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Tennessee Redistricting: Capitol Hill Update

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The General Assembly approves final redistricting plan – New redistricting maps received final approval by both chambers this week. House Bill 1034, House Bill 1035 and House Bill 1037 now head to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature. Every 10 years, new House, Senate and Congressional maps are drawn to reflect population changes based on U.S. Census data. The plan complies with all state and federal requirements in the Voting Rights Act and is reflective of Tennessee’s growth. The final concept ensures equal representation for all Tennesseans.

Key Redistricting Plan highlights:

• U.S. growth was 7.4 percent

• Tennessee’s population grew 8.9 percent, growing from 6,346,105 in 2010 to 6,910,840 in 2020.

• Ideal district size increased from 64,102 to 69,806

• 17 counties grew by more than 10 percent. Middle Tennessee had the highest growth

• 30 counties experienced negative growth compared to only eight in 2010 –Rural West Tennessee, the Upper Cumberland region and Northeast Tennessee had the lowest growth

• This caused a three-seat shift in representation to Middle Tennessee from other parts of the state

• There are 30 split counties – nine in West Tennessee, nine in Middle Tennessee, and 12 in East Tennessee

• Seven districts have paired incumbents and eight are without incumbents.

• This concept maintains the current number of majority/minority districts – 13

• Six districts remain unchanged

Lawmakers rally against deforestation of public lands, propose to redirect proceeds from sale of TWRA assets – Bipartisan legislation filed this week would redirect proceeds from the sale of assets by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) to the state. Current state law allows funds from the sale of TWRA assets to be managed and administered by the agency. Similar sales in nearly every other state department are deposited in the state’s general fund.

House Bill 1969 was filed in response to the agency’s controversial plan to clear cut approximately 2,000 acres of hardwood forest on publicly-owned land approximate to Virgin Falls State Natural Area in Sparta, Tenn. The Bridgestone-Firestone Centennial Wilderness Area includes more than 10,000 acres in White and Cumberland counties gifted to the state by the Bridgestone Corporation in 1998 to preserve for future generations. The site is a popular destination for camping, hiking and hunting. It is home seven waterfalls, 26 miles of hiking trails and primitive campsites. It is also home to a variety of wildlife including federally listed species and native plants.

Republicans and Democrats in both chambers have joined efforts in recent weeks to halt the TWRA’s plan to clear cut the land. Lawmakers have asked the TWRA to present a transparent conservation management plan that includes the input of citizens and protects the natural beauty of the area for continued public enjoyment.

Republicans reclaim religious freedom and personal liberty for Tennessee’s health care workers -Tennessee Republicans are again leading the fight against President Joe Biden’s forced government discrimination and unconstitutional plan to deny Americans their right to make personal health decisions for themselves.

House Bill 1867 requires an employer with a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy to grant an exemption for medical or religious reasons to anyone who requests to be exempt. The bill also specifies that medical practitioners are protected from civil liability and threat of disciplinary action by health-related boards for providing medical exemptions.  “Health care workers have carried us through this public health crisis for two years,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, State Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville. “They are the heroes on the front lines of this pandemic. Some of them have made a personal decision to not get vaccinated and their choice should be respected.”

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 12 struck down the Biden Administration’s vaccine or testing mandate for employers with more than 100 employees. The high court allowed a policy requiring vaccinations for the health care workers at facilities that receive Medicaid and Medicare funds. There is no testing alternative for health care workers. The mandate was issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on behalf of the Biden Administration. It applies to more than 10 million health care workers nationwide. Those that don’t comply face losing their jobs. House Bill 1867 adds an additional layer of protection for Tennessee’s health care workers who do not want to be vaccinated.

Education Instruction Committee hears update on Ford Megasite – The House Education Instruction Committee received an update this week regarding progress being made at Ford Motor Co.’s massive new automobile manufacturing facility planned in West Tennessee.

Infrastructure instillation work continues at the site, according to Mark Herbison, president and CEO of HTL Advantage, an economic development coalition formed to bring new industries into Haywood, Tipton and Lauderdale counties. Officials estimate as many as 3,000 people could be on site working on the project by the end of the year. Ford and SK Innovations announced plans in September to build a state-of-the-art automobile and battery production facility on a 3,600-acre campus called Blue Oval City in Haywood County. The $5.6 billion project is the single-largest economic development investment in the state’s history and will create 5,800 new jobs in West Tennessee.

The Tennessee General Assembly, in partnership with Blue Oval City, committed $40 million to build a Tennessee College of Applied Science onsite that will provide customized training developed in conjunction with the two companies. The training will focus on electric vehicle manufacturing with a curriculum concentrating on mechatronics engineering and auto mechanics.

$28.5 million awarded to 62 communities for housing, infrastructure – Republicans in the General Assembly joined Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe on Monday to announce $28.5 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for 62 communities across Tennessee.

Funds will be used for water and sewer improvements and new extensions, housing rehabilitation and health and safety projects. They were allocated based on priorities set through the public meeting process at the local community level. The CDBG program is allocated under a procedure authorized by the Tennessee General Assembly. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development administers the grant program based on priorities set at the local level where community needs are best known.

Proposal gives schools flexibility for 10 days of remote learning – Republican leaders this week filed legislation that would give Tennessee public schools the option to offer remote class instruction in the event of extreme weather or outbreaks of illnesses on a school-by-school basis. House Bill 1912 gives local school districts the flexibility to provide up to 10 days of remote instruction of the required 180 days per school year. If the bill becomes law, districts could utilize the rule to allow individual classes or schools to learn remotely rather than shutting down an entire district.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development this week reported the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 4 percent in November 2021 to 3.8 percent in December 2021. The unemployment rate decreased in five counties, increased in 87 counties and remained the same in three counties. Williamson County reported the lowest rate at 2.1 percent while Perry County reported the highest rate at 7.9 percent. During the same time period, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the United States decreased from 4.2 percent to 3.9 percent.

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 [email protected].

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