Legislative Update, March 7, 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).


"Always vote your principles, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost."  John Adams

Our deepest sympathy to Congressman Phil Roe (1st District) who lost his wife this week. Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) had surgery on Monday to repair the leg he broke falling on the ice.  He is home recuperating. In the germ petri dish that is the Plaza, please pray that people will be able to stay well as they are stressed and rushed through this legislative session.

What is wrong with these pictures?  We "SPRING" forward this weekend and we can't get rid of the snow and ice????

I'm beginning to wonder if there is any such thing as a "normal" day of lobbying.  Mrs. Patray and I had a full day of work on Tuesday.  We started our day meeting with several lawmakers and taking information pertinent to legislation to others.  Some of our topics included Education and Common Core and other issues important to Tennessee.  We met with David Fowler, President of the Family Action Council of Tennessee,  and fellow lobbyists to discuss upcoming legislation.  We attended the House Education and Planning subcommittee meeting where there were many teachers and educators present.  They were expressing opposition to a school voucher bill.  This bill moved to full committee.  That concluded a whirlwind day on "The Hill."

 A slow, cold, rainy day put many in a struggle to get down to the legislature Wednesday but the hallways were still packed like sardines from the moment I got there to the moment I left. Wound with a plan, Mrs. Bobbie and I hit the ground running in stark contrast to the grey mood outside. The roll the government has on the things of our everyday life is often over looked by Americans, or even ignored. The very future of our children's and grandchildren's lives in America are being decided and a lack of interest is far too common. Many give themselves permission to check out because of the confusing, long, and winding process.  But one cannot be discouraged. We all have a civic responsibility to pay attention and to call out on those who have taken the law into their own hands. Many of the opinions of the people who were buzzing in the hallways differed greatly from my own views on the varying matters. But the importance of their presence and vocal admonishments is something that I could not encourage enough. Decisions are being made and our legislators must listen to everyone's opposing positions with respect.

Tennessee was hit with another ice/snow storm starting early Thursday morning.  Because of the treacherous roads, many of the legislators who go home each night were unable to get back to the Capitol for the respective floor sessions.  However, the Senate had 23 of 33 lawmakers and the House had 70 of 99 lawmakers, so the business of state did continue.  Then many of our legislators had long dangerous trips home. Thankfully, as far as I know, everyone arrived home safely.

There is great interest across the state in this program.  In Senate Education this week, my friend and Executive Director, Mike Krause, presented an excellent Tennessee Promise Update.  You can go HERE, then in the list below, click on Tennessee Promise Update Presentation.
Tennessee Promise drives 38,000 FAFSA applications.

SB 0005 by *Tracy,(HB 0003) by *Forgety , Harwell, Lollar, Byrd, Kane, Love, Sparks, Johnson , Lamberth, Faison, Casada, McManus, Williams, Swann, Eldridge, Sexton C, Marsh, Wirgau, Rogers, Pitts, Keisling, Sargent, McCormick, Brooks H, Towns, Hardaway, Ragan, VanHuss

STATUS: HB 3 was back on the Calendar for the Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee for 3/4/2015. Sponsor Rep. John Forgety commented that he and Rep. Billy Spivey are still working to find some legislation that will accommodate many more folks. HB 3 spoke only to ELA and Math standards. We are  attempting to provide another piece of legislation that is  more inclusive,  possibly accommodate many more folks and more concerns, and would be amenable to many more people. Rep. Spivey stated that many folks were doing the 'heavy lifting' as they try to come up with something more inclusive.  We want to do something that will put the issue behind us and we don't have to address it any more.  We want to  maximize the resources that the state already has committed and not create more bureaucracy  The goal is to create a sound process that help to develop a product that is best for TN students and  will move forward even after the sun sets here. I think we have found that product.  HB 3 didn't open enough of the code, so another bill will be used. HB 3 has been taken off notice.
We will have to wait to see and carefully examine what is offered.
House looks to expand Common Core review

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.
BACKGROUND:  Nothing is more personal nor should be more private that a person's DNA. In other states there has been a lot of controversy about what happens to these blood spots.  It was discovered that, in some states, these spots were kept indefinitely and in some cases, were used for research which was performed with the knowledge of permission of parents.  We want to make sure that does not happen here in TN.
AS IT WILL BE AMENDED: Present law requires the department of health to implement public education programs to inform persons of genetic screening, genetic disorders, and birth defects and the various services available. Present law also requires the department to disseminate information about the birth defects registry that the department maintains to the participating perinatal centers that will be made available to the family, that explains and describes the purpose and process of the registry and how confidentiality will be protected.
    This bill requires that the information described above be provided in pamphlet form that will be provided to the family to review before any blood sample for testing is drawn from the newborn. The pamphlet must disclose the exemption from testing or treatment of a child based on religious beliefs. The pamphlet must also inform the family of the newborn screening specimen use, retention, and disposal policy that this bill will implement

STATUS:  Last week, HB674 was re-scheduled in the House Health Subcommittee, Tuesday at 1:30pm.
ACTION:  Please contact the members of this committee and urge them to support this important legislation, as it will be amended. Members contact information HERE.

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. See Summary HERE.
Undocumented students in TN could get "in-state tuition"
There are 25,000 undocumented students in Tennessee who are not eligible for in-state tuition

[FYI: This proposal was unsuccessful last year and we opposed it on the basis of 'rule of law' then too.]
BACKGROUND:   How do we get around this: In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens: A Violation of Federal Law

Undocumented Student Tuition Background

Due to the landmark 1982 Plyler v. Doe U.S. Supreme Court decision, states are required to provide all students with K-12 public education, regardless of students' immigration status. Although the court did not declare education a fundamental right, it was determined that a "public education has a pivotal role in maintaining the fabric of our society and in sustaining our political and cultural heritage; the deprivation of education takes an inestimable toll on the social, economic, intellectual, and psychological well-being of the individual, and poses an obstacle to individual achievement."

The Supreme Court's decision, however, does not apply to education beyond high school. In addition, Section 505 of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) states, "an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State (or a political subdivision) for any postsecondary education benefit unless a citizen or national of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident."
NOTE:  For us, the 'rule of law' is important and needs to be considered even before the merits of the bill.
STATUS: SB612, with  two amendments (SA0046 and SA0047) was voted out of Senate Education:
Senators voting aye were: Crowe, Dickerson, Gardenhire, Gresham, Haile, Tate -- 6, Senators voting no were: Hensley, Tracy -- 2. Senators present and not voting were: Kelsey -- 1.
The bill was sent to Senate Finance Ways and Means.

SB 0614 by *Hensley, (HB 1058) by *VanHuss
Textbooks - As introduced, requires any local board of education that provides electronic textbooks and instructional materials to students to provide the public access to view such materials.
BACKGROUND:  A father in Rep. VanHuss' district learned that the digital textbooks were available for review only to parents with a password.  This bill would make these tax-payer funded textbooks available for review by the public in general.  Some Tenn. schools pass on social studies books
STATUS:  HB1058  Is scheduled in Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee for 3/11/2015
ACTION: Please contact member HERE to let them know how important access and transparency is in public education.

SB 1188 by *Beavers, (HB 0939) by *Matheny
Election Laws - As introduced, requires a person to declare a statewide political party affiliation before voting in a primary election.
NOTE:  Here is your chance to make your voice heard.
STATUS: SB1188 scheduled on the Senate State and Local Government Committee calendar for 3/10/2015
ACTION: You can find the committee members HERE and urge them to pass this legislation.

SB 1128 by *Gardenhire,  (HB 1372) by *Holt
Motor Vehicles - As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Freedom From Traffic Cameras Act, " which prohibits a municipality or county from contracting with any person or entity to provide for the use of any unmanned traffic enforcement camera to enforce or monitor any traffic violations; applies to contracts entered into or renewed on or after effective date of this act
STATUS:  SB1128 has been Placed on Senate Transportation and Safety Committee calendar for 3/11/2015
HB1372 has been Placed on s/c cal Transportation Subcommittee for 3/11/2015
ACTION:  This has become a hot topic in recent months and now you have the opportunity to make your voice heard.

If you have an interest in this topic, the majority of the bills on the Senate Judiciary Calendar for Tuesday revolve around these topics. Committee members found HERE.