With the 111th Tennessee General Assembly starting Tuesday, I want to tell you about a few initiatives I will be working on for you this year:
Supporting our Veterans
In November I filed the very first bill of the new legislative session, Senate Bill 1, because supporting our veterans should be the first thing we do in government. Senate Bill 1 seeks to establish a statewide "Green Alert" public notification system to help quickly identify and locate a missing veteran or active member of the Armed Forces, National Guard, or military reserves who is at risk due to a physical or mental health condition related to his or her service. It would work like the Amber Alert system. I was introduced to this idea by Brian Walker, the current Judge Advocate for the Department of Tennessee Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), as part of a nationwide effort by the VFW to pass a "Green Alert" bill in all 50 states. The bill has already garnered public support from 12 of our 33 state Senators.
Abolishing more Taxes
The residents of Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown trusted me to continue working for them, thanks to my history of providing results in Nashville. Specifically, I plan to continue my work to enact tax reform for all Tennesseans. First, the General Assembly repealed the Gift Tax and eliminated the Inheritance Tax through a four-year phase out in 2012; then, we passed my constitutional amendment prohibiting the state Income Tax in 2013, which was approved by the people of Tennessee in 2014; next, the legislature began the phase out of the Hall Tax on interests and dividends in 2016, which will continue over the next two years; throughout Governor Haslam's administration, the General Assembly cut the sales tax on groceries by almost 30%; and finally, it is time to eliminate the Professional Privilege Tax for good in 2019. This $400 tax is paid by accountants, architects, engineers, and other professionals just for the so-called "privilege" of earning a living. The idea that earning a living is a privilege is insulting to hardworking Tennesseans, and it is time for the tax to end.
It is time to get serious about reading in Tennessee. Before third grade, students learn to read. After third grade, they read to learn. The problem in Tennessee is that 63% of our students are not reading at a third grade level by the end of third grade. They are simply being passed through the system onto the next grade level without the skills they need to succeed. During my tele-town hall on education issues in August, I was repeatedly urged to bring back my bill requiring third graders to read proficiently before moving on to fourth grade. I promised to do so, and I intend to file this legislation soon.
It is truly an honor to continue to serve you in the state Senate! Please feel free to join us in Nashville for the state Senate swearing-in ceremony on January 8, for the announcement of committee assignments on January 10, or for Governor-elect Bill Lee's inauguration on January 19.