Capitol Hill Week
By Kim Swindell Wood | March 12, 2018 7:00 am
Senator Paul Bailey
By Senator Paul Bailey
School safety headlined this week’s action on Capitol Hill as Governor Bill Haslam appointed a working group to review school safety in Tennessee. I was honored to be appointed as a member of this 17-member group which is comprised of leaders from education, mental health and safety, as well as members of the General Assembly and the executive branch of government.
We held our first meeting on Thursday when we began to review the facts. Governor Haslam asked us to focus on getting to the root of weaknesses in our school safety plans and to recommend appropriate responses to keep our students safe. He also reminded us that the entire country is trying to figure out what to do about school safety and that our task will be both critical and complex.
Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen told us that there were 7.5 incidents per 100,000 student in which students brought a gun to school during the 2015-2016 school year as compared to 3.1 incidents nationally. We also learned that the state has less than one specially trained law enforcement officer or School Resource Officer (SRO) per 100 students.
Our working group has a big challenge ahead of us. I pray our work will keep Tennessee from experiencing a tragedy like we have seen in school in other states. I will keep you informed of our progress.
In other news this week, legislation I am sponsoring to relieve the loss of city revenue in Tennessee’s small cities caused by the elimination of the Hall income tax was approved by the Revenue Subcommittee. The state has reduced both the sales tax on food and the Hall income tax, which were important revenue streams for our cities. As a result, cities are looking for ways to make the difference for these losses.
This legislation seeks to reallocate five percent of the fuel tax revenue from the IMPROVE/Tax Cut Act of 2017 and redistribute it equally back to the smaller cities. Over 294 cities would receive more fuel tax than they are currently receiving under this bill. It was sent to the full Finance, Ways, and Means Committee with a positive recommendation, which boosts our opportunity to pass it into law.
In the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, I was pleased to receive approval of legislation requiring the Commissioner of Health to develop educational literature to inform the public of the risks and prevalence of sleep-related deaths and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The literature would be made available on the Department of Health’s website, as well as any findings that may prevent SIDS and sleep-related deaths.
In addition, I passed legislation out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday calling for physicians who prescribe more than a five-day supply of opioids to women of child-bearing age to inform the patient about the risks it could have to a newborn, as well as cost-effective and appropriate forms of birth control.
We need to do everything we can to educate women who have been prescribed opioids in order to lower the risk that children are born with NAS. The number of babies nationwide born drug dependent has increased 500 percent since 2000. In addition to the pain these babies who are affected suffer, it costs approximately $62,000 per baby to treat this condition, with a total cost of $1 billion to Tennessee taxpayers annually.
Finally, legislation I am sponsoring received final Senate approval this week that seeks to place the nation’s motto, “In God We Trust,” in all Tennessee schools. The measure calls for the motto to be displayed in a prominent location. It now goes to the House of Representatives where it is pending final action on the floor.