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By AUTUMN HUGHES
In his 14th 12 months serving within the Tennessee Common Meeting, state Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) just lately mentioned his public work, reviewing previous achievements and looking out ahead to the long run.
A Bradley County native, Bell ran for a seat within the state senate in 2010, representing Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk counties. At that time he had lived in McMinn County for 21 years, and had served two phrases within the Tennessee Home of Representatives.
Along with serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he’s a member of the Senate Schooling Committee, Senate Authorities Operations Committee, Judiciary and Authorities Subcommittee of Joint Authorities Operations Committee, and a member of the Joint Authorities Operations Commerce, Labor, Transportation and Agriculture Subcommittee.
Specializing in 2019, trying again Bell stated he’s most pleased with his work to fight human trafficking. As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Bell carried a invoice to arrange a fund for companies across the state that focus on human trafficking, and assist the victims.
Senate Invoice 447 arrange a mechanism to supply grants to companies specializing in complete therapy and assist providers for victims by means of the Victims of Human Trafficking Fund. It provides precedence to applications recognized by the TBI and Division of Youngsters’s Providers that are profitable in offering medical care, counseling, substance abuse providers, protected housing, job coaching, transportation, and different primary human wants.
Bell famous 2019 was the second 12 months in a row Tennessee was named among the many finest within the nation in combating human trafficking.
“We’re a frontrunner in that,” he stated.
Bell stated probably the most pleasurable a part of serving as state senator is attending neighborhood occasions, the place he will get to go to with folks. He stated operating for workplace was a chance to reconnect with mates in Bradley County, after transferring to McMinn County.
“It was a lot enjoyable making contact with all these folks,” he stated.
Discussing 2020, Bell stated pro-life laws from Gov. Invoice Lee “goes to be an important piece of laws we take up this 12 months.” He stated the governor’s proposed laws is “taking plenty of totally different processes and mixing them with a heartbeat provision.”
The proposed laws would come with prohibiting an abortion the place a fetal heartbeat exists, requiring a girl to bear an ultrasound previous to an abortion and prohibiting an abortion the place the doctor is conscious the choice to hunt an abortion is motivated by the race, gender, or well being or incapacity prognosis of the unborn baby.
Bell stated he believes this laws is powerful as a result of it takes a multifaceted method to the problem of abortion. He added he believes true change can solely happen with the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“That is going to be a significant concern,” he stated.
He stated the governor’s pro-life invoice prohibits abortion whether it is completed for eugenics functions, like deciding on gender, in circumstances of incapacity of the unborn baby, and race.
“I’ve bought a granddaughter born with Down Syndrome so it is crucial to me to guard ‘the least of us’ who cannot defend themselves,” Bell stated.
He additionally famous there are legal guidelines round the US that do not permit folks with developmental disabilities to obtain organ transplants.
“I will be submitting a invoice to ensure no discrimination can happen (in Tennessee) when receiving an organ donation primarily based on a developmental incapacity,” he stated, including a colleague within the Virginia Common Meeting just lately launched this in that state.
Bell stated he’s additionally engaged on one other invoice associated to transparency in authorities. He stated it isn’t solely requiring public discover of presidency conferences, but additionally extra transparency in assembly agendas and making extra info accessible to the general public forward of conferences.
“It’s a downside typically in small cities,” he stated.
Bell added Lt. Gov. Randy McNally put him on a activity drive to make authorities extra clear.
Bell stated many payments he carries come from questions and conversations with constituents.
“I will in all probability have half a dozen a 12 months come from somebody within the district,” he stated.
He famous the primary invoice he carried was to guard looking canines from harassment from anti-hunters; the invoice made it a criminal offense to take away tags and monitoring gadgets from the canines.
“It got here from my mates I hunt with,” he stated of the premise for the laws.
Bell famous he additionally tries to make himself as accessible to constituents as attainable.
“I put my cellphone quantity on my state web site,” Bell stated, including he has shocked callers who count on to be related to his workplace, or to voicemail.
He has a private social media web page he tries to maintain separate from his official websites.
“I attempt to make myself very accessible,” he stated, including he may be contacted at occasions, his workplace and on social media.
Bell stated he tries to take care of common contact along with his constituents by attending a number of occasions.
And, whereas he’s busy in Nashville when the Common Meeting is in session, the Authorities Operations Committee meets year-round so he makes these journeys west, too.
Bell stated he enjoys “the part-time facet” to his service within the Senate, noting he has no plans or aspirations to maneuver past the Tennessee Common Meeting.
“I nonetheless strain wash homes and clear home windows for a residing,” he stated.
Discussing the distinction between serving within the Home and Senate, Bell stated the Home “results in extra combative debate” amongst its 99 members. As compared, there are 33 members within the Senate, and he appreciates the principles of civility the senators observe.
He additionally stated there are 28 Republicans and 5 Democrats within the Senate. Due to these numbers, Republicans can go one thing “overwhelmingly,” however that benefit should not be used to suppress different legislators personally, Bell stated.
“I believe when you converse to these 5 Democrats I believe they may inform you … I personally exit of my manner to ensure they know they’ve simply as a lot proper to talk as anybody else,” he added. “It is necessary to maintain it civil.”
Bell stated when he was first elected, the Legislature stayed in session so long as June 19. Nevertheless, within the final six years, the newest the session has lasted is Might 24. The “off season” is seven months of the 12 months the Common Meeting is just not in session.
He additionally described the Common Meeting as “an previous steam engine … you see the wheels flip a number of instances earlier than it strikes ahead a lot.” The explanation it “begins sluggish” is due to guidelines of discover for first and second readings on the ground of each homes.
Bell stated there are often 900 to 1,000 payments launched every year — a 3rd might go. He famous any legislator can introduce any invoice they need. He anticipates about 30 payments on the Judiciary Committee’s calendar every week by the tip of February; all payments had been to be filed by Feb. 6.
Bell stated he’s additionally engaged on a problem “that is crucial to me.” He stated final 12 months the state elevated coaching complement pay for police and fireplace personnel from $600 to $800 per 12 months. He has argued for years to extend that quantity for volunteer firefighters, too.
“I’m hopeful on this 12 months’s price range the governor goes to fund a coaching complement for our volunteer firefighters,” he stated.
Bell stated in 2010 Tennessee handed a legislation that volunteer firefighters get a sure degree of coaching; now he’s primarily attempting to extend coaching supplemental pay for volunteers.
“It’ll be an enormous deal,” he stated, including it will be important as a result of rural areas are having bother discovering volunteers.
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