Legislative Update, February 18, 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).

"As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And, it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."   Justice William O. Douglas, U.S. Supreme Court (1939-75)

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean's 2-year-old niece was killed Thursday evening when officers say the toddler was accidentally ran over by her father, who was backing out of the family's Belle Meade driveway.  I cannot imagine a more devastating experience.  Please remember the entire family.  There are some unspoken prayer requests that I hope you will remember too. 

*SB 3178 by *Bell ( HB 3539 by *Matheny)
Schools, Charter - As introduced, makes charter schools subject to open meetings law; requires charter schools to maintain a web site and post certain notices and information on the web site; makes charter school records open records to the same extent as records of public schools operated by LEAs.  This important  bill will provide for families interesting in a Charter School the same information available on the Public School in that LEA.  Information IS power and that information should be made as accessible as possible.
STATUS:  I am very pleased to report that Senate Education passed our bill 7-2 and will soon be on the Senate floor:
Senators voting aye were: Berke, Burks, Crowe, Gresham, Summerville, Tate, Tracy -- 7.
Senators voting no were: Campfield, Kelsey

NOTE:  For those new to the sometimes frustrating process, bills don't always move smoothly through the legislative process. Our Empowering Parents bill was postponed until next Wednesday in order for the committee to receive and review an amendment.
STATUS:  HB3539 will once again be in the House Education Subcommittee.  Please contact rep.john.deberry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.lois.deberry@capitol.tn.gov , rep.craig.fitzhugh@capitol.tn.gov, and rep.joe.pitts@capitol.tn.gov. asking them to support this legislation.

SB 2613 by *Tracy ( *HB 2547 by *Hill)
Driver Licenses - As introduced, requires visible full face color photograph of a licensee.
This TN Eagle Forum proposal is a simple bill that, as a safety measure, puts into state law the same photo requirements used for passports.
:  So pleased to report that HB2547 sailed out of House Transportation on Tuesday and will soon be on the House Floor.
STATUS:  SB2316 will be in Senate Transportation on February 29th.

SB 2508 by *Gresham ( *HB 2638 by *Watson) Criminal Offenses - As introduced, prevents people from living on publicly-owned property not designated for residential use and prohibits people using publicly-owned property from posing a health hazard or threat to the safety and welfare of others.

STATUS: HB2638 was on the House Floor on Thursday.  After a mind-numbing hour and 36 minute debate, it passed 70-26-1. Much of the debate centered on issues having NOTHING to do with the actual provisions of the proposed legislation.
Evidently some folks were trying to opt their counties out of the this legislation, whereupon, the clever Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) rose to present an interesting option.  He suggested that the lawmakers could opt their offices out of the provisions of this bill, thereby, giving the 'occupiers' the opportunity to camp out in the legislative offices. He graciously even offered to talk long enough for them to get amendments written and introduced.  Alas, none of the legislators rushed to take him up on his offer and the debate continued.
Occupy Nashville gains time to regroup

STATUS: Because the debate in the House was so extended, the Senate postponed their action on SB2508 until Thursday, February 23. (They normally have floor sessions on Monday evening, but because Monday is a holiday, they will only have one floor session this week.)

SB 2770 by *Burks ( *HB 2703 by *Turner M)
Lottery, Corporation - As introduced, allows Tennessee lottery tickets to be purchased with debit cards in addition to cash
            For those who were not involved when the lottery enabling legislation was passed, there was an intense debate about how the tickets would be purchased.  In the end, those of us who fought hard for CASH ONLY, won and so it has been since then.  Now there is an effort to permit gamblers to use debit cards. On the practical side, this would cost the merchants a 'transaction fee' and for the buyer make it a little less 'real' than having to put the cold hard cash on the counter.
: HB2703 was postponed until February 29th.  Please contact rep.larry.miller@capitol.tn.gov, and rep.tommie.brown@capitol.tn.gov, asking them to keep lottery purchases by cas only.
STATUS: SB2770 has not yet been scheduled, but you can contact the sponsor, sen.charlotte.burks@capitol.tn.gov and politely ask her to keep lottery ticket purchases by cash only.

There is a resolution and a bill that are very troubling.  The resolution is to amend the State Constitution to permit casino gambling and the bill is to institute a study of how to go about putting it into place. As background you can review state statute 39-17-501 and the language in the lottery amendment.  Both CLEARLY prohibit casinos. With the present make up of the State Legislature, I cannot imagine either passing, but learned many years ago to NEVER take anything for granted.

39-17-501. Part definitions.
As used in this part, unless the context otherwise requires:
"(1) Gambling is contrary to the public policy of this state and means risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, or any games of chance associated with casinos, including, but not limited to, slot machines, roulette wheels and the like. For the purposes of this chapter gambling does not include....." 

Amendment 1 appended Article XI, Section 5 of the Tennessee Constitution:
"....A state lottery means a lottery of the type such as in operation in Georgia, Kentucky and Virginia in 2000, and the amendment to Article XI, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee provided for herein does not authorize games of chance associated with casinos, including, but not limited to, slot machines, roulette wheels, and the like."
*HJR 0606 by *Miller L
Constitutional Amendments - Authorizes casino gambling to operate in Shelby County and certain municipalities within Shelby County in certain circumstances.
SB 3521 by
( *HB 3353 by *Miller L)
As introduced, creates special joint committee to study casino gambling in Shelby County

STATUS: Both of these proposals are in House State and Local Subcommittee on Wednesday.  PLEASE contact these members and urge them to oppose both proposals: rep.ryan.haynes@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jim.cobb@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gerald.mccormick@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.curry.todd@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.turner@capitol.tn.gov, and rep.kent.williams@capitol.tn.gov.  

*SB 0049 by *Campfield ( HB 0229 by *Hensley)
Education, Curriculum - As introduced, prohibits the teaching of or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8.
COMMENT:  Where to start -- there has been so much misinformation circulated
about this bill (of course instigated by both the press and the opponents) that it isn't funny.  The committee room was over flowing with opponents adorned in all their purple. Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) offered:  “What this amendment does is keep us in line with current curriculum,” he said. “This bill, if amended, does not prohibit the use of the word ‘gay,’ it does not change the anti-bullying statute, and it does not prohibit a school guidance counselor from discussing the issues of sexuality with a student.”  Rev. Thomas Kleinert, pastor of Vine Street Christian Church in Nashville testified against the proposal obviously having never read the bill as amended. Other testimony was taken, again, not focused on the present language.  'Don't Say Gay' Bill advances
  As amended, SB49 passed the State Senate in May 2011, 19-10.
STATUS:  On Wednesday, HB229 passed the House Education Subcommittee by Voice Vote - Ayes Prevail Rep.(s) DeBerry L, Naifeh, Pitts requested to be recorded as voting No.  It will be in House Education on Tuesday. You can contact rep.craig.fitzhugh@capitol.tn.gov and rep.john.windle@capitol.tn.gov asking for their support.

Janis Sontany to leave TN legislature [BTW Sontany is my State Representative]
Janis Sontany, a five-term state representative from Nashville and a former member of the Metro Council, said Wednesday that she is leaving the state legislature after this year.  Read more here.

State Rep. Bill Harmon won't seek new term in Tennessee House
NASHVILLE — State Rep. Bill Harmon, of Dunlap, said Wednesday he will not seek re-election to the House but is considering possible races for the state Senate or Sequatchie County mayor.  Read more here.

Tennessee Senators join as amicus parties in challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in White House Health Care Plan

In other action, 77 Tennessee lawmakers announced this week that they are joining the State of Florida, 25 other states, and the National Federation of Independent Business in filing as amicus parties (friends of the court) challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  The individual mandate, which is the centerpiece of the new law, is the requirement that almost all people in the United States buy health insurance or pay a penalty to the IRS for failing to do so. 

The brief was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in preparation for the oral arguments scheduled to begin on March 27. Governor Haslam also announced his support of a separate brief filed by the Republican Governor Public Policy Committee (RGPPC) arguing against the constitutionality of the White House health care plan.

“The White House plan will stifle innovation and actually increase the cost of insurance,” said Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville).  “It is time that states push back to let Washington know that we are not going to stand by idly when this healthcare law so blatantly infringes on the constitutional rights of the states and the personal freedoms of our citizens.”

“This is one of the most important issues to be considered by the Court in our lifetime,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville).  “States’ rights, individual liberties and our ability to keep the federal government from infringing those rights are at stake.” 

The case is especially important to Tennessee and several other states because these states have enacted Health Care Freedom Acts.  The Tennessee Health Freedom Act, passed in 2011, provides that every person in the state is free to choose, or not choose, any mode of securing healthcare services and to purchase, or not purchase, health insurance, without penalty or threat of penalty.  Tennessee

asserts this right to protect the freedom of its citizens under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, a principle that was emphasized in the amicus curiae brief filed with the Court.