Fuel tax bill moves ahead

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The question isnít who is going to let me; it is who is going to stop me.

ó Ayn Rand

Itís been another full week here at the State Capitol. The Governorís fuel tax bill, otherwise known as the IMPROVE Act, managed to pass out of the Local Government Committee on Tuesday on a voice vote. It will now go before the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee next week on Wednesday. The current proposal, if passed, will cut more taxes on food sales tax, manufacturing businesses, dividends and interests than it will increase on gas and diesel.

Mary Lynn Byrom, of Fayetteville City High School, came to Nashville on Monday to serve as my page during Session that night. Since itís hard to leave your desk during Session, pages volunteer to deliver papers, messages, and run other small errands for the legislators so they can remain seated while bills are being debated and voted on. I had a nice time meeting with Mary Lynn and her mother and she did a great job helping us out that night. I want to thank her for her participation with the state legislature.

On Tuesday, Justin Heid from the Shelbyville Airport Authority came by to discuss his concerns with a proposed bill. The Authority was concerned that the bill in question could take away some funding for the airport. I have worked with the sponsor of the bill and he has agreed to a change that would help. I appreciate Justin bringing this to my attention.

On Thursday, Thomas Hastings brought his 11th grade AP U.S. History class from Lincoln County High School up to Nashville. The class was able to observe the opening of Session from the balcony and they were able to see several bills be presented. They even got to hear me discuss one of the bills Iím currently working on. Unfortunately, the weather cut their trip short, but Mr. Hastings told my office they were still able to have a great time.

Thursdayís House Session was also very productive. One bill in particular that passed was Representative Jimmy Matlockís traffic safety bill. Since this bill has also passed the Senate, it is on its way to the Governorís desk to be signed. His bill will impose a $200 fine on anyone who is intentionally obstructing an emergency vehicle from accessing any public highway or street. During the recent protests in the larger cities in Tennessee, there were incidences reported of ambulances not being able to get through due to people blocking the roads and refusing to move. I think this a very good bill as our emergency vehicles need to be able to respond to a crisis without being hindered.

Committees are starting to close down and many of them have their last calendar next week. Most of the bills I plan to run this year have made it out of committee and they are being scheduled on the House floor. We are really going to start working hard on the budget, pass the remaining bills, and then adjourn for the year. We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us.

One of the bills Iím working on this year is House Bill 158. HB 158 was introduced to bring consistency in the monitoring of fluoride across the state and to define the public notice standards for utility customers of fluoride levels. Fluoride is already a naturally occurring component of water and the supplementation of fluoride in drinking water is shown to enhance the benefits, especially in children ages 4-14. Due to the efforts of utility operators, we have one of the safest public drinking water supplies in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that adding fluoride to water has been one of the ten greatest public health achievements in the 20th century. The recommended standard of fluoride is 0.7 ppm (parts per million). Currently, if the level exceeds 2 ppm on quarterly compliance samples, a public notice is required. This bill lowers the requirement to 1.5 ppm.

HB 158 successfully made it through the committees, but is currently on hold because it had a fiscal note of $800. Due to the lower limits on fluoride, the bill might require a few utility districts to perform additional tests at the cost of $45/sample and the utility districts might also have to send out a notice if they do not meet the new requirement. Since the proposed budget for 2018 fiscal year for the State of Tennessee is $36.95 billion, $800 is a very tiny amount. This shows you how serious Tennessee is about having a balanced budget. If a bill is not already in the budget, it goes ďbehind the budgetĒ and will be reviewed again after the budget passes. Once it is known how much additional money is available, every bill that has been placed behind the budget, like HB 158, is further debated. It is then decided if the bill has enough merit or need to justify the expense. Sometimes even very good bills donít make it to the Floor if the money isnít there.

Please feel free to stop by my office at War Memorial Building G-19A or give me a call if you have any questions or concerns. You can reach me at (615) 741-6824 or by email at rep.pat.marsh@capitol.tn.gov. I am honored to represent the people of the 62nd district.