Capitol Hill Week
By Kim Swindell Wood | April 3, 2017 7:00 am
Senator Paul Bailey
By Senator Paul Bailey
The Senate State and Local Government Committee approved two bills this week aiding the families of law enforcement officers who are killed in the line of duty. Senate Bill 1059 calls for a $250,000 death benefit from the State of Tennessee for any firefighter, volunteer rescue worker, or law enforcement officer who is killed in the line of duty. The Helping Emergency Response Officials (HERO) Act would significantly increase the current lump sum of $25,000 paid at the time of death to a $250,000 annuity with the first responder’s estate receiving annual installments of $50,000 per year.
The second bill authorizes the State Insurance Committee to offer or continue to provide health insurance benefits to the surviving spouse and children of a first responder killed in the line of duty. Under Senate Bill 822 the first responder’s family and unborn child may receive health insurance benefits from the employing agency for up to two years.
In addition, the State Senate approved my bill this week to designate May 14-20, 2017, as Police Memorial Week. Senate Joint Resolution 115 was introduced to “honor the brave and valiant service rendered by the many law enforcement officers through Tennessee.”
When one of our law enforcement officers doesn’t make it home to his or her family, we owe them a perpetual debt of gratitude and remembrance. By pausing for a statewide remembrance, we will give our fallen law enforcement officers the prayerful respect and dignity that they so deserve. I am very pleased that all of these bills are advancing.
Teacher Education Programs — As Tennessee emerges as a national leader in education improvements, legislators are creating innovative ways to further the educational advances that the state of Tennessee is making. One piece of legislation which aims to aid in this endeavor is Senate Bill 614 which was unanimously approved by the full Senate on Thursday.
Research shows that teachers have the most impact of any in-school factor on student achievement. The bill recognizes the impact that teacher education in Tennessee’s colleges and universities has on K-12 students.
The legislation calls for the creation of an environment where higher education teachers engage collaboratively in classroom activities at K-12 level. In addition, the bill requires the State Board of Education to meet annually to coordinate policy on educator preparation, and gives them the authority to review educator preparation programs for non-compliance.
Texting While Driving — The full Senate approved legislation this week which increases the penalties for texting while driving. In Tennessee, cell phone use while driving has caused 10 times the amount of fatalities than the national average. Despite educating the public regarding the dangers, 77 percent of young adults are confident that they can safely text while driving, and 55 percent of young adults claim that it is a relatively easy task. Presently, the law states that the charge for transmitting or reading text messages while driving is a Class C misdemeanor with fines not to exceed $50.00 and court costs not to exceed $10.00. In addition, first offense drivers must attend and complete a driver education course. Senate bill 658 would increase the criminal classification of the offense of texting while driving to a Class B misdemeanor if the accident directly results in a serious bodily injury and would make it a Class A misdemeanor if the accident directly results in a fatality.
Convicted Criminals Unlawfully in the U.S. — The Senate Judiciary Committee also approved legislation on Tuesday that would allow courts in Tennessee to enhance the sentence of a convicted criminal who is unlawfully in the U.S. Senate Bill 1260 creates a new enhancement factor that a judge can consider in sentencing if the defendant was illegally or unlawfully in the U.S. at the time the offense was committed.
Maximizing Taxpayer Dollars – Finally, members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee approved legislation this week which creates a Task Force on Government Spending and Accountability. Senate Bill 788 aims to ensure savings of state taxpayer dollars by maximizing performance in state government. In addition to focusing on potential savings and investments, the task force will look at reduction of long-term spending, the cost-effectiveness of government programs and services, and whether the various departments and agencies are achieving their desired outcomes. The members are to be composed of citizens who are well-informed on the subject of state finance.
As we begin the final month of this legislative session, I want to remind you to please call me when you have a question or an opinion on the issues before us. I also want to offer assistance with state-related issues with the various departments and agencies of state government. I would be happy to hear from you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is (615) 741-3978 and my address is 2 Legislative Plaza, Nashville, TN 37219.