Speaker Harwell Speaks to Lions, Rotarians
McKENZIE (June 12) — Beth Harwell, Tennessee Speaker of the House, was the guest speaker at the joint meeting of the McKenzie Lions Club and McKenzie Rotary Club on Monday, June 12 at Lakeside Retirement Center.
Mrs. Harwell is the first speaker of the house for the Tennessee General Assembly. She told the gathering of the accomplishments of the General Assembly during the 2017 session. She said being speaker of the house is similar to being a teacher, who must recognize any member before he or she can speak and she controls whether or not their microphones are activated.
She said the representatives come from all over the state with many diverse opinions on issues. Each member can enter legislation, which must pass through a committee before it comes to the House floor.
Tennessee has a balanced budget, said Harwell. Not all states can boast of that fact. Tennessee is the third lowest taxed state, the lowest debt state in the nation, and has a AAA bond rating, and a fully-funded pension program. This year, the state added to its rainy day fund (savings account) to better position itself against any disasters that might adversely affect the state.
Tennessee approved the IMPROVE Act, which raises taxes on gasoline to construct and maintain the transportation system. One-fourth of the tax on gasoline will come from out-ofstate visitors and one-half of the diesel tax will come from out-ofstate truckers passing through Tennessee, said Harwell.
The Act also reduces the franchise and excise tax on businesses and reduces sales taxes on groceries.
The General assembly also eliminated the inheritance tax and the gift tax, and reduced the Hall Income Tax rate. The Hall tax will eventually be phased out.
Tennessee’s public education also earned the distinction of being the fastest improving in the nation, said Harwell. That follows new standards implemented by the General Assembly after ditching Common Core.
Tennessee History is now a required subject in the middle schools in Tennessee. Broadband internet availability in rural areas was boosted by a private/ public partnership, in which the state will provide public funding to help internet service providers to expand into underserved markets. Public electric cooperatives were also granted authority to enter into broadband services.
Requirements for operating public school buses was also enhanced by requiring a minimum age of 25 to drive and mandatory training for drivers. Each public school bus service must have a superintendent, who is also required to undergo training.
She spoke about the state’s opioid addiction, that must be addressed. The state established a database to monitor opioid prescriptions and also provides some literature with each prescription.