The Tennessee General Assembly wrapped up its regular 2019 legislative session after approving the FY 2020 budget, which starts July 1, 2019. Legislators voted to approve Gov. Lee’s proposed $38.5 billion budget.
“Thanks to Governor Bill Lee and our Tennessee General Assembly, the 2019 legislative session was incredibly successful. From cutting 16 taxes, funding $71 million for teacher raises, expanding vocational programs, approving the Katie Beckett Waiver just to name a few of the accomplishments,” said Rep. Mike Sparks of Smyrna.
Rainy Day Fund a Record High of $1.1 Billion
Together, we passed one of the most fiscally responsible budgets in state history. It invests $239 million into the Rainy Day fund, bringing the state savings account up to a total of $1.1 billion. The budget also fully funds the Katie Beckett Waiver program, which provides life-saving medical services through TennCare for children with the most significant disabilities and highest medical needs, regardless of parental income levels. Finally, our budget cuts more than $35.2 million in taxes — including the $6 million gym tax, the $22 million professional privilege tax, and a $2.5 million cut on fiber optic cable. As part of my commitment to reducing taxes on small business, we also passed my bill — House Bill 899 — this year; it exempts taxes for monthly periodical newspapers.
Record-Breaking Investments in Education.
In 2019, we made record-breaking investments in education, building upon our recent gains. An $11.3 billion total investment — including $6.6 billion in K-12 funding — will support our students, teachers, and schools so every child has an opportunity to obtain a high quality education
$71 Million Invested in Teacher Raises
This investment allocates $71 million to fund teacher salaries, $39.4 million for the state’s Basic Education Program to cover growth and inflation within the program, $40 million to secure our schools, and $25 million to expand vocational and technical training opportunities for our future leaders through the GIVE initiative. We also gave children in some of our worst performing school districts in the entire state a fighting chance at a quality education by passing legislation that establishes the Tennessee Education Savings Account pilot program.
In addition to previously announced education initiatives including the Governor’s Investment in Vocational and Technical Education (GIVE), the Future Workforce Initiative and measures to improve school safety, Governor Lee announced the following plans for public education:
A $71 million pay raise for teachers across Tennessee and investment in professional development programming.
A three-year pilot program to provide support services for high school students in Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties.
Establish the Governor’s Civics Instructional Seal to support and recognize those schools that prioritize teaching our nation’s history and civic values.
Providing approximately $175 million in new funding to support teachers and students in our traditional public schools.
Additionally, we worked to improve access and the quality of care available to our citizens through the comprehensive CARE Plan. It is designed to transform healthcare through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems, and Empowering patients to guarantee individuals and families can make all medical decisions instead of insurance companies or the government. As part of the plan, we paved the way for Tennessee to create a patient-centered system of care through the implementation of block grants. These block grants must convert the federal share of all medical assistance funding for Tennessee into an allotment that is tailored to meet our specific needs, which will enable our state to become a national health care leader.
We also passed legislation that balances both the interests of our citizens to voice their opinion while also protecting the fundamental rights of police officers and their families from malicious or politically focused persecution, and we provided significant tools for our law enforcement communities to get fentanyl and other deadly, synthetic drugs off our streets.
Another piece of successful legislation that was particularly important to me was the work we did on updating our state’s statute of limitations. I was proud to sponsor legislation that removed the statute of limitations for all felony sex crimes committed against children. I also passed HJR 53, which “Urges the state to increase awareness of substance abuse and crime that results from sexual abuse.”
The The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette journalist Stephanie Strasburg accompanied Joanna on her journey after she met with Pulaski detectives about potetntial prosecution of ths who abused her as a child. They interviewed me in regards to my legislative efforts and included in their documentary title, Joanna’s Journey.
Joanna, who was raised in the Mennonite church traveled back here to Tennessee to confront her past and report abuse in the Mennonite community. I have called the problem of childhood sexual abuse an “epidemic.” I have had calls from my community members, fellow Tennesseans, but from across the nation. Victims from as far away as Texas, Florida to Pennsylvania have called me and thanked me for trying to bring awreness to this issue. I have found they are finding some comfort in finally having the courage to confront this and talk about it. One of my favorite quotes is from Edmund Burke who once said, ll that is necessary fro This is an issue that needs much discussion and those victims, in my opinion need access to counseling and theratherapy. To read about Joann’s Journey see the link below. https://newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/coverings/joanna-yoder-mennonite-child-sexual-abuse/.
The legislature also passed my bill which makes it easier to prosecute second degree murder cases by extending the statute of limitation from 15 years to any time after an offense is committed.
I am proud that Tennessee is leading on so many important issues. However, we have more work ahead. Thank you for the opportunity to continue serving our community. I am humbled by your support, and I will continue to fight for you! Call me on my cell if i can be of service.
Mike Sparks represents House District 49. Representative Sparks is the chairman of the Consumer Subcommittee. He also serves on the Insurance Committee, Consumer and Human Resources Committee, Naming, Designating, and Private Acts Committee, and the Property and Casualty Subcommittee. Mike and his wife Felicia recently celebrated 30 years of marriage. Both Mike and Felicia graduated from Smyrna High School. Mike was born in Smyrna at the former Sewart Air Force Base Hospital. If he can be of service feel free to contact him at 615-741-6829 or cell 615-525-3198 or email Rep.Mike.Sparks@capitol.tn.gov.