Capitol Hill Update from State Rep. David Byrd: Second Half of 111th General Assembly Kicks Off

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   The Second Regular Session of the 111th General Assembly officially convened this week in Nashville as Republican leaders continued to focus on building upon their recent achievements. Speaker Cameron Sexton gaveled members into session and also welcomed everyone back before sharing brief remarks with the body about the upcoming session:

   “The 2020 legislative session is here, and I believe we are all poised for a very successful year in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Over the last four months, I have enjoyed visiting with you in your communities, and I am reminded every single day of how diverse and unique all three Grand Divisions are in our state and how fortunate we are to call Tennessee our home.

   I admire your dedication and your willingness to answer the call to serve others. Additionally, I appreciate our shared desire to build upon the solid foundations left behind by those who have previously served.

   We have had many great leaders over our years, and now is the time to accept the task that lies before us — the task to propel our state and our communities to new heights together. Our job is to represent, serving as the voice for all Tennesseans from middle to west to east to urban to rural. Each and every voice is distinctive, and while we may not always agree on every issue, let’s remain respectful to one another and remember that each one of us represents 65,000 Tennesseans. We have a tremendous opportunity to ensure Tennessee continues to grow and that our state prospers.    

   Thank you for your continued service; I appreciate your partnership; I am honored to serve as your speaker. I am very eager to begin and continue working alongside each of you for the betterment of all Tennesseans.”-Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton

   2020 Legislative Agenda

   As the new legislative year officially begins, House members have an array of issues they will prioritize over the course of the next several months. Their work in 2020 will build upon last year’s momentum and accomplishments.

   Last year saw passage of a fiscally conservative balanced budget that included more than $35.2 million in tax cuts for all Tennesseans. The budget provides a $239 million investment in the state’s Rainy Day Fund bringing the state savings account to $1.1 billion. The budget included a record-breaking $11.3 billion investment in education and multiple initiatives that support businesses by providing opportunities to expand and create new jobs.

   Education will remain front and center over these next several months. A key goal will be to improve early childhood literacy rates across this state. This can be accomplished through targeted investments, attracting and incentivizing educators who specialize in these areas, and through community programs and partnerships. Every student should have the same resources and opportunities, so current and future workforces are prepared for successful futures and Tennessee continues to thrive.

   Health care remains a priority in 2020. Legislators will further examine ways to create a health care system that improves access and quality of care available, while lowering overall costs. We will look to continue to increase access through telemedicine, and we will focus on promoting competition through Certificate of Need (CON) reform. Improving transparency so patients can determine the type of care that is most affordable to them will also remain a priority. Our current healthcare system must continue to shift toward a more patient-centered approach. This will allow patients and their loved ones to make all medical decisions, rather than insurance companies or the government.

   Additionally, we will advance discussions about overhauling our current criminal justice system so it meets present day standards, not those of 30 years ago. As we work to create a system of justice tempered with mercy, House members will focus on remaining smart on crime, but not at the expense of safer communities. Conversations will also likely focus on strengthening responses to individuals with behavioral health needs, sending a strong message to criminals through truth in sentencing laws, and continuing to remove barriers to successful re-entry for those who desire to become productive citizens.

   Finally, members of the bi-partisan TANF Working Group will continue to examine the current surplus within the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in order to determine ways we can best support those looking to become self-reliant. The group’s overall focus will be to find innovative solutions that support our working families as they strive to overcome obstacles keeping them from achieving their independence.

   Under GOP leadership, Tennessee remains near record low unemployment levels. As of November 2019, statewide unemployment was 3.3 percent. Additionally, our income levels are increasing at the second fastest rate in the entire Southeast. Tennessee has the lowest debt and is the most fiscally stable state in the entire country. The Volunteer State remains the best place in the entire nation to live, work, raise a family and retire, thanks to the efforts of the Tennessee General Assembly. 

   As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice in Nashville. If there is ever any issue I can assist you with, please contact my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at: rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, concerns, and suggestions as we continue to protect Tennessee’s conservative values throughout the remainder of the 111th General Assembly.