PREVIEW OF THE 112TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY

2022 Legislative Session

(NASHVILLE), January 14, 2022 -- The General Assembly will convened on January 11th to begin the 2022 session of the 112th General Assembly.  The state budget, tax relief, education funding, redistricting, access to quality healthcare and mental health services, labor shortages and continuing the state’s robust job growth are among a wide variety of issues expected to be on the agenda.  Following is a summary of key issues that will be discussed in this session.

Budget

The budget is always a top issue and the most important constitutional duty of the Tennessee General Assembly.  This year it will be especially important due to strong tax collections, excess revenues and the flow of federal stimulus funds into Tennessee.  The state is in the best financial condition in recent history.  Even after the approval of $884 million in appropriations to incentivize and complete the West Tennessee Megasite during the Special Session in October, Tennessee will have $1.2 billion in excess revenues from the 2020-2021 fiscal year.  The four months of the 2021-2022 fiscal year also looks very promising with the state’s general fund receiving approximately $1.112 billion in revenues over budgeted estimates. 

In addition, Tennessee has received around $14.8 billion in federal COVID-19 aid, including all assistance to individuals, businesses, counties, cities and the state.  This does not count the latest American Rescue Plan or Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds.  The state’s Financial Accountability Group has worked diligently to strategically invest one-time federal COVID-19 stimulus funds to maximize the positive effects on Tennesseans without creating risky recurring obligations. 

In November, the state’s Funding Board upwardly adjusted the current fiscal year which ends July 1 to a projected growth rate to a range of 7.75 to 8.5 percent in general fund revenues.  Funding Board members, however, estimated Tennessee’s general fund tax revenues will grow 1.75 to 2.25 percent during the 2022-2023 fiscal year.  Governor Lee will build his budget for the upcoming fiscal year utilizing these estimates. 

The conservative estimates for next year reflect the strong caution expressed by the state’s top economic advisors that one-time stimulus funds and changing spending patterns have resulted in higher than expected tax revenues which could cause them to wane in the next fiscal year.  There were concerns regarding how and when shifting spending patterns might level out.  Economic advisors have also expressed future uncertainty regarding the impact of inflation on the economy.  In December, the U.S. inflation rate hit 6.8 percent, the highest increase since 1982.  In addition, prices at the wholesale level hit a record 9.6 percent in November from a year earlier. 

Tennessee has a proud tradition of being a fiscally conservative state which is well managed with the lowest possible tax burden to residents.  The AAA-rated Volunteer State is among the five least indebted states in the nation per capita, ranks third for best-funded pension plans and is one of only five states without road debt.  The high ranking is also boosted by the state’s low unemployment, rising educational achievement, and robust job growth.  Expect the legislature to be very thoughtful in how state dollars are budgeted by possibly even taking a multi-year approach in spending to ensure Tennessee’s continued strong financial stability.

One way to ensure the state’s financial stability in an economic downturn is by maintaining adequate savings through Tennessee’s Rainy Day Fund.  The fund is currently at a historic level of $1.55 billion.  Expect the General Assembly to consider adding to the fund in the 2022-2023 fiscal year to assure adequate reserves are maintained given the future uncertainty of the economy.

The budget is usually presented to the General Assembly around the first week of February.

Tax relief -- There will also be discussion in the 2022 legislative session regarding returning some of the excess revenues to taxpayers in the form of tax relief.  During the 2019 legislative session, the General Assembly cut the professional privilege tax for 15 of 22 professions covered.  Expect budget discussions to include further tax relief efforts for the remaining professions which are attorneys, security agents, broker-dealers, investment advisors, lobbyists, osteopathic physicians and physicians. 

The legislature could also revisit fees paid by farmers and small businesses organized as Limited Liability Companies (LLCs).  The fees at $3,000 maximum are substantially greater than the $100 paid by businesses to file as a C Corporation.  

Other forms of tax relief will also be discussed as legislators look for ways to put more hard-earned money back in the pockets of Tennesseans in a way that affects the most people.

Tennesseans enjoy the lowest state and local tax burden per capita in the nation. 

Education

BEP -- Like the state budget, education is always a top issue for the Tennessee General Assembly, accounting for 37.9 cents of every tax dollar spent in the state.  In October, Governor Bill Lee announced he is tackling the state’s education funding formula for K-12 schools.  The governor believes the formula should be modernized and revised to be more transparent, effective and student-centered. 

The current Basic Education Plan (BEP) formula was first adopted almost 30 years ago after a lawsuit was filed by small school systems in Tennessee who maintained the former allocation plan was unconstitutional.  It was adjusted in 2007 and 2016, but remains the most complicated school funding formula in the nation.  The BEP’s state and local shares are currently based on each county’s fiscal capacity, which is their ability to raise local revenue. 

Counties with less ability to fund education – referred to as a lower fiscal capacity – receive more state funding and have a lower match than counties with more capacity to raise revenues.   In addition, the BEP is split into four main categories, (instruction, benefits, classroom and non-classroom), each made up of separate components related to the basic needs of students, teachers, and administrators within a school system.  Altogether, there are 46 different components that generate funding, most of which are based on student enrollment (average daily membership). 

In order to identify the BEP’s strengths and weaknesses, the Department of Education formed a central steering committee and 18 subcommittees who rigorously reviewed the formula.  District and school leaders, elected officials, families, education stakeholders and members of the public were invited to become engaged in this process through these committees, survey opportunities, and local meetings throughout the state.  The steering committee’s recommendations could come before the General Assembly in the 2022 legislative session. 

Under the current BEP funding formula, the General Assembly would need $70 million to account for growth and inflation in the next fiscal year, but a BEP reformulation could mean that this estimate would increase significantly.  Surplus budget funds could also aid in efforts to create a new formula in which no district would lose money.

Teachers / school workforce shortages – The General Assembly will discuss ways to enhance Tennessee’s teacher workforce and address shortages that exist across several professions within the state’s school districts.  Tennessee’s teacher shortage, which existed before COVID-19, has increased as a result of the pandemic.  In addition, a recent Tennessee School Boards Association report showed 13,791 teachers, or 17 percent, will be eligible to retire by June 30, 2025.  Legislators will likely look at raising teacher pay as part of the budget and BEP reformulation to help recruit and retain personnel. 

Efforts to boost the number of available teachers could also include making it easier to get highly-skilled individuals into the classroom by revamping teacher licensing, licensure testing costs, and practice exams.  One program designed to address K-12 workplace shortages is the Grow Your Own Teacher Program to recruit, develop and retain teachers who are already in the community.  The initiative provides no-cost access to a pathway to teaching in order to meet the need for increased diversity as well as to address the state’s teacher shortage.  The General Assembly could look at ways to continue the program’s growth in Tennessee.

Another teacher workforce issue exists in the state’s Career Technical Education (CTE) programs.  Highly skilled instructors are required to operate certain equipment, causing a wide gap in salaries as compared with the private sector. 

A shortage in the number of school bus drivers could be a topic for discussion in the 2022 legislative session as well.  The problem has escalated since the COVID-19 pandemic, with salaries and disorderly students among factors reported as making it difficult to retain employees.

Continued focus on learning losses – Legislators will continue efforts in 2022 to address unprecedented student learning losses as a result of COVID-19-related school closures and time spent away from the classroom.  In 2021, the General Assembly passed a new law to help struggling students by providing after-school mini-camps, learning loss bridge camps and summer learning camps.  The summer programming was the largest in the nation with over 120,000 students in grades 1-8 participating.  The Tennessee Accelerating Literacy and Learning Corps (TN ALL Corps) tutoring program is also operating to benefit nearly 150,000 students over the next three years.  The General Assembly will monitor the success of these programs, as well as the new foundational literacy program to promote reading proficiency by third grade, and evaluate any future needs.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) curriculum – The General Assembly could revisit CRT curriculum issues.  Last year, legislators approved a new law to prohibit classroom instruction that teaches students that the U.S. is fundamentally racist or that an individual’s moral character is determined by race.  It says you can’t teach a curriculum which says that an individual, by virtue of the person’s race or sex, “is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.”  Lawmakers could tweak the law to add clarity, ensuring the bill’s intention that Tennessee’s curriculum teaches impartial instruction on historical oppression of certain groups, while maintaining a belief in the Constitution and American democracy. 

Charter school funding -  Issues related to public charter schools could come back before the General Assembly this year.  Charter schools are public schools operated by independent, non-profit governing bodies that must include parents.  Currently, Local Boards of Education (LEAs) are the authorizers of public charter schools, deciding which are approved or denied, with appeals going to the Tennessee Board of Education.  There has been discussion for several years regarding whether or not the charter authorization should be handled by a statewide authorizer.  Other points of discussion could be an expansion; how charter schools receive funding from authorizing bodies; the schools’ authorization responsibilities; and whether the current process is fully transparent. 

Career and Technical (CTE) Education – The General Assembly will continue efforts to build tomorrow’s workforce by improving the state’s college, career, and technical education programs.  Lawmakers will look at strengthening high-quality CTE programs designed to increase post-secondary opportunities for Tennessee students and align K-12 education with workforce and higher education needs.  This includes expanding Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs in the state.  STEM education stands as a key strategy for Tennessee’s future, helping foster economic development and creating opportunities for students in high-quality and in-demand jobs. 

Apprenticeships -- Similarly, efforts could continue to provide new apprenticeship opportunities as programs have reached a high success rate.  Apprenticeships are a time-proven method to help workers gain skills in growing industries while helping employers build a qualitied workforce.  Last year, the General Assembly increased apprenticeships by more than 30 percent across the state.  A qualified workforce is crucial to the state’s continued economic success and the General Assembly will be working to ensure there is a pipeline of skilled workers to increase job opportunities for Tennesseans. 

Higher Education / TN Promise Scholarships – In higher education, the General Assembly will look at the Tennessee Promise Scholarship Program to ensure it is fully funded.  Tennessee Promise is both a scholarship and mentoring program focused on increasing the number of students that attend college in our state.  The program has enrolled over 108,000 students in college since its inception in 2015.  In that time, it has helped Tennessee students cover $129 million in college costs. 

Higher Education / Outcomes-Based Funding Formula – The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) estimates it will need $90 million in the upcoming budget year to fully fund the state’s Outcomes-Based Funding Formula.  The funding would help to keep tuition increases at zero to three percent according to THEC officials.

Even with the pandemic’s effects on decreased enrollment, statewide degree production in Tennessee’s universities and community colleges continues to increase.  The goal is to maintain this significant progress by continuing to graduate more Tennesseans with a bachelor’s degree or higher education credential and help students realize the American dream of a college education.

Higher Education / TCATs -- THEC officials are also requesting funds to improve safety and security at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs).  The state’s TCAT enrollment is up 15 percent over last fall as demand for skills learned at these colleges increase.  Last year, the General Assembly invested $79 million to eliminate the 11,400 TCAT waiting list.

During the Special Session on the Ford Motor Company Investment, the General Assembly appropriated $40 million to build a TCAT at the Blue Oval City campus to strengthen Tennessee’s workforce.  Look for requests for TCAT facilities in other areas of the state to help boost high-wage, in-demand workforce skills and completion of post-secondary certificates, especially in the state’s rural counties.

Also, look for the General Assembly to use non-recurring funds to build, maintain or improve buildings on Tennessee’s colleges and universities. 

Higher Education /textbooks and curriculum – The General Assembly could look at the affordability of textbooks in the state’s post-secondary schools during the 2022 session.  It has been reported that the average cost of college textbooks has risen four times faster than the rate of inflation over the past decade.  The increasing costs has caused about 69 percent of students to report they skipped buying required textbooks at some point in their college career due to affordability.  

Tennessee’s colleges and universities have embarked on efforts to lower the cost of materials through the use of Open Educational Resources (OER).  Research demonstrates that students enrolled in courses where OER is used in lieu of traditional course materials saves money and perform just as well, if not better than control groups enrolled in courses with traditional materials.  The General Assembly could look at other resources to help bring down the cost of textbooks, as well as review their content.

Continued focus on learning losses – Legislators will continue efforts in 2022 to address unprecedented student learning losses as a result of COVID-19-related school closures and time spent away from the classroom.  In 2021, the General Assembly passed a new law to help struggling students by providing after-school mini-camps, learning loss bridge camps, and summer learning camps.  The summer programming was the largest in the nation with over 120,000 students in grades 1-8 participating.  The Tennessee Accelerating Literacy and Learning Corps (TN ALL Corps) tutoring program is also operating to benefit nearly 150,000 students over the next three years.  The General Assembly will monitor the success of these programs, as well as the new foundational literacy program to promote reading proficiency by third grade, and evaluate any future needs.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) curriculum – The General Assembly could revisit CRT curriculum issues.  Last year, legislators approved a new law to prohibit classroom instruction that teaches students that the U.S. is fundamentally racist or that an individual’s moral character is determined by race.  It says you can’t teach a curriculum that says that an individual, by virtue of the person’s race or sex, “is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.”  Lawmakers could tweak the law to add clarity, ensuring the bill’s intention that Tennessee’s curriculum teaches impartial instruction on historical oppression of certain groups while maintaining a belief in the Constitution and American democracy. 

Charter school funding -  Issues related to public charter schools could come back before the General Assembly this year.  Charter schools are public schools operated by independent, non-profit governing bodies that must include parents.  Currently, Local Boards of Education (LEAs) are the authorizers of public charter schools, deciding which are approved or denied, with appeals going to the Tennessee Board of Education.  There has been discussion for several years regarding whether or not the charter authorization should be handled by a statewide authorizer.  Other points of discussion could be an expansion; how charter schools receive funding from authorizing bodies; the schools’ authorization responsibilities; and whether the current process is fully transparent. 

Career and Technical (CTE) Education – The General Assembly will continue efforts to build tomorrow’s workforce by improving the state’s college, career, and technical education programs.  Lawmakers will look at strengthening high-quality CTE programs designed to increase post-secondary opportunities for Tennessee students and align K-12 education with workforce and higher education needs.  This includes expanding Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs in the state.  STEM education stands as a key strategy for Tennessee’s future, helping foster economic development and creating opportunities for students in high-quality and in-demand jobs. 

Apprenticeships -- Similarly, efforts could continue to provide new apprenticeship opportunities as programs have reached a high success rate.  Apprenticeships are a time-proven method to help workers gain skills in growing industries while helping employers build a qualitied workforce.  Last year, the General Assembly increased apprenticeships by more than 30 percent across the state.  A qualified workforce is crucial to the state’s continued economic success and the General Assembly will be working to ensure there is a pipeline of skilled workers to increase job opportunities for Tennesseans. 

Higher Education / TN Promise Scholarships – In higher education, the General Assembly will look at the Tennessee Promise Scholarship Program to ensure it is fully funded.  Tennessee Promise is both a scholarship and mentoring program focused on increasing the number of students that attend college in our state.  The program has enrolled over 108,000 students in college since its inception in 2015.  In that time, it has helped Tennessee students cover $129 million in college costs. 

Higher Education / Outcomes-Based Funding Formula – The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) estimates it will need $90 million in the upcoming budget year to fully fund the state’s Outcomes-Based Funding Formula.  The funding would help to keep tuition increases at zero to three percent according to THEC officials.

Even with the pandemic’s effects on decreased enrollment, statewide degree production in Tennessee’s universities and community colleges continues to increase.  The goal is to maintain this significant progress by continuing to graduate more Tennesseans with a bachelor’s degree or higher education credential and help students realize the American dream of a college education.

Higher Education / TCATs -- THEC officials are also requesting funds to improve safety and security at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs).  The state’s TCAT enrollment is up 15 percent over last fall as demand for skills learned at these colleges increase.  Last year, the General Assembly invested $79 million to eliminate the 11,400 TCAT waiting list.

During the Special Session on the Ford Motor Company Investment, the General Assembly appropriated $40 million to build a TCAT at the Blue Oval City campus to strengthen Tennessee’s workforce.  Look for requests for TCAT facilities in other areas of the state to help boost high-wage, in-demand workforce skills and completion of post-secondary certificates, especially in the state’s rural counties.

Also, look for the General Assembly to use non-recurring funds to build, maintain or improve buildings on Tennessee’s colleges and universities. 

Higher Education /textbooks and curriculum – The General Assembly could look at the affordability of textbooks in the state’s post-secondary schools during the 2022 session.  It has been reported that the average cost of college textbooks has risen four times faster than the rate of inflation over the past decade.  The increasing costs has caused about 69 percent of students to report they skipped buying required textbooks at some point in their college career due to affordability.  

Tennessee’s colleges and universities have embarked on efforts to lower the cost of materials through the use of Open Educational Resources (OER).  Research demonstrates that students enrolled in courses where OER is used in lieu of traditional course materials save money and perform just as well, if not better than control groups enrolled in courses with traditional materials.  The General Assembly could look at other resources to help bring down the cost of textbooks, as well as review their content.

REDISTRICTING

One of the top issues on the 2022 legislative agenda will be redistricting Tennessee’s Senate, House, and Congressional districts.  The purpose of redistricting is to ensure Tennesseans have equal representation.  This right is rooted in both the federal and state constitutions and has been ruled upon by the courts numerous times.  The most famous case is the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tennessee’s Baker v. Carr, which set the "one man - one vote” standard used in redistricting nationwide. 

The 2020 census saw Tennessee grow 8.9 percent over the past ten years.  Comparatively, the U.S. resident population grew by 7.4 percent.  The ideal population for the 33 State Senate districts in Tennessee is now 209,419; while the 99-member House of Representative districts should number 69,806 residents each.  Tennessee’s nine-member congressional districts should be reapportioned to the ideal population of 767,871 for each district. 

Tennessee’s population growth, however, has not grown evenly across the state.  The most dramatic change has been the rapid growth in the ring of Middle Tennessee counties surrounding Davidson County.  This means the General Assembly will have to make needed adjustments to accommodate for the shift in population in accordance with state law and constitutional and court requirements.

Lt. Governor Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton formed bipartisan committees to take on the task of redistricting in an open and transparent redistricting process.  They also offered the public and interested groups an opportunity to use state-of-the-art software to construct and submit a plan to the committee for consideration.  

Expect redistricting legislation to be completed very early in the session to give candidates plenty of time to consider their candidacy before the qualifying deadline in April.

JUDICIARY / COURTS

Supreme Court Justice – The Tennessee General Assembly will vote during the 2022 session to confirm an appointment on the State Supreme Court.  The vacancy occurred after the September death of Justice Cornelia Clark.  Typically, the names of three nominees are submitted to the governor for each vacancy by the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments.  The council took applications and have recommended Associate Solicitor General Sarah Campbell and Court of Appeals Judges Neal McBrayer and Kristi Davis to the Governor for the position.  Once the governor has announced his nominee, the General Assembly will begin the confirmation process.

The voters of Tennessee still retain the ability to remove judges at the end of the term on a “yes or no” retention vote. 

Board of Judicial Conduct – The General Assembly could consider expanding the number of judges who come under the regulation of the Board of Judicial Conduct.  This board is critical to preserving the integrity of the judiciary and enhancing public confidence in the court system.  They investigate ethical violations and complaints made against judges, including appellate, trial, general sessions, probate, juvenile, municipal, and senior judges.  The legislature could extend its scope to include administrative law judges, worker’s compensation judges, judicial commissioners, and certain magistrates. 

Bail bond reform – Bail reform will be on the legislative agenda this year after a Joint Senate Judiciary and House Criminal Justice Committee have recently studied the issue.  The special committee heard various perspectives on bail and the bail bond industry during hearings on the issue.  Advocates for reform claim the current system is unconstitutional and unaffordable for poorer defendants.  They further point to the growing number of prisoners and the high cost to taxpayers to detain those charged with non-violent crimes, some of whom are later acquitted.  The Senate Judiciary Committee will be looking at how Tennessee can reform the system while ensuring public safety. 

Sex Offender Registry – The constitutionality of Tennessee’s Sex Offender Registry could also be an issue for lawmakers in 2022.  Currently, there are 30 lawsuits filed against Tennessee’s Sex Offender Registry requirements between federal and state court cases.  A law in Michigan, which was fairly similar to Tennessee’s requirements, was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit because some provisions retroactively applied to offenders whose convictions happened before the law was put into place.  The Sixth Circuit Court also has appellate jurisdiction over Tennessee.  There are concerns that a ruling by that court could have far-reaching implications if Tennessee is not proactive in dealing with some of the retroactive provisions in state law.  This includes the possibility of punitive actions if the issue is not addressed, including removal of several thousand sex offenders off the Registry with no opportunity to place them back unless they revictimize.

Human Trafficking -- The Tennessee General Assembly will continue the state’s ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking during this year’s legislative session.  State legislators have approved a series of bills over the past eight years addressing the problem after a 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report showed 73 of the state’s 95 counties have reported the crime within their borders.  In the last session, the General Assembly added $5.3 million to curb the problem and support victims.  Tennessee is seeing more undercover operations to fight human trafficking due to additional funding, tips from the public, and expanded training for law enforcement officers.  The Tennessee Bureaus of Investigations has requested four more agents to investigate the crime.   Expect legislative efforts to curb human trafficking to continue as the General Assembly meets this session. 

Consumer Data Privacy – A special committee has been studying how to enhance data privacy for consumers in Tennessee as a result of increased online activities, including social media sites.  According to the Pew Research Center, 85 percent of Americans say they go online on a daily basis, with 31 percent reporting almost constant use.  Consumers are now more aware that businesses, social media sites, and other websites may collect and share their personal information with third parties. 

The committee is looking at legislation to give Tennessee consumers more transparency regarding what companies are doing with their data once a contract is signed, including how it is collected and used.  Other issues include ensuring that basic data handling measures are in place, the sharing of consumer information with third parties, and how consumers are notified that their information has been breached.  Other states have passed laws to give consumers the right to access and delete personal information and to opt-out of the sale of personal information.   The General Assembly could also look at online marketing of certain products directed to minors. 

COVID-19 liability protections— The General Assembly is expected to revisit The Tennessee Covid-19 Recovery Act of 2020 which is set to expire July 1, 2022, unless action is taken.  The act provided reasonable liability protections against frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits on businesses, proprietors, non-profits, health care providers, schools, day care providers, religious organizations and other entities so they could resume operations with legal clarity and participate in Tennessee’s economic recovery.  It also extended immunity under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act for governmental entities in connection with any injuries arising from COVID-19 unless the claimant proves by clear and convincing evidence that the injury was caused by gross negligence.  Lawmakers will look closely at the law and make any needed changes based on that evaluation as extending the act is considered.

K9 Officers – Lawmakers will consider a proposal for harsher penalties for criminals who harm law enforcement service animals or K9 officers.  The bill comes after a K9 officer in Bradley County was shot while off duty.  The legislation proposes to make assault on a K9 officer an automatic felony in Tennessee.

HEALTH

Health care will continue to be a top priority in 2022 with a variety of important issues on tap for discussion by the General Assembly.  Legislators will look for ways to support healthcare systems, lower costs, increase access, and improve the quality of care for all Tennesseans.  State lawmakers made improvements and expanded access to services to primary care, behavioral health, and dental services during 2019, 2020, and 2021 legislative sessions.  Lawmakers will continue those efforts in the upcoming legislative session.

Health Care Staff Shortages – Staffing health care facilities has been a limiting factor nationwide for the past several years.  The COVID-19 pandemic has now made these shortages even more critical.  Eighty-six percent of Tennesseans live in health professional shortage areas.  The General Assembly could look at ways to shore up efforts to recruit and retain medical professionals, including the extension of a health care pipeline in Tennessee’s high schools.  In addition, there could be more support proposed for nurses and allied health workers through education stipends.

Tennessee’s rural communities have especially experienced health professional shortages.  Last year, the General Assembly appropriated $5.5 million in recurring funds to get more medical residents into rural hospitals, particularly family practice doctors.  Expect these efforts to continue this year, as well as measures to ensure the state’s rural health departments are well maintained, equipped, and running smoothly to better serve these communities. 

The General Assembly will also look at expanding dental services as a shortage of dentists and decreased access to care continue to grow in the state.  It is estimated that approximately one million adults currently lack access to care.  The Department of Health has requested $94 million to address workplace shortages and to increase access to dental services for Tennesseans in need. 

Mental Health  / Safety Net Services  – The General Assembly will likely consider additional money in the 2021-2022 fiscal year budget to widen Tennessee’s safety net for behavioral health services.  The need for mental health services has particularly grown as a result of the pandemic.  Expect a budget request to expand crisis services for those experiencing a mental health emergency.  The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has requested funds for three new crisis walk-in and stabilization clinics in rural and underserved areas in the state.  They are also looking to enhance services in high-volume emergency departments to help with immediate assessments.  In addition, the department has requested a Tennessee Behavioral Health Workforce Program to strengthen the career pipeline and recruit and retain mental health professionals in the workforce.  Research shows that highly trained mental health professionals are more effective with patients who need skilled services. 

Curbing opiate addiction -- The General Assembly will continue efforts to curb opiate abuse in Tennessee during the 2022 legislative session as law enforcement and health officials report related deaths have increased at alarming levels this past year.  The Tennessee Department of Health reported in October that more than 3,000 Tennesseans died from overdoses in 2020, a 45 percent increase from the previous year.  The deaths have occurred primarily in the 35 to 44-year-old age groups and have involved fentanyl and methamphetamines.

Addiction is the primary reason for drug-related deaths.  It is estimated that 458,000 Tennesseans have substance use disorder.  Deaths this past year also escalated as a result of counterfeit pills laced with lethal amounts of fentanyl.  A major legislative strike at decreasing opiate addiction was made in 2018 with a three-pronged approach for more effective law enforcement, treatment, and prevention.  The General Assembly also took significant steps over the past several years to prevent opioid abuse and addiction by focusing on education, recovery courts, data collection, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Expect a request for additional funds to expand substance abuse clinical treatment services, this includes support for residential treatment infrastructure.  Demand has increased significantly over the last two years and revealed capacity issues of which public-private partnerships could also be tapped to help alleviate this need. 

In addition, lawmakers will be looking carefully at how state laws are working to curb drug abuse.  This includes any improvements that can be made to the state’s data monitoring database and other measures which can be taken to combat the problem. 

TennCare III Waiver -- One of the first actions taken by the General Assembly in the 2021 session was the approval of a federal government waiver amendment to improve quality and access to health care in the state.  Tennessee is the first state in the nation to implement such an innovative block grant style agreement. 

The negotiated flexibilities aim to allow the state to add new TennCare recipients, structure benefit packages, better control fraud, and more effectively manage pharmacy programs.  Priorities for program innovation included maternal health coverage enhancements, serving additional needy populations, clearing the wait list for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and addressing state-specific health crises.  In November, TennCare officials testified that they were optimistic that shared savings will be realized.

The new waiver, called TennCare III, began on January 15th for a ten-year period, replacing the five-year waiver that was set to expire on June 30th, 2021.  The Biden Administration’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has reopened it to more public comment and will consider what to do with the plan originally approved under the Trump administration.  The CMS action has not currently delayed or prevented the implementation of TennCare III.  The General Assembly will be waiting to see if the federal government or the courts take action to reverse or modify the program during the 2022 legislative session, while the state continues to move forward with the TennCare III reforms. 

In the meantime, expect a budget request of about $40.2 million to account for medical inflation and utilization.  The 1.12 percent cost increase is the lowest on record.

CON Process / Merging of Regulatory Boards – There could be discussion this year regarding the merging of regulatory boards which deal with the Certificate of Need (CON) process and healthcare facility oversight.  CON is a legal document required for a hospital or health care facility that wants to locate or expand its capacity. Whether it is the number of hospital beds it makes available or the types of imaging it can conduct, the facility must apply to the state’s Health Services and Development Agency (HSDA) for permission through the CON process. 

During the 2021 legislative session, the General Assembly approved a new law seeking to eliminate bureaucratic red tape by making the CON process quicker, easier, and less expensive in order to improve access and cost of health care services in Tennessee.  It reduces the CON regulation of certain facilities and services, eliminates protectionist aspects of the CON process, and creates greater regulatory flexibility.  In addition, the new law directs the HSDA executive director to create a plan that will ultimately combine the functions of licensure (currently under the Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities) and CON approval (under the HSDA) into a new, independent Health Facilities Commission to make licensure more efficient.  A single agency would oversee healthcare facilities and services from initial planning through the ongoing operation. The plan is not due until January 2023, but discussions are already ongoing regarding how this new commission will operate and could be an issue before the General Assembly in 2022.

Balance billing – The balance billing issue could come before the General Assembly again this session.  Balance billing occurs when providers bill a patient for the difference between the amount they charge and the amount that the patient’s insurance pays. The amount that insurers pay providers is almost always less than the providers’ “retail price.” Some providers will bill the patient for the difference, or balance; thus, it is called balance billing.  Legislation currently pending in the General Assembly on balance billing was deferred until 2022 after passage of the federal No Surprises Act to evaluate how rules promulgated under the new federal law will affect state-regulated insurance plans in Tennessee. 

On January 1, 2022, the new federal act will provide patients with individual or employer health coverage relief from surprise medical billing.  Individuals with most individual and employer insurance can no longer be balance-billed for emergency and certain non-emergency services in most circumstances. Patients will be removed from payment disputes that must be settled between providers and insurers.  Legislation currently pending in Tennessee mirrors the federal law to ensure all Tennessee plans are covered.

Scope of practice -- Another issue that has been before the General Assembly is the Scope of Practice for medical professionals.  The moratorium in independent medical practice bills expired and scope of practice for nurses in Tennessee is an issue that is before the General Assembly.  Nurses want more autonomy to diagnose and treat patients, while physicians generally favor doctor collaboration in patient care.  This debate could be fueled by the overall discussion on how to expand access to care in rural areas of the state where physician shortages exist. 

Telehealth – Telehealth will be back on the agenda this year as Tennessee’s law, which was passed at the beginning of the pandemic, is set to expire in April.  The General assembly will consider further action regarding whether or not to extend this measure beyond that date. The law significantly enhanced telehealth flexibility and payment parity for health care providers and patients in Tennessee.  It required insurers to reimburse for telehealth services in a manner consistent with what an applicable health insurance policy or contract provides for in-person encounters for the same service. 

The use of remote health services soared during the pandemic, opening the eyes of many medical providers and patients to telehealth’s convenience and relatively low cost.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), more than two dozen states also have made permanent some telehealth coverage requirements for private insurers. The state laws on private insurers generally apply only to individual health insurance policies or those to which an employer does not contribute. Employer-funded plans are regulated by the federal government.

COVID-19 – The General Assembly held a Special Session on COVID-19 in the fall; however, legislation will likely be proposed in 2022. 

Tennessee Medical Cannabis Commission – The General Assembly adopted legislation in 2021 creating a commission to serve as a nonpartisan, medically-focused entity to study federal and state laws regarding medical cannabis.  The commission will make recommendations to the General Assembly on ways to implement an effective, patient-centered medical cannabis program in Tennessee upon the rescheduling of marijuana from the Schedule I list of federally controlled substances.  This could be a matter for legislative discussion in the 2022 session of the General Assembly.

Children’s Services – Workplace shortages are a concern for Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services with a high turnover of case workers and deficiency of pediatric child abuse physicians.  The General Assembly could look at tackling this issue, including boosting salaries, as the department’s budget is considered. 

There are over 9,000 children who are in state custody of which over 8,000 have been determined by courts to be dependent/neglected children.  Despite the steady growth in the number of children in foster care, permanency through adoption and subsidized guardianship has increased by five percent.  The department has asked for additional funds to boost adoption assistance, a program which has been successful in getting these children into loving homes on a permanent basis.

Individuals with disabilities – Last year, lawmakers approved legislation that puts Tennessee on track to become a “State as a Model Employer” (SAME) for individuals with disabilities.   The new law ensures that state agencies and departments design and implement promising and emerging policies, practices, and procedures that focus on recruitment, hiring, advancement, and retention of qualified individuals with disabilities. 

The General Assembly could look to expand on these efforts in the upcoming legislative session to prepare people with disabilities for employment and engage businesses across the state.  Tennessee is leading in providing supports to individuals with disabilities.  This includes inclusive post-secondary programs for students at six higher education institutions across the state.  More than 80 percent of graduates from these programs are successfully employed.  There are also pre-employment services and technical support to help citizens with disabilities gain the skills they need to become independent.   

ECF Choices Program– Enhancing services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities could include expanding the number of people served by the state’s Employment and Community First (ECF) Choices Program.  The Employment and Community First CHOICES program is administered by Encore through its contracted managed care organizations.  It offers services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Services in the program help people become employed and live as independently as possible in the community.  All new enrollment is in the Employment and Community First CHOICES program, as Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) waivers are closed to new enrollment.  An additional $32.6 million would help take 2,000 people off the waiting list for services.  Currently, there are 4,232 on the waiting list.

It is estimated that one in five Americans live with a disability.  Approximately 70-75 percent of individuals with disabilities are unemployed.

In addition, the Lee administration is considering $34 million to expand the Tennessee Early Intervention System (TEIS) program to serve children from birth until their third birthday with developmental delays and disabilities.

Senior Citizens / Resource Mapping -- The legislature passed a law in 2018 calling for resource mapping of all federal, state, and nongovernmental resources that support the health, safety, and welfare of adults who are 60 years of age or older.  The goal is to help families access services to support their needs.  Funding has been requested in the upcoming budget year to help in this effort.

Senior Citizens / Elder Abuse – Abuse of the elderly will continue to be an issue of great importance in the 2022 legislative session.  A task force initiated by the General Assembly on elder abuse in 2019 has been studying the issue.  In addition, the Tennessee Comptroller has issued a report on financial exploitation of the elderly, giving lawmakers more information about the extent of the problem and policy options that can be considered to combat it.  Look for the task force recommendations, utilizing the work of the Comptroller’s report, to be discussed this year.  This includes funding additional staff positions in the offices of the district attorney general to increase their capacity to investigate and prosecute elder financial exploitation cases and improving data collection statewide to better track elder financial abuse cases in Tennessee.

Over the last several years, the Tennessee General Assembly has worked diligently to strengthen state laws to protect the state’s elderly citizens from financial exploitation, as well as physical abuse and neglect. 

Senior Citizens / Relative Caregiver Program – Expect renewed efforts to pass a Tennessee Relative Caregiver Program to address the financial burden put on caregivers that are awarded custody or guardianship of minor family members.  Presently, when a child is taken from a home and placed in foster care, the foster family receives various forms of payment and assistance ranging from monthly supplements, TennCare benefits, and daycare stipends.  This assistance is not provided to relative caregivers. 

Approximately 77,000 grandparents are raising their grandchildren in Tennessee and this bill seeks to assist them as they provide care that would otherwise be borne by the state if the child is surrendered into Department of Children’s Services custody. 

Jobs and Commerce

The General Assembly will continue to focus on providing an environment that will boost Tennessee’s economy in the 2022 legislative session.  These efforts are aided by the state’s low tax and light regulatory status.  Tennessee consistently ranks in the top three states in the U.S. for best business climate.  The Volunteer State has also ranked first for site readiness programs and energy availability and has seen its biggest surge ever in new business launchings.  In addition, Tennessee has recently ranked as the second fastest-growing state in the nation for foreign direct investment. 

In 2021, despite the pandemic Tennessee secured 130 economic projects representing nearly 35,000 job commitments and nearly $13 billion in capital investment.  The state attracted major business relocation and expansion including Ford Motor Company, Ultium Cells LLC, Smith & Wesson, Chewy, and Amazon.  The goal will be to continue this robust job growth. 

The state’s employment rebounded faster than the national average, reaching the pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 4 percent in November.  This is the lowest unemployment has been since March 2020, which was the last month before COVID-19 business closures impacted Tennessee’s economy.  In April 2020, due to shutdowns, the state’s unemployment rate reached a high of 15.8 percent.  The Department of Labor and Workforce Development in December reported that there is 410,000 job posting on their website at jobs4TN

Labor shortages -- While Tennessee’s economy has shown great progress in recuperating from the pandemic, the recovery of the state’s labor force has been disappointing.  The majority of Tennessee businesses have reported an insufficient supply of willing or qualified workers with 55,000 fewer workers on Tennessee payrolls than before the pandemic.  Workplace shortages also exist in certain departments of state government.  These shortages will be on the list of issues discussed during the 2022 legislative session. 

Nationwide, working-age population growth has slowed to a halt and the non-college graduate population is also shrinking.  The pandemic spurred many workers to launch their own home-based businesses, opting for a more flexible lifestyle.  In addition, many workers have retired or have opted to stay at home.

The General Assembly will look at measures to bolster the state’s workforce and eliminate hurdles that are keeping workers from returning to it.  This includes providing them with the skills to get a great job.

Unemployment Trust Fund – Legislators will also look at the state’s unemployment system and the delivery of benefits to Tennesseans who have suffered job loss.  The prudent management of the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund helps ensure stability for those receiving unemployment assistance.  As of November, the Unemployment Trust Fund has utilized $939 million in COVID-19 relief funds to maintain solvency through the pandemic.  The fund is projected to remain above $1 billion in 2022.  Keeping the Unemployment Trust Fund on solid financial ground, without raising taxes, will continue to be a priority for the 112th General Assembly. 

Rural TN / Economic Opportunities / Broadband – An important issue for the 2022 session of the Tennessee General Assembly is continuing to address barriers to economic success in the state’s rural communities.  Upon taking office, Governor Bill Lee ordered all Tennessee departments of state government to specifically address challenges unique to rural communities and has worked with the legislature to boost resources for them.  The number of Tennessee counties listed as distressed was reduced in 2021 to nine, a 52 percent decrease in four years. 

Likewise, expect Governor Lee to continue to work with the General Assembly to spur agricultural advancements that will support jobs in the state’s rural communities.   Agriculture is 13 percent of the state’s economy, but many believe the industry is still emerging, including the development of the technology industry which can advance it. 

Broadband will continue to be a top priority this year to help rural and underserved communities thrive.  Approximately $500 million has been allocated to provide high-speed broadband to every Tennessean.  State officials are conducting mapping to see where the gaps in service are located.

Flood Insurance – A coalition of elected officials, homeowners, small business owners and others are advocating funds for a flood-proof infrastructure for storm disasters.  According to the Tennessee Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations, Tennessee suffers an average of $243 million in damages from flooding each year.  Of the top 10 most susceptible counties to flooding, five are economically at-risk, two are economically distressed and three have no FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan. 

State and Local Government / Government Operations

Transportainment – In Nashville, Transportainment is a growing tourism industry. As it has grown so quickly, there has been an increased need for regulation to address safety concerns and minimize disruptions from these vehicles. State law currently prohibits Metro Nashville from regulating transportainment vehicles with more than 15 passengers or above 10,000 pounds. In October 2021, Metro Nashville approved a permitting process for these businesses. The new regulations also include punishments for noise complaints. This is a topic lawmakers will likely consider legislation to address.

Corrections / Criminal Justice Reform – In 2021, the General Assembly passed major criminal justice reform legislation to reduce Tennessee’s high recidivism rate and improve public safety. This year, the General Assembly may expand on those efforts and increase vocational training opportunities available to low-risk inmates. Offering vocational training to inmates can help improve their outcomes following the completion of their prison sentence. Increased vocational training opportunities might include training for truck drivers, welders, carpenters and call centers. This training can help keep former inmates from returning to prison as well as help alleviate workforce shortages many industries are facing.

Correctional Officers – Like many industries across the state and country, Tennessee’s prisons have had difficulty hiring correctional officers over the last 18 – 24 months. In the fiscal year 2020, hiring was down 40 percent. In December, Governor Lee announced a competitive 37 percent salary increase for new Tennessee Department of Correction officers amid nationwide staffing challenges and a minimum of 15 percent pay increase for current employees.  Lawmakers will look at how the salary increases are working to fill these critical positions and any other steps that are needed to ensure Tennessee prisons are well-staffed and safe.

City and County Governing Bodies / Electronic Participation –  Legislation from the last session is pending action by the General Assembly that allows for video conferencing or other web-based media for meetings of city or county governing body members due to certain extraordinary circumstances, like medical emergencies, local government-related travel, or military service.  Other conditions must be met and the meeting must be open and available to the public via video streaming or posted online.  

James “Dustin” Samples Act / PTSD First Responders --  Another bill that will be considered in 2022 from the last session allows professional firefighters to file for worker’s compensation if they have been diagnosed with work-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  It aims to remove barriers to care and reduce the stigma attached to seeking mental health resources for PTSD among first responders. 

Election Machines -  There has been discussion in some counties recently about election machines and whether or not a paper ballot should be required as a backup in case there are questions about the validity of an election.  This could come before the State and Local Government Committee during the legislative session.

Efficient and Effective Government -- Government efficiency will be on the agenda again this year.  Established in 1970, the Government Operations Committee provides oversight to 260  agencies that come under sunset review on a rotating basis to keep government effective and efficient.  Sunset refers to the automatic termination of a government department, agency, or program at the end of a specified time period unless the legislature reauthorizes it.  The Sunset Law intends to provide a responsible method to review state governmental entities, ensuring that State regulation is beneficial rather than detrimental to the people of Tennessee through periodic reviews.

Some of the key departments and agencies that are up for review this year are the Tennessee Department of Education, Department of Children’s Services, Department of Human Services, Department of Agriculture, Department of Veterans Services, Department of Revenue, Department of Tourist Development, TennCare, Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, Tennessee Emergency Medical Services, Great Smoky Mountains Park Commission, and the Tennessee Film Entertainment and Music Commission. 

Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources

 Reducing plastic waste – Looking at solutions to reduce plastic waste could be a topic the Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee examines in 2022. Possible ways to reduce plastics in Tennessee landfills could be to consider a “bottle bill” which would offer citizens cash incentives to recycle plastic bottles. Other states have passed similar bills and seen success in reducing plastic waste.

Many companies, such as the Stalk Market, are making compostable products as an alternative to plastics. These companies make items like straws, disposable eating utensils, cups, plates, and plastic bags out of hemp which is compostable. The Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee could research ways to incentivize the use of hemp products over plastics, that do not decompose and take up a lot of space in landfills.

Bees – Bees, which are an important insect in the ecosystem, are declining in population. This is due to the increased use of pesticides. These poisonous chemicals can wipe out the whole hives of bees. The legislature might consider ways to regulate the use of some harmful pesticides to help strengthen the bee population in Tennessee.

Asian Carp – Asian Carp is an invasive fish species rapidly spreading in Tennessee waterways and poses safety threats to boaters and jeopardizes the ecosystem in Tennessee’s lakes and rivers. This problem is devastating to the West and Middle Tennessee’s fishing and tourism industry. There are many mitigation efforts underway in Tennessee to help slow the spread of these fish, but there is still work to be done. 

Asian Carp are edible fish. One proposal to help address the growth of these fish is to promote the species as a good fish to eat to slow the spread through commercial fishing.  Efforts are already in use to contain the spread of these fish by monitoring their movements and putting up sound barriers to scare fish into controlled settings and keep them in contained areas.

Windmills – In Tennessee, specifically on the Cumberland Mountain, the Federal Government has been subsidizing property owners to put windmills on their property in order to generate renewable energy. However, when the subsidies run out many of these windmills become abandoned. The General Assembly might consider ways to create a financial bond for these windmills so there are funds to disassemble them when inactive.

Renewable energy / Coal-fired plants – As many states transition to renewable and cleaner forms of energy such as hydroelectric power and solar power as well as natural gas, coal-fired plants are being shut down. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which supplies power to over 10 million people in the Southeast, is transitioning all its plants to natural gas power. However, during a natural disaster, such as the February 2021 winter storm in Texas, frozen or hampered gas lines can prevent millions of people from receiving power. Legislators might consider maintaining some coal plants in the state to prevent a power outage in the event that gas lines become inoperable.

State Parks – During the pandemic, Tennessee’s state parks saw record numbers of visitors as citizens from across the country increasingly sought outdoor activities. Given the recent uptick in visitors, there is a need to expand campgrounds. Many state parks need more campsites. Lawmakers may also look at raising rates to stay in Tennessee’s state parks to be more on par with other surrounding states.

TRANSPORTATION

Federal Transportation Infrastructure Bill – In November 2021, Congress approved the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which appropriates $1.7 billion more than the previous federal transportation bill for Tennessee over a five-year period.  This includes $1 billion for Tennessee’s core road and bridge programs, and $0.7 billion in new programs such as carbon/green initiatives and electric vehicle infrastructure. This funding represents a 12 percent increase in the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT’s) budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023.

It is not yet completely clear how these funds can be used.  This includes how they may be used for road and bridge projects listed as part of the IMPROVE Act passed by the General Assembly in 2017 to create a funding mechanism to repair Tennessee’s roads and bridges. As further guidance from the federal government is released, the responsible use of these federal dollars will be a top issue for the Transportation and Safety Committee as well the Finance, Ways and Means Committee this year.

Smooth Transition of REAL ID – Ensuring Tennesseans experience a smooth transition to the REAL ID requirements could continue to be subject to legislative monitoring as the 2021 session begins.  The federal government delayed the requirement for citizens to present a REAL ID or passport to board a commercial aircraft or enter a federal building until May 3, 2023. Tennessee began issuing REAL IDs on July 1, 2019.

The General Assembly will be closely monitoring the issuance of driver licenses to help ensure customers are served as timely as possible.  Tennessee has about 4 million valid driver licenses with 1,774,899 REAL IDs issued between July 2019 and December 2021. 

Billboard Rules – In June 2020, the General Assembly passed legislation to put Tennessee’s billboard laws into compliance with the Federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on First Amendment free speech law that had previously put all State of Tennessee regulation of billboards under the old law on hold. Within two months after passage of the law, The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) drafted amended billboard rules to implement the new law and put them out for public review and comment in the fall of 2020. After receiving an abundant number of comments from the billboard industry, TDOT made extensive edits to the proposed rules to address the comments and placed a revised rule draft out for further public comment in the fall of 2021. TDOT continues to review the comments and seek additional input on the latest rule draft with the goal of submitting the final rules to the Government Operations Committee for review in 2022.

Airport Funding – When comparing collections to the Tennessee Transportation Equity Trust Fund from the state’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 to FY 2021, collections are down 59 percent due to legislative changes and market conditions. This fund provides the Tennessee Department of TDOT’s Aeronautics Division grant funds that are used by 77 public-use airports for planning, development, construction, and operations throughout the state.  Also, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, airport revenues are down, creating an even larger funding gap.

Tennessee airports did receive almost $169 million from the federal Cares Act and federal coronavirus relief package in 2020The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will provide $59 million of FAA funding in year one with roughly 75 percent going to the five largest airports and 25 percent to remaining general aviation airports.  To keep airport assets in a state of good repair and for airports to maintain licensing requirements, members of the General Assembly may consider these federal and other funding opportunities to help fill the funding gaps for airports across the state. 

Hybrid and Electric Vehicles – There are more options than ever for drivers who want electric vehicles, which are growing in popularity across the state. There is 6.5 million vehicles in Tennessee of which currently 9,000 are entirely electric.  However, that is expected to change significantly by 2025 with gas tax revenues expected to decrease dramatically as more Tennesseans purchase electric vehicles. 

Tennessee’s conservative process of funding its highway program is often referred to as a “pay as you go” program. The agency only spends the funds that are available through its dedicated revenues, highway user taxes and fees, and federal funding.  Therefore, the tax collected at the gas pump is critical to road funding.  In 2022, lawmakers may look at solutions to help offset the loss in gas tax revenues. One proposal is to raise the low $100 registration fee for hybrid and electric vehicles. Other states have adopted a pay-per-mile fee model.

Scooter Laws – The use of motorized scooters in urban areas across the state continues to be a popular form of transportation. However, these scooters have presented serious safety concerns for users and drivers on the road. The General Assembly might expand on its efforts to balance the safety of pedestrians, scooter users, and drivers in the upcoming session.

 

John Shorter

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My opinions are my own, politically active #GOP, President @3StarStrategies sometimes cranky, witty & often ask the question, what the hell were they thinking?