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Gov. Lee lays out legislative agenda for the year

Gov. Bill Lee delivered his third State of the State address last week in a joint convention of the House and Senate at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. The governor’s speech focused on recent Republican accomplishments and shared legislative and budget priorities for the 2021 legislative session. Lee presented his $41.8 billion budget plan to members which included key investments in public education, economic recovery, health care, public safety, and an emphasis on business and rural Tennessee communities. His spending package includes a $341 million increase for K-12 education, $200 million to expand broadband to every Tennessean, $931 million for capital maintenance and improvements, $150 million for pandemic relief and Covid-19 vaccine support, $200 million to improve local infrastructure, and $135 million to expand transportation.

Tennessee marks 225 years of statehood this year, and to mark the occasion, Lee announced he would travel to all 95 counties beginning this summer.

The governor also provided an update of Tennessee’s Covid-19 response and continued economic recovery. Case counts have dropped significantly and hospitalizations for Covid have declined more than 60 percent in the past six weeks, Lee said.

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The governor announced plans to make Tennessee a national leader in foster care and adoption. The proposed budget provides TennCare coverage assistance allowing adopted youth to retain their eligibility for physical, mental and behavioral health services until age 18 which reduces the financial burden on their adopted family.

Legislative priorities include:

• Legislation aimed at reducing crime, supporting families, and continued economic recovery
• Preparing students for successful life beyond the classroom
• Expanding broadband to most communities in Tennessee
• Legislation making Tennessee a national leader in foster care and adoption

Gov. Lee’s proposed budget for FY 2021-22 includes the following investments:

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• $71 million to fully fund the Basic Education Plan
• $200 million for broadband expansion
• $120 million for teacher pay raises
• $50 million rainy-day fund deposit
• $150 million in COVID relief and support
• $931 million in capital maintenance and improvements
• $2 million for health care safety net
• $7 million in postpartum care for TennCare population
• $21 million for rural opportunity site grants
• $200 million in local infrastructure grants
• $30 million for state park improvements
• $8 million in tourism incentives

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