easier for law enforcement to recognize and prosecute.  It draws a distinction for aggravated elderly abuse with increased penalties for the offense; and increases fines for those who commit elder neglect which will go into a special fund that may be used to help victims.  Public Chapter 1050 by Norris, Bowling, Crowe, Haile  

2017Financial Exploitation -- Three major bills were approved in 2017 to combat abuse and financial exploitation of Tennesseans who are elderly or have diminished capacity.  These include:

  • The “Senior Financial Protection and Securities Modernization Act provides a pathway for voluntary reporting. It gives civil and administrative immunity to broker-dealers, investment advisers, agents, representatives and other qualified individuals for reporting the suspected abuse or exploitation. It also allows those individuals to delay disbursements for a certain number of days if financial abuse or exploitation is suspected and authorizes notification to third parties previously designated by the elderly or vulnerable adult regarding any suspected fraudulent transactions.  In addition, it gives the Commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Insurance authority, under the state’s Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, to double current civil penalties against an offender who victimizes a vulnerable or senior adult.  Public Chapter 424 by Norris, Gardenhire, Crowe, Bowling, Niceley, Roberts, Stevens
  • Financial InstitutionsLikewise, legislation was passed in 2017 which gives financial institutions, like banks and credit unions, tools and greater flexibility as to how they can best protect their customers when there is reason to suspect financial exploitation of elderly or vulnerable adults is occurring or being attempted. This law provided new authority for financial institutions to delay or refuse to conduct transactions which permit the disbursement of funds when exploitation is suspected.  It also permits the financial institution to establish a list of persons the customer would like to have contacted if the bank suspects the customer is a victim of exploitation or theft.  In addition, it required the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions to consult with financial service providers, the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, and the Department of Human Services to develop a public education campaign to alert the public to dangers of vulnerable adults from financial exploitation.  Public Chapter 264 by Norris, Crowe, Massey, Bowling, McNally, Harper, Ketron, Kyle, Niceley, Overbey, Roberts, Stevens, Tate, Tracy, Watson, Yarbro
  • The “Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act” defines and creates the new offense of financial exploitation of elderly or vulnerable adults, including the use of deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat of force to obtain or exert unauthorized control over an elderly or vulnerable adult’s property with intent to deprive them of it. If charged, a court may freeze assets of the offender up to 100 percent of the alleged value in question.  The statute also requires those convicted be included on the state Elder Abuse Registry.  This law also includes a provision that requires a court to hold a hearing to preserve the testimony of elderly or vulnerable adult victims. This is a critical new tool for prosecutors to use when defendants attempt to delay trial in order to have the victim continue to deteriorate or even pass away.  Public Chapter 466 by Norris, Crowe, McNally, Bailey, Gardenhire, Harper, Hensley, Kyle, Massey, Stevens, Tate, Tracy 

2016:  Elder Abuse / Elder Exploitation A major bill protecting Tennessee seniors passed in 2016 which stemmed from recommendations of the General Assembly’s Elder Abuse Task Force.  It helps keep the state's elderly safe by setting up checks on the people who are working in direct contact with vulnerable adults in home healthcare and hospice.  This law lays out requirements that must be met before an employee may be hired. Applicants must supply fingerprint samples, submit to a background check and provide past references.  These requirements apply to third party vendors that have direct contact with the patients.  Public Chapter 1044  by Gardenhire, Crowe, Niceley, Norris

Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigation Teams -- The General Assembly also passed a law in 2016 to create a Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigation Teams (VAPIT) in each judicial district in Tennessee.  The purpose of the measure is to coordinate the investigation of suspected instances of abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult.

The information generated by the multi-disciplinary adult protective services team can then be reviewed to determine what further action can be taken to protect these citizens.  Public Chapter 1006  by Norris, Gresham, Haile, Massey, Roberts

2015:  Elder Abuse – State legislators passed legislation in 2015 which gives law enforcement agencies and the Department of Human Services authority, during the course of an elder abuse investigation, to require medical examination of the person if the agency is not sure whether the elderly person is in imminent danger.  Previously, a law enforcement agency was not listed as being able to seek an order for an elderly person who is in imminent danger or lacks capacity to consent, to be examined by a physician, or a psychologist in consultation with the physician, or psychiatrist under certain circumstances.  This law allows law enforcement agencies as well as the Department of Human Services to seek such an order.  Public Chapter 387  by Bell

2014:  Punishment / Adult Abuse and Exploitation -- The State Legislature passed legislation in 2014 to increase punishment for adult abuse, exploitation or neglect from a Class E to a Class D felony.  The move helps district attorneys prosecute the crime without having to meet the higher evidentiary standard required under the state’s adult abuse laws reserved for more serious crimes.  That legislation also required court clerks to notify the Department of Health when someone has been convicted of adult abuse so the offender can be added to the Adult Abuse Registry.  Employers of adult caretakers must check the Registry before hiring an employee.  Public Chapter 961 by Crowe, Burks, Norris


Senator Yager receives 'Friend of the Flame' award from Tennessee Gas Association

 

Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston), middle, receives the "Friend of the Flame" award from the Tennessee Gas Association (TGA) on the floor of the Senate for his support and contribution to the success of the natural gas industry. Senator Yager sponsored the bill to prevent and increase in sales tax on natural gas. Presenting the award are Pat Riley, left, Chairman of the TGA Legislative Committee and Joey Sauls, right, President of the TGA. 

 


Senator Mark Pody to tour renovations at Cedars of Lebanon State Park

(NASHVILLE, TN), May 21, 2018 – State Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) will tour the new renovations at Cedars of Lebanon State Park with Tennessee Deputy Commissioner for Parks and Conservation Brock Hill, Representative Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon) and Park Manager Buddy Ingram on Thursday, May 24, 2018. The tour will take place at 1:00 p.m. at the park’s Cedar Forest Lodge before moving to view the campgrounds.

“I am very excited to see the progress being made at Cedars of Lebanon, which is such an important part of our communities," said Sen. Pody. "This was a large investment in our park and I was happy to support these improvements. The renovations will increase activities available to a broader range of people who will now have more opportunities to be out in nature and enjoy the beauty of this park. It will also help stimulate tourism and serve the large number of local residents who visit the park regularly. I am very pleased that these renovations are almost completed.”

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Gov. Haslam signs legislation sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager to fight state’s opioid epidemic

(NASHVILLE) –  Major legislation sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) to fight Tennessee’s opioid epidemic was signed into law today by  Governor Bill Haslam.   Senate Bill 2258 is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s TN Together initiative – a three-pronged plan to combat the opioid epidemic. It addresses the law enforcement and treatment components of the plan to curb abuse, while Senate Bill 2257 addresses the prevention component.

Each day in Tennessee, at least three people die from an opioid-related overdose, which is more than the number of daily traffic fatalities in the state.

“This legislation is a huge step forward in our fight to roll back Tennessee’s opioid epidemic,” said Sen. Yager, who has worked diligently to address drug abuse during his legislative tenure, including  passage of a key measure cracking down on ‘pill mills’ in the state.  “Every family in Tennessee has been affected in some way by drug abuse, whether it is a friend, co-worker, family member or loved one.  This legislation gives law enforcement the tools they need to attack the problem, while providing more resources for treatment. I am honored to sponsor this bill for the Governor.”

The law enforcement aspect of the bill updates the classification of drugs and allows law enforcement to better track, monitor and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of dangerous and addictive drugs such as fentanyl – a drug up to 100 times more potent than morphine and linked to an alarming number of overdose deaths. It also requires that the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) now consult with the commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the commissioner of Health, and the Board of Pharmacy to annually revise and republish the scheduling of dangerous drugs. Previously, the TBI was not consulted in this process.

“Fentanyl is a very serious drug that is often mixed with other drugs, leading to the death of users often unaware of its potency,” added Yager. “This legislation will allow law enforcement to crack down on the use and distribution of fentanyl, which will ultimately help eliminate this deadly drug from the streets.”

The treatment aspect of the bill provides incentives for offenders in correctional facilities to complete intensive substance use treatment programs while incarcerated. An increasing number of offenders suffer from substance use disorders.  These evidence-based programs are proven to reduce recidivism and improve lives while saving taxpayer dollars.

“Many of the people coming to prison have drug addictions, and if we can’t fix that problem and we let them back on the street with a drug problem, we’re likely to see them again,” remarked Yager.

“Through this multifaceted approach, Tennessee can be successful in its continued fight against the opioid epidemic and reverse the addiction, overdose and illicit distribution trends that continue to plague the state and nation,” Yager concluded.

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Legislation sponsored by Sen. Pody requires abortion providers to offer ultrasound results to women is signed into law

(NASHVILLE) May 15, 2018 – Legislation sponsored by Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) to ensure a woman seeking an abortion has the opportunity to know all information gathered about her pregnancy prior to the abortion was recently signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam. The law states that if an ultrasound is performed as part of an examination prior to an abortion, the person who performs the ultrasound must offer the woman the opportunity to learn the results of the ultrasound.

“I am pleased to see this legislation signed into law,” said Senator Pody. “This new law will ensure that a woman has the opportunity to see the ultrasound of her unborn baby prior to terminating her pregnancy, and will ensure none of that information will be withheld from her.”

The new law will also require the person who performs the ultrasound to inform the woman of the presence or absence of a fetal heartbeat, along with any other information she requests.

“Eighty percent of women who see an ultrasound do not follow through with abortion, so I am confident this bill will save the lives of babies in Tennessee,” added Pody.

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Sen. Jackson announces $100,000 for Dyersburg Army Air Base Veterans’ Museum

(NASHVILLE) May 15, 2018 – State Senator Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) announced today that $100,000 was appropriated in the 2018/2019 state budget recently adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly for the Dyersburg Army Air Base Veterans’ Museum. The appropriation, which was sponsored by Senator Jackson, will go towards maintenance of the museum.

“I am pleased these funds are going to this museum that does so much to preserve the incredible history of our veterans,” said Senator Jackson. “The museum has done a tremendous job serving and teaching the surrounding community with rich historical displays and photographs of US military conflicts.”

The Veterans' Museum is located on the site of The Dyersburg Army Air Base, a base that was established as a training facility during World War 2 for B-17 Flying Fortress pilots. While the Museum honors veterans from that era, it also honors all veterans with displays from the different wars and conflicts in which the U.S. has been involved.

“We must never forget the sacrifice and risk associated with wars fought by our courageous veterans,” added Senator Jackson. “This museum preserves our history and serves to remind us of the sacrifices made during those times of war. I am grateful that this appropriation will help this museum continue to operate and serve a great purpose,” added Jackson.

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Governor Haslam signs Sen. Watson’s bills to promote business growth and investment via tax credits

(NASHVILLE) May 14, 2018 – Two pieces of legislation sponsored by Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson) that promote business growth and investment in the form of tax credits have been signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam. Senate Bill 157 ensures that grants given to companies from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) are not counted as taxable income under the new federal tax code.  The other measure, Senate Bill 2647, enables Tennessee to apply the angel tax credit (ATC) to a wider group of investors.

“Business investments, whether in the form of an angel investor or state grant, are great for our economy and help promote business growth,” said Senator Watson. “I am pleased to see these bills signed into law that encourage investments through tax credit incentives.”

The recent passage of federal tax reform brought new provisions that unintentionally broadened Tennessee’s business income tax base, and as a result making economic development grants taxable. Therefore, Senate Bill 157 was needed to clarify that economic development grants committed prior to December 22, 2017 will not be taxable.

Senate Bill 2647 adds Single Purpose Vehicles (SPV) to the ATC. The purpose of SPV’s is to consolidate investments from multiple angel investors into one LLC that holds the investments in a startup company.

“Angel investors are the lifeblood of startups in Tennessee. As we’ve tried to increase the amount of capital investment into these startups, we’ve learned that many of the angel investors coordinate their investments using this [SPV] kind of structure. So this bill will enable us to promote the angel tax credit to a wider group of Tennessee angel investors,” added Watson.

“I look forward to seeing the business and job growth that will result from the passage of these two bills,” Watson remarked.

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Sen. Gresham encourages parents to sign up for award-winning TNStars 529 college savings fund program

(NASHVILLE) May 14, 2018 – As National 529 College Savings Day is approaching on May 29th, Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) encourages families to sign up for TNStars College Savings 529 plan, which incentivizes families to participate early in a 529 college savings fund for their children. To celebrate National 529 College Savings Day, TNStars is giving away a family four-pack of tickets to a top summer destination in Tennessee for signing up for TNStars by May 28th.

“I want to encourage all families to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity TNStars provides for college savings plans,” said Senator Gresham, who sponsored the legislation to launch the program. “It is designed to give Tennessee families high quality investment options at low costs to help them pay for education and receive tax advantages.”

All families who open accounts with TNStars can receive up to $375 in incentives. Some families will also qualify for a four-to-one match of up to $1,500 per child. Funds and extra incentives saved in a TNStars account can be used not only for post-secondary education tuition and fees, but also for related expenses including room and board, textbooks and supplies.

In 2015, this fund was recognized as the top direct-sold plan in the nation by SavingForCollege.org, which analyzes the investment performance figures for thousands of 529 savings plan portfolios across the nation. The fund is managed by the Tennessee Department of Treasury.

“This investment plan is part of our goal to graduate more students from college by helping them and their parents prepare financially for expenses not covered by scholarships. Dollars invested in this program are yielding strong returns, and even small amounts of money invested early will better prepare Tennessee children for education after high school.”

Research shows that children with a college savings account are six to seven times more likely to attend a four-year college, compared to children with no dedicated account.

To register for the TNStars 529 College Savings Plan and qualify to win four tickers to Dollywood, Adventure Science Center, Tennessee Aquarium, Memphis Zoo and more, visit TNStars.com/529day  by May 28th.

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Legislation sponsored by Sen. Yager to increase Medicaid funding for ambulance services is signed into law

(NASHVILLE) May 10, 2018 – Legislation sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) that continues the Ambulance Service Provider Assessment Act has been signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam. This law allows the state to receive additional Medicaid funds to be distributed to local private and public ambulance services for transporting patients covered by the program.

“I am pleased to see this law continued,” said Senator Yager. “This is especially beneficial to ambulance service providers and patients in rural communities which have a high number of TennCare patients. Rural ambulance services struggle financially, and these additional funds will help keep the doors open.”

This legislation is expected to bring in approximately $19.7 million in federal funds for ambulance services through the state’s TennCare Program. It is modeled after the successful Hospital Assessment Act which has prevented catastrophic TennCare cuts over the last seven years.

“This legislation has proven beneficial over the last year, and I look forward to seeing the increase quality of care continue as a result of our action on this bill,” added Yager.

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Legislation sponsored by Sen. Massey to fight opioid abuse and decrease number of babies born drug dependent is signed into law

(NASHVILLE) May 9, 2018 – Major legislation to curb opioid abuse sponsored by Senator Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) was recently signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam. The legislation aims to promote safe and responsible pharmacy benefits regarding opioid prescriptions for TennCare enrollees. More specifically, the purpose of the legislation is to curb opioid abuse among women of child-bearing age to reduce the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

“The passage of this law will result in safer and more responsible pharmacy benefits for TennCare patients,” said Senator Massey. “Tennessee has a crisis on its hands. There are far too many babies who suffer from NAS born to TennCare enrollees, not to mention the fact that Tennessee taxpayers are footing the bill to treat these newborns and potentially for continued care longterm. Often times, lack of knowledge about the risks of opioid use to a baby during pregnancy or unawareness of a pregnancy can lead to a baby being born with NAS. The goal of this bill is to ensure women are informed.”

The new law directs TennCare to promulgate rules to promote safe and responsible pharmacy benefits and stipulates that the rules must require providers to check on a TennCare patient’s pregnancy status, contraceptive use and to provide counseling on the risks of opioid use during pregnancy. Additionally, the rules must address prior authorization requirements to reduce the development of opioid dependency and addiction.

The number of babies nationwide born drug dependent has increased 500 percent since 2000. Treatment costs per newborns with NAS average about $62,000, with a total cost of $1 billion to Tennessee taxpayers annually. Approximately ninety percent of babies who suffer with NAS are born to TennCare enrollees.

“I am pleased to see this bill become law, and I will continue to sponsor and support legislation to fight the opioid crisis in Tennessee, protect unborn babies that might fall victim to it, and promote responsibility with Tennessee taxpayer dollars.”

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Senator Jackson passes key opioid treatment and enforcement measure

Bill complements Haslam Administration legislative package

 

NASHVILLE -- A critical measure in the fight to eradicate opioid addiction passed the General Assembly in the final days of the most recent legislative session. Sponsored by State Senator Ed Jackson (R-Jackson), Senate Bill 777 prevents over-prescription of addiction treatment drugs to ensure they're used to treat addiction rather than perpetuate it.  The bill is one of many General Assembly initiatives that complement the Haslam administration’s comprehensive opioid legislative package, TN Together.

“Opioid addiction devastates our communities and our people,” said Sen. Jackson.  “Too many Tennesseans have fallen prey to this debilitating pandemic.  This legislation ensures effective treatment methods are utilized for those who are addicted to help them become drug free.”

The legislation places further restrictions on those prescribing buprenorphine, an opiate often used to treat addiction, requiring more facilities that prescribe the drug to be licensed.   The bill will require the dispensing of buprenorphine be submitted to the state’s controlled substance database and a top 20 list of prescribers will be generated.  The prescribers on the list will then be asked to justify their prescribing practices, and each board will be required to report any disciplinary action it may have taken toward the provider.  The legislation also calls for establishing protocols for initiating periodic prescriber-initiated and led discussions with patients regarding tapering down or off the opioids employed in treatment.

“The goal is to get the prescriber and the patient focused on a full recovery from addiction,” added Senator Jackson.  “That includes the drugs used to treat opiate addiction.  There are good treatment facilities that are already working toward that goal and are helping their patients get back into a normal life pattern while they wean off opiates.   However, there are others who perpetuate the problem by substituting one drug for another without a plan to get the patient off treatment medication.”

“Senator Jackson has identified a pressing enforcement need in the fight against opioid addiction. I appreciate him bringing this legislation,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge). “I am confident these measures will serve to crack down on those peddling unnecessary opioids while still allowing doctors to get legitimate patients and those suffering from addiction the treatment they need.”

The bill, which now awaits Governor Bill Haslam’s signature, will take effect on July 1.

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Sen. Yager announces $50,000 for LaFollette Post Office restoration following sponsorship of appropriations amendment

(NASHVILLE) April 4, 2018 – The City of LaFollette will receive $50,000 to preserve the historic LaFollette Post Office under an appropriation amendment added to the state budget at the request of Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston).  The legislation, which also passed the House of Representatives, is set to become law upon the signature of Governor Bill Haslam.

The $50,000 budget appropriation is in addition to a $50,000 Asset Enhancement Grant from the Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD). This grant was made possible by the Rural Economic Opportunity Act passed by the General Assembly in 2016 and co-sponsored by Yager.

The City of LaFollette has turned over the 1950’s era post office to a group of citizens called Postmark LaFollette for it to be used as a center for the arts.

“I was very impressed when I visited with the volunteers of Postmark LaFollette and toured the post office over a year ago,” said Senator Yager. “Their interest in preserving the arts is admirable, and I was happy to be able to find these funds, which will ensure Postmark LaFollette has the resources needed to properly restore the post office to its original state. I strongly support historic preservation. It is a real asset to the community, and will continue to do all I can to help.”

“I want to thank State Representative Dennis Powers for his support in the House to help attain these funds, as well as Mayor Mike Stanfield for allowing me to participate in this process. The funding would not have been possible without them,” added Yager.

The LaFollette Post Office is in need of a new roof and restored windows. The first $50,000 grant from ECD will cover the cost of a new roof, but funding was still needed to properly restore the windows.  The budget appropriation will help the structure meet the criteria in order to have it placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The money for this project will be available July 1, 2018.

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Sen. Yager recognizes intern from Fentress County, Tanner Stockton, for his work

(NASHVILLE) May 1, 2018 – Chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, Ken Yager (R-Kingston), recognized his intern, Tanner Stockton, with a resolution on the Senate floor in the last week of session, highlighting the hard work Tanner has done for Senator Yager’s office and the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

“Tanner has been a tremendous asset to our office this year, and I appreciate all his hard work,” said Yager. “He has a bright future ahead of him.”

“I have enjoyed being a part of this internship as it has allowed me to see first-hand what I have been studying throughout college,” said Stockton. “I am thankful for the opportunity to serve in Senator Yager’s office and help with the State and Local Government Committee. It has been an amazing experience getting to work alongside people that have also done this internship, and now play a role working in state government. “

Tanner Stockton is from Clarkrange, Tennessee and is a junior at Bryan College. He is part of Tennessee Legislative Internship Program that hires college juniors and seniors to work in legislative offices during session from January to the end of April.

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Sen. Pody and Rep. Boyd announce $25,000 grant for Cannon County

(NASHVILLE) April 30, 2018 – State Senator Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) and State Representative Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon) announced today that Cannon County will be receiving $25,000 in a measurement grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in order to purchase a scale for Cannon County’s transfer station and convenience center, which will update the county’s waste management system.

“This grant is great news for Cannon County,” said Senator Pody. “An up-to-date and properly functioning waste management system is important for our community, and this grant will ensure Cannon County has the resources it needs. I commend the work of local officials to secure these funds.”

“I am grateful to TDEC for their investment in Cannon County,” said Representative Boyd. “These funds will help us better track and report on materials that could potentially harm our local environment. We must continue to support programs and invest in initiatives that preserve our overall health and enrich the well-being of our citizens.”

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has budgeted $500,000 total for the Measurement Grant offering statewide. To learn more about the grant, please visit the Department’s website.

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