Legislative Update - January 16, 2016

 Tennessee General Assembly information, click HERE. For information on State Senators, including phone numbers and email addresses, click HERE; for House members, click HERE. If you don't know who your legislators are, use Find My Legislator. 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+1 last four digits of office phone number (available online).


"The great faith that led our Nation's Founding Fathers to pursue this bold experience in self-government has sustained us in uncertain and perilous times; it has given us strength and inspiration to this very day.  Like them, we do very well to recall our 'firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,' to give thanks for the freedom and prosperity this nation enjoys, and to pray for continued help and guidance from our wise and loving Creator." 
George H.W. Bush, May 3, 1990, National Day of Prayer

Sen. Mark Green was diagnosed the colon cancer this summer.  After treatment he was  deemed to be cancer-free, but has elected follow up treatment of chemotherapy as a precaution.  The treatments are ever two weeks and he is about half way through that protocol.  He looks good and is feeling well but we want to support him through this process with our prayers.   Sen. Bo Watson lost his father on January 9th.  Rep. Susan Lynn lost her father-in-law recently.  Rep. Rick Womick's mother is having health problems and he was out the entire week. Reps. Jimmy Eldridge and Rep. Bob Ramsey were out all week.  I would also appreciate your prayers.  As most will remember I have severe scoliosis and stenosis. From time to time, my back shifts and that is very uncomfortable.  It seems to be doing that now.  In addition, as you may recall, I had my left hip replaced in June, 2014.  Well, I may be facing a right hip surgery this summer. But I WANT to get through this session, so I need your prayers to meet that goal!!
FOR YOUR PRAISE LIST:  Sen. Bill Ketron, who has gone through a long cancer treatment journey, is now cancer free!!! Not only that, but his hair is coming back!! Rep. Tilman Goins was having some health concerns last year, but now has a clean bill of health!!

There are always several things that make the beginning of session fun and exciting, not the least of which is getting to see all the lawmakers again.  Yes....even starting my 29 year, I do get a thrill out of that!! Also getting acquainted with the Tennessee Eagle Forum interns for the session is really great (see below)!!  Three new legislators were sworn in on Tuesday (see below). They really have their work cut out for them 'catching and holding on to a train that has already left the station'! So, at high noon on Tuesday the second session of the 109th TN General Assembly officially began!!  Among the hot topics of the first day was the caucus meeting about Rep. Jeremy Durham and  the crush of INSURE TN people that lined the halls of the tunnel to the Capitol. Few bills of interest are moving yet as most committees are getting organized and holding hearings.  I fully expect a calendar filled with bills for the following week.

Noah McKay will be with me on Tuesdays.
Noah is 17 years old and is a proud born- again Christian. He was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, he moved to El Paso, Texas in 2008 and moved to Cookeville, TN in December 2015, where he lives with his parents Shelia and Tom. He is a Congressional debate District 1-6A Champion in Texas, he has also participated in 2 State Congressional debate tournaments. He is also a 3 time member of the Region 1 All- Region Choir in the state of Texas. He is proud to be a conservative Republican and he is unafraid to stand up for what is morally right in the eyes of God. He will attend Middle Tennessee State University in the fall of 2016 and plans to go to law school and study Constitutional Law.

Mary Turnage will be with me on Wednesdays.
Mary is 18 years of age from Goodlettsville TN. She has been homeschooled her whole life alongside most of her eight other siblings. Through her family's church, a community was formed with other families and friends to collectively share all of their knowledge to successfully raise their children. She began to study U.S. government and break down the U.S. Constitution to really get an understanding of what being an American really meant. During her studies of the interworking of the political system, her family was introduced to Tennessee Teen Eagles. Teen Eagles is a branch of Eagle Forum for teens just as the name suggests. Mary has been part of Teen Eagles for four years. In 2013 Tennessee Legislator Research group was started by Mary and her fellow classmates to help educate our legislators on issues they may not have time to research themselves. She is now currently working on finishing her studies has a high school senior to graduate this spring and enter college in the fall.

Rep. Gary Hicks (R-District 9) was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of Michael Harrison.  Gary was a Hawkins County Commissioner who chaired the County Commission's Budget and Personnel committees. A graduate of Cherokee High School, he earned a B.S. degree in Computer Science with a minor in General Business from East Tennessee State University. He also holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee. Gary has been employed as the Technology Director at Rogersville City School for the past five years, and he previously worked nine years for the Rural Health Consortium in Rogersville.

Rep. Jamie Jenkins (R-District 94).  The Fayette County Commission selected retired University of Tennessee agricultural extension agent Jamison "Jamie" Jenkins Thursday night to serve the remainder of former state Rep. Leigh Wilburn's term in the state House of Representatives. He is a former Fayette County Republican Party chairman and the county's former administrator of elections. He will serve out this year but will not seek election to the full term.

Rep. Jason Zachary (R-District) was elected to fill out the unexpired term of Rep. Ryan Haynes, who left to assume the Chairmanship of the TN Republican party. Jason is a small business owner of the telecommunications brokerage business company founded by his family 23 years ago. Jason is active in his community serving as a deacon and leader of the Farragut Initiative at First Baptist Concord.  He also serves on board of International Sports Consulting.  Additionally, Jason has been working with the Center for Christian Statesmanship on Capitol Hill since August of 2014.


I wasn't sure what to expect as I walked into the Legislative Plaza in Nashville on Tuesday, I knew it would be an exciting day as I was starting my new internship and it was the first day of the Legislative session. When I met the incredible Mrs. Patray I knew it would be a great experience, as soon as we met we were off for a non stop day of meeting with different legislators. I was a very small fish in a very big pond, but it was very exciting knowing I was interning for a huge shark in that same pond. I am incredibly excited to see how this legislative session develops alongside of Mrs. Patray.

Previously, I have had experience following bills from committee to the floor and developed an understanding of how our state is run. However, my first day interning for Mrs. Bobbie Patray showed me a whole new side of the legislative process. When you learn about the branches of government and how bills are passed, all the components begin to paint a picture. Business men and women with shiny offices and everything organized. You are lead to believe it is a cut and dry system with a few easy steps. This is far from the truth. Legislators are not looking to harm one another or constantly sabotage as movies portray. I witnessed hard working caring people trying to serve the people. They hold each other in professional esteem and give council to one another. I am looking forward to all that I will learn this session.

Supporters Push for Insure Tennessee Revival on Opening Day of Legislative Session

It is the start of a new session but it is an old issue that is resurfacing.
About an hour before Tennessee lawmakers returned to the state capitol for the first day of the 2016 legislative session , Insure Tennessee supporters began to line the hallways.
They wanted legislators to walk past them on their way to the House and Senate chambers.
We have people from Chattanooga, from Knoxville , from the Tri-Cities, from Memphis, from rural Tennessee all coming together to say we support Insure Tennessee and we want to see this happen," said Katie Alexander, one of the dozens of people wearing an "INSURE TENNESSEE NOW!" shirt.
Governor Bill Haslam introduced the initiative in 2015.
It would provide health coverage to more than 200,000 uninsured Tennesseans, who don't qualify for TennCare but cant afford Obamacare.
State Senate committees rejected it twice last year.
Supporters stood outside the House, demanding Insure Tennessee be brought back up for a vote.
"This doesn't win any votes. This doesn't influence anybody," said State Senator Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga. He voted against it last session.

Republican caucus keeps Jeremy Durham as leader
, and , jcowan@tennessean.com 12:33 a.m. CST January 13, 2016
The vast majority of House Republicans present at Tuesday's caucus meeting wanted to at least discuss removing embattled House Majority Whip Jeremy Durham from leadership.
But a procedural determination meant the caucus fell one vote shy of having that chance, according to three Republican sources.
House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, said the caucus had to suspend the rules to even discuss Durham's behavioral and leadership issues. A vote to suspend the rules takes a two-thirds majority to pass; Casada said it required two-thirds in the entire caucus, not those present.
That meant the caucus needed 49 votes of the roughly 66 members in attendance in order to discuss removing Durham.
The motion to suspend the rules received 48 votes during the portion of the meeting closed to the media, according to the three sources.
Casada wouldn't immediately confirm the vote count, but he did confirm the caucus never discussed the substance of the issues surrounding Durham.
Durham himself said he asked for the vote total, but the caucus wouldn't release it. He said it was a "fair test vote for whether the caucus wanted him to remain in his leadership position.
If the rules had been suspended, it would have taken a simple majority to oust Durham, or roughly 34 members at the Tuesday meeting. That total seemed very possible, given the number of people who voted to discuss his ouster.

Delay granted in Joe Armstrong trial

SB 1437 by *Beavers  (HB 1412) by *Pody
Marriage - As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act"; states the policy of Tennessee to defend natural marriage between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary. - Amends TCA Title 36.
STATUS:  HB 1412 is scheduled in Civil Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday. 
Along with many others, I was very involved in the effort to pass Amendment 1 to the TN Constitution in 2006 that banned same-sex unions.  That amendment passed by over 81% of the voters.  Then along came the Obergefell decision from the US Supreme Court last June that purported to overturn all laws and amendments opposing same-sex marriage.
I know everyone, including many legislators, is eager to do any and everything in their power to put in place something that will support natural marriage and protect states rights.
I will be very interested in hearing the debate on this proposal. Recognizing the separation of powers, I am wondering if the legislature can actually compel the TN Attorney General to defend any particular lawsuit, especially since the AG has already expressed his support for the Supreme Court decision.  I also wonder about putting these, sure to materialize, lawsuits in Federal courts. The Federal Courts have not been friendly to us on this issue. Really looking forward to hearing more about this bill. Then, of course, there is the Fiscal Note.

'Natural Marriage' bill could cost Tennessee $8 billion
Stacey Barchenger, sbarchenger@tennessean.com
11:37 p.m. CST January 14, 2016
A bill that would direct Tennessee officials to essentially ignore the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage could cost the state more than $8.5 billion, according to the bill's fiscal note.
That figure includes the federal funding the state receives for programs such as TennCare that could get yanked if the state goes against the federal court's order.
TennCare receives about $6.5 billion in federal funding, and the Department of Human Services receives more than $2 billion for its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families aid programs, according to the fiscal note.
"The provisions of the bill could jeopardize federal funding if it is determined the state is noncompliant with federal law," the fiscal note reads.
The bill is the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act. It is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
Sponsored by Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, the bill calls on the attorney general to defend any state or local official in any lawsuit that could ” and would ” arise if the bill is enacted. It also says no state or local agency may enforce the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, or any other decision that might allow same-sex marriage. Officials abiding by the bill, if enacted, couldn't be fined or arrested for ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court, the bill states.


Haslam: No Gas Tax Push, For Now

By Bill DriesUpdated 5:40PM   Friday, January 15, 2016
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam confirmed Thursday, Jan. 14, that there won't be a state gas tax hike proposal in this year's session of the Tennessee Legislature.
But Haslam, who previously said he wasn't necessarily pushing for such a tax hike as a solution to funding road projects, said that is the most likely future option.
"At the heart of it, what you pay for a unit of fuel “ you're going to have to do something along those lines, Haslam said on the WKNO-TV program "Behind The Headlines. "There's no magic bullet out there. ¦ At the heart of it you are still going to have to have some way you pay per the fuel you buy.
The program, hosted by The Daily News publisher Name Search
Watch Service">Eric Barnes, airs at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15.
"We are not going to propose a bill this year to raise taxes, Haslam added. "I've said and I'll continue to say that needs to happen in the next two to three years. I'm willing to carry that banner while I'm governor.
The Tennessee gas tax of 40 cents a gallon “ 22 cents in the state tax and 18 cents in the federal tax “ hasn't gone up in nearly 30 years.
Haslam also said he plans to use some of the estimated $500 million state surplus to increase state funding to education.


December state revenue $99.3M above estimates
News release from Department of Finance and Administration
NASHVILLE, Tenn. “ Tennessee revenue collections for December of 2015 reflected growth more than the same period a year before. Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin reported today that state revenue collections for December were $1.1 billion, representing 8.95% growth and $91.1 million more than December 2014. December sales tax collections represent consumer spending that occurred in November.
"Total revenues in December were higher than expected due to collections in the sales and corporate tax categories, Martin said. "We believe the December sales tax growth rate, which includes ˜Black Friday' and after-Thanksgiving sales, may have been influenced by lower gasoline prices and renewed consumer confidence. January's report will give us a clearer picture with Christmas retail activity included.
"We are pleased with strong revenues but are concerned about the economic impact of the stock market and international issues as we begin to work with the Legislature on a responsible spending plan for the next fiscal year.
On an accrual basis, December is the fifth month in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Total collections in December were $99.3 million more than the budgeted estimate. The general fund recorded collections above the budgeted estimates in the amount of $93.0 million, and the four other funds that share in state tax revenues were $6.3 million more than the estimates.
Sales tax collections were $23.9 million more than the estimate for December. The December growth rate was 6.21%. For five months revenues are $159.4 million higher than estimated, and the year-to-date growth rate is 7.14%.
Franchise and excise taxes combined were $69.7 million more than the budgeted estimate of $200.8 million. For five months revenues exceeded estimates by $157.9 million.
Gasoline and motor fuel collections for December increased by 0.64%, which is $2.8 million more than the budgeted estimate of $71.8 million. For five months revenues are $18.2 million more than estimates.
Tobacco tax collections were $1.6 million less than the budgeted estimate of $20.3 million, but for five months they have recorded $4.2 million more than estimated.