Haslam delivers final State of the State

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The following comes by way of Dentons 50 partner Adam Nickas of Capitol Resources.

On Monday, before a joint session of the Tennessee General Assembly, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam delivered his eighth and final State of the State address. While much of his speech reflected on his past seven years in office, Haslam also indicated his primary areas of focus for his final year in office, including curbing opioid abuse, restructuring the state’s juvenile justice system, and ensuring a higher percentage of post-secondary degree attainment.

Among the accomplishments the Governor touted:

  • Lowest unemployment rate in the state’s history;
  • Nearly 400,000 net new private sector jobs;
  • Fastest-improving state in the nation in Math, Science, and English;
  • $572 million in tax cuts, including a 30% percent cut on the grocery tax;
  • Tripling the state’s Rainy Day Fund, totaling $850 with passage of this year’s budget.

Looking toward his final year in office, Haslam hopes to build upon his post-secondary education initiatives of “Tennessee Promise” and “Tennessee Reconnect”- programs that allow every Tennessean access to community and technical colleges tuition-free. With his new initiative of “Complete to Compete,” Haslam hopes to increase attainment of degrees or certificates for individuals to more easily enter the workforce. This will be accomplished by reforming financial aid and the lottery scholarship to ensure on-time completion.

As a result of months of collaboration with both the legislative and judicial branches, Haslam also indicated his intent to implement recommendations to bring needed reforms to the state’s juvenile justice system. This includes how to better deter out-of-home placements of youth when possible, keeping them close to their community, and addressing disparities among counties in dealing with juvenile crime.

As opioid abuse continues to plague the state, the Governor announced the “TN Together” plan last week with a request of $30 million for prevention, treatment and greater resources for law enforcement. The proposal includes a 5-day cap on initial opioid prescriptions, incentivizing inmates to complete intensive treatment programs, and updating the schedule of controlled substances.

Other items among Haslam’s $37.5 billion budget request:

  • More than $200 million in new state funding for K-12 education;
  • Nearly $100 million for higher education initiatives;
  • $128 million for job growth investments, including programs that target rural communities.

The Republican and Democratic primaries for Governor is in August. Among the hopefuls are former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean (D), Congressman Diane Black (R), House Speaker Beth Harwell (R), Former Commissioner of Economic Development Randy Boyd, Businessman Bill Lee (R), House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D), and State Senator Mae Beavers (R).