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Truth in Sentencing Gets Committee Approval


This information is furnished by the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley R-Hohenwald, whose district includes Giles and five other counties.

The Judiciary Committee has passed a “truth in sentencing” bill that requires a person convicted of certain offenses to serve 100% of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release.

Senate Bill 2248 applies to 14 violent crimes, including aggravated assault, vehicular homicide, attempted first degree murder where the victim suffers great bodily injury and aggravated robbery, to name a few.

Under the bill, there will be no release eligibility for a person who committed an applicable offense on or after July 1, 2022.

The person would serve 100% of the sentence imposed by the court undiminished by any sentence reduction credits for which the person is eligible or earns.

The person can still earn credits for increased privileges, reduced security classification, or for any purpose other than the reduction of the sentence imposed by the court.

The Fiscal Review Committee estimates the bill will increase state expenditures by $40.6 million. The bill will next be reviewed by the Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

“I believe Truth in Sentencing is critically important. It protects victims and provides true accountability for those who commit crimes,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), the sponsor of the bill.

“I am grateful for the Judiciary Committee’s vote on the bill and look forward to the Senate Finance Committee delving into the cost of the bill, which I believe is justified to keep violent criminals behind bars and law-abiding Tennesseans safe.”

Committees begin TISA discussions

In starting legislative discussions on Gov. Lee’s proposed Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) program. Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and other officials fielded questions from members of the Finance, Ways and Means and Education committees during a joint meeting.

The proposed legislation would change Tennessee’s public education funding formula for the first time in more than 30 years from a district-based to a student-based model.

Starting in the 2023-24 school year, TISA would invest an estimated $9 billion in education funding for the state, including state and local funds, which would include an additional recurring state investment of $1 billion.

Schwinn said TISA is designed to empower students to read proficiently by third grade, prepare each high school graduate to succeed in the postsecondary program or career of the graduate’s choice, and provide each student with the resources needed to succeed, regardless of the student’s individual circumstances.

TISA would award each school district a base amount of $6,860 per student to cover the basics of education such as teacher and staff salaries, facility operations and much more. There would be additional funding weights for students who need more support, such as those who are economically disadvantaged or have a disability, among other criteria.

The formula would provide “direct funding” for programs that offer students learning opportunities beyond everyday classroom instruction, as well as outcomes-based funding for districts that meet certain goals.

Fast-growing districts would also see additional funding for infrastructure such as new buildings and school buses.

For base funding and weights for students who need extra support, the state would cover 70% while local funding would pick up 30%.

Direct and outcomes-based funding would be entirely covered by the state. Schwinn said districts will receive more money under this formula than they would under the existing Basic Education Program assuming stable enrollment.

In 2014, Gov. Bill Haslam put together a task force that studied potential changes to the current formula. That task force came up with a series of recommendations that look very similar to the ones in TISA, Schwinn said.

Since then, thousands of Tennesseans have provided input on the formula and helped shape the proposed legislation.

Senate greenlights study on impact of utility-scale solar

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations will study the overall effect of utility-scale solar energy developments following passage of Senate Bill 2797.

This broad study will give us direction as to how our state needs to approach this burgeoning industry.

Study topics include short-term and long-term projections on the amount of acreage needed for utility-scale solar development, hazardous waste materials that may exist in equipment, and federal regulatory requirements regarding decommissioning and managing equipment used in utility-scale solar energy development.

The legislation supplements a bill passed by the Senate that includes protections for landowners who lease their property to solar farms.

In Brief:

Ukraine — The Senate has unanimously passed House Joint Resolution 927, which honors the people of Ukraine for defending their country against Russian invasion.

The Senate and House also passed Senate Joint Resolution 1147, which urges disconnecting Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), expelling Russian diplomats from the U.S. and banning Russian imports.

Noah’s Law — The Senate has passed Noah’s Law (Senate Bill 2182), which seeks to expedite the Amber Alert process for children in danger.

The bill is in response to a 2021 incident in which then three-year-old Noah Clare was abducted by his non-custodial father and taken from Tennessee to California.

It took the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) 11 days to issue an Amber Alert once the child was reported missing because the case did not meet certain criteria. Clare was found safe on the 11th day of the search.

The bill allows a custodial parent under certain circumstances to seek an emergency court order declaring the child to be in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death, and orders the noncustodial parent to return the child to the custodial parent immediately.

Local Government Tax Revenue — The Department of Revenue has a 1.125% service fee when collecting and redistributing the sales tax of local governments.

Since the service fee of 1.125% was introduced in the 1960s, Senate Bill 160, passed by the Senate, tasks the Department of Revenue to conduct an annual study to find the current cost to process the tax revenue.

The study will help legislators consider lowering the fee in the future, which would redirect a substantial amount of tax revenue back to the counties.

Consumer protection — Passed by the Senate, Senate Bill 2279 requires a business that allows someone to sign up for a service or subscription online to provide a clear way to end or cancel the subscription online without additional steps.

If a company violates the Act, then the individual who suffered a loss may bring civil action for damages.

Residential blasting — The Senate passed Senate Bill 2055, which updates blasting requirements, including adding safety processes and protocols. Residential blasting has become a neighborhood concern.

This bill will lower vibrations, increase communications with the public, clean up and remove standards that have been on the books since 1975.

Hensley may be reached at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN., 37243, or at 615-741-3100, toll free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100, or fax 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN., 38462, by telephone at 931-796-2018, by cell phone at 931-212-8823 or by e-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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Information in this column comes from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley M.D., who represents Giles and five other counties. From school bus drivers to trucking, the lack of Commercia