Governor Bill Haslam’s unveils 2016-2017 budget focusing on education
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), February 4, 2016 -- Governor Bill Haslam delivered his proposal to fund state government for the 2016-2017 fiscal year in his annual State of the State Address this week, unveiling a balanced $34.8 billion proposal that makes the largest investment in K-12 education without a tax increase in Tennessee’s history. The governor’s Fiscal Year 2016-2017 budget proposes 261 million in new dollars for Tennessee public education, including $104.6 million for teacher salaries. It also builds up state reserves, puts Tennessee on the path to catch up on long-deferred maintenance of buildings, reinvests in the state workforce and focuses one-time dollars on reducing the state’s ongoing costs.
In his speech, Gov. Haslam highlighted the collaborative effort with the General Assembly to grow Tennessee’s economy, reduce ongoing costs, provide high quality service to taxpayers and maintain fiscal discipline that has positioned Tennessee to invest in its priorities. The governor said that the budget proposal takes advantage of a strengthening economy combined with the hard work and discipline of departments of state government and the conservative fiscal strategy employed by the General Assembly, the state’s constitutional officers and his administration.
“By managing wisely and investing strategically, we’re making tax dollars work harder for Tennesseans. This is what we do,” Haslam said.
Including the current fiscal year’s appropriation, state government will invest more than 414 million in new dollars in Tennessee schools. Haslam proposed funding the 12th month of health insurance for teachers and doubling the state’s recurring contribution for technology needs at schools.
The governor’s proposal puts $100 million into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, bringing it to an estimated $668 million on June 30, 2017; $60 million for salary increases for state employees; and another $36 million for market rate adjustments for state employees making less than $50,000 annually.
Gov. Haslam proposed significant investments in higher education and the Drive to 55 initiative, the state’s effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential to 55 percent by 2025, including:
• $50 million for the Complete College funding formula for higher education;
• $20 million for the Drive to 55 Capacity Fund to help community and technical colleges meet the growing demand for degrees and certificates; and
• $10 million for the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP), helping communities align degree and course offerings with the needs of the local workforce.
Other notable budget investments are:
• $130 million from the General Fund to repay the Highway Fund;
• $24 million in state funds for the Employment and Community First (ECF) CHOICES program to allow the state to serve more people currently on the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ waiting list and others eligible for services;
• $12.8 million for facilities and homeland security upgrades for the Military Department;
• $10 million for the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Rural Development Initiative;
• $1.27 million to increase the number of drug recovery courts from 41 to 50 and for two additional veterans courts.
“We have been very prudent with Tennessee’s finances. We have the lowest state debt in the nation and nothing in this budget will create new debt,” added Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson (R-Hixson), who is Vice-Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “Rather, this budget increases the state’s savings account which declined greatly during the recession years to ensure we have the financial safety net we need in the event of a downturn in the economy. I look forward to working with the administration as this budget moves forward.”
Legislation calling for online voter registration advances in the Senate State and Local Government Committee
Legislation providing for the establishment of an online voter registration system for Tennesseans was unanimously approved by members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week. Under Senate Bill 1626 / House Bill 1742, sponsored by Senate State and Local Government Committee Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston), voters with an unexpired driver's license or personal identification card issued by the Department of Safety will be able to go to an official state website where they will be able to register to vote online.
"In an electronic age, it makes sense to provide electronic registration if we have proper safeguards and validation steps," said Senator Yager. “This legislation provides those assurances to make voter registration more convenient for Tennesseans and hopefully encourages more citizens to participate in the election process.”
The voter registration application would be reviewed electronically. If the request is confirmed to be valid, the new registration would be added to the state’s voter registration list after being reviewed by the respective county election commission office. The validation step is done by comparing the information on the online registration form against the information provided by the same individual when he or she received a driver’s license or their state-issued identification card.
The signature already on record with the state would become the signature on record for voting. If the information does not match, the applicant would be directed to print and complete the application and mail it to the county election commission office in their county of residence to be processed.
February 3, 2016 (NASHVILLE) – Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), Senate Democrat Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro, House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) held a press conference today with other key legislative leaders, mayors, transportation officials and the Chamber of Commerce in support of an innovative bill that would provide a framework to allow Private Public Partnership (P3) agreements for transportation projects. Senate Bill 2093 / House Bill 2407 aims to improve safety, reduce congestion and increase capacity on Tennessee’s roads, as well as encourage economic growth.
“With long-term funding sources for transportation being uncertain, the ability to enter into private-public partnerships will allow us to finance projects that we might not otherwise be able to even consider,” said Sen. Ketron. “This legislation is the result of months of collaboration by many groups that understand the necessity for forging ahead to find solutions to the challenges we face to meet growing transportation demands in Tennessee. It would give us another tool in the toolbox to address those needs.”
Rep. Sargent added, “Tennessee has reached the point that we must deal with our transit needs, whether that means having a system for people who live in the Nashville area or one that allows people who reside in the surrounding counties to commute to work. As the city and region grow, the need for a system that allows us to travel more efficiently and seamlessly throughout the region is vital.”
“Anyone who's driven in Middle Tennessee in the last six months knows we have to take action, and we have to take it now,” Sen. Yarbro said. “Transit is an essential piece of the puzzle, and our legislation sets a framework for the investment in transportation we badly need.”
Typically with a P3 agreement, the public sector maintains ownership of the asset but the private partner manages construction, operation, and maintenance through the life of the contract. Key provisions in the bill include:
• authorizes partnerships between city, county or state governments to receive, consider, evaluate and accept solicited and unsolicited proposals for a qualifying transportation facility and details the process for private development, redevelopment and operation of transportation facilities;
• allows government entities to receive, consider, evaluate and accept proposals for a qualifying transportation facility and details the procedures for doing so;
• sets forth guidelines for obtaining or issuing a certificate and for terms of these P3 agreements;
• places accountability into the process by requiring the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee to review any proposals accepted by the Department of Transportation within 20 days of receipt;
• grants private entities broad authority in structuring terms and conditions for the financing of their transportation facilities; and
• establishes responsibilities for the public and private entity, as well as a procedure for revocation of a certificate of a transportation facility.
“This proposal has the potential to accelerate projects, encourage innovation, and maximize financial resources,” added Sen. Tracy. “We believe it will continue to gain widespread support as it moves through the legislative process.”
Governor’s Budget includes funds for Accounting Chair of Excellence at MTSU and the Rutherford County Veteran’s Court says Sen. Ketron
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The budget proposal presented by Governor Bill Haslam to lawmakers Monday night includes $90,000 to $120,000 to aid Rutherford County’s Veterans Court and $1.5 million for the Joey A. Jacobs Chair of Accounting at MTSU said Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro).
Ketron said the funds for MTSU will contribute significantly to the teaching, research and scholarly activity of the Department of Accounting, the Jennings A. Jones College of Business and the University. The Chair is being funded by a $1 million Chair of Excellence appropriation along with a $2.5 million institutional match.
“This is excellent news as the new Chair will provide a national and international presence for MTSU in the field of accounting,” said Sen. Ketron. “It will elevate the field of accounting at MTSU and support the university’s degree program.”
The funds for the Rutherford County Veterans Court will be used to add sufficient staff to help the court more than double the number of veterans served. The Veterans Courts are operated through the Tennessee Judicial System as a trial court with special emphasis on access to therapy and support services in a necessary partnership with mental health. Services provided include but are not limited to group therapy, job coaching, mentoring by fellow veterans, and specialized treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the substance abuse frequently used by sufferers to self-medicate. Drug Courts around the state have also designated efforts and assistance to the military men and women seeking services to aid in their return to civilian society
“These courts have been highly successful,” said Senator Ketron. “We need to do everything we can do give our veterans the help the need when suffering from PTSD or substance abuse.”
The budget proposal was heard in the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. It is generally one of the last bills to receive final approval before the General Assembly adjourns.
Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee hears Quarterly Report from State Comptroller as Legislature anticipates presentation of Governor Haslam’s Budget on Monday
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), January 28, 2016 – Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson appeared before the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee this week urging state lawmakers to look to the future when deciding how to spend state funds and excess state revenues. In his quarterly report to the Legislature, the comptroller echoed Treasurer David Lillard’s testimony last week, saying the state is in good, strong fiscal condition.
Wilson attributed the state’s healthy financial position to the General Assembly’s action to forgo, reduce or eliminate expenses and the administration’s continued efforts to streamline operations. The report was delivered just days before Governor Bill Haslam is scheduled to present his 2016-2017 budget to a joint convention of the General Assembly on Monday.
The state collected about $353 million over budget estimates for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which ended in July. Similarly, the State Funding Board met in November and projected that revenues could grow by up to $348 million during the current 2015-2016 fiscal year.
Wilson recommended putting about $75 million of the excess funds to increase Tennessee’s Rainy Day Fund, the reserves which serve as the state’s financial safety net in the event of a downturn in the economy. The fund for the current budget year is $568 million, still short of the state’s pre-recession year level of $750 million in 2008. He said adequate reserves are a key component of the state’s fiscal integrity and critical to keep Tennessee’s AAA bond rating. He also suggested the use of available funds to increase government efficiency, reduce future costs and lower the risk of catastrophic loss through appropriation of information technology, cybersecurity, overdue capital maintenance and infrastructure. Wilson urged committee members to take care to ensure any new budgetary commitments are financially sustainable, saying the state’s fiscal history offers numerous examples of the serious problems that arise when recurring expenses are paid with nonrecurring funds.
“Comptroller Wilson offered very wise advice,” said Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro). “Building back our reserves should be the first thing we do with the excess revenue. Tennessee is in sound fiscal condition because we have adhered to conservative financial practices despite temptations to spend beyond our means. We need to continue to prioritize spending, realize efficiencies and have adequate resources in our Rainy Day Fund to weather any future economic storms.”
General Assembly Adopts Judicial Confirmation Plan
The Senate and House of Representatives have adopted a conference committee report on Senate Bill 1 which puts into place a framework on how the state’s appellate judges should be confirmed or rejected under the new constitutional mandate adopted by voters in 2014. The bill is sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown).
Under the constitutional amendment, appellate judges are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. The voters of Tennessee have the ability to vote to retain or not retain judges at the end of their eight-year terms or, if an appointment is to fill a vacancy, at the next even year August election.
“I am thrilled the agreement passed the Senate and House with overwhelming majorities,” said Kelsey. The Senate passed it unanimously (33-0) and the House tally was 86-5. “I look forward to holding the first ever confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks. We are setting precedent for quality judges in Tennessee for the next hundred years.”
Top Administration Officials talk to Senate Transportation Committee about Tennessee’s Roads
The Senate Transportation and Safety Committee heard from Deputy Governor Jim Henry, Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd regarding Tennessee’s transportation outlook. The officials are asking lawmakers to consider a long-term solution to fund the approximately $6.1 billion in road projects currently pending in Tennessee saying it is not only needed for public safety but to maintain the state’s forward momentum in creating jobs.
“Transportation revenues in Tennessee are not expected to be sufficient to maintain existing highways and meet long-term transportation demand,” Henry said.
Tennessee’s roads are ranked third best in the nation, despite spending the third least per capita. Schroer said the cost of asphalt has increased 242 percent since 1989. These escalating costs, combined with stagnate revenues from the state’s gas tax and instability in federal funding, are the primary reasons the state has not kept up with demand, according to the officials.
Tennessee relies on fuel taxes to fund its highways and does not use debt financing, tolls, or general fund revenues. Those taxes are levied on a per-gallon basis, not on price, and drivers now purchase fewer gallons a year than they used to as vehicle mileage has improved. Schroer said the gas tax paid per new vehicle has declined from $213 per year for a new light duty vehicle in 1990 to $166 per year in 2013 and is expected to further decline to $107 per year by 2025.
The administration officials fear that pavement surfaces on existing highways will deteriorate due to lack of state funding. They are also concerned about the impact to bridges which are in need of repair. They indicated that this, in turn, could hamper Tennessee’s efforts to bring new jobs as good roads are a top priority for industries looking to locate here.
Members of the Transportation Committee praised TDOT’s efforts last week to clear roads of snow and ice after a winter storm moved through Tennessee. Crews worked continuously through the weekend to clear roadways for travelers.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: DARLENE SCHLICHER January 26, 2016 615- 741-6336
NASHVILLE – The City of Murfreesboro will receive a $1 million recycling grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) according to State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro). The funds are part of TDEC’s Recycling Equipment, Waste Reduction, Used Oil and Composting Grants which were authorized by the Solid Waste Management Act of 1991 and are supported by the Tennessee Solid Waste Management Fund. The fund receives revenues from a state surcharge on each ton of solid waste disposed in landfills from a fee on new tires sold in the state.
“This is a huge grant and will help Murfreesboro tremendously as the city works to divert waste from the landfill through recycling,” said Senator Ketron. “I congratulate our city officials for their diligent work in securing such a large grant to help in these efforts.”
The composting grant will be used to purchase equipment, including a tub grinder, trammel screen, wheeled excavator, front loader truck, asphalt, and moisture and temperature probes.
Rutherford County was also awarded a $169,904 grant. That grant will be used to purchase a front end loader truck and container locks.
The projects were among $2.27 million in fiscal year 2016 recycling grants announced by the department to reduce landfill waste in Tennessee.
TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said, “These projects will provide opportunities for counties and municipalities across the state to enhance their waste reduction and recycling infrastructure. The recycling equipment grants especially assist local governments in avoiding landfill costs, resulting in economic advantages for communities and the state.”
Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. William Lamberth address cost parity among treatments
CONTACT: Cade Cothern (615) 741-5185 or Darlene Schlicher (615) 741-6336
For Immediate Release: January 21, 2016
NASHVILLE – Today Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) introduced Senate Bill 2091 / House Bill 2239, the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, to ensure that cancer patients are able to get the most medically appropriate treatment, as decided between the physician and patient.
Traditional treatments are usually given through an IV or injection and are covered under health care benefits resulting in a small co-pay or no cost at all to patients. Oral treatments are usually part of the health plan’s pharmacy benefit and result in high out-of-pocket costs for patients. This disparity is a result of our laws not keeping up with scientific advancements, which can negatively impact patients taking their medication as prescribed.
“I’ve seen firsthand what treatment options can mean when you’re fighting cancer,” Sen. Ketron said. “As lawmakers, we should do our part to support medical advancements that can save lives in leveling the playing field for patients when it comes to cost.”
Scientists are finding more innovative ways to treat cancer, but in Tennessee our laws aren’t always allowing patients to take advantage of those benefits. Oral anti-cancer medications, which are often available in a pill form, directly attack cancer cells and often with fewer side effects than traditional therapies. More than 25 percent of new anti-cancer treatments in the research pipeline are in oral form, making patient-administered therapies an increasingly important component of cancer treatment. For a number of cancers, oral anti-cancer medications are actually already the standard of care.
“It is important to note that this bill is not an insurance mandate,” Rep. Lamberth said. “We aren’t proposing to mandate coverage of oral chemotherapy. We are merely saying that if a health plan does cover cancer treatment that patients’ out-of-pocket cost should be the same no matter how the treatment is administered.”
Studies show that oral anti-cancer therapies, when compared with those administered intravenously, not only help decrease overall health care costs, but they also reduce work loss costs, and improve the quality of life for patients.
Today 40 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation that equalizes the cost of oral anti-cancer medications with traditional treatments for patients.
Murfreesboro – State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) has been honored with the Tennessee 811 “Legislator of the Year” Award. Ketron was presented the award at a meeting of Tennessee 811 in Murfreesboro on Monday in recognition of his work on behalf of improving public safety and vital underground infrastructure damage prevention in Tennessee.
“Bill Ketron sponsored the Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act (Public Chapter 488 of 2015) in Tennessee,” said William Turner, President of the not-for profit Tennessee 811. “As a State Senator, he has tirelessly supported efforts to strengthen the existing state law to better protect the public and all of our vital underground utilities. We are proud to recognize his support of Tennessee’s Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act in the General Assembly in 2015. Without his solid support and leadership, the legislation would not have passed.”
Ketron led to passage legislation this year to strengthen the current Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act. Tennessee law requires anyone who is digging to contact Tennessee 811 at least 3 business days prior to digging. You can contact Tennessee 811 by dialing 811 or by going to their website – www.tennessee811.com. The call is free and there is no charge for utilities to come out and locate their underground facilities.
Striking a single line can cause injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811. Installing a mailbox, building a deck and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin 3 working days after contacting 811.
In accepting the award, Ketron said “this was about the safety of all Tennesseans. A simple phone call to 811 can protect construction workers, utility workers and the public at large from the catastrophic effects of hitting an underground pipeline.” The award was presented by Bobby Garner, Chairman of the Board - Tennessee 811.
NASHVILLE -- Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) today received the Tennessee Disability Coalition’s “2015 Disability Hero” award. The award honors public servants who champion causes to help Tennesseans with disabilities and their families.
“I am very humbled to receive this award from such an inspiring organization,” said Senator Ketron. “It is an honor to partner with this group to help improve the lives of those who live with disabilities and I salute all of those who work tirelessly toward that goal every day. They are the real heroes.”
The Tennessee Disability Coalition is an alliance of organizations and individuals joined to promote the full and equal participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of life. The Coalition and its member organizations represent Tennesseans of every age, economic background, political persuasion and disability.
November 17, 2015
(NASHVILLE) -- State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) said today that he is drafting legislation to determine how much refugee resettlement is costing Tennesseans in his continuing effort to give the state greater control over who and how many are placed here by the federal government. Ketron, who said he is adamantly opposed to the federal government placing Syrian refugees in the state, said he was very pleased that Governor Haslam has asked the Obama Administration to halt their resettlement efforts.
“I have been very concerned for many years that what happened in Paris, could happen here because of the lack of transparency and accountability regarding the federal government’s refugee resettlement program,” said Senator Ketron. “I am encouraged that now that others recognize the dangers of this practice that it can be stopped.”
“My proposal is aimed at understanding the costs that Tennessee taxpayers must bear through the federal refugee resettlement program,” he added. “Beyond the urgent public safety concerns, state governments must pay the tab for refugee needs, like healthcare, education, and welfare programs. Currently, we do not collect the data we need to give us that information. This bill is about transparency so that we know the full costs of supporting these refugees that the federal government has thrust upon us.”
Ketron said he expects to present the legislation when the General Assembly returns to Nashville in January.
October 12, 2015
On Monday, October 19, 2015, State Senators Bill Ketron and Mike Bell with State Representatives Sheila Butt and Jay Reedy will host a Legislator Community Forum to discuss Senate Joint Resolution 0067, Tennessee’s application for an Article V Convention of States. Article V of the U.S. Constitution allows the states to apply for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution. The forum will be held at the Millennium Maxwell House, 2025 Rosa L. Parks Blvd, Nashville, TN at 7:00 P.M. and is open to the public. Admission and parking are free but guests must register with Eventbrite – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/convention-of-states-legislator-forum-tickets-19029154714
SJR0067, which passed the Senate during the 2015 legislative session, seeks a convention “limited to proposing amendments to the United States Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”
Forty-one states have introduced such resolutions in their legislatures since 2014, with four states already passing the resolution: Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Alaska. The Convention of States submits that “it has a solution as big as the problem” posed by the growth and overreach of the federal government. http://www.conventionofstates.com/
Tennessee Convention of States State Director Scott Williams and Deputy State Director Norman Bobo will present an overview of Article V and what citizen volunteers can do to help return power to the states and “We the People.” The legislators will present their views on why such an amending convention is necessary. The presentation will be followed by a citizen Q&A.
Contact: Scott Williams, State Director, Tennessee Convention of States (865) 566-3033 or Norman Bobo (615) 948-5748. See https://www.facebook.com/events/1644980642410553/