Legislative Update – April

Prisons Oversight 

The recent assault on guards at the state’s Turney Center has renewed calls by Democrats for bringing back the legislative oversight of the prisons. This call was made by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart on Monday. 

 The bills to re-establish the “Corrections Oversight Committee”, shut down in 2011, have all been killed this session. Even[SB1145], a Republican supported bill was quietly killed in the Senate Health Committee. 

Rural Broadband

 The House and Senate have approved Gov. Haslam’s “Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act”. It will now be sent to the Governor for his signature. 

 [SB1215] gives $45 million over the next three years in grants and some tax credits for the service providers to make broadband avalible to unserved areas. 

State Budget Update 

 State lawmakers have yet to begin their deliberations on the budget. This will likely mean the legislative session will flow into mid-may for the first time in years. Lawmakers are forced, under the state constitution, to pass a balanced state budget every year. 

The major holdup this year revolves around the Governor’s gas tax proposal. They must first hear the governor’s budget amendments before hearing and debating their own. Governor Haslam is withholding his until both the House and Senate have taken a full vote on his IMPROVE Act, otherwise known as the “Gas Tax”.

The Senate may take a one week recess to allow time for the House to catchup, as the Senate is nearing the end of their business for the year. They project that their deliberations on the IMPROVE Act will wrap-up around April 20th. Under this plan, the Senate would take a weeks recess to go home until the House finishes their business and budget hearings begin. 

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