Thanks to conservative leadership in the Tennessee House of Representatives, the 2019 legislative session was incredibly successful.
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.
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.
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.
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. The legislature also passed my bill which makes it easier to prosecute second-0degree 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!
Mike Sparks represents House District 49. He is the chairman of the Consumer Subcommittee and also serves on the Insurance Committee, Consumer and Human Resources Committee, Naming, Designating, and Private Acts Committee and the Property and Casualty Subcommittee.