Legislative Update, January 15, 2011

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).

PLEASE NOTE: While today's UPDATE is the first of 2011, after this week's organizational session, it is expected that the Tennessee General Assembly will recess until February 7th, meaning the next UPDATE will be issued on February 12th.

"...acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens--a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government... 
                                        Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural address.

Much to pray about on this very special day when the next Governor of the Great State of Tennessee will be inaugurated. Perhaps the most important thing the new Governor and the legislators can come to grips with is that "...the government shall be upon His shoulder..." Isaiah 9:6. The job before Governor Haslam and the legislators is too big for them to do alone. It is my prayer that they will turn to God for His direction and strength.  May each of them have the WISDOM of Solomon; the COURAGE of Joshua; the BUSINESS SENSE of Joseph; the GOVERNING SKILL of Nehemiah; the HUMILITY of Josiah; and like the sons of Issachar, UNDERSTAND THE TIMES.

Some events are sold out, but it is not too late to attend the public functions.  Details HERE.
Bill Haslam Bio
Crissy Haslam Bio

At the beginning of each General Assembly, one the things that folks wait for with 'baited breath' is to see the Chairmen and makeup of the new committees. That information has now been released: Senate Committee Assignments; House Committee Assignments.

On Tuesday the House elected Rep. Beth Harwell (Nashville) as their Speaker with a unanimous vote and Rep. Judd Matheny (Tullahoma) as Speaker Pro-Tem. The Senate elected Sen. Ron Ramsey (Blountville) as Lt. Governor and Speaker and Sen. Jamie Woodson (Knoxville) as Speaker Pro Tem. On Wednesday, at a Joint Convention the lawmakers unanimously re-elected Justin Wilson as Comptroller and David Lillard as Treasurer.
On Thursday the House held a memorial service for the late Rep. Ulysses Jones, who died unexpectedly on November 9, 2010. On Friday the legislators attended the required ethics training.
 At the beginning of each General Assembly, one the things that folks wait for with 'baited breath' is to see the Chairmen and makeup of the new committees. That information was released on Thursday: Senate Committee Assignments; House Committee Assignments.
Mitchell Brisbon is fifteen years old and a sophomore this year. Mitchell has competed in speech and debate with Christian Communicators of Tennessee (CCT) for the past three years, the 2010-2011 school year being his fourth. The parts of speech and debate he is most involved with are Lincoln-Douglas Policy Debate and Student Congress, which is another form of debate involving a body of students acting as a mock Senate. Mitchell's accomplishments in speech and debate have involved competing in the Student Congress finals on the State  Senate floor for the past three years, as well as speaker awards in Policy Debate and placing in impromptu events. Besides competing in speech and debate, Mitchell has obtained a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He enjoys playing soccer as well. Most importantly, Mitchell enjoys spending time with his loving family and friends, as well as nurturing his relationship with God. Mitchell is considering earning a degree in political science or law. He hopes to be able to make a difference in the world, and hopes that this opportunity with Mrs. Patray will help to achieve this goal. Mitchell, who will be 16 next month, lives with Mom and Dad (Peggy and Kevin) and younger sister, Liana in Mt. Juliet. [Mitchell with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, left; with House Speaker Beth Harwell, right.]
New Tenn. House Speaker Shakes Up Committee System
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- New state House Speaker Beth Harwell said Thursday she is shaking up the chamber's committee system in a move meant to streamline the legislative process.
The Nashville Republican announced Thursday that she is cutting the number of subcommittees to one for each of the 13 standing committees, down from a total of 25 subcommittees last session. Another change will be that not every bill will have to be considered by a subcommittee before it can be heard by a full panel.
"The desire and goal was to streamline the process and reduce the size of state government," said Harwell, who was elected speaker by her colleagues earlier this week.
Harwell said subcommittees won't lose all clout. "Sometimes the best thing we can do for the citizens is not allow something to become law," she said.
Subcommittees have been used in the past to bury legislative proposals that could present political problems for members if they reach a full committee or floor vote.
Read more here.
SOME GOOD NEWS: Tennessee Tax Revenue Beats Predictions
NASHVILLE — With Tennessee taxes continuing to exceed estimates for the current fiscal year, the State Funding Board on Thursday agreed to a request by incoming Gov. Bill Haslam's administration to delay revenue estimates for the upcoming year until next month.
"His transition team has requested that we do that," said Comptroller Justin Wilson, who is a Republican, the same as Haslam.
Year-to-date collections for the past five months show revenues exceeded budgeted estimates of $3.92 billion by $98.9 million. The general fund topped estimates by $78.4 million and the other four funds, which include the highway fund, were over estimates by $20.5 million.
Earlier, Finance Commissioner Mike Morrow, an appointee of outgoing Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, noted that every incoming administration beginning with Republican Gov. Don Sundquist in 1995 has been allowed a delay in estimates.
Read more here.
Tenn. lawmaker to introduce controversial immigration bill
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Immigration is poised to be a big issue this year for state lawmakers. One new law went into effect January 1 that requires local jails to ask for proof of documentation, and more legislation is expected to follow.
As early as this week, Tennessee will follow in Arizona's footsteps and propose its own version of the controversial law that would make it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally.
Senator Bill Ketron, who is sponsoring the bill, said, "There's about six or seven states lining up to do the same thing, so I think it's going to send a message to the Federal Government."
The bill that would give police authority to ask people they stop for other reasons about their immigration status, if police have "reasonable suspicion" to believe they are in the country illegally. Read more here.
Tenn. May Push For 14th Amendment Challenge
Lawmakers Consider Going After 'Birthright Citizenship'
While there are many proposals out there, Tennessee lawmakers said it might be time to go after what's called "birthright citizenship" and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. 
The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to people born in the United States.
"What the 14th Amendment does not say nor do, we believe it can imply, is that if somebody is here illegal and gives birth, then that person should be a citizen," said Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas.
 State lawmakers said they may have a role to play as well. Several states are introducing legislation that would allow states to bestow state citizenship where a person would have to be the child of at least one American citizen or legal permanent resident.
 The goal is to get into a legal battle that would end up with a Supreme Court decision on the 14th Amendment.
 Carr said he's looking into the possibility of bringing that proposal to Tennessee.
 "When you have 400,000 children who are born to parents who are here illegally, that is a significant problem, and that needs to be addressed," said Carr. Read more here.

New fight brews over judge selection process in Tennessee
With GOP in control, opponents may push to end appointments
Lawmakers are poised for a renewed fight over the way Tennessee selects its most powerful judges, including for the Tennessee Supreme Court — the highest court in the state.
Currently, appeals court judges are appointed by the governor and run for re-election every eight years. The races are uncontested, but residents are asked to vote yes or no on whether the judges should be kept on the bench.
Opponents of the system — called the Tennessee Plan — argue that judges should be popularly elected like the governor, state legislators and lower-level judges. They say the state constitution demands it.
The Tennessee Plan will expire in 2012. Emboldened by new Republican majorities after November's elections, however, opponents may press the issue sooner. Opponents say that in addition to being unconstitutional, the Tennessee Plan makes judges unaccountable to voters.
"If elections are so crooked that you cannot elect a judge … then what does that say about our form of government?" said state Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Knoxville.
Read more here.
Williamson lawmaker plots against Nashville's anti-gay bias bill
Casada: Businesses are not social police
A Williamson County state lawmaker said Wednesday that he would introduce legislation to prevent Metro government and other cities in Tennessee from extending protections to gay, lesbian and transgendered employees of city contractors.
Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove, said the bill, which he hopes to file next week, would keep local governments across the state from adopting "a patchwork" of policies toward businesses.
"It'll say that local governments don't have the option of requiring the business community to perform certain social functions," he said. "We're putting so many requirements on businesses that we're making them be the social police of the community. That's not their role."
Read more here.

Republican-driven resolution would ban state income tax
A majority of both the House and Senate signed up to sponsor a resolution introduced Thursday to amend the Tennessee constitution to ban the state income tax.
"If this amendment passes, Tennessee will never face an income tax battle again,” said the Senate’s main sponsor, Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown.  “Not having a state income tax has already brought jobs to Tennessee, and clarifying this prohibition will help Tennessee become the number one state in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.”
Fifty-one of the 99 House members and 20 of the 33 senators are on the list of the resolution’s supporters. Included are House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey. A Senate Republican spokeswoman said more sponsors are expected.
Read more here.