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‘Intractable Pain Act’ Repeal Goes to Guv

Both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly have voted to do away with the state’s “Intractable Pain Act,” which has been in existence for 14 years.

On Monday the House of Representatives voted 93-0 to eliminate a provision in the law — dubbed the “Pain Patient’s Bill of Rights” — granting people “the option to choose opiate medications to relieve severe chronic intractable pain without first having to submit to an invasive medical procedure.”

There was no discussion on the repeal bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville. Last month the Senate approved the repeal as well – one of the first bills to pass the upper chamber this year.

Sponsor Janice Bowling of Tullahoma said the 2001 “Pain Patient’s Bill of Rights” was partly responsible for Tennessee becoming known as one of the states along the “Hillbilly Heroin Trail.” She said that the Act negatively impacted the criminal justice system and state’s economy and has resulted in babies being born with addictive drugs in their system.

Under the statute the Legislature is seeking to repeal, doctors who refused to prescribe effective pain medication are required to inform patients of others who will. Advocates of eliminating that mandate say it has compounded the problems of pain-pill abuse and “doctor shopping” in Tennessee.

In August 2014, the Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services issued a press release indicating as of July 2012 pills had replaced alcohol as Tennessee’s favorite drug to abuse.

There are those, though, who don’t necessarily believe making pain medications harder to obtain legally is going to put much of a dent in the overall problem of addiction.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon who is CNN’s chief medical correspondent, has noted that when pills are unavailable to pain medication addicts, they frequently turn to heroin, which is often cheaper.

And in Tennessee, the state’s top public safety officials have recently fretted about a surge in heroin use across the state.

In November and December of last year, during a series of budget hearings for the next fiscal year, both Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Dir. Mark Gwyn, and Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons, informed Gov. Bill Haslam that heroin was on the rise.

The news website Vox.com recently noted a rise in heroin overdoses, and suggested drug-abusing populations are being driven from pills to heroin as pills become harder to obtain, as well as by a generational shift in drug culture.

The bill now goes to Haslam’s desk awaiting his signature.

Contact Alex Harris at alex@tnreport.com.

TN GOP Announces Red to the Roots ‘Featured Candidates’

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; July 10, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Red to the Roots is gaining steam across the Volunteer State.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney and Red to the Roots Chairman State Representative Ryan Williams (R–Cookeville) today jointly announced the next group of rising conservatives across the state.

“These are the next generation of leaders in our state. They have serious solutions for the issues voters care about and they’re going to make a difference in their communities,” said Devaney.

Williams commented, “Red to the Roots is a program designed to support Republican candidates who have a vision that aligns with the needs of their communities. Whether it is judicial candidates who will protect the Constitution, mayoral candidates who know how to recruit jobs, or local candidates who will guard taxpayer resources from wasteful spending, these individuals are part of an ideas revolution at the county and judicial level in Tennessee. I’m proud to offer our support for these people.”

The Featured Candidates are:

Alicia Mumpower – The Republican nominee for Sullivan County Trustee.

Ann Strong – The Republican nominee for Crockett County Mayor.

Bill Ailor – The Republican nominee for Circuit Court Judge in the 6th Judicial District, which is Knox County.

Justin Angel – The Republican nominee for Circuit Court Judge in the 12th Judicial District (Bledsoe, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Rhea, and Sequatchie Counties).

Mark Luttrell – The incumbent and the Republican nominee for Mayor of Shelby County.

Troy Brewer – The Republican nominee for State House in the 50th District (Davidson).

Devaney concluded, “Our Party has the momentum in Tennessee and, with the help of these candidates, I believe we can keep it going at the local level. Tennesseans want solutions for the problems our communities are facing, they want government to live within its means, and they want a judiciary that respects the Constitution. This group embodies those ideals.”

By being named Featured Candidates, the Tennessee Republican Party encourages supporters, donors, and activists to work to elect these Republican nominees.

Background

Red to the Roots is a program designed to elect more Republicans at the county and judicial level, while bolstering support for GOP legislative candidates.

2014 witnessed more Republicans running for office than ever before in Tennessee.

Alicia Mumpower’s website: https://www.facebook.com/AliciaMumpowerforTrustee

Ann Strong’s website: http://www.annstrong.net/

Bill Ailor’s website: http://www.billailorforjudge.com/

Justin Angel’s website: http://justin4judge.com/

Mayor Mark Luttrell’s website: http://markluttrellformayor.com/

Troy Brewer’s website: http://www.troybrewerfortn.com/

On Food Tax Cut, Another Option

A bill aimed at encouraging Tennesseans to eat healthier by eliminating the sales tax on unprepared foods like fruits and vegetables is headed to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee next week.

But House Bill 484 still has a steep hill to climb before becoming law because of the huge estimated drop in tax revenue – more than $90 million for state and local governments. Still, Rep. Ron Lollar, chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, said there is a possibility some version of it could be rolled into Gov. Bill Haslam’s initiative to reduce the sales tax on groceries another quarter of a percent.

“The premise behind the bill is we can still be conservative fiscally and reduce sales taxes, but also incentivize Tennesseans to purchase the kinds of food that would help incentivize them to eat well,” Rep. Ryan Williams, the bill’s sponsor, told the committee Wednesday afternoon.

Williams explained that the bill would eliminate the sales tax on unprepared food such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, raw meats or “things that are called building block ingredients, like flour, dried beans.

For example, if someone bought a bag of apples, a fresh chicken and a gallon of milk for $10, she would pay only $10, not $10.53, which is what it would cost today with the 5.25 percent sales tax added.

“We’re 12th in the nation in obesity. Last year alone, we spent $216 million in TennCare alone just to treat diabetes among Tennesseans,” Williams said.

The Cookeville Republican acknowledged that the fiscal note “is huge,” but said he is working with the Department of Revenue on ways to reduce the amount or the foods on which the taxes would be eliminated.

The fiscal note, which is attached to the Senate companion, SB550, predicts that the net decrease in state revenue for fiscal year 2013-2014 would be almost $87.5 million, while the net decrease in local revenue for the same period would be $3 million.

Williams explained that one of the challenges with the fiscal note is that unprepared food can be defined differently in economics than they are to the consumer.

“For example, a Milky Way® bar is defined as candy, while a Twix® bar is defined as food because it has flour in it,” Williams said in an interview after the committee meeting.

However, he said that the Department of Revenue has given him some ideas on how to narrow the definition of unprepared food as it relates to the bill to have less impact on the reduction of revenues.

Lollar acknowledged that the bill could be killed once it reaches the finance committee of either chamber.

“We’re not saying that it would definitely fit in with the governor’s plan, but it would certainly have an opportunity with this bill to then go on and explore some items in the cuts that the governor’s already set forward.”

SB 550, sponsored by Republican Sen. Frank Niceley from Strawberry Plains, is on the Monday calendar of the Senate Tax Subcommittee of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at amhipps@capitolnewstn.com, on Twitter @CapitolNews_TN or at 615-442-8667.

Governor Gearing Up to Help Favored GOP Candidates

Besides being a time to remember fallen soldiers, reopen swimming pools and enjoy a long weekend, Memorial Day also represents the unofficial start of campaign season.

Gov. Bill Haslam says he’ll lend some of this clout this year to Republican lawmakers in legislative races who have helped advance his agenda.

“Obviously I’ll be a lot more active this fall in Republican races. I’ll also be a lot more active for folks that have worked really hard for us,” Haslam told reporters after a Memorial Day ceremony on Capitol Hill.

So, who is on that list?

“We haven’t gotten there, yet,” Haslam said, but added he doesn’t see himself pitching in on Democratic races for friendly Democrats.

Haslam’s support “will mainly be going to events and help,” he said, although the he did not rule out making political contributions.

So far, Haslam said he’s been to a campaign event for state Rep. Ryan Williams, a freshman legislator running against Democrat Thomas D. Willoughby, both of Cookeville. Haslam said he’s also planning to attend an event for House Education Chairman Richard Montgomery who is facing off against Dale Carr in the Republican primary election. Both are from Sevierville.

Haslam says he hasn’t sat down to figure out which races he’ll be helping, but said he didn’t think he’d be involved in races for open seats.

Governor’s Budget Provides Funds for Family Development Programs

Press release from the House Republican Caucus; April 4, 2012:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—As Governor Bill Haslam announced his Administration’s Budget Amendment on Monday, one legislator was especially grateful that his work for Tennessee children caught the attention of the Governor.

Representative Ryan Williams (R—Cookeville), a longtime advocate for children, was heartened by the news Governor Haslam will fully fund Williams’ budget amendment for Healthy Start and Child Health and Development (CHAD) programs because of increased revenues to the State.

At his unveiling of the amendment, Governor Haslam stated, “It is state government’s job to provide services that citizens can’t get on their own,” Haslam said. “Our budget proposal earlier this year reflected a thoughtful and strategic process to allocate taxpayer dollars to serve Tennesseans in the most customer-focused, efficient and effective way possible.

“This budget amendment continues that focus by making targeted investments in the short term that allow us to plan for a more comprehensive approach to our budget decisions in the long term. I am pleased that we’re able to restore funding for programs important to Tennesseans. We will continue to evaluate all of our funding priorities in the context of the broad picture of our state’s needs.”

Rep. Williams remarked, “I appreciate the Governor working with my colleagues and me to fund these important programs for the children of our State. This has been a personal priority since joining the Legislature and helping children has always been a passion of mine. His amendment reflects a thoughtful assessment of how to best serve Tennesseans while helping our youngest generation.”

CHAD reaches 997 children, targeting teen parents under 18, families with children under 5 years old, other parents the Department of Children’s Services refers as being at risk of abuse and neglect, and low income families. The program provides family assessment, developmental screening, nutrition assessment, referral for other services as needed, and monthly home visits.

Healthy Start Healthy Start reaches 1,148 families and 1,295 children. The program targets prenatal women, families with children under 5 years old, and low income families. Healthy Start provides family assessment and stress inventory, developmental screening, referral for needed services, and home visits with intensity based on the assessed needs of the family.

Overall, Haslam’s amendment revises the FY 2012-2013 budget request to reflect new estimates on increased state revenues. The supplemental appropriations amendment to Senate Bill 3768/House Bill 3835 will include funding that was not part of the budget the Governor presented in January, which was based on earlier revenue projections.

Republicans Want To Prioritize Some Home-Visitation Programs

GOP Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Help Tennessee Families and Save Tennessee Taxpayers

Bill would ensure use of evidence-based home visitation to measure the program’s success, protect taxpayer investment and save public dollars over the long run

Press Release from House Republican Caucus; Feb. 28, 2011:

(February 28, 2011, NASHVILLE) – Citing the effectiveness of evidence-based home visitation programs to strengthen families and put infants on the road to success, Sen. Doug Overbey (R—Maryville), Rep. Glen Casada (R—Franklin), Rep. Debra Maggart (R—Hendersonville) and Rep. Ryan Williams (R—Cookeville) have filed legislation that will require that three-fourths of Tennessee home-visitation dollars be spent on programs proven to deliver results.

“High-quality home visitation programs provide strong support to young mothers, families, and their newborn babies. Many studies demonstrate that mothers in home visiting programs are more likely to deliver healthy babies, are less likely to become involved with the criminal justice system and their children are less likely to suffer child abuse and neglect. By ensuring public dollars are spent on the highest-quality home visiting programs, our state will save money by lowering the impact on some of our most costly social ills,” said Sen. Overbey.

Rep. Williams added, “Home visitation programs are a smart investment. When well implemented and held accountable for results, they help promote responsive and responsible parenting while saving Tennessee taxpayers money. This bill will require public dollars to be prioritized and spent on the most proven, evidence-based programs, which ensures the highest-quality services for Tennessee families and better stewardship of taxpayer money.”

Voluntary home visiting programs match parents facing barriers to success, such as poverty, single motherhood, and teen pregnancy, with trained professionals to provide information and support during pregnancy and throughout their child’s first three years. By helping parents improve their parenting skills and increase parental responsibility, research shows that families and society achieve benefits. Children are safer, healthier, and better prepared to learn and more likely to become successful adults.

The highest-quality home visiting programs have been shown to generate up to a $5.70 return for every $1 invested. The related impacts include:

20 percent reduction in welfare dependence;

79 percent reduction in pre-term births that result in hospitalization and public health costs;

48 percent reduction in child abuse and neglect;

59 percent decrease in juvenile arrests by the age of 15;

83 percent increase in labor force participation among participating mothers by the child’s 4th birthday

HB1213/SB0909 requires that 50 percent of funds expended for in-home visitation programs be expended on evidence-based programs for the fiscal year 2011-2012 and 75 percent for each year thereafter and specifies research methods that show a program is evidence-based.

Rep. Wants to Ban Production, Sales of Ingredients to Make ‘Bath Salt’ Drug

Press Release from Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville; Feb. 9, 2011:

(NASHVILLE, February 8, 2010) – An increasing number of emergency room visits and deaths have been linked to the use of a drug that is a derivative of methamphetamine. Known as “bath salts,” the drug affects the central nervous system and can cause chest pain, heart attack, and stroke, as well as delusions and psychosis. It has been named a “drug of concern” by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

With 15 individuals sent to the hospital because of this drug, Representative Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) introduced legislation today that would make the use of six compounds tied to bath salts illegal and impose a hefty fine.

“This drug poses a growing and grave threat to our children and families. The more I have learned about it, the more I’m convinced we must ensure those who would market and sell this drug are punished. Time is of the essence with this drug and our children are on the front lines,” remarked Rep. Williams. “I will do all I can to ensure this drug is stopped before we hear about a teenager dying from it on the local news.”

Majority Caucus Chairman Representative Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) signed on as an original co-sponsor of Rep. Williams’ bill today and added, “This is another step in our State’s battle against the destructive effects of meth. I’m proud to add my name to Mr. Williams’ legislation and urge my colleagues in the General Assembly to do everything they can to get this to the Governor’s desk.”

Representative Williams’ bill (HB 457) will make it an offense to produce and distribute any of the six main compounds related to the bath salt drug. These include:

–          3,4-Methylenedioxymethcathinore (Methylone);

–          3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV);

–          4-Methylmethcathinone (Mephedrone)

–          4-Methoxymethcathinone (Methedrone)

–          4-Fluoromethcathinone (Flephedrone); or

–          3-Fluoromethcathinone (3-FMC)

Any violations of the proposed changes to the law would carry a $1,500 fine.