Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced his legislative agenda for the 2018 session, continuing his focus on leading the nation in jobs, education, and efficient and effective government.
The Complete College Tennessee Act of 2018 (HB 2114/SB 2259) is part of the governor’s Complete to Compete initiative to help ensure students stay on track for on-time college completion and enter the workforce with aligned credentials. While we have improved college access, our completion rates at our public two- and four-year institutions are 26 and 57 percent, respectively. Key points in the legislation include:
*Restructuring the financial aid conditions for Tennessee Promise and HOPE scholarships to require that students take 30 credit hours in 12 months or risk losing a portion of their scholarship.
*Requiring community colleges and technical schools to implement structured, ready-made schedules based on the degree program of incoming full-time students.
The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 (HB 2271/SB 2261) is based on a comprehensive review of Tennessee’s juvenile justice system and recommendations from a task force on juvenile justice led by House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris. The comprehensive legislation focuses on:
*Investing in evidence-based programming and community resources, so that where a youth resides no longer determines what services he or she receives.
*Reserving detention and out-of-home placement for youth who have committed serious crimes or pose a public safety risk.
*Implementing research-based reasonable limits on length of custody so youth are not placed into the system indefinitely.
*Requiring a comprehensive plan for uniform data collection from judicial system and state agencies.
*Expanding performance-based metrics for providers of children’s services and community-based treatment.
*Requiring a validated risk-and-needs assessment to develop individualized case plans to determine the services and actions needed for rehabilitation.
The governor has also proposed the UT FOCUS Act (HB 2115/SB 2260) to empower the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees to oversee multiple campuses and operate more efficiently and effectively, similar to the governing boards established for the state’s other four-year universities. The legislation includes:
*Reconstituting the board from 27 members to 11, including the commissioner of agriculture and at least two representatives from each of the state’s grand divisions and five UT alumni. Members will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly.
*Modernizing the statutory responsibilities of the Board of Trustees.
*Creating seven-member advisory boards for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; University of Tennessee at Martin; University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; and UT Health Science Center.
Last week, the governor proposed two bills tied to the TN Together plan to end opioid addiction in Tennessee. The first bill (HB 1831/SB 2257) limits the supply and the dosage of opioid prescriptions for new patients, with reasonable exceptions. The second (HB 1832/SB 2258) creates incentives for offenders to complete intensive substance use treatment programs while incarcerated and updates the schedule of controlled substances to better track, monitor and penalize the use and unlawful distribution of opioids and specifically adds synthetic versions of the drug fentanyl, which is linked to an alarming number of overdose deaths.