It has been an honor to serve you in the Tennessee legislature again this year. Below are the highlights from our 2022 legislative session, which ended last Thursday, and from the 18 wonderful years you have allowed me to serve you.

2022 Laws Passed

First Responder Residency — In 2008 I first introduced legislation to allow first responders to live where they choose. This year, I am proud to announce that it was enacted. The new law bans local governments like the City of Memphis from imposing residency requirements on police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services workers. With this new law, I believe Memphis could hire as many as a hundred new police officers to help keep us safe. 

Germantown Elementary, Middle, & High School — For almost 10 years, Germantown has attempted to regain the three schools that bear its name. This year, I passed legislation to start a fair and minimally disruptive process to transfer the schools to Germantown. The city will have to pay fair market value for the land and any outstanding debt payments for the buildings. Also, current students will be allowed to finish their time at each school. This fair proposal will end a long-running dispute and provide an equitable path forward.

Ban on Instant Runoff Voting — Another long-running dispute is whether state law allows instant runoff voting, which was adopted by the City of Memphis in 2008 but never implemented due to the legal dispute. This year, I passed legislation banning instant runoff voting, in which voters rank candidates based on preference. Instant runoff voting increases voter confusion and decreases voter participation and confidence in the outcome. Banning it is a win for election integrity in our state. We also passed a law this year to require election machines to produce a paper record of each vote cast.

Institute of American Civics at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville — I was proud to be asked by Governor Bill Lee and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson to sponsor legislation to establish the Institute of American Civics at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. The institute will foster civic engagement through full and fair discourse, creating a robust marketplace of ideas for future generations of Tennesseans to learn about the foundations of our American government. It will offer a bachelor of arts in American civics and open its doors in fall 2023.

2022 Laws Co-sponsored

Requiring the ACT and SAT — We successfully passed a resolution convincing the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees to reimpose a requirement that incoming freshmen provide an ACT or SAT score. The real reason universities were ending the test was to establish an admissions process rooted in racial preferences.

Limiting CRT in Higher Education — We prohibited universities from discriminating against students and faculty members for not adhering to anti-American views on critical race theory. It is vital that we protect freedom of speech and thought on our college campuses.

Reducing energy prices — With gas prices as high as they are, now is not the time for liberal corporations to try to punish the American oil and gas industry. Therefore, we prohibited our state treasurer from banking with institutions that refuse to service these oil and gas companies.

Professional Privilege Tax — In 2019, we ended the annual $400 professional privilege tax for 15 out of 22 professions. This year, we ended it for health care providers and committed to ending it for all others in the coming years. The idea that earning a living is a privilege is insulting to hardworking Tennesseans.

Truth in Sentencing — We passed truth in sentencing legislation that requires a person convicted of certain violent offenses to serve 100% of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release. This law will give clarity to victims and offenders and will help keep us safer from violent criminals.

Prioritizing education funding — Funding K-12 public education is and always should be our number 1 priority in this state. This year, Governor Lee transformed our school funding formula to focus on funding students rather than systems. The new formula resulted in a $1.07 billion increase in education funding.

2005-2022 Laws Passed

  • Only legislator in Tennessee history to pass more than one constitutional amendment
  • Banned the state income tax with a constitutional amendment
  • Protected our Right to Work, regardless of whether we want to join a union or not, with a constitutional amendment
  • Established a Founding Fathers model for selecting our appellate judges with a constitutional amendment

  • Ended frivolous lawsuits by capping the damages that can be awarded for things like emotional distress
  • Stopped Obamacare Medicaid expansion from bankrupting our state
  • Introduced school choice to the state, drafted the final language of the 2019 Education Savings Accounts law for low-income children in Memphis and Nashville, and—in my private capacity as a constitutional nonprofit attorney—argued for the State Supreme Court to begin the program this Fall. We cautiously expect a favorable decision any day.

It was an honor to play a role in these policy changes, and I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to serve you these 18 years. It has been a joy to see our state transform from a typical Southern state to a national leader in economic development. The conservative, business-friendly policies enacted by our Republican majority in the last 12 years have attracted countless jobs and people to our state. I am glad to leave the state in good hands, and I look forward to many years of success ahead for all Tennesseans.