To my Friends and Neighbors,
Session has officially adjourned. It was a long and exhausting journey but I am proud of all that we’ve accomplished and look forward to what we can do during the 110th General Assembly. In my time as a legislator, I have maintained a steadfast focus on transportation, commerce, health and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. This session was no different.
The Long Drive to P3 Legislation
This year, I continued my efforts to tackle legislation to combat the growing issue of commuter traffic. With so many Rutherford County residents commuting to Nashville for work each day, it was important that I confront the congestion concerns of I-24. A person should not have to add an additional three hours to their workday just to put food on the table and this new law is the result of months of collaboration by many groups that understand the necessity to find solutions to the challenges we face to meet the growing transportation demands in Tennessee.
With the passage of the Public-Private Partnership (P3) legislation, we can now begin to utilize free market strategies to improve safety, reduce congestion and increase capacity on Tennessee’s roads, as well as encourage economic growth and development. This law authorizes partnerships between private entities and state and local governments for the private development, redevelopment and operation of transportation facilities. This could include light rail, monorail or many other possible solutions. With the ability to enter into public-private partnerships, we can now examine projects that we might not otherwise have been able to consider and allow those working outside the county to spend less time in traffic and more time with their families.
Defense from Foreign Threats
We cannot just rely on the federal government to protect us from foreign threats. We must be proactive rather than reactive to prevent the state from inadvertently funding international dangers. We must put the safety, security and welfare of Tennesseans and Americans first.
In 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, which authorized state and local governments to prevent investment in companies operating within Iran’s Energy Sector that may directly or indirectly support Iran’s nuclear capabilities. With this in place, we passed the Iran Divestment Act (Public Chapter 817) to identify businesses that invest in Iran’s energy sector and prohibit the state from contracting with them. The state Chief Procurement Officer is now required to develop a list of persons engaged in these types of investment activities and publish the list on the state’s website, which will be updated every 180 days. Any person attempting to contract with a state agency or entity must certify that they are not on the list and that they do not utilize a subcontractor on the list.
It is vital to the safety of Tennessee and the United States that resources to support Iran’s Energy Sector are cut off. We cannot support businesses that fund a nation that endangers all of us and through this legislation and the thirty other states that have similar laws, we can do our part to protect the citizens.
Fair Practices in a Free Market
One of the primary duties of government is to stop unfair, deceptive and fraudulent business practices and to develop rules to maintain a fair marketplace. I am delighted to have sponsored two bills this past session that protect consumers and educate citizens regarding their commercial rights.
As technology improves, we are gifted with amazing innovations, but those same innovations open the door for crooks and hackers. Cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated and it is important that the state keeps up with them so that our personal and financial information remains confidential.
Public Chapter 692 tightens up Tennessee’s law regarding breach notification requirements. The 2013 Target breach cost credit unions over $30 million and the 2014 Home Depot breach is estimated to have cost even more. Under this new legislation, companies are now required to disclose a breach immediately, but no later than 45 days from the discovery or, in the event the notification is delayed due to the needs of law enforcement, no later than 45 days after the law enforcement agency determines that the disclosure will not compromise a criminal investigation.
Another piece of legislation that helps defend against unethical business practices is Public Chapter 691 that closed a loophole in the salvage title law. With approximately 168,500 registered motorcycles in Tennessee, it was vital that we close this loophole and put motorcycles under the same salvage law requirements as other vehicles. Our free market is a brilliant system, but it only works when consumers have access to all the information.
A Healthy Tennessee
With the support of God, my family and my friends, I am so grateful to have my health. And, as a lawmaker, I feel it is my duty to support medical advancements and to ensure that the public is provided with the necessary information for preventative healthcare options.
Stroke is the fifth highest cause of death in Tennessee and the leading cause of disability in the state. With over 128,000 people in the United States dying of stroke each year, I realized that action needed to be taken.
Public Chapter 678 establishes a stroke best practices and treatment guidelines task force with the goal being to ensure the rapid identification, diagnosis and treatment of strokes and reduce the risk of preventable complications and death throughout the state. The statistics are too high, but through education and training they can be reduced.
Raelyn and the team that helped guide the passage of Public Chapter 625
Just as strokes are preventable, so is Cytomegalovirus (CMV). I became aware of this disease through a beautiful little girl named Raelyn who, like 1 out of every 150 babies, was born with CMV. This disease is the most common congenital viral infection in the U.S but is still virtually unknown to most people. Public Chapter 625 encourages healthcare professionals who care for pregnant women and those who may become pregnant, to provide information about CMV prevention and symptoms to those patients who are at risk for the disease. Hopefully this will bring awareness to a very preventable disease.
Protecting the Vulnerable
It is our responsibility as legislators and as citizens to help those who are the most vulnerable. Whether that means children, the disabled or victims of sex crimes, it is our moral obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
Every seven minutes, a child in the United States is bullied. Every day, more than 160,000 children miss school out of the fear of being bullied. With these statistics in mind, I knew there was a need to strengthen Tennessee’s bullying law. Public Chapter 783 enhances the bullying reporting process by including a counseling referral procedure and a requirement to initiate an investigation of a bullying incident within 48 hours which will give schools and teachers better tools to deal with these issues.
Some of our most vulnerable citizens are those with intellectual disabilities (ID). They often rely their entire lifetimes on their parents and caregivers, who can face their own healthcare challenges as they age. Public chapter 707 allows eligible people with an intellectual disability who are on the waiting list for services and who have custodial parents or caregivers aged 75 or older to enroll into the Self-Determination or similarly capped waiver. As a state, it is important that we give aging caregivers the peace of mind that their children will be supported after they pass away and ensure that Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens have the support they need to live safe, healthy and engaged lives in their communities.
Since receiving the shocking results of a TBI report on the state of human trafficking in Tennessee, I’ve made it a mission to help stomp out these criminals and to protect the 4,000 victims state-wide. Although we’ve made major strides on this issue in the General Assembly since 2011, we have to continue the fight to prevent perpetrators from finding legal loopholes. Public chapter 634 clarifies that it is not a defense to prosecution in human trafficking sex cases that the intended victim was a law enforcement officer or that the victim is a minor who consented to the act. It was never the intent for law enforcement to actually procure a child victim for the buyer in order to commit this crime. These changes will aid the prosecution in securing convictions in sex trafficking cases.
Convenience at the Ballot Box
Voter participation and civic engagement are the most vital components of maintaining our democracy. However, in 2014, Tennessee ranked the fourth worst state for voter turnout, with only 29.1 percent of people voting. While still preserving the sanctity of the vote, we also had to make the process more convenient.
Public Chapter 768 allows Rutherford County to participate in a pilot project to establish convenient voting centers on Election Day 2018. These vote centers would be situated in centralized locations, regardless of the voter’s precinct. This will save the voters time, confusion and money. It makes voting more accessible and is helpful to residents who work out of the county and leave before the polls open and return after they close.
Rutherford County has always been a leader and innovator for the rest of Tennessee. I have no doubt that this project will be successful and its achievement replicated across the state.
Looking to the Future
We were able to accomplish so much this session. Historic and powerful legislation was passed. Unfortunately, not everything resulted in a victory. Just as I was elected to represent you, my peers are chosen to serve their constituents. That sometimes means that we don’t see eye-to-eye. Some important pieces of legislation did not pass this session but that does not mean that we are conceding.
I was disappointed that we came across road blocks with the “Governor’s Three Star Physical Education and Literacy Program.” It would have established a 2.5 year pilot program in 18 schools to determine whether increasing physical education and literacy courses in a student’s schedule to 4 days of each school week for no less than 30 minutes and no more than 45 minutes each day will raise test scores, decrease discipline problems and accelerate growth in foundational motor skills.
During my battle with cancer, I made a promise to God that I would do everything I could to help all the other cancer patients in the state. The “Cancer Treatment Fairness Act” would have allowed cancer patients to receive the treatment determined by their doctors to be the best option without cost being a factor or deterrent. It would have required group health plans that cover intravenous chemotherapy to cover oral chemotherapy, which is the only treatment in some forms of cancer, as parity. Cancer touches all of us and it is important that we push forward with comprehensive legislation to help those suffering from it.
Before the beginning of the next session, we will meet with constituents, experts and stakeholders to prepare to reintroduce these pieces of legislation. I will continue to fight for the health and future of our children and our loved ones.
In spite of the fact that the General Assembly has adjourned, my work will continue. I plan to use this time between now and January to consider the issues that we face as citizens of Rutherford County, of Tennessee and of the United States and look for innovative, fiscally sound and effective solutions. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to represent you and please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or ideas that you might have. I look forward to continuing to serve you.
Best Wishes and God Bless,
Senator Bill Ketron
Majority Caucus Chairman