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.
FOR YOUR PRAYER LIST:
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.
THE INAUGURATION OF GOVERNOR-ELECT BILL HASLAM TODAY:
Some events are sold out, but it is not too late to attend the public functions. Details HERE.
Bill Haslam Bio
Crissy Haslam Bio
107th TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY COMPLETES ITS ORGANIZATIONAL SESSION :
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.
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.
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.
Lawmakers Consider Going After 'Birthright Citizenship'
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.
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.
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.