Education and business issues top state senator’s agenda | State

State Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, is sponsoring legislation to promote local tourism and expand opportunities for craft brewers to distribute their beer in the region.

That includes a bill calling on the state to erect additional signage to direct off-roaders to recreational opportunities at Doe Mountain in Johnson County.

Lundberg said he is also sponsoring a bill, which was brought to his attention by a Johnson City business, to allow craft beer makers to sell their brews in neighboring counties without going through a distributor.

Currently, craft brewers are prevented by state law from self-distributing their brews outside the county where it is made. Lundberg said he would like to change the law to allow brewers to self-distribute their products within a 100-mile radius, which is something wineries are now allowed to do.

“Craft breweries are small businesses, and the state has limited where they can sell their products,” he said. “I would like to level the playing field.”

Lundberg, whose 4th District covers parts of Carter, Johnson and Sullivan counties, said tracking educational progress in Tennessee will also be one of his top priorities when lawmakers convene on Jan. 12.

“We need to be looking across the state to see where students are doing well, and where students are doing poorly,” Lundberg said last week. “We want to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes those districts are making.”

The Sullivan County lawmaker, who was re-elected to a second term in November, serves as a member of the state Senate Education Committee. He expects to see legislation in 2021 dealing with concerns voiced by teachers who are coping with challenges from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Teachers are concerned about a learning loss,” Lundberg said. “Online learning has created many challenges in the classrooms.”

He said teachers have questions regarding the impact online classes will have on the test scores of their students. Lundberg said he’s heard from teachers who are looking for lawmakers to adopt “hold harmless” provisions for academic testing.

Lundberg said the pandemic has exposed “holes in the state’s infrastructure,” particularly when it comes to broadband in rural areas.

“There are areas of Johnson County where students can’t go online,” he said. “That’s unacceptable.”

Lundberg, who is the first vice chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, expects Gov. Bill Lee will resurrect his criminal justice reforms that the senator said “were curtailed by the pandemic” earlier this year.

Those measures are likely to include changes to the state’s “truth in sentencing” laws, and “evidence-based solutions” to mental health and substance abuse issues.

“A key portion will be expanding community supervision,” Lundberg said.

Janelle B. Smith

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