January marked the start of a new year for Tennessee’s General Assembly, and with a new year, comes new legislation ideas.
Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson and Rep. Jeremy Faison introduced a bill in December that would make medical marijuana, or cannabis, legal. The bill, however, is facing some top opposition from fellow Republican senators and representatives. Dickerson, an anesthesiologist, has stressed the medical benefits of marijuana in an effort to sway the legislators who are against the bill.
According to DrugAbuse.gov, THC, a chemical found in cannabis oil, can reduce nausea, pain, inflammation and increase appetite.
If the bill were to pass, the state would generate revenue through the agricultural, safety and health state departments. Doctors who prescribe medical marijuana would have to have a special license, and patients would only be allowed to use the drug in their own homes.
Money generated from the sales of the drug would benefit public education and drug prevention and intervention training in departments and programs across the state. The bill is also aimed to address the opioid epidemic in Tennessee.
Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Johnson City, introduced the “Heartbeat Bill” on Jan. 26. The bill would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically around five weeks gestation.
The bill would exempt mothers with a life threatening pregnancy. However, the bill does not exempt women who become pregnant due to rape or incest.
The bill, if passed, would violate the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which allows abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
At the State of the State address on Jan. 30, Gov. Bill Haslam announced the proposed budget for 2017-2018 fiscal year. A seven cent gas increase and 12 cent diesel increase is among the long list of proposals. The revenue from the increase would go to cities and counties across the state to fund transportation projects.
These tax increases and cuts are a part of the Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy Act. The IMPROVE Act’s goal is to lower manufacturing and grocery taxes and improve the state’s roadways.
Among some business tax cuts, Haslam hopes to reduce the grocery sales tax from 5 percent to to 4.5 percent.
With the money generated through the IMPROVE Act, cities and counties can expect more money for local road projects and 688 bridges will undergo replacement across the state. The hope is for all of the roadway improvements to be completed or under contract by 2030, according to the IMPROVE Act website.
Free higher education
Gov. Bill Haslam wants to expand Tennessee Promise to allow adults to attend two years of community college for free. Currently, Tennessee Promise is only offered to graduating high school seniors. The “Tennessee Reconnect Act” will allow any adult Tennessee resident the opportunity to attend community college for free regardless of past academic performance or current financial status.
Smoking on campus
HB-009 would allow the University of Tennessee and board of regents schools to make their own decisions regarding smoking on campus. Schools would have the option to have designated indoor smoking areas if administration so desires. Under the current law, “smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public places within this state, including, but not limited to, educational facilities, both public and private.”
For more information on Tennessee General Assembly legislation, visit capitol.tn.gov.