This week, House Legislators gathered in the Capitol to hear Governor Bill Lee’s first State of the State Address. During his remarks, the Governor presented his budget priorities, which emphasized continued improvements in Tennessee’s education system, overhauling our criminal justice system, and improving access and the quality of healthcare available to Tennesseans, while lowering overall costs.

   House Legislators were pleased to see the Governor’s proposed budget includes a record-breaking deposit to the Rainy Day Fund that will lift the state savings account to an historic $1.1 billion. Additionally, the budget does not take on any long-term debt and manages to cut more than $40 million in costs without compromising the quality of services available to our citizens.

   In his address, Governor Lee also provided more detail on the Future Workforce Initiative and several of his already publicly announced education initiatives. He also discussed several new efforts for public education, including the following:

   A $71 million pay raise for teachers across Tennessee and investment in professional development programming.

   A three-year pilot program to provide support services for high school students in Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties.

   Establishing the Governor’s Civics Instructional Seal to support and recognize those schools that prioritize teaching our nation’s history and civic values.

   Providing approximately $175 million in new funding to support teachers and students in our traditional public schools.

   House Legislators also supported Governor Lee’s efforts to be tough on crime but also smart on crime through criminal justice reform and investments in public safety. These include:

   Establishing the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Task Force to make communities safer by reducing recidivism through proposed legislative and budgetary changes.

   Launching the Volunteer Mentorship Initiative to partner incarcerated individuals who are working toward obtaining higher education with a mentor.

   Increasing funding to the Electronic Monitoring Indigency fund to use GPS monitoring of low-risk, non-violent individuals instead of incarceration.

   As for modernizing our healthcare system, House Legislators agree with the Governor about the need for transparency and competition, both of which are reflected in the recent CARE Plan — rolled out by House leaders a few weeks ago.

   Additional health provisions include:

   Launching the Health Care Modernization Task Force to bring the private sector, policy makers and communities together to develop reforms and improve the value of care for all Tennesseans.

   Cracking down on expensive Medicaid fraud by expanding the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with an additional 24 positions dedicated to identifying fraud and waste.

   Serving thousands of additional vulnerable Tennesseans by investing an additional $11 million into the Behavioral Health Safety Net and Regional Mental Institutes.

   Increasing, by as much as $8.6 million, funding for graduate medical education at Tennessee’s medical schools and critical incentive programs that provide financial support to resident physicians who commit to living and working in our rural communities.

   In the weeks ahead, House Legislators will continue to lead on these important issues and support commonsense initiatives that reflect our conservative values.

   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.

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