Legislative Update, April 14, 2012


LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

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).


And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . . ."  Thomas Jefferson

FOR YOUR PRAYER LIST:
Rep. Rick Womack (R-Rockvale) hurt his arm a few days ago and had to have his bicep re-attached.  Rep. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) was sick this week. Greetings from Room 7002, Vanderbilt Medical Center: Ron is making progress from the surgery.  The big problem he has right now is that his heart refuses to say in proper rhythm.  It continues to go in and out of A-Fib and A-Flutter (the EKG looks like Rick-Rack).  The med that would probably kick it quickly and permanently back in, would damage his already damaged kidneys. So they are using a different med that takes awhile to get to a therapeutic level in his system. This is all in an effort to avoid him having to be on coumadin. Another blood thinner, Plavix cost him some of his vision a few years ago and we are very concerned about him being on an even stronger blood thinner.


PUTTING TENNESSEE FIRST--HALF WAY THERE--HOORAY:

FIRST -- I must express our DEEP appreciation to Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) for his perseverance, courage and statesmanship as he shepherded this important bill through the grueling legislative process in the Senate.  The investment of time and energy that he was willing to make in this Senate success has been extraordinary. We also would be remiss in not pointing out the exceptional commitment in time and energy his research analyst, Micki Yearwood, was so graciously willing to invest.  To Bill and Micki:  Thank you so very much!!!! Both of you are treasures!!

SB 3345 by *Ketron (*HB 3540 by *Matheny)
Schools, Charter - As introduced, regulates charter schools' relationships with foreign entities and the use of non-immigrant foreign workers by charter schools.
SB3345 is now made up of amendments that can be found
HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, AND HERE.
As amended,  the “Putting Tennessee First” bill, is intended to enhance transparency in the use of public funds by charter schools. The charter school option is first and foremost about expanding school choice for families and this bill in part, provides additional information for families who might be exploring a charter school option for their student.
1. STATUS on SB3345:   I am so pleased to report that after a 15 minute discussion, the bill passed the State Senate floor on Thursday
18-13
:
   Senators voting aye were: Beavers, Bell, Burks, Crowe, Faulk, Gresham, Johnson, Ketron, Massey, McNally, Norris, Overbey, Roberts, Southerland, Tate, Tracy, Yager, Mr. Speaker Ramsey -- 18.
          Senators voting no were: Barnes, Berke, Campfield, Finney L, Harper, Haynes, Henry, Herron, Kelsey, Kyle, Marrero, Stewart, Watson -- 13.
          Senators present and not voting were: Ford -- 1


2. STATUS on HB3540: was on the House floor calendar Thursday, where sponsor, Speaker Pro Tem Judd Matheny began the presentation just after one o'clock by "substituting and conforming" the the Senate bill. After a vigorous twenty-minute discussion, Rep. G. A. Hardaway requested that it be rolled until Monday evening.  As a legislative courtesy, Rep. Matheny agreed. So,it is on the Monday evening House Floor Calendar.

ACTION:  PLEASE CLICK ON THIS LINK , and send a message of support to your Representative.

LIFE DEFENSE ACT OF 2011:
*SB 3323 by *Beavers ( HB 3808 by *Hill)
Abortion - As introduced, enacts the "Life Defense Act of 2012." As amended, it requires that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
STATUS: HB3808 passed the House floor on March 29,
72-24. SB3323 is headed for the Senate floor.
ACTION: Please find your senator
HERE and urge him or her to vote for this important bill.


MUCH NEED UPDATE TO FAMILY LIFE EDUCATION LAW:
*SB 3310 by *Johnson ( HB 3621 by *Gotto)
Education, Curriculum - As introduced, requires that a family life education curriculum comply with certain restrictions.
Family Action Council of Tennessee is sponsoring a great update to the 1998 law.
This bill makes clear that sex education is to be risk avoidance, not risk reduction. Empowers parents if school or third party provider promotes "gateway sexual activity."

For Background: A Good Sex Ed Law in Tennessee Makes Sense
STATUS:  SB3310  passed the senate floor on April 5, 28-1-1.HB3621 is in House Education. 
ACTION:  Please find the committee members HERE and encourage them to pass this bill.



RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN PUBLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES:
SB 3597 by *Beavers ( *HB 3576 by *Pody
Education, Higher - As introduced, prohibits certain colleges and universities in this state from denying recognition, privileges or benefits to a student organization or group on the basis of religious content of the organization's or group's speech or the manner in which the organization or group determines its organizational affairs.
STATUS: SB3597 is on the Senate floor, April 19.
STATUS: On Wednesday, April 11, 2012, the House Education Committee approved House Bill 3576. The bill, brought to the legislature by  Family Action of Tennessee, will ensure that Tennessee’s public colleges and universities cannot discriminate against religious student groups. But with Vanderbilt University collecting $24 million of your state tax dollars, some state legislators are thinking that your money shouldn’t be given to a rich university that has singled out such groups for discriminatory treatment and maybe it should be included, too.
You will want to see this brief video:
Rep Dunn's Amendment in the House Education Committee

Knoxville Lawmaker Wants to Enforce State Rules on Vanderbilt
Thursday, April 12th, 2012, by Joe White

A state representative says if Vanderbilt University does not rescind it “all-comers” rule, he will push to include private universities in a proposed law targeting non-discrimination policies.

Legislation currently being debated would prevent colleges from forcing student groups to drop faith requirements for membership or leadership positions, as Vanderbilt has done. But the legislative proposal only covers public colleges, even though the issue hasn’t occurred there

Last night, Knoxville Republican Bill Dunn said he was considering an amendment that would include any private institution that “receives state money.”

Dunn told the House Education Committee he had talked to Vanderbilt representatives, and pending their action he would hold off on the amendment – for now.

“I believe it may be prudent to give them time to come through on some of the things that we discussed, and so, what I’m gonna do is, I’m gonna withdraw this amendment right now, in the interest of time, but don’t be surprised if we see it on the House floor.”
So I withdraw this amendment at this time. R
ead more here.

Gov. Haslam allows evolution bill to become TN law

Despite saying it will create confusion, Haslam doesn't veto it

A bill that encourages classroom debate over evolution will become law in Tennessee, despite a veto campaign mounted by scientists and civil libertarians who say it will reopen a decades-old controversy over teaching creationism to the state’s schoolchildren.

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he will allow House Bill 368/Senate Bill 893 to become law without his signature, a symbolic move that signals his opposition but allows the measure to be added to the state code.

The bill will create confusion over the state’s science curriculum, Haslam said. But he also acknowledged that he lacks the votes to prevent the measure from becoming state law.

“The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by a 3-to-1 margin,” he said, “but good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion. My concern is that this bill has not met this objective.” Read more here.

TN HOUSE APPROVES FOOD, ESTATE TAX CUTS
The state House of Representatives voted to cut the sales and estate taxes, and the state Senate gave final approval to civil service reforms, dealing Gov. Bill Haslam three victories Thursday for his legislative package.
State representatives voted to cut the state’s tax on food by a quarter of a percentage point, and they agreed to gradually eliminate Tennessee’s tax on inheritances by 2016, approving both halves of Haslam’s tax-cut plan.
Meanwhile, their counterparts in the Senate approved Haslam’s civil service reform bill, the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management, or TEAM, Act.
The measure now heads to the governor for his signature.
The measures make up three main pieces of Haslam’s 55-bill legislative package for the 2012 session.
Read more here.

TENNESSEE HOUSE OKs CIVIL SERVICE REFORMS
NASHVILLE — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's civil service reform bill passed the GOP-controlled House on Wednesday with some Democratic backing.
The changes came as a result of last week's compromise between the administration and the Tennessee State Employees Association.
The Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management Act was approved 74-19 with nine Democrats voting yes.
The legislation, one of the administration's highest-profile bills and scheduled to come up today in the Senate, makes it easier for the state to hire and fire, promote and demote workers. It also creates a new employee evaluation system and authorizes state officials to offer merit pay.
Read more here.

Bills recently signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, as released on April 10, 2012