Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd March 18, 2020

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   Legislation improving TANF Program reporting moves to the House floor

   This week, legislation improving reporting requirements within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program moved closer to a vote in the House chamber. Members of both the House Health and House Calendar & Rules Committees approved House Bill 2153, which strengthens reporting requirements for the TANF program. The legislation instructs the Department of Human Services (DHS) to issue an annual report disclosing the amount of federal funding available to be spent during each fiscal year, the amount of federal funds budgeted to be spent and expected to be spent, the amount of federal funds set aside for a necessary reserve, and any restrictions.

   It is a result of the TANF Working Group, established by both the House and Senate Speakers last fall, after it was determined DHS had built up a reserve of $730 million in unused block grant funds. These resources are designed to support working families who desire to move away from government assistance and achieve prosperity. House Bill 2153 is set for a vote in the House on March 19, 2020.

   General Assembly approves Holly Bobo Act

   Members of the Tennessee General Assembly this week overwhelmingly approved passage of House Bill 2308, also known as the Holly Bobo Act. The legislation expands Tennessee’s endangered alert system to include missing or endangered young adults under 21. It honors the memory of 20-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo who was abducted from her home in Decatur County in 2011. The young woman’s remains were found three years later.

   The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s current program issues alerts for missing or endangered children under 18 and also features a senior citizen alert program. The Holly Bobo Act makes the TBI’s endangered alert system part of Tennessee Code.

   The Holly Bobo Act does not change the activation criteria for AMBER Alerts, which is a federally funded program. Law enforcement reserves AMBER Alerts for the most serious of missing child cases when authorities believe a child is in imminent danger. AMBER Alerts only may only be applied to children under 18-years-old. House Bill 2308 now heads to the governor’s desk for approval.

   House Republicans support legislation to improve transportation for disabled and aging

   On Thursday, House Republicans unanimously supported legislation aimed at improving transportation options for the disabled and aging populations across the state. The Tennessee Accessible Transportation and Mobility Act of 2020 (HB1596) creates an office within the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) dedicated to expanding and improving accessible transportation. No state dollars will be used to create the new office.

   Public transportation is a challenge in certain areas across Tennessee, and it is especially difficult to access for the disabled and aging. The new office created by this legislation will identify and work to eliminate those barriers. The overall goal is to give as much access to public transportation as possible so the elderly and disabled can be out in the community, engaged and living more productive lives. House Bill 1596 now heads to the governor’s desk for signature.

   As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is ever any issue I can assist with, please reach out to 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 during the second half of the 111th General Assembly.