Two months into his first term as governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee will give his first State of the State address Monday night at 7 p.m. eastern time in Nashville.
While the exact contents of his speech are unknown, Gov. Lee is expected to focus on two main topics in his address: Criminal justice reform and school choice, along with several initiatives related to education in the state.
On Thursday, Lee’s office announced a host of criminal justice reform initiatives – something he is expected to discuss more of in detail Monday night. Among his proposals are: $10.5 million to equip eight state prisons with the equipment necessary to provide high school and college-level education courses, $1.7 million in additional funding for state recovery courts and the elimination of a $180 expungement fee, which will allow lesser offenders to clear their records for free, according to the Tennessean.
Lee has made clear that education with the Tennessee Department of Correction is a priority for him, something that helped propel him to a landslide win in November’s election. Lee’s initiatives have bipartisan support across the state as well, including the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Michael Curcio (R-Dickson).
On the education side, Lee has discussed a need for increased vocational training in the state, a need for funding to address security concerns within schools and school vouchers, which use publicly funded scholarships to send students to private schools – a measure that’s failed to gain traction in the General Assembly.
“We will be talking about choices, and I do believe that when parents have choices, then the entire education system will be improved,” Lee told WKRN on Friday.
Lee is also expected to unveil his first budget proposal, a budget that could remain similar to last years state budget of $37.5 billion, despite economic gains in the state. In late January, Lee asked all Tennessee agencies how they would handle a two percent cut to their budgets as a way to figure out where they can re-prioritize spending and where they could cut money to squirrel away into state reserves to prepare for future economic downturns.
Following Monday’s State of the State address, Lee will travel to Knoxville and Memphis to State of East and West Tennessee addresses on Tuesday, March 5 and Thursday, March 7, respectively. Both events are free and open to the public, but tickets will be needed for entry.