On June 1, 1796, Tennessee became the 16th state of these great United States of America! As my wife Linda and I celebrated the 223rd Birthday of our state, we looked back on the 2019 session of the Tennessee House of Representatives in the111th General Assembly.
Despite good legislative achievements, the end of the session was marred by reports of offensive racial and sexual text messages between our speaker and his chief of staff. It was tragic to witness the spectacular failure of these successful men. They were so fortunate and they had achieved so much!
The Tennessee House is a majestic chamber! I am, always filled with awe as I enter and think of the leaders that preceded us. They too, served in times that were good or and times that were trying. Although the election of November 2018 maintained the Republican super-majority in the House and the voters approved of the socially and fiscally conservative policies that have achieved economic success for our state, there were 30 freshmen among the newly elected 73 Republicans and 26 Democrats.
This was a remarkable change. We also elected a new governor and a new speaker. These changes brought new priorities and directions.
After the grand ceremonial opening, we were excited to start work and conduct the people’s business.
- We passed a balanced budget that included another significant increase in educational funding, teacher salaries, funding for school safety of our children, additional contributions toward economic development, mental health and criminal justice. We cut taxes by $35M. We added $239M to our rainy day fund, which is now over $1B strong. This adds to the financial strength and business confidence in our state.
- We passed several bold legislative measures. These included: a pilot project allowing school vouchers for eligible students in failing inner city schools, allowing online sports betting with revenues earmarked towards education scholarships, asking federal government to provide Tenncare funds as a block grant so the state can manage these more efficiently.
- We failed to address major problems including surprise medical bills, epidemic of electronic cigarettes and vaping among youth, need for more nurses in public schools. “Medical” marijuana bills failed, because these benefit the growers and sellers more than the patients. Proper medical supervision is not possible because of federal licensing laws.
- We honored our veterans by recognizing those exposed to Agent Orange, during the Vietnam War, and Mr. Ken Gamble for his efforts to provide The Orange Heart Medal to these heroes through a non-profit organization. We also invited and honored Mr. James Edwards, the Tennessee Cowboy Poet! Both of these occasions warmed our hearts!
- We did a few other things, including tax exemptions for ammunition, small gyms and car washes. Some utilities were “rounding up” your monthly bill to the next dollar. They will now need your permission to do so. We did not allow service of liquor at the Knoxville Zoo!
Tragedy befell when it was discovered that our speaker had tolerated highly inappropriate text conversations from his chief of staff. We were deeply offended. The Republican Caucus met and passed a motion of “No Confidence” in our speaker, who submitted a letter of resignation effective Aug. 2. This may change. We will elect a new speaker. There are several good candidates. I pray that our integrity and good moral values will be restored and upheld. We owe it to our good citizens. God Bless Tennessee and the United States of America!
Rep.Sabi.Kumar@Capitol.tn.gov; phone - 615- 741-2860.