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Notes from Nashville – 6.03.10

Notes from Nashville – 6.03.10

Posted: Friday, June 4, 2010 12:27 pm
By: Mark Maddox, State Representative

With everyone’s energy focused on budget negotiations, very little substantial legislation passed this week. 
The only bills left to consider have fiscal impact.
Budget-related bills must pass first before the fate of those bills is known; however, several bills impacting our area have passed.
Budget cuts damaging to law enforcement’s ability to get help from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation put our communities’ safety at risk.
So, I sponsored three bills to maintain TBI agent positions in rural areas and to keep TBI forensic scientists employed.  HB3543 raises the blood alcohol test fee charged to persons convicted of DUI. 
HB3538 raises the mandatory drug test fee charged to persons convicted of drug offenses.
HB3537 directs to the TBI the state litigation tax charged to defendants in certain criminal cases.  This trio of bills raises enough funds to keep forensic scientists (the folks that run DNA tests among other things) and rural TBI agents (the folks that help local law enforcement investigate crime) working in our area. 
All three of these bills have passed the House.
Two groups of citizens would benefit from having a seat closer to the Governor. 
Services for elderly folks are spread across no less than three different agencies with no clear vision for our system.
Citizens with developmental disabilities, including mental retardation have seen persons responsible for their services tossed from department to department resulting in no clear emphasis short of responding to lawsuits.
Sen. Lowe Finney kept a campaign promise prioritizing services to elderly folks during his term and proposed legislation to form a Department of Aging.  I am the House sponsor. 
HB3529 creates this new agency to provide a comprehensive and coordinated service system for the state’s aging population.
Elderly citizens have more opportunities and challenges facing them than ever before. 
As the number of Tennesseans entering their golden years grows, their state government needs to provide them with the best possible resources and necessary services to enjoy retirement. 
A department could make sure citizens knew their options and provide one-stop access to important information rather than spreading it to agency after agency after agency.
I think centralizing access makes sense. With favorable support from the Governor, the bill is positioned to pass out of our Budget Subcommittee.
Services for citizens with developmental disability were housed in the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disability until a lawsuit caused a need for quicker response during the Sundquist Administration.
He created the Division of Mental Retardation Services under the Department of Financial Administration. The name was recently changed to the Division of Intellectual Disabilities Services to more clearly indicate all groups this division serves. 
I have never thought the division was a good fit in F&A. Many of you have said that we should give more thought to the way services are offered to these citizens.
Closure of the Carroll County Developmental Center and recent budget problems at Community Developmental Services re-emphasized that message. 
With a change of administration coming, this seemed to be a good time to look at a department charged with making government work better for these citizens. 
HB3526 moves the Division of Intellectual Disabilities Services from the Department of Financial Administration to a newly created Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
This new department will be charged with studying the effective use of our state’s resources to help those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 
The icing on the cake is that these two major changes can be accomplished without significant use of state resources. 
The Department of Aging bill requires those agencies now involved with services to seniors study a new delivery system before any department is formed.
The other bill elevates a structure already in place (the Division) resulting in savings to state government. 
This is how our state government should serve us – necessary services getting to the places that do the most good and saving money.
My hope is the General Assembly will finish within the next couple of weeks. 
You can continue to watch us by going to www.capitol.tn.gov.
If you have concerns, please let me know.
WCP 6.03.10

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