Legislative Update, May 16, 2009

LEGISLATIVE ACTION  ALERT                    
May 16, 2009                                                                               
Tennessee General Assembly information here.
To email legislators, look on the left side of the page, select Legislators then select House Members or Senate Members, or ‘Find My Legislator’.
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).

" It is not the critic that counts. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marked by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasm and great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." Teddy Roosevelt

Please remember Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) as she presents SJR 127 for the final vote Monday. This is sure to be an intense battle. Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis) was hospitalized last week with chest pain and nausea. It turned out to be a gall bladder problem and she is now recovering from surgery. Rep. Curtis Halford (R-Dyer) is also recovering from gall bladder surgery. Former representative and good friend of Eagle Forum, Chris Clem (R-Signal Mountain) had surgery on Thursday to remove a kidney with tumor. Chris and wife Liz have three young children with another due in July. Please remember this dear family.
Rep. Debra MaggartConstitutional Amendments - Adds new provision to Article I to provide that nothing in Constitution of Tennessee secures or protects right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion; states that the people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.
Folks, on Monday evening Tennessee will make history and you may want to join us in the House gallery at 4:00 p.m. After many years of hard work by thousands of faithful pro-life people led by the very able, tireless effort of Karen Brukardt with Tennessee Right to Life, SJR 127 will finally receive a vote on the House Floor. Click HERE for background information.
ACTION ITEM: We know that the opponents of the measure will offer a number of amendments. The message to lawmakers is “no amendments at all.” Please go HERE and send an email of support to your House member.
Education - As introduced, places restrictions on universal mental health testing, or psychiatric or socioemotional screening of juveniles; requires certain consent by a juvenile's parent, guardian, legal custodian, or caregiver before such testing can occur.
FINAL UPDATE: I am very pleased to report that the final step has been completed. Governor Bredesen has signed the legislation and on May 12, it became Pub. Ch. 127. Parents now have the protection of law to assure they have to give permission for screenings, they cannot be coerced to put their children on psychotropic drugs, teachers can’t recommend that a child be placed on drugs, etc. For more details, go HERE.
Memorials, Congress - Urges United States Senate to reject ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
          HRJ 369 was voted out of the Children and Family Affairs Committee and will be in Calendar and Rules Committee Thursday morning. This is such an important issue. Go HERE for background information. We simply MUST defeat the effort to put the United Nations in charge of the upbringing of our children.
ACTON ITEM: Please go HERE and send an email to the members of this committee.
Public Health - As introduced, establishes a new methodology for disposition of family planning funds that disburses funds to public women's health services programs before other providers are funded. For more information, go HERE.
HB 1756 is in House Health and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday. SB 470 is assigned to Senate Finance Ways and Means. 
ACTION ITEM: Please go HERE and send an email to selected members of both committees.
Another day, another plan for selecting Tennessee’s top judges. Actually, it would be more accurate to say, “another minute, another plan”.   Every time a bill is presented in committee it seems that it is a new version. This situation gives a whole new meaning to what I have said before: “The legislative process is like an unwieldy beast that frequently does not behave properly.” 
          The Tennessee Constitution states: The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.   That seems pretty clear to anyone who can read. If it were not so serious, it would almost be amusing to see how this phrase could be twisted to mean that lawyers decide who should be recommended for the appellate courts and the governor selects one of those recommended! (By the way that exact phrase is found four additional times and, guess what, in the other places it is interpreted to mean a contested election!!)
          Because of this very fluid situation, the only bill we will focus on right now is:
SB 2168 by *Bunch ( *HB 2018 by *Kelsey, McCord)
Courts - As introduced, authorizes the governor to make interim appointments to fill judicial vacancies if the judicial selection commission sunsets on June 30, 2009. -
Bill Summary
“Presently, the judicial selection commission is in wind-down and will cease to exist after June 30, 2009, unless continued by the general assembly prior to that date. This bill specifies that if and only if the commission ceases to exist on June 30, 2009, then:
(1) If a vacancy occurs, either by death, resignation, or removal, in the office of a judge of any court of record, including the supreme court, all appellate courts, and circuit and criminal courts, then the vacancy must be filled by the qualified voters of the whole state for judges of the supreme court, and of such judicial district for the other judges, at the next biennial election in August, occurring more than 30 days after the vacancy. In the meantime, the governor must appoint a person learned in the law and constitutionally qualified to discharge the duties of the office until the election can be had; and
(2) If a vacancy occurs in the office of a judge of the Supreme Court or the appellate courts, then it must be filled from the grand division of the state in which the vacancy occurs.”
          Since we have absolutely no idea what will pass or what won’t pass during these final days of the legislative session, this bill becomes a ‘stop-gap’ proposal that provides a Constitutional process to fill an empty seat should that occur.
          Because of the long-term consequences of judicial process, this is one of the most important issues before the General Assembly and we need you to be engaged in this process.
SB 2168 is in Senate Judiciary Tuesday. Please click on these committee members and urge them to support this bill. Doug Jackson, Jim Kyle, Doug Overbey, Beverly Marrero.
Suggested message to copy and paste:
“SB2168 allows the Governor to fill judicial vacancies if (and only if) the Judicial Selection Commission is not extended past June 30. If any of the other bills pass, this bill would not have statutory authority and would be null. 
          We have no idea what other legislation may or may not pass this year. This ‘stop-gap’ proposal protects the state and the judiciary in the event a vacancy occurs and puts in place a Constitutional method of replacement. We urge you to support this legislation.”
HB 2018 is in House Judiciary on Tuesday and Rep. Eddie Bass is the key to passing it.
Please click on his name send him an email of support.
          Suggested message to copy and paste:
“Rep. Bass, I understand that you will vote for HB2018. I wanted to thank you for that and for supporting the Tennessee Constitution and it provisions. HB2018 allows the Governor to fill judicial vacancies if (and only if) the Judicial Selection Commission is not extended past June 30. If any of the other bills pass, this bill would not have statutory authority and would be null. 
          We have no idea what other legislation may or may not pass this year. This ‘stop-gap’ proposal protects the state and the judiciary in the event a vacancy occurs and puts in place a Constitutional method of replacement. Regardless of what you may hear, I do not believe that this bill needs to be amended.”
Medicine, Practice of - As introduced, requires doctors and hospitals treating minor children to release the results of medical tests and procedures performed on the child to the child's parents upon request. Background information HERE
          The term “Bulldog” comes to mind as I think of the fight that Rep. Tony Shipley (R-Kingsport) waged to finally get HB 1762 out of House Judiciary on Wednesday. He must have been before that committee four or five different times spending hours defending the rights of parents.
Voting aye were: Bass, Dennis, Faulkner, Lundberg, Kelsey, Matheny, Watson -- 7.
Voting no were: Camper, Coleman, Fincher, Sontany, Stewart -- 5.
HB 1762 is now in House Budget Subcommittee Wednesday and SB 2089 is Senate Judiciary Tuesday. You can go HERE to send an email to selected committee members.
Safety, Dept. of - As introduced, prohibits state from being required to participate in the implementation of the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, which mandates a national identification card for each citizen of the United States.
          The Good News is the Sen. Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) was successful in moving this bill through Finance to the Calendar committee. The Bad News is that the House companion had to be moved to 2010 in order to keep it from being defeated. The Senate bill can be passed this year and we can come back next year to pass the House bill.

Criminal Procedure - As introduced, adds as an advisory enhancement factor to sentencing that defendant intentionally chose victim of crime based on gender identity or expression.
UPDATE: I am very pleased to report that HB 335 was taken “off notice” (meaning it won’t be run, but could be brought back next session) in the House Judiciary committee yesterday. The senate companion is in the Judiciary Committee but there is no way it could get out of the even if it is was heard. We will remain vigilant.
Firearms and Ammunition - As introduced, allows person with handgun carry permit to carry in restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages as long as such person is not consuming alcoholic beverages and such restaurant is not an age-restricted venue.
UPDATE: After a ‘pitched battle’ the House and Senate could not agree on the provisions of this bill. A conference committee was appointed to come to an agreement. That committee met and brought back to the respective bodies a report that passed the Senate 25-7 and passed the House 66-23.