This past week in Nashville, members of the House Judiciary Committee advanced House Bill (HB) 658, which is aimed at creating balance within community oversight boards across Tennessee.

Backed by Republican leadership, this legislation balances both the interests of our citizens to voice their opinion while also protecting the fundamental rights of officers and their families from malicious or politically focused persecution.

Community oversight boards have existed since the 1950s, and there are presently no guidelines outlined in Tennessee state law that defines how they are created, who can serve on them, and what their specific function is. This measure provides much-needed structure to all current and future community oversight boards in Tennessee, which is critical to their overall success, as well as overall safety in Tennessee.

HB 658 is expected to reach the House floor for a vote this week.

Republican leaders also advanced HB 1280 through the committee process.

It will empower Tennessee to lead in health care and create a patient-centered system that addresses the unique needs of our citizens, while lowering costs.

This initiative directs the governor, through the commissioner of finance and administration, to submit a waiver amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide TennCare II funding by means of block grants.

Block grants authorized through HB 1280 must convert the federal share of all medical assistance funding for Tennessee into an allotment that is tailored to meet our state’s specific needs. All grant funding must be indexed to take into account both inflation and population growth.

In recent years, Tennessee has become a national leader in innovation — whether it is job creation, or improving our education system. This legislation enables us to once again lead on a critical local and national issue without federal mandates.

Republican leaders are committed to creating a patient-centered system, driven by free-market solutions. This will increase transparency and competition while lowering overall costs with limited government interference.

This past week Republican leaders also advanced legislation that improves the quality of care that Tennesseans with intellectual or developmental disabilities receive while eliminating burdensome regulations on their caregivers.

HB 951, which is part of the governor’s legislative package, removes licensure requirements for citizens who provide direct care to a group of no more than three people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in a Medicaid home or community-based services program. The overall goal is to increase the quality of care available, so these important groups are empowered to live successfully in their communities.

This critical legislation will now head to the House Health Committee and was expected to be heard by committee members on March 5.

House Republicans joined with the governor this week for an announcement related to three priorities to increase access to mental health treatment and expand suicide prevention efforts across Tennessee.

The proposal calls for $11.2 million in new funding to expand access to services for Tennesseans living with serious mental illness.

This investment seeks to cover an additional 7,000 uninsured adults through the state’s Behavioral Health Safety Net program, which provides several essential mental health services. Additionally, it addresses increasing costs at the state’s four regional mental health institutes and ensures that those facilities will continue to provide quality care.

To complement Tennessee’s work in recovery courts and alternative sentencing measures, the governor is also proposing a $3 million investment to the Creating Homes Initiative.

Since 2000, this program has created more than 20,000 quality permanent housing opportunities for those living with mental illness. This new investment will expand recovery housing options for them.

Republican leaders are also working to address the high suicide rate in Tennessee by proposing a $1.1 million investment that will expand the state’s partnership with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) in order to establish a new regional outreach model and increase the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ efforts to focus on interventions at the community level using evidence-based practices.

Republican Leaders Support Strategies to Improve Criminal Justice System

According to the Lee Administration, the governor is proposing the expansion of the Recovery Court System, a specialized diversion program focused on comprehensive supervision, treatment services, and immediate sanctions and incentives for substance abuse offenders.

With $1.7 million in additional funding, Recovery Courts will expand capacity by 20 percent and serve an additional 500 Tennesseans each year. Individuals who are successfully diverted through this programming are estimated to save the state an average of more than $20,000 per individual in recovered correction costs each year.

The Administration is also proposing to eliminate the burdensome $180 expungement fee associated with clearing records of certain criminal charges. Individuals with clear records are much more likely to secure employment and stable housing instead of re-entering prison.

Finally, the proposal seeks to improve education opportunities within correctional facilities and enable incarcerated individuals to gain the skills needed for re-entry into society.

New funding will improve technology infrastructure across correctional facilities to increase the number of incarcerated individuals receiving equivalent high school education. This will also support the launch of a bachelor’s degree program at Turney Center Industrial Complex.

Over the next three years, a $10.5 million investment and partnership with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission will also provide eight state facilities with the capacity to provide career and technical credentials for disciplines like computer information technology and building construction.

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