Many issues face Tennessee lawmakers when they return to work in the 108th General Assembly in January 2014.
We sat down with Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey Friday to find out what the legislature will tackle in the coming year.
When Tennessee's state senators and representatives return in January, they are already going to be playing from behind. According to Ramsey, state revenue growth was less than projected; that means they'll have less operating money to work with. "[It's] in the neighborhood of a $100 million shortage between now and the end of the year that we're going to have to cut out of the budget. We have to balance our budget, that makes our baseline lower for next year, so our budget will be a little bit smaller," he said. "It will be a tight budget year."
That could make it a little bit harder to help out people like Wes Browder of Blountville, who tells us a growing economy is important to him. "I think the government needs to create more jobs. There's a lot of infrastructure that needs to be worked on," he said. "All of our jobs are going overseas, especially this time of year people are getting laid off. It's a hard time."
Even if there is less budget money to go around, Ramsey tells me they will continue to look at issues that could help the economy, like putting wine in supermarkets. "I think it is a commerce issue here in Northeast Tennessee," Ramsey said. "Steve Smith, a good friend of mine that owns Food City, says, 'We sell wine to Tennesseeans now, they just come to Virginia to buy it.' So I want to make sure we get [the wine in grocery stores] bill passed."
Wine in supermarkets may come down to a compromise, like what the general assembly may have to do to help control pseudophedrine. One solution require prescriptions, but let pharmacists write them. "[We're] listening to law enforcement, and listening to others. I think we're getting closer and closer to that step. If it does help eliminate some of this meth problem that we have in Northeast Tennessee, then its probably worth it," Ramsey said.
It's a solution that some, like Blountville resident Ian Riggins, think is a step in the right direction."I feel like if it was under prescription, that would help," Riggins said. "It would keep people from buying store to store, and just getting all they can."
The 2014 session starts January 14.