A Note from Sen. Lowe Finney
Posted: Friday, May 11, 2012 10:33 am
By: State Sen. Lowe Finney
After the end of each legislative session, I try to take some time to look back and ask myself: Did we help make people’s lives better in West Tennessee? It’s a hard question to answer this year, especially amidst the distractions of an election year.
In the end, however, there were a few things that I think will help our friends and neighbors get back to work, stay in school, keep our children safe, and help our small businesses continue to grow.
The biggest part of the Governor’s budget for West Tennessee is $25 million in funding for the Memphis Regional Megasite.
I have fought for nearly two years to obtain this funding, which will help complete the next phase of infrastructure and prepare the site for companies to visit. As I see jobs growing and the economy improving in Clarksville and Chattanooga at similar sites, I can’t help but want the same for West Tennessee. This allocation is a big step toward our goal.
I was proud to co-sponsor the Tennessee Works Act of 2012 to specifically provide for education and training for unemployed Tennesseans.
The program will help re-train those looking for work and provide temporary employment using their new skills, with some of those positions leading to full-time jobs. We’ve seen this legislation work in other states, and I’m glad that we are implementing it in Tennessee this year.
We stopped a massive 6,000 percent tax increase on solar energy equipment that would have devastated our fastest growing jobs sector.
We have invested heavily in clean energy in West Tennessee through efforts like the Brownsville Solar Farm, and small businesses and large corporations from all over the state are continuing to invest in solar production to lower their energy costs and create jobs in the process.
Now is no time to punish them for those investments. Lawmakers and small business owners stood together to defeat this proposal, ensuring that Tennessee will remain a national leader in clean energy jobs.
We also stopped two proposals that would have hurt Tennessee’s students. A bill to cut the amount of the HOPE scholarships was finally defeated in the late days of the session, which was good news for university students who already face the steep costs of college tuition.
Likewise, a bill that would have allowed for larger classroom sizes was withdrawn after facing heavy criticism from parents, teachers, and school boards from around the state. Students need more interaction with teachers, not less. Larger class sizes would damage the education gains we have made over the past couple of years.
Finally, I passed a bill with the help of the Jackson Police Department to strengthen jail sentences for sex offenders convicted of stalking.
Last year, two women in Jackson reported being stalked by a convicted sex offender who had a lengthy rap sheet – he was also a convicted sex offender from another state. Instead of serving a maximum nine-month sentence for each charge, my bill now makes each stalking conviction punishable by up to six years in prison.
Our citizens should not have to live their lives looking over their shoulders, fearful of a perpetrator who continually violates the law by harassing or stalking them. Sex offenders who stalk and harass new victims belong in one place: behind bars.
These are just a few things we were able to accomplish this year, in addition to cutting the sales tax on food, preserving funds for Family Resource Centers, and more.
There are other issues that I look forward to having a conversation with you about this year, whether it’s through email or over a cup of coffee.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me about anything that’s on your mind. In a year when we’ll hear plenty about how different we all are, I hope that we’ll be able to continue to work on what brings our communities together.
As many of you may know by now, the district I am serving will be changing soon. No matter where you live or what district your county is in now, please know that I am available to serve you.