NASHVILLE — Legislation being sponsored by State Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, to establish the Governor's Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives, was approved by the Tennessee Senate on Thursday. 

Senate Bill 961, which has now passed both the Senate and House by unanimous votes, will facilitate collaboration between state government and faith-based, community organizations working to improve public safety, reduce addiction, strengthen families and communities, and overcome poverty in the state.

The legislation is part of Governor Bill Lee's legislative priorities and is designed to maximize the effectiveness of governmental and private efforts to serve Tennesseans in need, according to a press release by the Senate Republican Committee.

"In the last election cycle, our governor traveled to Tennessee's 95 counties visiting many faith-based and community organizations, and he saw an opportunity here to marshal the assets of these groups in order to have a more effective and statewide approach in solving problems," said Yager, who is the Senate Republican Caucus chairman. "The important thing about this office is that it will pull together these assets from across the state under an umbrella and marshal their assets into a mobilized effort to deal with these problems because Governor Lee believes, as I think we all believe, that the best answers to these problems come from the people and not the government."

The Office of Fiath-Based & Community Initiatives will operate without cost to the state. It will be structured similar to the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation, a public-private partnership that has distributed over 35 million books to Tennessee children. The governor will select the board of directors and executive director of the nonprofit. 

"The ultimate goal of this legislation is to unless the volunteer spirit of Tennesseans to help their fellow citizens," said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin.