Final Legislative Update, May 2, 2012


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).

POPULARITY is the pocket change of life, COURAGE is the hard currency. 
Charlton Heston   

Thursday, May 3rd is the 61st Annual Day of Prayer. For information on prayer gatherings in your State, please click HERE!    

In the greater Nashville area, this is what is happening on May 3rd - we encourage all people of faith to check out the Video Link sponsored by Operation Andrew. See a list of Prayer Events - including YMCA hosted breakfasts, lunches or dinners preceding prayer.  President issued a Proclamation for National Prayer Day

Please continue to pray for Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) as her broken ankle heals.  Also, it is not a bit too soon to begin praying for the 2012 election cycle.  There is a huge slate of candidates for the State House and State Senate.  The recent redistricting created open seats and changed most of the remaining districts, so the campaigns promise to be pretty intense and will need many volunteers. Fifteen senators and representatives are not runing for re-election, so just based on that, the 108th TN General Assembly will have a very different face. In addition, we have the nine US Congressional seats, one US Senate seat and, of course, the Presidential election to participate in. Plenty there to pray about.  Let me recommend that you review
Ron's heart surgery was on April 6th -- Good Friday. He was in Cardiac Intensive Care until the following Monday evening when he was transferred to the Cardiac Step Down Unit. Then the bumpy post-op period began.  After a number of fairly intense days with high stress levels, Ron was finally able to be moved to Stallworth Rehab Hospital on April 18th for therapy and healing. 
Today, May 1st, he finally gets to come home.  He still has a way to go to completely regain his strength, stamina and endurance, but he has improved greatly as the wonderful people there have work with him. He will go to outpatient physical therapy two days a week (thankfully much nearer home than Vanderbilt).

One of the biggest challenges I think we will face is the diet situation.  He already had to be on a diabetic, low sodium, low potassium diet and now we have to add additional restrictions because of the Coumadin.  Best I can figure out is that he gets low cal water and cardboard!! Well...not quiet that bad....but almost....seriously. We are very  grateful for the prayers, support and encouragement that we have received and do covet your continued prayers as we complete this long journey.

The 107th Tennessee General Assembly has concluded its work.  Officially the State Senate adjourned Sine Die at 7:11 pm, May 1st on their 81st legislative day; the House followed at 7:16 pm on their 84th legislative Day.

*SB 0326 by *Beavers ( HB 0369 by *Pody)
Health Care - As introduced, enacts the Health Care Compact.
STATUS:  SB326 originally passed the Senate on May 18, 2011,
22-9. HB369 passed the House o May 1, 2012 (scroll down to see that vote) 62-27. Thanks to a number of amendments placed on the House bill, the two versions were different and each body refused to recede from their action so the legislation was sent to a Conference Committee to work out the differences.The Conference Committee Report was rejected by the House 45-26-4.

Health Care Compact Dies as Legislature Adjourns

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A proposal that would allow Tennessee to join an interstate compact challenging the federal health care law has failed in the House.

The chamber voted 45-26 along partisan lines to approve the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Mark Pody of Lebanon. But that was five votes short of the majority needed to pass measures in the 99-member chamber.

The legislation would provide a waiver for each participating state to create its own health care system. Sponsors say the proposal is intended to give Tennesseans more choices concerning health care if the compact were approved by Congress.

The House had earlier approved a change to make Tennessee's participation in the compact optional. That provision was taken out in the Senate.Read more here.

House Democrats Win Amendment Fight on Health Care Compact
House Democrats today succeeded in attaching several amendments to a bill that lays the groundwork for Tennessee taking over federal health care programs, throwing a cloud over whether the proposal can win final approval in a frantic push to adjourn the 107th General Assembly.

The first successful Democrat-sponsored amendment declares that Tennessee will not participate in the Health Care Compact, "if participation includes expanding abortion rights, especially late term abortion."

Republican Rep. Mark Pody of Lebanon tried to table, or kill, that proposal - as he had successfully done with earlier Democrat amendments. But only 35 representatives backed him, so the effort failed. The amendment was then adopted.

From there, Democrat-sponsored amendments were approved to declare veterans health care benefits could not be impacted by the Health Care Compact; that senior citizens and the disabled would be "held harmless" by any compact actions; and that nothing in the compact should be seen as supporting "any United Nations health plans."

And, finally, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner proposed that the line in the bill (SB326) declaring Tennessee "shall" become a member of the Health Care Compact be changed to "may" become a member. That, of course, would appear to negate the entire bill. But that amendment, too, was approved. Read more here.

SB 2580 by *Campfield ( *HB 2725 by *Hurley)
Welfare - As introduced, requires applicants for TANF benefits to undergo a drug test before receiving such benefits; restricts TANF benefits for positive drug test results under certain circumstances
STATUS:  This legislation passed both houses.

Revised Welfare Drug Testing Bill Goes to Governor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The House on Tuesday passed a bill to implement a suspicion-based drug testing program for welfare recipients in Tennessee.

The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Julia Hurley, of Lenoir City, passed on a 73-17 vote. The Senate previously passed its version 24-9, meaning the bill now heads for the governor's consideration.

Rep. Johnnie Turner, of Memphis, was among the Democrats raising concerns about the bill.

"It is degrading, it is demeaning, it is dehumanizing," she said. "It impacts on a group of people who are at their lowest ebb."

The legislation would require new welfare applicants to undergo a special screening process. If suspicion is raised after the screening, the applicant would be drug tested.

The final version retreated from the original proposal that would have required blanket testing to qualify for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program. The state's attorney general opined that that approach would have been unconstitutional. Read more here.

The sponsors of the bill to protect religious freedom college campuses, including Vanderbilt, did an incredible job of presenting and defending this legislation as they were 'grilled' by their colleagues on the respective floors.

Haslam faces veto choices on sex education, Vanderbilt policies

Gov. Bill Haslam is weighing whether to veto a pair of bills passed in the waning days of the legislative session that have pushed social issues to the forefront at the Capitol.

Haslam is facing calls from Democrats to strike down a sex education bill that has drawn national ridicule for its focus on “gateway sexual activity” and legislation meant to pressure Vanderbilt University into dropping an antidiscrimination policy opposed by campus religious groups.

Haslam says he has not yet decided whether to sign the two bills. But he expressed strong reservations about one measure — the Vanderbilt bill — and said the other remains under review.

Haslam has not vetoed a bill since taking office in January 2011, and the move is rare in Tennessee because the legislature can override vetoes with a simple majority. But any veto issued this spring is likely to stick, as legislative leaders expressed a willingness Tuesday to defer to the governor’s judgment.

“I respect the governor on that,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Senate leader. “I hope there won’t be a need for that. I’ll accept it.” Read more here.

If you would like to encourage Governor Haslam to sign either of these bills, you can contact him:
1st Floor, State Capitol.
Nashville, TN 37243
(615) 741-2001

Bill on applying racketeering laws to gang members sent to Gov. Bill Haslam

NASHVILLE — Legislation expanding state racketeering laws to apply to criminal gang activity is on its way to Gov. Bill Haslam for his consideration.

The House today approved the anti-gang measure, sought by Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, on an 86-2 vote. Senators passed the bill Monday on a 33-0 vote.

“This is really some good legislation,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, told House members. “If you got any type of gang activity in your community this is going to give your law enforcement a tool to go after them. It’ll get the worst of the worst off the street.”

The bill expands the state’s current Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to include criminal gangs. It alters the definition of “racketeering activity” to include the commission of or attempt to commit, conspiring to commit, or soliciting, coercing, or intimidating another person to commit a criminal gang offense.

Those convicted would face increased sentences of about three years to nearly 5 1/2 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. Read more here.

Tennessee legislature ends 2012 session; refuses to act on guns-in-parking-lots bills

NASHVILLE -- The Tennessee legislature approved a slate of bills before adjourning its 2012 session Tuesday night, including one requiring new welfare applicants to undergo drug testing if suspicions of drug abuse arise in a new screening process.

Lawmakers also repealed the state's gift tax, which generated about $16 million a year in revenue. Supporters argued that with the earlier-approved phase-out of the state inheritance tax by 2016, the gift tax is no longer needed because it was designed to tax transfers of wealth prior to death to avoid the inheritance tax. The gift-tax repeal is retroactive to Jan. 1.

Lawmakers adjourned without attempts in either the House or Senate to pull to the floors the most controversial bills of the year: measures prohibiting employers and property owners from banning people from bringing guns onto their parking lots and keeping them in their locked vehicles.

It was a rare setback for the National Rifle Association, which pushed its supporters to defy Republican leaders and Gov. Bill Haslam by calling the bills out of committee to the floors for votes. The bills had jumped their committee hurdles but held in the calendar committees. Read more here.

Veteran Tennessee lawmakers bid farewell to colleagues

NASHVILLE -- When Tennessee's 107th General Assembly adjourned for the year Tuesday night, two veteran West Tennessee lawmakers -- House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh of Covington and Sen. Roy Herron of Dresden -- headed out on westbound Interstate 40 for the last time as lawmakers.

Naifeh, 72, a Democrat first elected in 1974 and who served as House speaker longer than anyone in Tennessee history -- 18 years -- gave a brief farewell to his colleagues and received an ovation on both sides of the aisle. He acknowledged the Republicans' rise to power, commended Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and encouraged civility.

"It is time for changes because the elections told us two years ago that they wanted this particular leadership in place. The Republicans have the votes and we're following along best as we can," he said. Read more here.