Legislative Update, April 6, 2013

Legislative Update, April 6, 2013

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).

"If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."                                       Winston Churchill

Please remember Rep. Jimmy Matlock as he is recovering from some broken ribs. Continue the remember Sen. Jim Summerville who was out all week. On the PRAISE side:  On Thursday, Rep. and Mrs. Andy Holt welcomed Martha Ann who weighed 9 lbs and was 21.5 inches long. She
joins her brother and two sisters, but is dealing with a little bilirubin, so pray that will soon be gone.  And...on a personal note...today one year ago, my husband underwent open heart surgery (three-way bypass).  Although he had some initial significant post-surgery problems, thanks to God's healing grace and the prayers of many friends, he has fully recovered.  We have much to Praise the Lord for!!

While we are all disappointed that our Enhanced Fiscal Data Gathering bill saw its end for this session on Tuesday, because it was sent to summer study committee but the bill will be back in 2014. Still, the frustration was present in Mrs. Patray and Mrs. Bregman when I arrived on Wednesday morning. Indeed, it was a rather unexpected turn. But by the time I left Wednesday evening, I had a sense that victory was still to be had in this situation no matter how long the battle may last. It takes very special people like Mrs. Patray and Mrs. Bregman to graciously but stubbornly fight for what is right. Sometimes the outcomes of our efforts at the Capitol are discouraging but 'hope springs eternal'. It has been a busy session and everyone is just a little wrung out. The lengthy Senate  Education Committee afforded an opportunity for the ladies to rest their eyes for just a few minutes.

SB 1158 by *Beavers ( HB 0970 by *Matheny)
General Assembly - As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Balance of Powers Act."

On Tuesday, April 2, 2013, history was made
Legislators and their constituents have long expressed concerns about the interactions and affects of  federal actions on the manner in which our state government operates, or which could have a potential impact on the rights and privileges of the citizens of Tennessee. We have been wrestling for some time with the best way to address this very important issue of providing an established venue to examine these actions.  As amended, SB1158-HB970 seemed provide that venue except that it had a fiscal note that would probably have interfered with its passage.
          Our hero, Rep. Judd Matheny, Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee and sponsor of HB970, came up with a brilliant idea. He and Sen. Mike Bell, Chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee would seek the support from the respective speakers to establish a subcommittee of the Joint Government Operations Committee that would be authorized to review both introduced and enacted federal legislation, rules and regulations and executive orders, then report any relevant findings to the speakers, members of the General Assembly and Congressional delegation. Based on those finding, decisions could be made about what actions might be appropriate moving forward.
        When Rep. Matheny and Sen. Mae Beavers attended the respective committees to present SB1158-HB970, they were able to report that Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker Beth Harwell had agreed to this plan and the subcommittee will be established and both bills were taken off notice. 
         As far as we know, Tennessee is the first state to provide this kind of venue for the review of federal actions.  We can only hope that other states will follow our lead!  You can see Rep. Matheny present by going HERE then clicking on HB970 on the left side of window where bill numbers are listed.
See letter HERE.

SB 1325 by *Ketron ( HB 1326 by *Womick)

NOTE:  SB1325-HB1326 Amended language may be found HERE.
Tennessee legislators have a fiduciary duty to know how public money is being utilized and this bill will assist them in executing that duty.
Tuesday, 2 April 2013
Sometimes it is just difficult to even describe what happens at the Plaza.  The House State Government Committee met at 3:00, but our Enhanced Fiscal Data Gathering Bill was down toward the end of a long calendar. Over two hours later HB1326 was finally heard. Rep. Rick Womick gave a brief introduction then called on nationally recognized refugee expert Don Barnett to give a brief presentation. You really MUST go HERE, then find and click on HB1326 on the left side and watch what unfolded. Holly Johnson, Refugee Coordinator, Tennessee Office of Refugees (which sounds like a department of state government, but it is not; it is a private entity that is a federal government contractor) presented her testimony which, as you will see, contained some very questionable statements, among which was that TN Right to Life opposed our bill.  They did not!!  The debate got intense, which in itself is interesting, in view of the fact that statistical information is all that is being requested.  Also, I want the clarify, for the record, the ONLY motive behind this effort is to identify and document the costs being shifted to the state by this federal contract.  Legislators have a fiduciary responsibility to know how Tennesseans' tax dollars are being spend.  When the dust finally settled, HB1326 was sent to 'summer study'. Rest assured, this is ONLY a bump in the road, it is NOT the end of this effort. We will be well prepared for the 2014 legislative session!!

SB 0279 by *Watson ( HB 0475 by *Carter)
Annexation - As introduced, requires, prior to a municipality annexing within its urban growth boundary, the approval of a majority vote of qualified voters in the territory proposed for annexation.

STATUS: SB279 has been amended (language can be seen HERE) to send this bill to the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to study the issue. The commission is made up of state and local officials and makes recommendations to the legislature on public policy issues. The moratorium would apply to all city-initiated annexations not completed by April 1, 2013. It would remain in effect until June 30, 2015. TACIR must report back with its recommendations by January 2015. Whenever TACIR completes it study, the General Assembly can then take action and hopefully prohibit 'taxation without representation'.  The amended version passed Senate State and Local 9-0, and will move on to the Senate Floor.

STATUS: HB475 is scheduled in House Finance Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tuesday.
ACTION:  This is VERY important - please find the committee members HERE,  and if possible call them asking them to support this bill, but at the very least send an email of support.

TN bill would halt municipal annexation for possible changes in system
Lawmakers want until 2015 to study how cities do it

A state Senate committee Tuesday passed legislation that would stop municipal annexation until 2015, giving time for lawmakers to take a comprehensive look at how cities bring new land into their jurisdiction.
The move comes as a series of bills was introduced this year aimed at changing the 15-year-old process for how cities annex territory and manage their growth, including measures requiring a public vote by those affected by annexation.
Tennessee created urban growth boundaries and the current annexation process in 1998. The growth boundaries contain a city’s border and the surrounding territories where local officials expect growth to take place over the next 20 years  Read more here.

SB 0837 by *Ketron ( HB 0610 by *Lundberg)
Wine & Wineries - As introduced, allows cities and counties to hold a referendum to authorize selling wine at retail food stores; creates permit to sell wine at retail food stores.
STATUS:  The saga of 'wine in grocery stores' continues.  Supporters are certainly dedicated!! On Tuesday SB837 failed on a 5-5 vote in Finance Ways and Means, however, there are plans to bring it back.
ACTION:  FW&M members can be found here.  Please contact them and urge them to oppose this bill.

Wine bill hobbles in Senate
Debate sets framework for next year

Wine-in-grocery stores legislation was given another chance Tuesday after what was thought to be the last vote on the matter for the year.
But prospects for its passage in 2013 remain slim.
Members of the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee will hold one final vote on a measure that would let voters decide through local referendums whether to let their grocery stores sell wine. Senate Bill 837 will be placed at the end of the committee’s last calendar before the committee adjourns for the year.
The House Local Government Committee voted down the measure last month, effectively killing the bill for the year in that chamber. House leaders have resisted pressure to revive the legislation.
But supporters of the bill have been working to keep the measure alive in the state Senate in the hope of setting the table for debate next year. If the bill passes the Senate Finance Committee this year, it could be taken up on the Senate floor next January, putting pressure on the House to act.
Those plans were dealt what at first appeared to be a decisive blow Tuesday, when committee members split 5-5 on the bill, preventing it from advancing. But within hours, state Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, had joined with the five supporters to request a new vote.
Henry had abstained earlier, saying he objected to a provision that would have let liquor stores open on Sundays. Read more here.

AG DAY ON THE HILL APRIL 2 - a good time was had by all:

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey may have a lot of clout around the state Capitol. But by one measure, House Speaker Beth Harwell appears to have greater pull.
For the second consecutive year, the representative from Nashville’s upscale Green Hills neighborhood managed to upset Ramsey, a farm boy from rural Sullivan County, in a milk-off Tuesday between the leaders of the state Senate and House of Representatives.
The event highlighted Agriculture Day, an annual event in which the Department of Agriculture, Tennessee State Fair and other farm-oriented groups set up shop in the corridors of Legislative Plaza.
Harwell went into the contest the underdog, despite having beaten Ramsey in a goat-milking contest a year ago. That event was marred by allegations that Harwell had been helped by a House member who surreptitiously poured a little extra milk in her pail. Smart-phone video confirmed those suspicions. Read more here.

– March 20th, the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association (RLGA) named Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Tennessee) to their executive committee at the association’s annual leadership meeting in Washington, D.C. The RLGA is a national organization devoted to recruiting and electing Republican candidates for office committed to a conservative approach to governance.

“I’m very pleased with the work we have accomplished in my over seven years as lieutenant governor. We have reformed education, increased economic growth and cut taxes,” stated Lt. Governor Ramsey. “I look forward to working with the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association to elect more people to the office of lieutenant governor around the country who share my commitment to less spending, more jobs and smaller government.”  Read more here.


Tennessee tax revenue up 12% in March

Gov. Haslam says TennCare deal with feds not impossible

TN Labor chief Karla Davis, two others step down

Audit Blasts Labor Department Management

Legislators Skeptical of Haslam's 'Health and Wellness Initiative'

Haslam's New Budget Adjustment Adds $45 Million for 'Fast Track' Grants