Legislative Update, March 9, 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).

On some positions, cowardice asks the question, it is EXPEDIENT?  And then expedience comes along and asks the question—is it POLITIC?  Vanity asks the question—it is POPULAR?  Conscience asks the question is it RIGHT? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular—but must take it because it is RIGHT.”   
           Last Sunday sermon given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


A number of legislators are fighting colds, etc.  That enclosed environment at the Plaza and all the people in close quarters are a perfect incubator for germs!!   On the PRAISE THE LORD side -- Rep. Billy Spivey's mother underwent successful surgery for colon cancer. She is recovering well and will possibly have chemo as a followup.  Rep. Andy Farmer's wife safely delivered their baby last week, 5lbs; 18 inches long.

I could not agree more: Daylight Saving Time Should Be Abolished, and I really hate it. Why in the world can't we just move the 'official' time 30 minutes and leave it there?? Why do we have to SPRING FORWARD this weekend?  Grrrr....!!! Anyway, don't forget to move your clocks forward one hour Saturday night.

One interesting aspect of the State Capitol is the almost constant presence of special interest groups. I was reminded of this again on Wednesday as we walked through the corridors of the building. It seems as if every type of organization under the sun has their day on the hill to raise awareness for their cause, as well as endorse legislation that would aid them in more ways than one. A plethora of healthcare organizations,educational advocacy groups, and environmental activists descend upon the Capitol, each voicing their needs and wants. Needless to say, the halls of the Capitol are always abuzz with activity. Although at times some of the activities by these groups may be a little peculiar, in my opinion, organizations like the Eagle Forum stand out by playing a key role in policy research as well as crafting bills that work for the preservation of the original intent of our Framers. On a selfish side note, I'd like to thank Lincoln County for supplying a delicious hamburger on Wednesday, which was their day on the hill. In my book they are always welcome! As the old saying goes, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

A COUPLE OF NOTES: Emphasis on speed -- I am all for efficiency in government, but the tension at the Plaza is palpable.  The legislators feel it and the staff feels it.  That can set the stage for hurried decisions, not necessarily wise decisions.  It also creates a situation where bills that really need to be thoroughly discussed and deliberated over will not even get before the committees prior to the time they shut down. (Some subcommittees have already announced shut down dates.)  On the lighter side, a number of freshman House members had their first bills on the House Floor this week, where they received the traditional 'Freshman hazing' followed by applause all around.

One of our Heroes, Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) received an honor last week, the Harold Love, Jr., Advocate Award for his work with and support of H.U.G.G.S. H.U.G.G.S. Provides help for men and women who have been incarcerated establish healthy, useful and joyful lives in society, and to prevent recidivism. We do this through counseling training, information and financial assistance.

Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) [left] and Rep. Rick Womick (R-Murfreesboro) [right] made a very important decision this will about one of their bills and we are VERY GRATEFUL:
        NASHVILLE, Tenn. - State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Representative Rick Womick (R-Rockvale) announced today they will not seek passage of a bill this year to require abortion providers show or describe an ultrasound image to a woman before the procedure can be performed. The lawmakers said they will focus on passage of Senator Joint Resolution (SJR) 127, a pivotal constitutional amendment initiative which will come before voters in 2014 that would allow the legislature to put abortion laws into place within the bounds of "Roe v. Wade."
        "This constitutional resolution is the cornerstone of future legislation to protect life in Tennessee," said Senator Tracy. "We will be focusing all of our efforts on promoting its passage on the 2014 ballot."
        Tracy was a co-prime sponsor of SJR 127, which was passed by the General Assembly in the 106th and 107th General Assemblies. It addresses a State Supreme Court decision in 2000 that struck down provisions in Tennessee law allowing women to receive "informed consent" information about the surgery and to wait 48 hours before they receive an abortion. The state's high court also ruled against a state requirement that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital. That ruling made Tennessee more liberal than the U.S. Supreme Court required in "Roe v. Wade" and made the right to an abortion a "fundamental right" in Tennessee. SJR 127, if adopted, provides that the right to an abortion is only protected under the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. .......
        "We are very blessed in Tennessee to have legislators who are firmly and unequivocally committed to life," said Bobbie Patray, President of Tennessee's chapter of Eagle Forum. "Tennessee Eagle Forum commends Senator Jim Tracy and Rep. Rick Womick for recognizing the foundational impact of SJR 127. They clearly understand the educational challenge before us, and we are grateful that they will be focusing their time and energy on the passage of this proposed amendment the State Constitution. Tennessee is an overwhelmingly pro-life state, and they are setting an example that we hope the voters will follow as we approach the vote in November of 2014!"  
Read entire news release HERE.

SB 0283 by *Ketron ( HB 0373 by *Womick)
Public Utilities - As introduced, establishes standards for electric and natural gas utilities for smart meter gateway devices.
STATUS: This very important bill (HB373) will be in the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee on Tuesday. 
ACTION: There is a LOT of opposition to this legislation, so the committee members MUST HEAR from you.  Members can be found HERE. Please contact them and urge the to support this protective legislation.  More information can be found at this link:

SB 0108 by *Haile ( HB 0009 by *Lamberth)
Public Records - As introduced, makes confidential and not open for public inspection all information contained in and pertaining to a handgun carry permit application or renewal application and the status of a handgun carry permit.
STATUS:  Pleased to report that HB9 was voted out of the House State Government Committee and will be on the House Floor on Monday evening. 
ACTION:  Please find your House member HERE and urge passage of this privacy-protecting legislation.

SB 0804 by *Kelsey ( HB 0937 by *Durham)
TennCare - As introduced, prohibits Tennessee from participating in any Medicaid expansion authorized under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Twelve Reasons to Say No to Medicaid expansion
STATUS:  SB804 is in Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday. Members can be found HERE.
ACTION:  Please, please contact the committee members and urge each to SUPPORT this important bill.

Don't forget the Rally at Legislative Plaza, Sunday at 1:00 opposing the expansion of Medicaid

In 1998, a group of us worked very hard to 'Sunset' (put it out of business) the State Racing Commission.  At that time, the horse racing industry was in decline and it has not really improved since then.  From what I understand young people aren't particularly interesting in it (it is not glitzy or fast enough for their tastes). Many of the tracks, unless it is the older, well established ones, are only successful because they have been turned into what amounts to mini-casinos by installing all sorts of gambling machines.It seem to me that the Constitutional language (see below) would also prohibit these 'games' at a track.
Regarding the Casino Study Committee -- when Tennessee amended the State Constitution to permit a state-run lottery, that amendment contains this language:
"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."
That being said, should  time be devoted to 'studying' casino gambling in Shelby County when those 'games of chance' are prohibited by the State Constitution?

SB 0895 by *Niceley ( HB 1180 by *Towns)
Racing and Motor Sports - As introduced, re-establishes the Tennessee state racing commission to implement and administer the provisions of the Racing Control Act of 1987.
Horse racing: An industry in crisis
Ontario horse racing: Premier Kathleen Wynne announces deal to rescue 4 racetracks
"No longer will the tracks get a share of the slot machines but rather the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission will pay rent for housing the machines, in addition to an unspecified top up from the province for purses."
Horse tracks, casinos both giving big in Illinois gambling expansion battle
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. • Illinois horse racing interests want slot machines at the tracks to fatten their purses. The state's existing casinos are trying to stop it because they don't want the competition.
How slot machines have saved racetracks
STATUS:  HB1180 is scheduled in the House State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday.

SB 0691 by *Tate ( HB 0603 by *Miller)
Shelby County - As introduced, creates special joint committee to study casino gambling in Shelby County. .
STATUS:  HB603 is scheduled in the House State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday.

ACTION FOR BOTH BILLS:  Committee members can be found HERE.  Please contact each member and urge them to OPPOSE both bills.

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:  SB837 is scheduled in Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. Committee members can be found HERE.
HB610 was in the Local Government Subcommittee where it moved forward on a 5-4 vote. Speaker Harwell Lifts Spirits of Wine-in-Supermarkets Backers.  The House bill will be in the Local Government Committee on Tuesday.  Committee members can be found HERE.
ACTION:  Please contact the respective committee members and urge them to resist this expansion of the availability of alcohol.