Crowe: Budget, opioid crisis to be focus of legislative session

Published 4:39 pm Sunday, February 4, 2018

Battling the state’s opioid crisis and continuing to exhibit fiscal responsibility will be two of the major areas of work during this session of the Tennessee General Assembly according to one local lawmaker.

“I am working to provide low taxes, less government intrusion, and more personal responsibility,” State Sen. Rusty Crowe said. “We will have to be very frugal – dealing with our state budget much like we manage our checkbooks at home.”

In recent years, Tennessee has enjoyed a surplus in the budget while providing citizens with tax cuts, but Crowe said that does not mean the state can loosen control on the purse strings.

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“We have lowered taxes to the tune of $500 million annually over the past seven years so we will have to be very careful with our spending this year,” Crowe said.

Several major issues will be heard on the Senate floor this session, according to Crowe.

“At the forefront will be our work on the prescription drug abuse, continuing to move forward on bringing jobs to Tennessee — our unemployment rate is now at an all-time low — and education,” Crowe said. “We are the fastest improving state in the nation in terms of education. We are making progress!”

“From a healthcare perspective, I plan to focus on legislation to increase access to healthcare for lower-income families going back to those days when the patient/ physician relationship was simple and much more personal,” he added.

While several bills have been passed during recent legislative sessions to help battle the opioid crisis, more work is still needed, according to Crowe.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, 1,631 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses in 2016, which marked a 12 percent increase from the previous year and set a record as the highest annual number of drug-related deaths recorded in state history. Crowe said this increase was seen despite the fact that over the last several years Tennessee has passed legislation to help prevent prescription medication abuse by “pill mills” and to strengthen the state’s drug monitoring database.

“We have been working very hard to combat opioid abuse; we have established a ‘real-time’ controlled substance abuse database and inspection of pain management clinics and developed prescribing guidelines manuals for prescribing physicians,” Crowe said. “There will be legislation this year to continue this fight.”