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New state senator ready to go to work

New state senator ready to go to work
State Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, is now officially a member of the 108th General Assembly. He and seven other freshmen state senators were sworn in to office last week.
He joins 131 other lawmakers who will actually begin work later this month on a full slate of issues as part of the 2013-14 legislative sessions.
“Taking the oath of office in this historic chamber is both exciting and humbling. I will work very hard to represent the people of this district and to serve as their voice in the Senate,” Stevens stated in a news release.
He has been appointed vice chairman of the Senate Government Operations committee and was also appointed to the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee and the State and Local Government Committee.
“I was very pleased with my committee assignments,” he said. “The Government Operations Committee touches almost every part of state government and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure we are providing services in the most effective and efficient manner.”
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Stevens, who is an attorney, will hear bills that deal with civil and criminal laws, judicial proceedings, apportionment of elected officials and governing bodies, all matters related to courts and law enforcement.
As a member of the State and Local Government Committee, Stevens will consider issues dealing with liquor sales, utility districts, employees, ordinances, boundary lines, veterans affairs, penal and correctional institutions and election laws.
The General Assembly is on a brief recess while office assignments are made. The state Legislature will reconvene Jan. 28. Gov. Bill Haslam is scheduled to deliver his budget address at 6 p.m. Jan. 28.
According to Stevens’ news release, the top issues facing the state Legislature this session are job creation, health care, court reform, workers’ compensation, education reform and consideration of a balanced budget that continues to phase in tax reduction measures passed during the last General Assembly.
Stevens released some positive financial news as part of his legislative news release. Year-to-date collections for the first quarter  of the current fiscal year were $68.6 million more than the budgeted estimate.
Tennessee’s State Funding Board met in December and agreed to a revised tax revenue growth forecast for the current 2012-13 fiscal year of 1.91 to 2.65 percent with growth of the general fund set at 1.98 to 2.85 percent.
For the upcoming fiscal year, the funding board projected tax revenue growth of 2.55 to 3.49 percent, with growth in the general fund set at 2.74 to 3.89 percent.
If state revenues perform according to projections, Tennessee could have anywhere from $264 million to $375 million available for the next budget year, according to Stevens’ news release.
“The surplus will help as Tennessee braces for potential cuts from Washington,” the news release states. “In addition, there are huge financial concerns regarding the cost of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to Tennessee as officials estimate the federal health care reform law will cost the state up to $1.4 billion in its first 51⁄2 years.
“The lack of a permanent solution regarding cuts in Washington leaves states with little clue about how much their share of federal revenue will shrink this year. However, it was estimated that Tennessee’s share could be as high as $85 million under the previously adopted sequestration plan. Since prospects are high for another federal showdown in March, this means Tennessee must be very conservative in state spending plans.”
Stevens said it will be a challenging year given the federal mandates from Washington that will put stress on our budget, but he’s looking forward to hearing Governor Haslam’s proposal Jan. 28.
“Unlike Washington, Tennessee has a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget,” he said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues as we manage Tennessee’s finances in a fiscally responsible manner.”
Stevens announced Has-lam has requested state departments and agencies identify 5 percent in potential cuts, in case they’re needed. He said the governor also want to prioritize sending for the most critical areas of state government.
Published in The Messenger 1.15.13

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