Greetings Folks of the Fortieth!
Do you ever use your phone as a replay of your week gone by? Those pictures are truly priceless in order to recap the week for my Legislative Loop and to remember all that took place.
You know by now two full committees, Transportation and Education, and their sub-committees, Safety and Funding, to which I chair, and the K-12 subcommittee, are keeping this representative of yours moving in high gear.
We began the week on Monday by visiting TDOT’s Traffic Management Center. This center measures traffic volume, giving us those helpful reports on the radio during our commute to Nashville. If you ever have a vehicle breakdown, and all of the sudden this yellow tank with flashing lights pulls up behind you without you even making a call, that would be The Highway Incident Response Unit: the rescue “A” team for anyone whose vehicle all the sudden becomes “kaput” on the interstate. They truly live up to their name. Remember the “pull over” rule when you see HELP on the highways and any of our emergency or law enforcement folks on the side of the road.
House Bill 163 passed in the Safety and Funding Subcommittee, which expands the current violation of driving in a school zone with a handheld device to any road, highway, or street. Texting while driving has become the new DUI with Tennessee leading the nation for deaths related to handheld devices while driving. My vehicle is an older model without the newfangled technologies like Bluetooth. But I must admit, my phone time while driving has decreased considerably. This legislation exempts anyone witnessing emergencies that may need to phone emergency services while driving. Many states, such as Georgia, have already made holding a device while driving illegal, and Tennessee could very well be next to join the ranks.
House Bill 268 permits local education agencies to install cameras on school buses to record vehicles that unlawfully pass a stopped school bus. It allows evidence to be reviewed by law enforcement officers only after evidence is submitted to an LEA by the bus driver. We watched horrific video footage of children being struck down by vehicles passing a school bus while stopped. Pay attention, slow down, stay off your phone, and stop when school bus lights are flashing and the stop sign arm is on the side of the school bus.
Passed out of my committee and on to Full Transportation is House Bill 839, which prevents the suspension of a driver’s license for failure to pay fines or costs imposed for a driving offense. A temporary driver’s license is issued until the total fines can be paid via a payment plan for those who can’t pay the fees right away. Choices have consequences; therefore, all must be responsible to pay those fines. We do not, however, want to prevent one from going to work in order to pay the cost of the violation. This legislation will enable you to work and still be responsible to pay the costs of traffic violations.
House Bill 1016 is a bill I am introducing that requires students to PASS a civics test in order to receive a diploma upon graduation from High School. It will consist of all 100 questions from the United States civics test, and each student must answer 70 to 75 percent of the questions correctly. We currently have civics exams, but they are not required to PASS THOSE TESTS! Fewer and fewer individuals are obtaining basic institutional knowledge of how to be a citizen and to appreciate our founding principles. According to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, a majority of Americans would fail a test based on questions included in the U.S. citizenship test. WE must do better!
House Bill 947, which passed out of Education Full Committee, is proposing $40M for school safety grants to help secure school resource officers and additional safety measures. This legislation provides the structure needed to bring overall success and overall safety in our state.
House Bill 658, legislation that balances the interests of our citizens to voice their opinion while protecting the fundamental rights of police officers and their families from malicious or politically focused persecution, was passed Thursday on the House Floor. Community Oversight Boards have been around since the 1950s, but currently there are no guidelines in Tennessee on who can serve on them and what their specific function is.
A big shout out to Commissioner Bright and the TDOT Gang who joined me at one of my Coffee Conversations last Friday!!! Thank you to all the local officials who attended as we discussed plans going forward for Exit 258 in Smith County.
UPDATE: During our 2016 legislative session, I sponsored a resolution to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement. Although legal matters can move very slowly, I am happy to announce that our case is scheduled this week in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Please follow the links below for more information.
Well, as I previously mentioned, last week whirled by, and I am sure this week will as well. My week ahead will be documented again for next week’s, “Loop.”