By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
NASHVILLE –State Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville has big responsibilities this legislative term. As Republican Caucus Chairman in the Tennessee House of Representatives, it’s his job to represent his party in its dealings with the Governor.
With just under 1,500 bills introduced for consideration by the General Assembly, there are a lot of issues to discuss, with healthcare, mental health issues, substance abuse, and juvenile justice reform being some of the main issues.
In speaking about the newly started session, Sexton was very optimistic.
“Everything is starting to move,” said Sexton. “We have all new leadership, a new speaker here in the House and a new governor coming in, so there’s a lot of transition.
We just changed the committee structure which I think will be beneficial to us in policy decisions.
“We also have about one third of the house members that are new members, so there’s a lot of change going on with a lot of transition, but everything seems to be running very smoothly right now.”
Some issues have easily stood out among the others.
“Healthcare is going to be a top issue,” voiced Sexton. “(We’re) looking at legislation potentially to increase access to have price or cost transparency. Pharmacy price management (PPM) reform will be another hot topic.
“I think there will be a lot of discussion on mental health and substance abuse issues. I think that’s where Speaker Casada is moving to, where that is going to be his focus the first few years of his speakership.”
Other key issues he feels will be juvenile justice reform and education.
“If you look at education, you have the technical/vocation schools,” added Sexton. “That will be a hot topic, based on what (Gov. Bill) Lee and some of the members have proposed.”
Sexton’s objectives for his Upper Cumberland constituents are primarily healthcare driven.
“Healthcare, in my opinion from everything I heard while campaigning, is the number one issue,” said Sexton. “I think people have questions about how to have more access, how to be more in control, how do they have better transparency in what they are paying beforehand, instead of getting a bill 30 days later and being surprised it cost $10,000. So, I think healthcare is a big issue.”
Last year the Legislature passed legislation that allowed customers to pay the lessor of the insurance price or the cash price for prescriptions. Sexton has introduced HB0655 that would extend that same practice to the cost of medical or chiropractic services.
“For example, if you go to see a chiropractor and it’s a $50 co-pay, but it’s really only a $30 visit if you pay cash, then they really shouldn’t overcharge you to pay $50, you should only pay $30,” explained Sexton. “So, we’re looking at doing the same thing with healthcare that we did with prescriptions.”
Sexton, along with State Sen. Paul Bailey, has introduced a bill to define maintenance fees and to require the Tennessee middle college scholarship award to be up to the amount of the undergraduate maintenance fees for full-time attendance for each semester.
Additional bills that Sexton is personally sponsoring relate to opioids, suicide prevention, consumer protection and election laws.
When asked about his role as caucus chairman, Sexton was happy to give insight on that role.
“In the house we have a majority leader who works with the governor on his policies,” said Sexton. “So, it depends on where the legislation comes from. I’ll be in meetings with the speaker and leader and other members discussing the legislation and try our best to help our members with their ideas, being a spokesperson in the room trying to help us craft the strategy and the direction we want to go on certain pieces of legislation from the house side not the governor’s side.
“I am trying to get more to the point where we discuss more of big strategy, like ok what strategic priorities do they want to have: is it healthcare, is it education, is it judicial? What’s the priorities that we’re having? Is it the budget? Is it tax cuts? And then working with members to achieve those items instead of being more driven towards one certain policy.”
Joining Sexton in the Legislature is a diverse group of legislators representing the Upper Cumberland with many in positions of power.
“We have a very good Upper Cumberland legislative team between Kelly Keisling, Ryan Williams, Terri Lynn Weaver, Paul Bailey, John Mark Windle, myself, and Ken Yager who has a little bit of that area,” said Sexton. “It’s a very good team and we all work very well together. And I think it’s shown that we’ve been very successful for our area over the last six to eight years. I think it says something about the quality of people that we are electing in our area.”
Sexton also reflected on Sen. Bailey’s influence in the Senate.
“You know with Paul Bailey being the new chairman of commerce, basically in his second term in the Senate, I believe that says a lot about him as a person and how the Senate views him as well,” said Sexton.
“Everything goes through commerce at some point. Anything to do with business, utilities, insurance, banking. It is the number one committee right behind finance in the Senate. It’s a huge honor. The previous chair of commerce was Jack Johnson who is now Majority Leader in the Senate.”