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Join the Conversation – April 10, 2017

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Twitter: @JRClemmons and #TeamJRC
Facebook: johnrayfortn

Our thoughts are with the three correctional officers who were injured in a disturbance involving inmates at the Turney Center Correctional Complex in Only, Tennessee yesterday afternoon. These brave officers are currently receiving top-notch medical treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Unfortunately, this is not the first such instance at this facility or others statewide in recent years. This afternoon we called for additional oversight of the Tennessee Department of Corrections (“TDOC”), a vital department that the Haslam administration has irresponsibly neglected throughout his tenure.

Let your voices be heard and make your presence felt.
I look forward to seeing everyone tonight at the State Capitol advocating for health care, equality and our shared Tennessee values.

The time for access to quality, affordable health care is NOW
If you are wondering why our state continues to inexcusably turn away free money (our money) while people across Tennessee suffer, you are not alone. It is well past time for our state to give Tennessee families access to the quality, affordable health care they deserve and have callously been denied by this Republican supermajority and the governor’s incomprehensible acquiescence. We have now passed the $3 billion mark in federal reimbursements lost. Republicans continue to advocate a “wait and see” approach while people across our state are suffering. I remain completely put off by the careless, unsympathetic attitude of some of my colleagues, most of whom enjoy the luxury of primo state insurance coverage, and I will continue fighting for everyone to receive the health care coverage they so badly need and deserve.

Last week, Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh took his bill off notice to the surprise of many. According to the Leader, he has the agreement of the subcommittee’s chairman to reopen the now-closed committee for a hearing if we are unable to find traction for our efforts elsewhere.

Moving Tennessee backwards?
Republican leadership in the House is tripping all over itself with Governor Haslam’s IMPROVE Act. The only way I know how to describe the bill’s current posture is to have you think of the infighting among congressional Republicans over their ill-conceived “repeal and replace” ACHA bill a few weeks ago. There is a serious effort underway to threaten the integrity of our general fund by raiding it to pay for transportation projects. If successful, this would put funding for vital programs like public education, health care, etc. in serious jeopardy in years to come. My Democratic colleagues and I are going to continue to advocate for our state’s infrastructure needs while also pushing for several key provisions to benefit Tennessee’s working families.

Equal pay for equal work
Yet again, the NFIB-controlled House Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee defeated our Tennessee Pay Equality Act. However, this year the subcommittee lacked the courage or courtesy to even vote on our bill as amended. After I defeated the chairwoman in a procedural argument so that I could present my bill, the subcommittee refused to even allow the bill to be amended and voted it down. The day before, the Senate Commerce and Labor committee refused to even vote on our Tennessee Pay Equality Transparency Act cosponsored by Senator Sara Kyle.

I have yet to meet with a small business owner who does not support equal pay, yet a so-called “independent business” organization that has evolved into little more than a far right front group continues to kill these bills and other well-intended legislation year after year. For this reason and many others, I am so appreciative of organizations like the Nashville Independent Business Alliance (“IndieNash”) and others that actually represent independent business organizations’ interests rather than a partisan political agenda.

Mental Health Parity Bills
We were able to successfully move one of our mental health parity bills, HB480, out of subcommittee last week. I will be presenting this legislation to the Insurance & Banking Committee tomorrow at 9:00am in LP16. This bill is the first of many legislative efforts on my part to address the significant mental health and drug and substance abuse problems across our state.

Our Senate cosponsor of HB1244, Sen. Briggs, presented our bill the Senate before taking it moving it to the first calendar of 2018 so I followed suit and did the same after attaching two amendments to the bill in the House. This comprehensive bill is now teed up for a year of negotiations and a coordinated effort in 2018.

Protecting Our State Parks
Please share your opinions about privatizing our state parks with Governor Haslam at (615) 741-2001 and Commissioner Martineau and Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill at (888) 891-8332.
Share your opinions about outsourcing jobs at our state colleges and universities with Governor Haslam and Terry Cowles at (615) 741-2001 and Commissioner Bob Oglesby at (615) 741-9263. Also, please call your local state college or university and encourage the president to opt-out, if possible.

Other legislation that was recently heard:
HB1402/SB1415 – Senator Dickerson and I have teamed up to introduce legislation aimed at those desecrating burial sites and houses of worship. We are attempting to increase the criminal penalties for these acts. After passage by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee last week, our bill will come before the House Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday at 12:00pm in LP31.

HB49 – A bill to create additional legislative oversight of contracts with third-party vendors. This legislation takes direct aim at the Governor’s secretive outsourcing efforts. After Sen. Lee Harris took this bill off notice in the Senate, I followed suit after presenting my strong arguments for the bill last week.

HB424 – A bill to reduce “privilege taxes” and “wholesale taxes” on Tennessee craft breweries. I presented this bill with the help of testimony from Linus Hall of Yazoo Brewing Co. and Bailey Spaulding of Jackalope Brewing Co. before taking it off notice for the year. Our Tennessee craft brewers are at a serious disadvantage because of excessive state taxes, and we made good legislative movement in our first year of moving this bill forward.

4/6/17 – Democrats call for independent probe into Nashville PAC – The Tennessean
4/7/17 – GOP happy to ‘wait and see’ on Medicaid expansion – The Ledger
4/31/17 – Democrats looking for GOP help to derail outsourcing efforts – The Ledger

2017, Vol. VI



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