With the absence of House Speaker Glen Casada and Rep. Brandon Ogles, the remaining contingent of the Williamson delegation explained what they considered successes for the county this legislative session.
Williamson, Inc. held its annual roundtable wrap-up Friday morning, where no questions surrounded Casada’s departure as speaker of the House. Casada said he would begin talks of his resignation when he returns from his European vacation.
But Franklin legislators Rep. Sam Whitson and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson discussed their bills that passed or weren’t able to move forward this session.
Katie Beckett bill
After much debate in the House and Senate chambers this year, legislators were able to secure $27 million to fully fund a Medicaid waiver for children with disabilities.
Known for its federal moniker, the “Katie Beckett waiver” will help children across the state who experience high medical costs every year.
Whitson — who said he was originally nervous about bringing forth the bill — said it was the right bill to push for this session.
“It was a team effort,” Whitson said. “I was first thinking about a pilot program, but then I decided to do it whole hog. It was a team effort to get this done.”
Natchez Trace Bridge resolution
Both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly unanimously supported a resolution calling the Natchez Trace Bridge a public health hazard. Gov. Bill Lee said he supported placing barriers on the structure to prevent suicides.
Whitson was responsible for the resolution that recognized death by suicide on the structure, which sits in his district.
The resolution comes after The Tennessean reported that as of 2018, 32 people have died by suicide at the bridge. This year the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office has answered the call for one attempt on the bridge.
Preservation tax credit
Williamson legislators co-sponsored a bill that would help Main Street communities repair their dilapidated structures.
As written, the Main Street Historic Tourism and Revitalization Act would have allowed for restoration and preservation of the state’s historic buildings for redevelopment and economic opportunity. The new bill — written by Rep. Kevin Vaughn, R-Collierville — would have helped primarily small communities across the state, but provide opportunities for tax credit money in Davidson and Williamson counties.
Johnson said the bill’s fiscal note was too expensive for this year’s state budget.
“Sometimes, it’s not economically viable to bring (buildings) up to standards and satisfy today’s code requirements,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, it’s more economically viable to destroy and rebuild, but you lose the character of what you preserve. But it was a $5 million fiscal note, and the state budget is just like your family budget. We don’t borrow money in Tennessee.”
The Tennessee Historical Commission and the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County asked lawmakers the tax credit. Former Sen. Bill Frist has also lobbied for legislators to consider it.
Reach Emily West at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-613-1380 and on Twitter at @emwest22.