Policy

Get to Know the Candidate

What political party do you represent?

Where is District 97?

I am a democratic candidate for Tennessee State Representative - District 97. 

District 97 covers parts of Arlington, Atoka, Bartlett, Cordova, Eads, Germantown, Lakeland, and Memphis. 

The following zip codes are (in part) in District 97:

  • 38002

  • 38016

  • 38018

  • 38028

  • 38117

  • 38122

  • 38133

  • 38134

  • 38135

Education Inequalities

How do you hope to close the education and achievement gaps in your District?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • HB2122:

    • Summary: Local Education Agencies - As introduced, creates the Tennessee rapid growth school district fund from which capital improvement grants are to be awarded in fiscal year 2020-2021 to LEAs experiencing rapidly growing student populations. - Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 1; Title 49, Chapter 2; Title 49, Chapter 3 and Title 67, Chapter 6.

  • HB2865:

    • Summary: Education, Higher - As introduced, creates the Tennessee second chance scholarship program to award scholarships to assist persons who have been placed in the custody of the department of children's services in the person's pursuit of a postsecondary degree or credential. - Amends TCA Title 49.

  • HB2756:

    • As introduced, requires, beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, the BEP formula to fund at least one full-time mental health counselor position for each school in an LEA. - Amends TCA Title 49.

 

My Stance:

As the great Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, said, “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.”  Education is the cornerstone for a better life and provides individuals a jump start in becoming well-rounded citizens. Unfortunately, in our state, there is an achievement gap between those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and wealthier Tennsessans. 

 

  • Identify and recognize educational barriers and unconscious bias towards students of color and those who come from low-income backgrounds 

  • Provide unconscious bias training statewide for educators to learn from each other

  • Implement programs that engage students both in and outside the classroom

  • Provide mentors to students 

  • We support the funding of at least one mental health counselor for every school that has more than 50% of students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch in all local educational agencies

  • Support capital improvements so our students can learn in healthy, safe and modern schools

  • Continue to create scholarships and programs that create social equity for disadvantaged students

Healthcare

In what ways do you plan to assist those who are wanting/need more affordable healthcare?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • (2019) HB0655:

    • As enacted, extends the authority to barter for healthcare services if the patient is not covered by health insurance to all healthcare professionals instead of only physicians. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 8; Title 33; Title 56; Title 63; Title 68 and Title 71.

    • HB0655 has been assigned Public Chapter Number 229 by the Secretary of State.

  • (2019) HB1109:

    • As introduced, requires the commissioner of health to study issues related to healthcare access and healthcare status of populations affected by the implementation of Chapter 1043 of the Public Acts of 2016. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 7; Title 33; Title 53; Title 56; Title 63; Title 68 and Title 71.

My Stance:

Access to healthcare is a human right. Expanding affordable healthcare helps to not only eliminate obstacles that arise when a person falls ill but assists individuals and families in making their livelihoods easier without the mental burden of “what if?”

 

  • Expand affordable healthcare to families and children across the state

  • Promote education regarding our healthcare system so families and individuals are better prepared for the future

  • Travel time to healthcare providers and medical facilities play a large role in whether a person decides to see a provider or not. Individuals from low-income backgrounds are less likely to see a provider as transportation means and other factors could come into play.  We must seek funding for medical centers around areas that are more isolated from medical services and treatment

Reproductive Rights

What is your stance on reproductive rights?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • HB007:

    • As introduced, prohibits abortions from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected; creates exceptions. - Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 15, Part 2 and Title 68, Chapter 11, Part 2.

  • HB2484:

    • As introduced, requires the commissioner of health to maintain any record or report on disposition of an aborted fetus or aborted fetal tissue for at least 10 years. - Amends TCA Section 9-4-5116; Section 16-4-108; Title 37, Chapter 10, Part 3; Title 39, Chapter 15, Part 2; Title 62, Chapter 5; Title 63; Title 68 and Section 71-5-157.

My Stance:

Reproductive rights are tied to better mental and physical well-being which benefits overall health. Having the right to choose and make important decisions about your own body should be a basic human right, while having easy access to services that provide individuals with advice, contraceptives, STI testing, and more should be viewed as a safe place for those who are seeking specific needs.

  • Continue to support the efforts of organizations like Planned Parenthood and SisterReach

  • Provide age-appropriate comprehensive sex education in communities that are underserved and under-resourced

Mental Health

What is your stance on facilitating more mental health resources for those who are seeking/need treatment?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • HB1998:

    • As enacted, authorizes the department to contract with any licensed community mental health agency for the provision of services under the behavioral health safety net, as long as the community mental health agency can provide to individuals who will be served under the behavioral health safety net all of the behavioral health services that are included within adult behavioral health services for the seriously and persistently mentally ill, as defined in the Medical Assistance Act of 1968. - Amends TCA Section 33-6-103.

    • Companion bill has been assigned Public Chapter Number 578 by the Secretary of State.

My Stance:

There are millions of people worldwide who suffer from mental or neurological disorders. Many struggle to access help or don’t know where to turn for treatment.

  • Continue to challenge the public stigma regarding mental disorders and self-care

  • Make mental health services more affordable to the public so as to not discourage individuals from seeking services 

  • We must ensure that all mental health providers are non-discriminatory towards clients and patients 

  • Provide more funding towards mental health wellness and suicide prevention

  • Provide transportation services to those who do not have easy access to mental health care facilities

Drug/Alcohol Abuse Rehabilitation

How do you hope to help those suffering from substance abuse?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • HB2698:

    • As introduced, requires the department of health and the department of mental health and substance abuse services to explore the possibility of a pilot project for early opioid abuse treatment of selected patients who are receiving opioid therapy at community health centers in this state. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 33; Title 53; Title 63; Title 68 and Title 71.

  • HB2829:

    • As introduced, enacts the "Mental Healthcare and Substance Abuse Services Network Adequacy Act." - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 33; Title 47; Title 56 and Title 71.

  • HB2089:

    • ​As introduced, requires commissioner of health and commissioner of mental health and substance abuse services to report to the speakers and the health committees on the impact of recent legislation reducing the abuse of opioids in this state. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 33; Title 34; Title 36; Title 37; Title 39; Title 40; Title 41; Title 49; Title 50; Title 53; Title 56; Title 63; Title 68 and Title 71

  • HB2707:

    • As introduced, prompts the state board of education and the department of safety to update the DARE curriculum as new forms of substance abuse are identified. - Amends TCA Title 49.

My Stance:

According to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, every day in Tennessee, 3 people die due to opioid-related overdoses. We must recognize that drug addiction as well as alcoholism is a disease, and should be treated as such.

 

  • Addiction can be a scary thing that affects both the person and his or her friends and family. Public support is one small way we can begin combating this disease. 

  • Increase funding for therapy and rehab services for individuals seeking substance abuse treatment help

Small Business Investment

In what ways do you plan to accelerate local business development in District 97?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • HB2695:

    • As introduced, increases from seven to 10 business days the time a department or agency with regulatory authority over business activity has to notify the small business advocate that the department's or agency's designated contact person for the small business advocate has changed. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 5; Title 6; Title 7; Title 8 and Title 49.

My Stance:

Increased economic investment in small businesses is a key factor in helping boost our district’s thriving community. 

  • Support policies that make an active effort to invest in small businesses

  • Fund business development classes for those who wish to jump-start a career in the business sector

  • Advocate for increased transparency and funding for COVID-19 related business loans and grants for small business owners that historically struggle to access financial capital (i.e. sole proprietors, small businesses with few than 250 employees)

Income & Poverty

What steps do you plan to reduce poverty levels across District 97?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • (2019) HB1399:

    • As introduced, requires the department to submit a state anti-poverty plan by January 15 every odd-numbered year beginning in 2021. - Amends TCA Title 4; Title 56 and Title 71

  • HB1918:

    • ​As introduced, increases, from $7.25 to $15, the minimum hourly wage for employees within the state. - Amends TCA Title 50, Chapter 2.

  • HB2038:

    • ​​As introduced, increases, from $7.25 to $10, the minimum hourly wage for employees within the state. - Amends TCA Title 50, Chapter 2.
       

My Stance:

There are noticeable disparities between non-Hispanic whites and the Black and Hispanic communities across Shelby County. Race and its historical roots related to poverty in our state need to be addressed. We need to erase this trend of racial economic inequality and hold our leaders more accountable to enact change.

  • Target poverty-stricken areas and areas with high unemployment rate with career development programs such as expanding Coding Classes for Adults and Green jobs training

  • Increase our state’s minimum wage to $15.00 per hour

  • Adhere to fair hiring practices particularly for individuals with arrest records

  • Extend free childcare services for individuals and families living at or below the poverty threshold 

Reparations

Do you believe the US government should pursue reparations for Black Americans? 

My Stance:

“Justice requires not only the ceasing and desisting of injustice but also requires either punishment or reparation for injuries and damages inflicted for prior wrongdoing.”- Dr. Amos N. Wilson

African-Americans are at an unfair disadvantage in this country due to over 200 years of slavery and decades of Jim Crow laws. There is this unspoken notion that all people are born with the same opportunities and are handed the same resources to pursue their goals and achieve everything life has to offer; that all one simply needs is persistence. Unfortunately, this is not true.

While slavery was abolished in 1865, its legacy continues to live and thrive through our criminal justice system, education system, and the prevalent socio-economic disparities amongst blacks and whites.

The racial wealth gap is real, racial discrimination (both overt and covert) still exists, and white Americans are given a headstart at opportunities and resources that are still out of reach for millions of African Americans.

I support advancing the conversation around reparations because I believe living in a more fair and just society is a human right. One that recognizes its history, learns from it and pursues ways in which all Americans can live more equally. 

Criminal Justice Reform: Reshaping Criminal Justice

What are your goals in reshaping our criminal justice system?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • HB2398:

    • As introduced, prohibits law enforcement from altering a photograph of a suspect prior to presenting the photograph to a witness as part of a police lineup; prohibits the admission of an identification that resulted from a police lineup using an altered photograph. - Amends TCA Title 24, Chapter 7; Title 38 and Title 40.

  • (2019) HB1104:

    • As introduced, requires administrative director of the administrative office of the courts to develop and administer a text messaging program to remind criminal defendants to appear at their scheduled hearings in municipal and criminal courts. - Amends TCA Title 16.

  • HB2189:

    • As introduced, specifies that a law enforcement officer meeting certain qualifications who makes an arrest outside of the law enforcement officer's jurisdiction has the same legal status and immunity from suit as a state or local law enforcement officer making an arrest within the state or local law enforcement officer's jurisdiction if certain circumstances are met. - Amends TCA Section 38-3-113.

My Stance:

Mass incarceration, police brutality, and racial profiling of minorities has been a persistent problem for decades. Our criminal justice system needs to be examined and reshaped so as to better benefit the people most impacted by its policies. 

  • Require all police personnel to take part in racial bias classes

  • Run thorough background checks on all incoming officers and 

  • Increase the length of law enforcement training by adding a college degree requirement. 

  • Repeal laws that promote discriminatory tactics often used on minorities 

  • Require the use of body cams and/or other recording devices on all law enforcement officers 

Violent Crime

Memphis is often viewed as a city with high crime and is frequently listed as one of America’s most dangerous cities.

 

How do you hope to not only change the narrative around this but implement ways in which crime can be reduced?

My Stance:

The state of Tennessee is ranked number 3 of most dangerous states in the country, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, and 5th in women being murdered by men according to the Violence Policy Center. Violent crime needs to end.


We support the policy recommendations proposed by Safe Tennessee Project in their fall 2019 report: Tennessee Gun Violence: An Issue of Public Health and Safety. Some policy recommendations include: “Provide funding to community groups and violence interrupters working in communities most impacted by gun violence” and “Provide funding for research to study key drivers of gun violence in Tennessee.”

Legalization of Cannabis

What is your stance on the legalization of cannabis (recreationally & medically) in the state of Tennessee?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • HB1610:

    • As introduced, authorizes counties to hold referendum elections to authorize the growing, processing, manufacture, delivery, and retail sale of marijuana within jurisdictional boundaries; decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana statewide. - Amends TCA Title 5; Title 6; Title 7; Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 4; Title 40; Title 53; Title 67 and Title 68.
       

My Stance:

The criminalization of marijuana has placed countless Tennesseans in jail. Possessing half an ounce (or less) of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable for up to a year in jail as well as being required to pay a fine. Possessing anything more than that is considered a felony. These convictions have negative impacts on communities that have been overly criminalized. The legalization of marijuana will not only assist those who could benefit from its medicinal effects but also help to slowly reduce incarceration rates across our state.

  • Legalize the possession, use, and sale of marijuana medically with limitations on the quantity that can be sold per transaction. 

  • Expunge records of those who were convicted of illegal possession, sale, or cultivation of cannabis, hash, and concentrates including those who own or had at one point owned any paraphernalia 

  • Use no less than 50% of all funds collected from cannabis sales (and the sale of cannabis licenses) to fund public education (including providing special scholarship programs for students who have one or parents who are incarcerated and monies earmarked for education salary increases), libraries and raising wages to $15 per hour for all state employees.

  • Require that social equity programs be implemented to ensure that MBWE represents no less than 15% of all cannabis business owners.

  • Limit all requirements that cannabis license holders must guarantee vertical integration to qualify for a license. 

Discriminatory Practices

What are some ways you plan to end discriminatory practices?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • HB1546:

    • As introduced, enacts the "Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act," which defines race and protective hairstyle for purposes of the Tennessee Human Rights Act. - Amends TCA Title 4, Chapter 21; Title 8; Title 49 and Title 50.

My Stance:

Discrimination against black and brown people, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community needs to end. It must be asserted that discrimination is not always vocal, and often the covert practices that are tethered in institutions across the United States, and beyond, encourage the upholding of long-held  prejudices and profiling of marginalized groups. 

  • We are in full support of the CROWN Act which defines race and protective hairstyles for purposes of the TN Human Rights Act.

  • Encourage the creation of policies that focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace and beyond

  • Repeal laws that adhere to unfair treatment towards racial minorities, women, and members of the LBGTQ+ community 

  • Increase the creation of community support groups for people(s) that have been historically discriminated against

Gun Reform/Gun Control

Do you support the permitless carry legislation, which, if passed, would make TN a permitless carry state?

2020 General Assembly Legislation: 

  • HB2611:

    • As introduced, permits a person to carry a handgun in a concealed manner; permits a person carrying a handgun in a concealed manner to carry in parks, higher education campuses, and areas posted by local governments in the same manner permitted by handgun carry permit holders. - Amends TCA Section 10-7-504; Section 33-6-413; Section 38-8-116; Title 39; Section 50-1-312; Title 70, Chapter 4, Part 1 and Section 70-5-101.

My Stance:

Tennessee is 11th in the nation for firearm mortality according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, and since 2014 there has been a spike in gun homicides and gun suicides across the country.  The ease of access at which a person could carry a concealed handgun without a permit could have devastating consequences on the general public.

 

  • Continue to fight bad actors that promote permitless carry legislation

R. Powell-Dennis

For TN House 97

P. O. Box 4191 

Cordova, Tennessee, 38088-4191

Stay In the Loop!

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

Copyright © 2020 Paid for by Citizens for Ruby Powell-Dennis  - All Rights Reserved.