Legislative Update, April 28, 2012

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Tennessee General Assembly information, click HERE. For information on State Senators, including phone numbers and email addresses, click HERE; for House members, click HERE. For information on legislation, click HERE.
Don't forget that you can now watch the Senate committee meetings and floor sessions online by going HERE; House committee meetings and floor sessions online HERE.
Phone calls can go to the legislative Switchboard at 615-741-3011 or to the Toll Free number 1-800-449-8366+1 last four digits of office phone number (available online).

A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. 
John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775



FOR YOUR PRAYER LIST:
Jim Henry, former Kingston mayor, former State Representative,  former chairman of the TN Republican party and present Commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, lost his son, John, this week.  Please remember this family.  House Speaker Beth Harwell  injured her ankle while walking her dog Monday morning. Subsequent examination revealed that the painful ankle was broken. This strong lady did not let that keep her from presiding over the lengthy House floor sessions this week. State Sen. Douglas Henry has returned to the Legislature.The Nashville Democrat was in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The 85-year-old lawmaker was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Tuesday for tests after he experienced high blood pressure and felt dizzy in a caucus meeting.
UPDATE ON HUSBAND, RON: Ron has been in Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital since Wednesday,April 18th working very hard with these excellent folks trying to regain his strength. He is making good progress but he does have a way to go. They had a team meeting on the 25th to evaluate his progress and came up with a potential plan. While the progress is good, they think he does need to build up his endurance (I could not agree more). The tentative plan is to give us a pass on Saturday (Hooray) for a couple of hours to see how he does --strength and endurance -- and then keep him here until Tuesday and re-evaluate him then for possible dismissal. I like that plan a LOT! The one problem he has been having in the past few days is that he is spiking very high blood sugars -- 318, 361, 377,etc. We must get this under control. He has had a significant nose bleed Tuesday night (welcome to the world of Coumadin.)  It is such a comfort to know that God (the GREAT Physician) has overseen every step of the way. Again, we are so grateful for the prayer support and encouragement we have been receiving. This is a long journey that is taken step by step.

VIPS ON THE SENATE FLOOR THIS WEEK:











Famed Quarterback Roger Staubach




Country Music Star Charlie Daniels


RELIGIOUS LIBERTY ON UNIVERSITY'S CAMPUSES:
SB 3597 by *Beavers ( *HB 3576 by *Pody)
Education, Higher - As introduced, prohibits certain colleges and universities in this state from denying recognition, privileges or benefits to a student organization or group on the basis of religious content of the organization's or group's speech or the manner in which the organization or group determines its organizational affairs.

STATE LAWMAKER TAKES ON VANDERBILT'S ALL-COMERS POLICY
The state legislature is looking again at trying to make Vanderbilt University drop its controversial “all-comers” policy after Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, presented a measure Thursday that would basically force the school to choose between taking HOPE lottery scholarships and keeping the policy.
The legislature has beenweighing a bill that would prevent public universities in Tennessee from adopting Vanderbilt’s policy — which says campus groups can’t require members and leaders to adhere to their credos — and that measure finally made it to the floor of the state House of Representatives Thursday.
When it did, Dunn rose to add an amendment that he had withdrawn while the bill was in committee that would have barred any private school accepting more than $24 million in state money, namely Vanderbilt, from having that policy as well. Dunn said Vanderbilt had failed to work the issue out with religious organizations that say they are being discriminated against by being required to take in people who do not share their beliefs.
“Perhaps it would be OK if they applied this policy across the campus to all groups, but what they have done is they have said fraternities and sororities, you don’t have to come under this,” Dunn said. “They’re willing to do something that will hurt little religious organizations. … I think it’s time to send a message to folks, ‘OK, if you’re going to have an all-comers policy, let it apply to everyone.’”
Read more here.
STATUS: The battle to protect religious liberty has been hot and fierce with opposition at every turn. Space does not permit the details to be reported.  SB3597 is on the floor Monday;HB3576 is 'reset on next calendar'.
URGENT ACTION:  PLEASE find your house member HERE; find your senator HERE and urge him or her to vote for this bill and for the Dunn amendment.


APPOINTMENT AND CONFIRMATION OF APPELLATE COURT JUDGES:
SJR 0710 by *Kelsey
 Constitutional Amendments - AMENDMENT #2 rewrites this joint resolution to replace Article VI, Section 3 of the state constitution, which requires that the judges of the supreme court must be elected by the qualified voters of the state, to require that judges of the supreme court or any intermediate appellate court be appointed for a full term or to fill a vacancy by and at the sole discretion of the governor based on merit; must be confirmed by the Legislature; and thereafter, must be elected in a retention election by the qualified voters of the state. Confirmation by default will occur if the general assembly fails to reject an appointee within 60 calendar days of either the date of appointment, if made during the annual legislative session, or the convening date of the next annual legislative session, if made out of session. This amendment authorizes the general assembly to prescribe such provisions as may be necessary to carry out the appointment, confirmation and retention of appellate court judges.
STATUS
:  On third and final consideration, Apil 23rd,SJR710 passed the Senate Floor 22-9.
     Senators voting aye were: Barnes, Beavers, Bell, Crowe, Faulk, Finney L, Ford, Gresham, Johnson, Kelsey, Ketron, Massey, McNally, Norris, Overbey, Roberts, Southerland, Summerville, Tracy, Watson, Yager, Mr. Speaker Ramsey -- 22.
          Senators voting no were: Berke, Burks, Campfield, Haynes, Henry, Herron, Kyle, Marrero, Stewart -- 9.

On Thursday, SJR710 passed the House floor on 70-27-1. 
NOTE:  As with all proposed Constititional Amendments, SJR710 will have to be brought back after the next election to the 108th General Assembly where the exact language will have to pass by a 2/3rds vote then go on the ballot at the next gubentorial election where it must pass by 50%+1 of the votes cast in the governor's race.

PROTECTING THE HEALTH AND LIVES OF WOMEN:
*SB 3323 by *Beavers (HB 3808 by *Hill)
 Abortion - As introduced, enacts the "Life Defense Act of 2012."
As amended, requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a licensed hospital.
STATUS:  On March 29, HB3808 pass the House Floor 72-24. So pleased to report that on Tuesday, SB3323 passed the Senate Floor 28-5.

PROTECTING EMBRYOS FROM CRIMINAL HOMICIDE:
SB 3412 by *Beavers ( *HB 3517 by *Evans)
 Criminal Offenses - As introduced, revises definitions of fetus as victim for criminal homicide and assaults to remove viability requirement and include an embryo; revises legislative intent statement.
STATUS: As amended, on April 18th,  HB3517 passed the House Floor on 80-18. So please to report that on Monday, SB3412 passed the Senate Floor 28-2.

MUCH NEEDED UPDATE ON FAMILY LIFE EDUCATION STATUTES:
*SB 3310 by *Johnson ( HB 3621 by *Gotto)
Education, Curriculum - As introduced, requires that a family life education curriculum comply with certain restrictions.
STATUS:  On April 5, as amended, SB3310 passed the State Senate 28-1-1; on Thursday HB3621 passed the State House 68-23.

OPPOSING THE DESTRUCTIVE AGENDA 21:
*HJR 0587 by Bell
General Assembly, Statement of Intent or Position - Recognizes the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21
STATUS:  Finally, complete success.  After passing the House floor on March 15th, 72-23; with an excellent presentation and after fielding a number of sometimes nonsensical questions, on Tuesday, Sen. Mike Bell, (R-Riceville) guided HJR587 to victory when it passed the Senate floor 19-11-3.

PARENTAL PERMISSION FOR EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES:
SB 2488 by *Gresham ( *HB 2548 by *Hill)Education - As introduced, requires schools to notify parents, by way of student handbooks or policy guidebooks, of school-associated extracurricular activities and gives parents the opportunity to prohibit their child from participating.
STATUS:   On March 12, HB2548 passed the House Floor 74-14-3; on April 18th, SB2488 passed the Senate floor 31-0.

ELIMINATION OF INHERITANCE TAX:
*SB 3762 by *Norris( HB 3760 by *McCormick)
Taxes, Inheritance Gift - As introduced, increases the maximum allowable exemption from $1 million to $1.25 million.
STATUS:
  Passed the House 88-8; Passed the Senate 32-1 (vote not posted yet).

REDUCING THE STATE SALES TAX ON FOOD:
*SB 3763 by *Norris( HB 3761 by *McCormick)Taxes, Sales - As introduced, reduces the state sales tax on food and food ingredients to 5.2 per cent.
STATUS:
  Passed the House96-0; passed the Senate 32-1 (vote not posted yet).

APPROPRIATIONS BILL:
SB 3768 by *Norris ( *HB 3835 by *Sargent)
Appropriations - As introduced, makes appropriations for fiscal years beginning July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012. -
STATUS:  On Thursday, the House passed HB3835 66-30; on Friday the Senate passed SB3768
NOTE:  The Appropriations bills that passed the House and the Senate are different.  The proposals were sent to a Conference Committee to work out the those differences.  That report will be brought back to the respective chambers for an up or down vote.

TN HOUSE PASSES STATE BUDGET- Plan to close Taft youth prison dominates lawmakers' debate
The state House of Representatives passed the state’s $30 billion budget Thursday afternoon, after a lengthy and emotional battle over the fate of a youth prison.
House lawmakers approved the 2012-13 budget 66-30 in almost a party-line vote, with Republicans on the winning end. Approval came after more than 3½ hours of debate, much of it over whether to go ahead with plans to close the Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County.
The vote clears away a major hurdle to passage of the budget, but an even bigger one still lies ahead. Under pressure from Democrats and rank-and-file Republicans, the House budget leaves out several pet projects that appear in the Republican-authored Senate version. That could set up another running of the nearly annual showdown between the two chambers over which projects get funded and which get left aside in the measure that ultimately goes to Gov. Bill Haslam for signature. Read more here.

TENNESSEE SENATE PASSES 2012 BUDGET
The Senate today approved its version of the state’s budget after Republicans successfully beat back efforts by state Sen. Eric Stewart to save Taft Youth Development Center from being closed by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Stewart’s amendment to restore $12 million in funding for the Bledsoe County facility, which serves as home for older, tougher teens, was tabled on a 19-14 vote.
Stewart, D-Belvidere, said Taft functions as the state juvenile system’s maximum-security prison for serious offenders between the ages of 16 to 19, yet has been successful in rehabilitating many of them.
Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Senate’s version of the budget retaliates against the GOP-controlled House’s decision to cut some Senate pet projects by slashing millions of dollars in funding for other programs and projects. Read more here.

MAJOR OVERHAUL OF LOTTERY SCHOLARSHIPS:
SB 2514 by *Gresham ( *HB 2649 by *Brooks H)
STATUS:
  As heavily amended; SB2516 passed the Senate Floor 20-10 on April 16th; HB2449 is Finance subcommittee on Monday. See details below.
Lottery Scholarships -- The full Senate has approved Senate Bill 2514 which ties changes proposed by the Lottery Scholarship Stabilization Task Force to continued lottery revenue growth to ensure stability of the fund for future generations of Tennessee students.  The legislation, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), was filed after a recommendation from the bi-partisan Task Force comprised State Senators; the state’s top higher education officials from the Board of Regents, the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association; as well as Tennessee’s two top financial experts, the State Comptroller and State Treasurer; and the Secretary of State.

The total costs of the scholarship program have outstripped lottery revenues (which are the net proceeds from the lottery games played plus interest from the lottery reserves) for the past several years.   As a result, Tennessee has dipped into reserves to keep the promises made to students receiving funds through the state’s HOPE Scholarship program.

The proposed changes in scholarship eligibility requirements for students attending four year institutions will not be implemented if the Lottery Corporation sustains the $10 million growth projected by Lottery Corp. CEO Rebecca Paul through the spring of 2015.  If revenues fall below that level at that time, the legislation would require students who attend a four-year institution to meet both the ACT and grade point average (GPA) requirements to receive the full lottery scholarship award beginning in the fall semester in 2015.  The students meeting only one requirement would receive a two-year college grant and would be eligible for the full award by year three if they meet grade requirements.  If provisions in the bill are enacted, the legislation would also provide 5,600 more recipients an opportunity to receive scholarship funding provided through the Tennessee Student Assistant Award (TSAA).  Those grants would be available to non-traditional students of any age, including laid-off workers and other students.  

No current scholarship recipient or any high school student working towards a lottery scholarship would be affected by the bill, regardless of whether or not lottery revenues decline.  The legislation would begin with students currently enrolled in the 8th grade who would only be affected if a downturn in lottery revenue occurs, triggering the stabilization provisions.

TN's TAX REVENUE JUMPS - State is rebounding faster than others but has a way to go
Tennessee collected more tax revenue last year than it did in 2010, a sign the state’s economy is rebounding from the recession.
Tax revenue grew by 8.5 percent in Tennessee during the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to a report released last week by the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, N.Y.
Sales and income tax revenues grew in 2011, but the state’s share of property taxes probably fell last year, the Census Bureau said in a recent report.
Tennessee’s sales tax revenues totaled $6.19 billion in 2011 compared with $6.13 billion the previous year — a jump of nearly 1 percent, according to census figures. Sales tax revenues have shot up much more this year so far, economists say. Read more here.