As many of the bills we passed this legislative session become law today I can’t help but reflect yet again on the success unified Republican government has had over the last few months.
Of course the media will seek to mischaracterize the solid conservative policy achievements we made this year. I understand that. It comes with the territory of Republican leadership, I suppose. But as you peruse those headlines I’d like you to join me in taking stock of what we accomplished.
First of all, I can’t tell you how great it is as a Republican to proudly note two bills specifically that have become law. One, Senate Bill 261 (now Public Chapter 396) actually cuts taxes and the other Senate Bill 725 (now Public Chapter 410) actually cuts government.
Now you might say that I’m a Republican and cutting government and cutting taxes is what Republicans are supposed to do. That’s very true. The Grand Old Party is the conservative party – we should always focus on shrinking the size of government and putting tax dollars back in the hands of the people. But often there are obstacles.
Whether it is Democrat Party rule or just the intestinal weakness of those in our own ranks, often times Republicans never seem to get their principles carried out in action.
But in Tennessee, with Speaker Beth Harwell and Governor Bill Haslam by my side, we were able to raise the exemption on the Hall Income Tax on retirement savings, which effectively gave thousands of Tennessee seniors a tax cut. At the same time, we cut 11 government oversight committees which were redundant and unnecessary.
For someone like me, who has been fighting for this Republican Majority for twenty years, it is tremendously satisfying to see the fruits of my labor and the labor of my fellow Republicans.
But it doesn’t stop there. Take a look of at the list of bills becoming law and you’ll see a pattern of education reform. We created a meaningful tenure law that brings us much closer to our goal of putting a great teacher in every classroom.
Because of Senate Bill 1468 (now Public Chapter 499), it is now easier than ever to home school your children if that is your choice. Not only that, the state legislature ended social promotion out of the 3rd grade, a key benchmark year for student learning. No longer will we to simply pass along students who have not absorbed the knowledge they need to succeed. While some counties are fighting to keep social promotion, we will do everything possible to see that they adhere to the law.
Perhaps our greatest step forward in educating Tennessee students was the Collaborative Conferencing Act. It removed the stranglehold one union held over our education system. All teachers will now have input with local school boards who, because they are directly accountable to voters, determine the direction of local school systems.
The impact of this reform is tremendous. The union that has held education reform back in this state for too long can do so no longer. Local communities, teachers and parents now hold the keys to education in this state and there is truly no limit to what they can achieve with the yoke of unionism removed from around their necks.
Additionally, unified Republican government has strengthened the death penalty, strengthened our right to work status and and made clear that if you kill a pregnant woman you have committed two homicides, not one.
There is one more issue to include that is particularly meaningful as we celebrate Independence Day. The Republican majority strengthened your voting rights this year. To be a truly free state, citizens need to be confident in the knowledge that their vote is counted. They also need to be assured that the votes of those who are here illegally are NOT counted. Citizenship is an important value. It is an American value and a Tennessee value and I am proud that this Republican majority stood up for it.
Thanks to Senate Bill 1666 (now Public Chapter 423) Tennessee voters can now trust that our election results are the will of the citizens of this state.
The first year of the new Republican majority has been a success. But that does not mean we are going to rest on our laurels. I’m proud of our achievements but I look forward to working with you in the years to come to make our state an even better place to live, work and raise a family. I hope you do too.