Medicaid expansion, criminal reform top Tenn. Senate leadership agenda

Jan 15, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  Tennessee lawmakers are sharing their legislative priorities as the 2019 session gets underway.

Sen. Jeff Yarbro (Left) and Sen. Jack Johnson

Jeff Yarbro is the State Senate Minority Leader. The Nashville Democrat says Medicaid expansion continues to be one of his party’s biggest legislative priorities.

“We’re one of about ten states, eleven states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid at this point, which is putting a lot of pressure on small town hospitals and lots of families unnecessarily.”

Yarbro is one of only five Democrats serving in the 33 member upper chamber. The chances of them even getting Medicaid expansion considered by the GOP majority are slim.

One issue Yarbro says he would oppose is any effort by Republicans to punish Nashville for forming a police oversight board. GOP leadership has questioned the constitutionality of that panel.

Jack Johnson is the Senate Majority Leader. The Williamson County Republican says his caucus will get behind incoming Gov. Bill Lee’s priorities: Criminal justice reform, rural economic development, and expanding vocational education.  

“We very much look forward to working with him and getting more specifics about the proposals he plans to advance. So, a lot of us are kind of in a wait and see mode waiting on the governor’s agenda.”

An item Senator Johnson has on his personal agenda is likely to prove controversial. Johnson wants the state provide additional funding for fast growing school systems like those in wealthy Williamson and Rutherford counties.

That effort is likely to be viewed as a threat by the large number of school systems pushing the state to provide more support for public education.