Legislative Update, April 18, 2015

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).


"Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right." Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis) was back at the Plaza this week.  Just in general, I know that one legislator is having serious back pain, another is dealing with a potential cancer diagnosis, another lives every day with severe back/nerve pain. They need your prayers. My former son-in-law's funeral was yesterday.  Please continue to remember our family. As the session days continue to wind down, please pray for wisdom, understanding, insight and discernment as very important bills are debated.

We started off this Tuesday on a high note.  It was great to see the fruits of our labor as the baby spots bill passed the Senate floor 32-0. We had spent a lot of time on this bill informing and educating legislators and we were glad to see it clear the Senate!  Immediately following that vote we rushed to the House chambers to watch debate on the Bible bill.  That debate was very intriguing and included great speeches from Rep. Matthew Hill,  Rep. Courtney Rogers and Rep. Tillman Goins.  Rep. John Deberry roused the House to its feet after his inspiring speech supporting the bill.  Three calls for the question (ending debate and voting) failed and the vote was moved to Wednesday.  We then visited offices informing legislators about a bill of importance to the Tennessee Eagle Forum.  The House Finance, Ways and Means Committee had two bills that we were watching in the afternoon but both of those were rolled to next week.  I certainly will remember the way the chambers do business on the floor!

Jumping right into the action, Mrs. Bobbie and I spent the better half of our morning watching first the Senate floor and then the House. The fast paced, never slowing process kept the bills rolling. When the long anticipated Bible Bill came up for vote in the House a hush fell over the room as all the representatives took the opportunity to speak their mind on the matter. Everyone having more than a valid argument, the votes were taken and it passed with a close majority. An expected win for the Bill and its sponsors, but the way in which republicans and democrats alike placed their vote was nearly impossible to predict.  Representative Kumar gave a truly show stopping testimony expressing his childhood growing up in a very non-Christian country and how his faith has been affected by that and how his vote for the bill was important to him. As their views were voiced, it really emphasized the many backgrounds that our legislators come from. Doctors, teachers, businessman, and farmers are just a few of the occupations that come together and really represent Tennessee as a whole. With the clock winding down on this year's session, hard decisions are being made and our legislators are making those decisions not only as a Representative or Senator but as citizens of the state who each bring a unique perspective to the arguments.

SB 1222 by *Beavers (HB 0977) by *Hill M
Abortion - As introduced, revises provisions governing reports a physician who performs an abortion is required to keep to specify that such records must be maintained for five years; clarifies that the requirement applies to any abortion procedure instead of just "operations."
NOTE:  As amendmened, this bill requires informed consent and a 48-hour waiting period.
STATUS:  So pleased to report that on Wednesday, after an extended, intense debate, SB1222 passed 27-5.

Senators voting aye were: Bailey, Beavers, Bell, Bowling, Crowe, Dickerson, Gardenhire, Green, Gresham, Haile, Hensley, Jackson, Johnson, Kelsey, Ketron, Massey, McNally, Mr. Speaker Ramsey, Niceley, Norris, Overbey, Roberts, Southerland, Stevens, Tracy, Watson, Yager -- 27.
Senators voting no were: Harper, Harris, Kyle, Tate, Yarbro -- 5.

You can see the debate HERE; look on left side and click on SB1222.
HB977 is scheduled on Monday on the House floor.  It if happens on the floor like it did in the House committee, the debate will be intense but the bill will pass.
If you can, you might want to tune in to watch. You can go HERE, and click on House Floor.

SB 1280 by *Hensley,(HB 1368) by *Lynn
Abortion - As introduced, requires facilities or physician offices where more than 50 abortions are performed in a calendar year to be licensed as ambulatory surgical treatment centers.
As amended, this bill requires that abortion clinics be licensed and inspected.
STATUS:  Again, so pleased to report that, on Wednesday, with NO debate, SB1280 passed the Senate floor 28-4.
Senators voting aye were: Bailey, Beavers, Bell, Bowling, Briggs, Crowe, Dickerson, Gardenhire, Green, Gresham, Haile, Hensley, Jackson, Johnson, Kelsey, Ketron, Massey, McNally, Mr. Speaker Ramsey, Niceley, Norris, Overbey, Roberts, Southerland, Stevens, Tracy, Watson, Yager -- 28.
 Senators voting no were: Harper, Harris, Kyle, Yarbro -- 4.

HB1368 is scheduled on the House floor on Monday where it is expected to pass.

SB 0612 by *Gardenhire,(HB 0675) by *White M
Students - As introduced, exempts certain students from payment of out-of-state tuition at state institutions of higher education

STATUS: I am sorry to report that we lost the battle in the Senate.  SB612 passed 21-12
Senators voting aye were: Bowling, Briggs, Crowe, Dickerson, Gardenhire, Green, Gresham, Haile, Harper, Harris, Jackson, Kelsey, Kyle, Massey, McNally, Mr. Speaker Ramsey, Niceley, Overbey, Southerland, Tate, Yarbro -- 21.
Senators voting no were: Bailey, Beavers, Bell, Hensley, Johnson, Ketron, Norris, Roberts, Stevens, Tracy, Watson, Yager -- 12.
   HB675 is assigned to the Budget Sub Committee
ACTION:  Please contact the members of this committee and urge them to vote NO on this legislation.

SB 0615
by *Hensley, (HB 0674) by *Rogers
Children - As introduced, requires revisions to information provided in a pamphlet associated with newborn testing and establishes requirements for the destruction of certain specimens and identifying informant
STATUS: As you may  remember, HB674 had already passed the House floor.  I am so pleased to report that SB615 passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday and will be on the way to the Governor for his signature.

SB 1163 by *Bell, (HB 1035) by *Spivey
These three amendments now make up the body of SB1163-HB1035:

Amendment 1Amendment 2Amendment 3
NOTE:  A lot of hard work has been invested in this effort and a lot of diligent folks have worked behind the scenes to get us to the point where we find ourselves now. Adding the confirmation process will keep this issue before the legislators and the people. I believe that this legislation will start the process that will give Tennesseans the opportunity to write Tennessee standards.
STATUS: SB1163 is scheduled on the Senate floor on Tuesday; HB1035 is scheduled on the House floor on Monday where are both expected to pass.

SB 1108 by *Southerland, Bailey, Beavers, Bell, Bowling, Briggs, Crowe, Gresham, Harris, Jackson, Johnson, Ketron, Kyle, Massey, McNally, Niceley, Roberts, Tate, Tracy
(HB 0615) by *Sexton J, Weaver, Goins, VanHuss, Hill T, Holt, Lollar, Matlock, Matheny, Spivey, Holsclaw, Hill M, Lamberth, Womick, Rogers, Sparks, Brooks K, Dunn, Shepard, Butt, Reedy, Powers, Calfee, Doss, Shaw, Ragan, Eldridge, Keisling, Hawk, Windle, Wirgau, Halford, Moody, Kane, White M, White D, Wilburn, DeBerry, Faison, Casada, Carr , Johnson, Littleton, Marsh, Haynes, Williams, Sargent, Harrison, McDaniel, Forgety, Howell, Brooks H, Kumar, Swann, Pody, Lynn, Coley, Lundberg, Terry, Carter, Towns, Parkinson

The discussion on the bill in both houses has been interesting and instructive. During the respective debates one could both hear and feel the genuine angst among some of the committee members as they discussed whether or not making the Bible the official book for the state of TN in any way diminished the Bible.
STATUS: After an hour's debate on the floor on Tuesday, and over another hour on the floor on Wednesday, HB615 passed 55-38-3:
HB615  Representatives voting aye were: Alexander, Brooks K., Butt, Byrd, Calfee, Casada, Coley, DeBerry, Doss, Dunlap, Dunn, Durham, Eldridge, Farmer, Goins, Harrison, Hawk, Hill M., Hill T., Holsclaw, Holt, Howell, Hulsey, Keisling, Kumar, Lamberth, Littleton, Lollar, Lynn, Matheny, Matlock, McDaniel, Moody, Pitts, Pody, Powers, Reedy, Rogers, Sargent, Sexton J., Shaw, Shepard, Sparks, Spivey, Terry, Todd, Towns, Van Huss, Weaver, White D., White M., Wilburn, Windle, Wirgau, Womick -- 55.
          Representatives voting no were: Akbari, Armstrong, Beck, Brooks H., Camper, Carter, Clemmons, Cooper, Daniel, Faison, Favors, Gilmore, Halford, Hardaway, Haynes, Hazlewood, Jernigan, Johnson, Jones, Kane, Love, Lundberg, Madam Speaker Harwell, Marsh, McCormick, McManus, Miller, Mitchell, Parkinson, Powell, Ragan, Ramsey, Sexton C., Smith, Stewart, Swann, Turner, Williams -- 38.
          Representatives present and not voting were: Fitzhugh, Forgety, Sanderson -- 3.

Some of the debates were electrifying at times, resulting in Standing Ovations.  Tuesday debate can be found HERE.
 Scroll down list on left and click on HB615.  T
he Wednesday debate can been seen HERE
Thursday on the Senate floor, 22 Senators voted to send SB1108 to the Judiciary Committee, which is closed for the year. 

Southerland then promptly moved to open the Judiciary Committee for a special meeting next week to hear the bill, even though it's officially closed for the year. Southerland's motion failed “ 13 supporting him, 19 opposing.
The Senate debate can been seen HERE; on left side, scroll down and click on SB1108
Senate kills bill to make Bible official Tennessee book

THE BUDGET:  Passing a balanced budget is the ONLY Constitutionally required activity of each session of the General Assembly.  Below are some of the details of this year's budget.

Budget amendment targets counties that have sued the state

State Senate OKs appropriations bill, sends $33.3 billion spending plan to Haslam

K-12 and Higher Education Investment
A large portion of this year's budget focuses on education, including funding for K-12, higher education, and proposals designed to build on the Drive to 55 program”an effort to raise the percentage of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate beyond high school from 32 to 55 by the year 2025.
For K-12 education, the budget includes nearly $200 million, including:
    Funding of the Basic Education Program (BEP) formula;
    $100 million dollars for increasing teacher salaries, which amounts to a 4% pool that education associations will have available as they make local decisions to increase teacher pay;
    Funding to begin the process of repealing and replacing current Common Core educational standards in the state with a system based solely on Tennessee values and ideas;
    And $5 million to create the Educators' Liability Trust Fund to offer liability insurance to Tennessee teachers at no cost to them.

Notable higher education investments include:
    $260 million for capital projects, including new science facilities at Jackson State Community College and the University of Tennessee, nearly $25 million for improvements to colleges of applied technology across the state, and funding for a fine arts classroom building at East Tennessee State University;
    $25 million to fully fund the Complete College Act formula;
    And $10 million for need-based scholarships for students.

The budget also includes specific workforce development investments geared toward moving forward with the state's Drive to 55 efforts, including:
    $2.5 million for statewide outreach efforts for adult students and technical assistance to local communities that are finding ways to support adult learners;
    $2.5 million to support the success of the SAILS (Seamless Alignment and Integrated Learning Support) program which addresses remediation in high school;
    $1.5 million to establish the Community College Reconnect Grant pilot program to provide last dollar scholarships for adults with some post-secondary credit to attend community college;
    $1 million to establish competitive grants to two-year and four-year institutions to develop initiatives specifically designed for veterans;
    And $400,000 to establish the Tennessee Promise Bridge Program (TPBP), which will bring first-generation college students to campus prior to fall enrollment, which is one more step in making sure they have the best chance possible to succeed. The TPBP will work in conjunction with the main Tennessee Promise plan.
 The main Tennessee Promise Program, set to being this fall with the class of 2015, provides high school graduates the opportunity to attend a community or technical college free of tuition and fees. It is both a scholarship and mentoring program that provides last-dollar scholarship dollars that cover costs not met from the Pell, HOPE, or TSAA scholarship programs. While removing the financial burden is key, a critical component of the Tennessee Promise is the individual guidance each participant will receive from a volunteer mentor who provides guidance and assistance as the student enters higher education. In addition, under the program, students are required to complete eight hours of community service per enrolled term, as well as maintain at least a 2.0 GPA.
Job Recruitment, Workforce Development & Tax Cuts
Building on the success of other job-related legislation passed during the 108th General Assembly, the budget this year again makes investments in job recruitment and tax reforms.

Notable items include:
    A cut in the Hall tax for seniors 65 and older. The Hall tax is imposed on income derived from interest on bonds, notes, and stock dividends. Since enactment of the Hall tax in 1929, the use of investment savings has grown as a primary source of retirement income. Because of this fact, Republican lawmakers argue the Hall tax is actually an income tax, especially for seniors living on a fixed income. The Hall tax cut approved in the budget raises the income exemption level from $33,000 to $37,000 for single filers and from $59,000 to $68,000 for joint filers. Lawmakers hope to continue building on this tax cut in the future, eventually eliminating it completely;
    Making Tennessee's tax structure more competitive with surrounding states by changing the way a multi-state company's income and net worth is taxed for franchise and excise purposes;
    A continuation in funding of the state's FastTrack Infrastructure and Job Training Program which aids businesses across the state in securing funding for expansion projects and ensuring employees are trained to their fullest potential;
    An increase in funding to Tennessee's nine regional development districts to help local governments implement important infrastructure projects and recruit new business;
    And continued funding to recruit and develop the state's film and television industry which has steadily grown in recent years and helped bring in millions of film and tourism dollars.

In addition, the 2015-2016 budget includes other strategic capital investments statewide that will help fund programs to ensure Tennesseans have the skills needed to obtain well-paying, 21st century jobs after graduation.
Other Budget Highlights
Other highlights of Governor Haslam's 2015-2016 budget include:
    $73.5 million dollars for the Rainy Day Fund to bring it to $568 million total in the account;
    $250,000 for regional food banks in the state;
    $1 million for capital improvements to the state's accredited zoos in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Nashville, as well as the Tennessee Aquarium;
    $500,000 for statewide methamphetamine cleanup programs;
And, a continuation of property tax relief efforts passed in previous years to help veterans, seniors, and the disabled population of Tennessee.