Legislative wrap-up

Posted By | March 13, 2020 8:00 am

State Representative Paul Sherrell, of White County

House of Representatives responds to communities devastated by historic tornado outbreak

Several communities across Tennessee suffered extensive damage as a result of an historic tornado outbreak last week.

In the early morning hours of March 3, a powerful tornado tore through Germantown and North Nashville with wind speeds reaching 125 miles per hour. The tornado strengthened as it stayed on the ground for more than 50 miles, causing catastrophic damage across East Nashville, Donelson, Wilson and Putnam counties before finally dissipating. More than two dozen people were killed including 18 in Putnam County alone.

In the days following the storm, the House of Representatives began working with Gov. Bill Lee, his administration, community partners and volunteer organizations to ensure those impacted by this catastrophic event had the resources needed to begin the long recovery process.

Last Thursday in the House chamber, State Rep. Paul Sherrell (R-Sparta) and several other members recognized the ongoing efforts of law enforcement communities and first responders for their dedication and for answering the call to serve the citizens of this state during this difficult time. Members also paused for a moment of silence and prayed for all those who had lost loved ones or had suffered damage to their properties.

In the weeks ahead, members will continue to identify solutions that support the recovery and rebuilding efforts. They range from legislation and appropriations, to additional support services in our hardest hit areas. Members will have several opportunities to come together and participate in volunteer and community service events that support the ongoing disaster response.

Federal officials have been on the ground assessing the damage caused by the severe weather event for several days now. Gov. Lee last Thursday announced Davidson, Wilson, and Putnam counties will receive federal aid through an expedited Major Disaster Declaration.

Through this declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide both its Individual Assistance and Public Assistance programs to citizens in these three declared counties. Affected citizens can begin to register with FEMA and apply for federal assistance by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov

At this time, Tennessee remains under a State of Emergency and the State Emergency Operations Center in Nashville continues to operate in support of the ongoing disaster response.

Constitutional carry legislation set to begin movement this week

Historic Republican legislation that allows Tennessee to become the 17th state to enact constitutional carry is set to begin moving through the Tennessee House of Representatives this week.

House Bill 2817 sends a strong “tough on gun crime” message to violent criminals, felons, and gang members through a series of sentencing enhancements that support our law enforcement and judicial communities as they work to protect our cities and towns.

At the same time, this legislation upholds the freedoms granted to law-abiding citizens of Tennessee under our Constitution by allowing open or concealed carry for citizens 21 and older (18 if certain military service requirements are met).

House Bill 2817 is expected to be debated and discussed by members of the House Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee on March 10.

Republicans introduce resolution urging law enforcement to develop protocols for interactions with autistic adults

Republicans recently introduced a resolution urging law enforcement to develop training guidelines for interacting with adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

House Joint Resolution 807 calls on Tennessee’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission to develop and implement the appropriate training protocols.

Many times when law enforcement is called to a situation involving adults with autism or intellectual disabilities, it is because others misinterpret unusual behavior as dangerous or criminal activity.

While law enforcement is trained to use certain protocols in crisis situations, those same protocols may not be the best way to interact with individuals with ASD who may exhibit a wide variety of behaviors.  People with ASD can sometimes have difficulty following verbal commands, responding to questions or reading body language.

This important initiative recognizes the increased prevalence of young people being diagnosed with ASD in the United States, which is now one in 59, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

House Republicans approve legislation adding alternative treatment to combat opioid crisis

Recently in Nashville, Republican leaders approved legislation designed to increase alternative forms of treatment to opioids for Tennessee patients.

House Bill 1917 adds occupational therapy, interventional treatments and procedures, as well as non-opioid medicines to current alternative treatment methods which already include acupuncture and chiropractic care, as well as physical therapy.

Opioid-related overdose deaths continue to plague cities and towns across our state. However, Tennessee is making progress addressing the opioid crisis.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome decreased by 14 percent from 2017 to 2018. Additionally, four to seven-day prescriptions have decreased from 33.7 percent in April 2018 to 18.7 percent in March 2019. Eight to ten-day prescriptions were also down from 6.3 percent in April 2018 to 2.7 percent in March 2019.

House Bill 1917 will now head to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Resolution affirming Tennessee’s sovereignty passes in the House

A resolution reaffirming Tennessee’s Constitutional status as a sovereign state and the General Assembly’s authority as a separate and independent branch of state government has passed the House Chamber.

House Joint Resolution 741 reaffirms the constitutional duty and exclusive authority and power of the Tennessee General Assembly to appropriate taxpayer dollars and balance the state budget.

The resolution was introduced after the governor announced in December he would allow refugees to resettle in Tennessee. That decision follows an executive order by President Donald Trump to allow states and local governments to opt-in on whether they would resettle refugees.

Tennessee in 2017 became one of the first states in the nation to sue the federal government for compelling the state to pay for a federal program like refugee resettlement. The lawsuit cites a violation of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Paul Sherrell is the Majority Floor Leader for the Tennessee General Assembly. Sherrell is also a member of the House Health and House Judiciary Committees, as well as the Constitutional Protections & Sentencing and Mental Health & Substance Abuse Subcommittees. Sherrell lives in Sparta and represents Tennessee House District 43, which includes White, Grundy, and part of Warren counties.   

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