FINAL: Legislative Update, April 19, 2014

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).


Blessed Lord Jesus, No human mind could conceive or invent the gospel.  Acting in eternal grace Thou art both its messenger and its message, lived out on earth through infinite compassion, applying Thy life to insult, injury, death that I that I might be redeemed, ransomed, FREED.  Blesses be Thou, O Father, for contriving this way, Eternal thanks to Thee, O Lamb of God, for opening this way.  Praise everlasting to Thee, O Holy Spirit, for applying this way to my heart.  Glorious Trinity, impress the gospel on my soul, until its virtue diffuses every faculty; let it be heard, acknowledged, professed, felt. 
Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers&Devotions

"Free at last, Free at last...."  On Thursday, at about 2:00pm, 108th TN General Assembly adjourned sine die!!  Now the campaign season begins in earnest!!  [For trivia buffs, the State Constitution allows each body to use "90 Legislative Days" (a day on which they have a floor session) over the two-year session. In the 108th General Assembly, the Senate used up 69 days and the House used ip 67 days!] After a stressful, contentious session, these men and women will be getting back to their  'regular' life, jobs, families and campaigns.  Please pray for a good transition and it is not a bit too soon to pray for the coming election.  We NEED Godly, conservative men and women serving the state!  Please remember Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) who lost his mother this week.

As the House did not adjourn last week, as was expected, Tuesday was my final day at the Capitol, which means that this will be my final article for the update. Before I continue further, I would like to thank all those who read the update and those who have given me so many compliments on my weekly article. We spent Tuesday sitting in committees in anticipation of a House floor session (which was delayed several times due to committees). It was a rather slow day and it was rather unusual to see Mrs. Patray sitting all day rather than dashing around to speak with legislators. (I believe she may have missed the thrill of chasing down legislators in the halls.) As a whole it was a very enjoyable day in which I learned a great deal about the philosophy of hurrying up to wait.  

SB 2559 by *Bowling, Hensley, Bell, Tate, Green, Dickerson, Burks, Crowe, Gardenhire,
( HB 2453 by *Matheny),Holt, Dunn, Hill M, Moody, Butt, Womick, Casada, Faison, Carr J, Matlock, Shipley, White D, Carter, Doss, Pody, Weaver, Kane, Williams R, DeBerry J, Alexander, Spivey

Requires local boards of education to make policies that will authorize parents or guardians to review all teaching materials, instructional materials, and other teaching aids, as well as all tests developed and graded by the teacher of their student.
 Such teaching materials shall be made readily available upon request. Local education agencies (LEAs) shall make policies that authorize parents or guardians access to review all surveys, analyses, or evaluations, prior to these instruments being administered to their student. Such policies shall authorize parents or guardians to opt their student out of participation in such instruments.
Requires LEAs to disclose the purpose of any surveys, analyses, or evaluation materials and the persons that will access the results.

STATUS: Thrilled to report that, as amended, on April 10, SB2559 passed the Senate floor 27-0; on April 15, HB2453 passed the floor 95-0.  Thank you Sen. Bowling and Rep. Matheny!!

SB 1602 by *Bell , Gresham, Stevens, Yager, Johnson, Tracy, Hensley, Crowe, Tate, Ketron, Campfield, Haile
HB 2249 by *Casada , Womick, Butt, Dunn, Sargent, White D, Matheny, Evans, Brooks K, Weaver, Rogers, Sparks, Goins, Coley, Ragan, Moody, Holt, Bailey, Hall, Eldridge, Faison

As introduced, restructures the textbook commission and the textbook selection process
As amended, SB1602, passed the Senate on March 17, 27-3; HB2249 passed the House on April 16, 73-15. The problem was that the two versions were different -- the main sticking point being who appoints the members of the Commission.  The Senate bill required 3-3-3 (the Governor appointing three, each speaker appointing three); the House bill required 5-2-2 (the Governor appointing five, each speaker appointing two).  The bill was sent to a Conference Committee to come to agreement, which, thankfully, was the 3-3-3 provision. You can read the Conference Committee Report HERE.  The Report was adopted in the Senate 29-3-1; in the House 75-20. Folks, please understand, this is HISTORY Making legislation and a HUGE 'thank you' goes out to all those to read the textbooks, testified in the various committees, and who contacted their lawmakers urging them to make these much needed changes!!! Deep appreciation also to Sen. Bell and  Rep. Casada for their sponsorship of this legislation and to Sen. Gresham, for holding the hearings in the fall about the entire Textbook Commission debacle and review process.

SB 1835 by *Gresham , Tracy, Haile, Johnson, Bowling, Campfield, Norris
HB 1549 by *Dunn
, Rogers, Weaver, White D, Casada, Matheny, Matlock, Spivey, Moody, Butt, McManus, Brooks H, White M, Forgety, Holt, VanHuss, Hill M, Faison, Rich, Haynes, Lamberth, Eldridge, Keisling, Bailey, McCormick, Brooks K, Dennis, Evans, Sparks, Durham, Dean, Swann, Wirgau, Ragan, Johnson C, Halford, Todd, Williams R, Lundberg, Coley, Lynn, Sexton, Marsh, Carter, Sargent, Lollar, Travis, Goins, Littleton

Let me start with an old  (and very true) saying: "There are two things you shouldn't watch being made:  One is sausage and the other is Law!!" In addition, I would add:  "Politics is the art of the POSSIBLE!"

This Conference Committee Report is NOT ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but it is what was POSSIBLE in the present political climate.  It can be ranted and railed against, or we can take the 'good' out of it, use it and be ready to pursue additional changes next January when the 109th General Assembly convenes.
As introduced and amended, this legislation dealt with requirements for the process of the adoption of any future standards by the State Board of Education and with student data collection. Because of the continued outcry from voters across the state and the actions on the House on March 13th, leaders understood the necessity of addressing Common Core and PARCC and chose this legislation as the vehicle to do so.  Each body refused to concur with the amendments the other body put on the original bill so it would go to a Conference Committee.

The Conference Committee was made up of Senators Gresham, Kelsey and Niceley, Representatives Dunn, DeBerry and Spivey. Then came the 'good' news and the 'not so good' news. 

At my insistence in the original bill as well as the subsequent versions, the non-common core standards that we already know about are named specifically.  The process of how ANY proposed future standards will be handled including, but not limited to, the named standards, is clearly laid out.

The process means that WE HAVE TO BE VIGILANT!
Proposed standards will be submitted to both the Senate and House Education Committees and will be posted on the State Board's web site at least sixty (60) day prior to a State Board vote.  That means that interested parties can contact members of the respective committees (if the legislature is in session, they could testify before the committee on the standards).  They would also have opportunity to appear and testify before the State Board of Education.  

Also included are limitations on joining any type of testing consortium without a 60 day notice being provided to the respective education committees and posting on the website. Again, watchful activists can make their voices heard.

Much of the report deals with limitations on data collection, most of which is pretty good, however, the weaknesses are the three references to FERPA.  As you may know the Obama administration has redefined the way data can be distributed under FERPA.  I believe we can come back next year to tighten that up.

The report prohibits PARCC from being implemented for the 2014-15 school year!! Yay!  TCAP will continue to be used for the coming school year.  During this time a request for proposal will be issued by the Department of Education in consultation with the Comptroller and in compliance with state procurement requirements. The report does require that the tests have been field tested, but the contract must come back to the Fiscal Review Committee which will give legislators and citizens access to it and opportunity to speak to it.  It was stated on the floor that they already knew of entities that would meet this criteria that were not PARCC or Smarter Balance.

Lastly, the report prohibits the adoption of any possible future 'common core state standards in any subject matter beyond math and English language arts'. Whether this provision is useful or not may be debated, but legislators wanted to include the language to make it very clear that no other standards that might be labeled 'common core' will be be adopted.

In my opinion, there were no 'bad' votes on this legislation.  I truly appreciate those, who, on principle, voted against the report and I GREATLY appreciate the consistent and persistent leadership of Rep. Rick Womick (R-Rockvale) on this very important issue.  But I also understand the overwhelming support the report received in both the House and the Senate.  This was one of those votes that was a true dilemma:  Take what we can get today, knowing that we can come back in 2015 with additional legislation or defeat this report and lose everything and watch PARCC be implemented this fall putting us in a far worse position.

The Conference Committee Report (found HERE) was adopted in the House 85-8 and in the Senate 27-0.

SB 1751 by *Norris ( HB 1574 by *Hawk)
Controlled Substances - As introduced, lowers the maximum amount of products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine that may be purchased in a 30 day period; alters the requirements for a stop-sale override when completion of a sale would violate the maximum limits
STATUS:  This legislation was one of the hottest debates of this session.  The Senate wanted much smaller amounts legalized than the House was willing to accept.  In the end, the bill went to a Conference Committee and the House seems to have won the day. The Report can be found HERE and was adopted by the House and the Senate.

SB 2471 by *Norris ( HB 2491 by *McCormick)
Education, Higher - As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act of 2014"; revises certain provisions of the Tennessee HOPE scholarship program.
  After lots of debate and attention, this legislation, as amended, finally passed the Senate 30-1 and the House 87-8. Lawmakers pass Haslam free tuition plan

SB 1427 by *Green ( HB 1367 by *Sargent)
Taxes, Income - As introduced, beginning January 1, 2015, annually reduces the rate of the Hall Income Tax and increases the portion of taxes distributed to cities and counties in which the taxpayers are located; beginning January 1, 2018, requires 100 percent of the tax revenue collected by the state be distributed to the cities and counties.
Hall income tax repeal bills dies in Senate Finance Committee
The legislative push to abolish Tennessee's Hall income tax on some investment earnings has ended in failure for this year.
The bill (SB1427) was amended in Senate Finance Committee, where it has been debated for days and revised twice, to abolish the tax's revenue stream to cities and counties as well as the state over a period of years. But that move prompted Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, the bill's sponsor, to declare he wouldn't proceed with the bill because he said it would break promises he made to local officials in his district that the state would keep paying local governments even if the tax was abolished.
"As amended I can't push the bill forward. This kills the bill," Green said. As a result, the committee sent it to its subcommittee where it will die with the end of the legislative session, probably today.

SB 0196 by *Norris ( HB 0190 by *Dunn)
School Vouchers - As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act".
STATUS: This was another issue that was fairly high profile and while it, as amended, passed the Senate 21-10, in House Finance Committee Rep. Dunn knew that he did not have the votes, so he took it off notice.
In Tenn., school voucher bill fails for session

SB 2243 by *Tracy ( HB 2156 by *Durham)
Highways, Roads and Bridges - As introduced, directs the department of transportation to study the feasibility and cost of making crosswalks, as well as public transportation, more accessible for the sight-impaired.
STATUS:  This was yet another bill that falls under the 'art of the possible" and the two versions were sent to a Conference Committee for resolution. The Report, found HERE, was adopted by the Senate and House.

New Amp deal would give state veto power on BRT projects

HJR 0930 by *Akbari , Fitzhugh, Armstrong, Cooper, Shaw, Odom, Parkinson, Turner J, Camper, Pitts, Miller, Jones, Mitchell, Stewart, Windle, Tidwell, Johnson G, Turner M, Favors, Shepard
Urges the department of labor to increase enforcement of T.C.A. 50-2-202 which governs gender pay equity in the state of Tennessee.
STATUS:  HJR930 was in the Delayed Committee and was unanimously defeated.  Not to be deterred, Rep. Akbari tried to suspend the rules and pull it straight to the House Floor. Thankfully, I don't when I have see so many RED lights on the board as the motion was soundly defeated!!  It was gratifying to know that so many lawmakers understand what a fraud this 'issue' is!

Nashville Teen Eagles shine at local pro-life oratory contest!
Teen Eagles took 2nd, 3rd and 4th place. Such strong speeches by all contestants. Congratulations to all! James Hoover 1st place, Lauren Curtsinger 2nd place, Teresa Smith 3rd place, Vincent Smith 4th. Mary Turnage participated with a strong speech as well.


Legislature adjourns with no override session and contentment with governor-supermajority compromises

AP's winners and losers list for 2014 session of the TN General Assembly

Net state revenue below estimates again in March

Sen. Henry's service has made Tennessee a better place