Legislative Update, Special Session, January 23, 2010

LEGISLATIVE ACTION  ALERT
January 23, 2010   
          
Tennessee General Assembly information and contacts: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/
To email legislators, look on the left side of the page, select House or Senate, then ‘Members’.
Don’t forget that you can now watch on your computer the committee meetings and the floor sessions: 
http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/livevideo/
Phone calls can go to the Legislative Switchboard: (615) 741-3011 or to the Toll Free number 1-800-449-8366+1+ last four digits of office phone number (available at the same location).

"All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government...
Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them, or a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.”
~~Robert Winthrop, U.S. Speaker of the House, 1847-49


FOR YOUR PRAYER LIST:
Rep. Dennis Ferguson (D-Harriman) was in a cast this week following ankle surgery. Rep. Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga) is undergoing treatment for a hurt knee; surgery may be needed. Sen. Ophelia Ford (D-Memphis) has been absent from the special session with ‘flu-like’ symptoms and was finally admitted to the hospital. Many will remember Republican activist Tony Lopez, USAF Ret. who lived in Tipton County and made a good run against Rep. Jimmy Naifeh in 2002. It was announced on the House floor this week passed away recently so please remember his family.
 
 

The Special Session Week Two: Higher Education has been the focus

SB 7006 by *Kyle ( *HB 7008 by *Turner M)
Education - As introduced, enacts the "Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010."

Some of the goals of this legislation are to align the courses at the various colleges and universities so that, for example, English 101 taken at one institution will be similar to that same course at another institution; to develop a common course numbering system; to enable students to transfer college courses and programs between institutions without losing hard-earned credits; to expand access to workplace and career credentials, the tech centers should be expanded and aligned with community colleges; to develop a state-wide community college system; to develop cooperative programs between tech centers and community colleges; to reduce remedial and developmental instruction; set yearly statewide and campus-specific goals aligned with meeting Tennessee’s broad goal of producing 20,000 more degrees annually by the year 2025.

One central provision calls for state funding of colleges and universities to be based on the number of students who graduate, not just the number enrolled. Most legislators hailed the "outcome-based" funding plan as a means of focusing attention on getting students to complete their degrees

State HouseIt authorizes new research consortiums at the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville and Memphis Campuses.

As you saw in last week’s Legislative Update, Tennessee has a very poor college graduation rate. For review: On average only 46% of our full-time students at four-year schools graduate within six years, and only 12% of full-time community college students attain associated degrees within three years. Part-time graduation rates are even lower. Additionally, 60% of students entering community colleges start in remedial courses with dismal results.

 
INTERESTING TIDBITS:
  1. Students enrolling in the Tennessee’s independent institutions have a higher 4-, 5-, and 6-year graduation rates than students either in the TN Board of Regents schools or University of Tennessee System.
  2. Students enrolling in a four-year institution have a higher graduation rate than students who enroll in a community college and then transfer to a four-year facility.
  3. The median income of students at the independent colleges (4-year) is $54,700; at state colleges (4-year) is $62,100.

At the end of a very long day, on Thursday evening the Senate passed the legislation 32-0; and passed the House 93-2. The two "no" votes in the House came from Reps. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol. Lundberg said he liked much of the bill but was concerned that "in the long term," it could lead to "devaluation of a degree from a state university."

The Tennessean reporting: Tennessee lawmakers pass higher-education bill

RACE TO THE TOP APPLICATION SUBMITTED:
Tennessee has officially submitted the state’s application to compete for up to $501.8 million in funds under the federal Race to the Top program. The application was submitted on the same day the president called for adding $1.3 billion to the budget for the program. The program currently has $4.3 billion allocated to reward states which are implementing  significant reforms in four education areas: enhancing standards and assessments;  improving the collection and use of data; increasing teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution; and turning around struggling schools. The grants recipients are expected to be announced in April and will be followed by a second round of competitions later in the year.

The expectation is that the SPECIAL SESSION will adjourn on Monday and the REGULAR SESSION will begin the same day
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PROHIBITS IMPLANTATION OF DEVICE AS A CONDITION OF EMPLOYMENT:
HB 2059 by *Lynn ( *SB 0153 by *Ketron)
Criminal Offenses - As introduced, classifies as a Class A misdemeanor, subject to a fine only, the unauthorized implantation of an electronic identification and/or tracking device or mark placed on any human being.

This bill prohibits any person from knowingly requiring, coercing, or causing an individual to have an identification or tracking device or mark permanently incorporated into or on the body, skin, teeth, hair, or fingernails of the individual. For purposes of this bill, an "identification or tracking device or mark" is any technology capable of storing or passively or actively transmitting an individual's identity, characteristics, status, group membership, travel history, or location, or capable of storing or transmitting an identifier that could be linked with any such information. This important bill is in the Criminal Practice Subcommittee on Tuesday.

ACTION ITEM: It could start out voluntary (which is bad enough), but move to a requirement. If you’re forced to have a chip put in you as a condition of employment, that’s taking away your civil liberties and your freedom and it is crucial to ban the technology before it gains any traction. More information HERE and HERE. Please contact the following legislators and URGE them to vote YES: (Click on name to send an email.) Janis Sontany, Eddie Bass, Karen Camper.

 

BILLS OF INTEREST BEING INTRODUCED FOR REGULAR SESSION:

State SenateTENNESSEE FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN HEALTH CARE ACT:
*SB 2490 by *Black ( HB 2654 by *Maggart)
Health Care - As introduced, prohibits any provision of law from compelling any person, health care provider, or employer from participating in any health care system.
 (1) Prohibits any statute, common law or rule from compelling, including by the imposition of fees or penalties, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system. A person or employer may pay directly for lawful health care services and may not be required to pay penalties or fines for paying directly for such services. A health care provider may accept direct payment for lawful health care services and may not be required to pay penalties or fines for accepting direct payment from a person or employer for lawful health care services; and
(2) Provides that no statute, common law, or rule may prohibit the purchase or sale of health insurance in private health care systems, subject to reasonable and necessary rules that do not substantially limit a person's options.

HEALTH CARE FREEDOM ACT:
SB 2560 by *Black ( *HB 2622 by *Lynn)
Health Care - As introduced, prohibits the legislature from requiring any person to participate in any health care system or plan.

HEALTH-CARE CHOICE ACT:
*HB 2417 by *Ramsey , Evans, Dennis, Faulkner, Matheny, Shipley, Campfield, Maggart, Hardaway, Bell, Rich, Hensley, Halford
As introduced, enacts the Health-Care Choice Act.
This bill authorizes non-Tennessee individual health insurers and non-Tennessee small employment health insurers to provide individual health benefits plans or small employer health benefits plans, as appropriate, etc.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL INTRODUCED:
*SB 2511 by *Marrero B ( HB 2562 by *Richardson)
Drugs - As introduced, enacts the "Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act."

PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE STATE CONSTITUTION:

FREE ENTERPRISE SYSTEM SHALL GOVERN TRADE AND COMMERCE:
*HJR 0722 by *Lynn
Constitutional Amendments - Establishes a free enterprise system of government.

REQUIRING TWO-THIRDS VOTE TO INCREASE SPENDING CAP:
*SJR 0682 by *Beavers
Constitutional Amendments - Proposes a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote by the senate and a two-thirds vote of the house in order to approve legislation that seeks an increase in appropriations in excess of the Copeland spending cap for any fiscal year.

 
LOTTERY PROFITS DON’T COVER COSTS OF SCHOLARSHIPS:
Eligibility rules may tighten
A day of reckoning is coming for students and parents over Tennessee's lottery scholarships that could result in tightened eligibility, reduced scholarship awards or both
 
After more than five years of steadily expanded eligibility and grant amounts, the annual cost of the program is outstripping the net revenue produced by the lottery.
If no action is taken, that funding gap is expected to overtake the lottery reserves — some $385 million built up in the lottery's booming early years and when only one, two and three classes of college students were covered — by 2013 or 2014.
If lottery proceeds don't increase, the state's only options are to make it more difficult for students to qualify, reduce the amount of the grants, or both. The scholarships range up to $5,500 per school year, the $4,000 basic HOPE scholarship plus a $1,500 supplement for qualifying students whose household incomes are $36,000 or less.
The 2003 statute that created the lottery and scholarship program requires the scholarships to be paid with lottery proceeds, not tax appropriations.
Read more here.

 

BUDGET HURTS BREDESEN’S LOTTERY SCHOLARSHIP PLAN:

Budget pressures have forced Gov. Phil Bredesen to abandon plans to boost the lottery scholarship awards for community college students. Will Pinkston, a senior adviser to Bredesen, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that increasing the annual scholarships from $2,000 to $3,000 had been one of Bredesen's priorities until weeks ago.