Gov. Haslam announced on Monday that Steven Smith “who currently serves as senior advisor for policy and strategy, will become senior advisor to the governor.”
“In his new role, Smith will lead the administration’s efforts on the IMPROVE Act [Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy], the governor’s comprehensive plan to cut taxes on food and manufacturing while updating how the state provides Tennesseans the safe and reliable transportation network needed to support future job growth,” the governor’s statement said.
Smith joined the governor’s staff last July and has helped shape his 2017 NextTennessee legislative agenda, taking on the lead role in developing the governor’s plan to increase broadband access to Tennessee’s unserved citizens.
On Tuesday, Gov. Haslam “filed his Next Tennessee legislative agenda for the 2017 session of the 110th General Assembly,” his office reported.
The IMPROVE Act is one of four legislative proposals from the governor which comprise that legislative agenda:
1) The Tennessee Reconnect Act is Haslam’s proposal to make Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer all Tennessee adults without a degree access to community college tuition-free – and at no cost to taxpayers. Tennessee would become the first state in the nation to offer all citizens – both high school students and adults – the chance to earn a post-secondary degree or certificate free of tuition and fees.
2) The Tennessee STRONG Act, “Support, Training and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen,” establishes a four-year pilot program for eligible members of the Tennessee National Guard to receive a last-dollar tuition reimbursement toward a first-time bachelor’s degree.
3) The IMPROVE Act, “Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy,” cuts $270 million in taxes, including the sales tax on groceries, while proposing a comprehensive and balanced transportation plan that keeps Tennessee a pay-as-you-go state and its roads debt free.
4) The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act allows Tennessee’s private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to provide retail broadband service, makes grant funding available to the state’s local libraries to help residents improve their digital literacy skills and provides $45 million over three years in grants and tax credits for service providers to help make broadband more available to Tennessee’s rural, unserved homes and businesses.
Also on Monday, Governor Haslam “announced Jayme Place Simmons will join his senior team as special assistant to the governor for strategy and policy director.”
Simmons, 32, has played a key role in crafting and implementing the Department of Education’s strategic plan focusing on early foundations, the bridge from high school to postsecondary and educator support. She also developed a process that allows the department to track the progress of the strategic plan, managed funds to the department from outside foundations and successfully launched the Read to be Ready statewide campaign to increase the percentage of third grade students reading on grade level.
“I have been so fortunate to work in the Tennessee Department of Education under Commissioner McQueen’s leadership and see firsthand the passion of my colleagues for ensuring all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to pursue their chosen path in life,” Simmons said in the statement released by Gov. Haslam’s office.