How Did Your Legislator Vote 2006?

(Issues are listed below in alphabetical order)

 

CLONING PROHIBITION FAILS:
HB 3357 - Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis)
Enacts the "Human Cloning and Prohibition Act of 2006." This bill was in the Constitutional Protections Subcommittee on Wednesday. Kudos to Rep. DeBerry--I have never seen a legislator make a better presentation. It was quite obvious that he had spent a lot of time in thoughtful preparation. After his introductory remarks, Dr. Joy Riley, a physician and bio-ethicist, and a Director of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network presented a stunning testimony in support of this important proposal.

Testifying in opposition to the bill was Dr. Ellen Clayton, from Vanderbilt University who testified that no research on human cloning is currently taking place however this bill would have a catastrophic impact on the ability of researchers to conduct their research and help thousands of people. Clarification of her obvious contradictory statement was not requested.

Rep. DeBerry then made some concluding remarks and asked for a motion on the bill. The lone Republican, Rep. Eric Watson (R-Cleveland) moved the bill, but it failed for lack of a second. Opposing the bill were Chairman Janis Sontany (D- Nashville), Rob Briley (D- Nashville), Kim McMillan (D-Clarksville) and Kent Coleman (D-Murfreesboro).

MENTAL HEALTH TESTING BILL
SB 3692 - Sen. David Fowler (R-Signal Mountain)
This bill prohibits a state agency from using state or federal funds for the universal mental health testing or screening of juveniles under any federal mental health program without prior approval of the general assembly. This bill also prohibits an LEA from using a parent's refusal to consent to psychiatric evaluation or administration of a psychotropic medication to a student, by itself, as grounds for not allowing the child to attend class or participate in a school-related activity or as a basis of child abuse or neglect. This bill also prohibits a teacher from making a diagnosis or making a recommendation for medication. On Monday evening April 10, this important bill pass the Senate floor 32-0. (Senator Jerry Cooper was either absent or off the floor.)

PROHITIBING UNIVERSAL MENTAL HEALTH TESTING:
HB 3517 - Rep. Jerome Cochran (R-Johnson City) Limits universal testing or screening of juveniles under federal mental health programs. This bill also prohibits an LEA from using a parent's refusal to consent to psychiatric evaluation or administration of a psychotropic medication to a student, by itself, as grounds for not allowing the child to attend class or participate in a school-related activity or as a basis of child abuse or neglect. This bill prohibits a LEA employee from recommending a student for evaluation for treatment with any psychotropic medication or for a particular mental health diagnosis unless it comes from a health care professional.

Rep. Cochran presented the bill to the Committee on Tuesday, April 18. Keep in mind, last year this same bill pass the senate 31-0, passed this same committee overwhelmingly and got trapped in the Budget Subcommittee. We started over, made some adjustments with all interested parties (so we thought) and this new version passed the senate this year 32-0. Chairman Armstrong said that someone was there to speak on the bill, whereupon, Dick Blackburn, Executive Director of the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations (TAMHO) took the podium and, in my opinion, misrepresented what this bill does. His testimony gave potential opponents all the ammunition they needed to spur debate and create controversy. After he took a number of questions, I finally had the opportunity to offer a rebuttal and explain what the bill REALLY does and does not do! Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville) picked up on Blackburn's testimony to fuel his opposition to the bill, with co-sponsor Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) joining in. (She has now removed her name from the bill).

Because so much time was being eaten up, bill co-sponsor Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) made a motion to move the bill to the heel of the calendar. The motion FAILED 9-10-1.

Voting YES: Joe Armstrong, Lois DeBerry, Joanne Favors, Dennis Ferguson, Sherri Jones, Beverly Marrero, Gary Odom, Gary Rowe, David Shepard.

Voting NO: Chris Crider, John DeBerry, Jimmy Eldridge, Michael Harrison, Dr. Joey Hensley, Debra Maggart, Jason Mumpower, Doug Overbey, Mike Turner, Bo Watson.

Passing: Co-sponsor Mary Pruitt.

Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville) made a motion to send the bill back to the Mental Health Subcommittee for 'summer study.' Rep. Jason Mumpower (R-Britsol) moved Odom's motion "to the table." The 'tabling' motion failed on a tie vote.

Voting YES: Chris Crider, John Deberry, Jimmy Eldridge, Tr? Hargett, Michael Harrison, Dr. Joey Hensley, Debra Maggart, Jason Mumpower, Doug Overbey, Bo Waston.

Voting NO: Joe Armstrong, Lois DeBerry, Joanne Favors, Dennis Ferguson, Sherry Jones, Beverly Marrero, Gary Odom, Mary Pruitt, Gary Rowe, David Shepard.

Passing: Co-sponsor Mike Turner. (If Turner has voted with the other sponsors, the tabling motion would have prevailed.)

Chairman Armstrong then moved the bill down ten spaces and took up other legislation. The committee ended without getting back to HB 3517.

PROHIBITING UNIVERSAL MENTAL HEALTH TESTING:
HB 3517 - Rep. Jerome Cochran (R-Johnson City) Limits universal testing or screening of juveniles under federal mental health programs. This bill also prohibits an LEA from using a parent's refusal to consent to psychiatric evaluation or administration of a psychotropic medication to a student, by itself, as grounds for not allowing the child to attend class or participate in a school-related activity or as a basis of child abuse or neglect. This bill prohibits a LEA employee from recommending a student for evaluation for treatment with any psychotropic medication or for a particular mental health diagnosis unless it comes from a health care professional.

There is an old saying in politics: "There are two things you shouldn't watch being made, one is sausage, the other is law". Well, the action in the House Health and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday, May 2, would have made any sausage maker proud!!

Once again this important bill was before the committee. For new readers, we have had the votes to get the bill out, but for three weeks some opponents of the bill have managed to prevent the final vote.

After Rep. Cochran presented the bill, I was given the opportunity to testify. I tried to clarify what the problems are that this bill is designed to address, pointing that this concern is not unique to Tennessee. Nearly 30 states have introduced legislation or resolutions that would protect parents and their children. Some of these are much more stringent than what we are attempting. Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville) offered an amendment to define the word 'universal' that was so broad that unless a program was going to be used on every student all across the state in public and private schools, the bill will be nullified. Fortunately, this proposal was never voted on.

Then the opponents started: Rose Cox from the Memphis City Schools, Shelby Tabling from the Tennessee Conference of Social Welfare Workers, Brenda Doneslon, Tennessee Voices for Children (she mainly told the story of the difficulties her own son went through and the help he received, which this bill would not have prevented!), and Anita Bertram with the Tennessee Coalition for Mental Health and Substance Abuse made up of 25 agencies. The most troubling thing Bertram said was that the Coalition supports a 'well-designed' pre-school based and school based screening program. Parents, take note.

Working on this bill has been an eye-opening experience and has demonstrated even more clearly the NEED for this legislation. It has also become obvious that there is a LOT of money at stake here - remember - 'follow the money'. Many of these folks are INTENT on screening ALL CHILDREN EVERYWHERE. That is nothing but a 'fishing expedition.' Understand - these screening/testing programs are very SUBJECTIVE. They are fraught with 'false positives' leading to possible misdiagnosis and labeling. The younger the child, the less dependable the screenings are. These screenings are NOT like a vision or hearing screenings. Those screenings are very OBJECTIVE - the need is easily documented.

After the testimony Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) started by saying this was an important issue and that we should not be looking for a 'quick fix'. Then she made a motion to move the bill to an unspecified 'summer study'. Rep. Jason Mumpower, commenting on the continuing parliamentary 'shenanigans' going on with this proposal, moved Jones motion "to the table'. The 'tabling' motion prevailed 12-10.

Voting YES: Chris Crider, John DeBerry, Tom DuBois, Jimmy Eldridge, Tr? Hargett, Michael Harrison, Dr. Joey Hensley, Debra Maggart, Jason Mumpower, Doug Overbey, Mary Pruitt, Bo Waston.

Voting NO: Joe Armstrong, Lois DeBerry, Joanne Favors, Dennis Ferguson, Sherry Jones, Beverly Marrero, Gary Odom, Gary Rowe, bill cosponsor David Shepard, Speaker Naifeh.

Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) who is a strong supporter of this bill and doing something about the misdiagnosis and over medicating of children commented that screening is a part of this problem. DeBerry knowing that if the bill passed out of the Health Committee, it would be defeated in the Democrat-dominated Calendar and Rules Committee, made the comment "I understand what is happening in this room". Wanting to make sure that this problem would not be dropped, DeBerry continued by making a motion to send it to a specific committee for study (the Mental Health Subcommittee plus any other interested legislator) using this bill as the foundation. The motion passed 11-10-1.

Voting YES: Joe Armstrong, John DeBerry, Lois DeBerry, Joanne Favors, Dennis Ferguson, Sherry Jones, Beverly Marrero, Gary Odom, Gary Rowe, David Shepard, Speaker Naifeh.

Voting NO: Chris Crider, Tom DuBois, Jimmy Eldridge, Tr? Hargett, Michael Harrison, Dr. Joey Hensley, Debra Maggart, Jason Mumpower, Doug Overbey, Bo Watson.

Rep. Mary Pruitt passed.

Special thanks to Rep. Mumpower for his leadership and the other Republicans on the committee for their support for this bill and their willingness to 'stand in the gap' for parents and children on every vote.

One more observation: It matters who governs. A word to the wise - the best OFFENSE and the best DEFENSE is at the ballot box. Remember that as we go through this campaign season!!

REQUIRING BIRTH CONTROL AND CONTRACEPTIVES.
SB 3095 - Sen. Joe Haynes (D-Nashville) "Pregnancy Resources for Tennessee Women Act." Section 4 of this legislation, for the first time ever, would REQUIRE that all sex education programs teach birth control and contraceptives. Presently, this is left up to the local boards of education and community needs. There is no reason for this change. This issue should remain under local control so that these programs are appropriate for the wishes of the community. Why should we spend scarce funds developing additional curricula when there is nothing broken that needs to be fixed? Abortions are down, teen pregnancies are down. We have 19 abstinence programs across the state that are very successful in reducing teen pregnancies. These programs receive federal Title V funding and cannot teach anything but 'abstinence only'. There are no complaints. The present state law is adequate for our needs.

This is such a delicious story! We were primarily concerned with the impact that this new requirement across the state, especially on all our wonderfully successful abstinence programs. After getting together with some other good folks, it was decided that this new requirement wasn't the only problem with this bill and that the best thing that could happen would be for the whole bill to be defeated. We let many of the committee members know about our concerns.

This legislation was in the Senate Education on Wednesday morning, April 26th. Sen. Haynes made his presentation and Chair Lady Woodson called for a motion. Sen. Cohen made a motion and Sen. Woodson called for a 'second'. Silence-just then Sen. Crutchfield walked in and Cohen prompted him to say, 'second'. Haynes addressed the sex education portion saying it was important to provide resources to students about ways to prevent pregnancies, etc. He went on to say that teens that took the 'pledge' had about the same infection rate as other teens.

It became clear that 'there was a cold wind blowing' as they say when a bill is not being received very well in committee. Cohen asked Haynes if knew what the illegitimacy rate was in Memphis. Cohen stated that he thought it was about 50 percent. As the discussion continued it sounded as if there are NO programs being used, that NOTHING is being done to about the teen pregnancy and STDs risk and that if this bill didn't pass it would be devastating.

Just before or just after the vote was taken, Chair Lady Woodson assured Haynes and the room filled with visitors that the Education Committee has heard previous testimony in committee on this issue and the LEA's had a great deal of flexibility but these decisions were left to local control. When the vote was taken, the bill FAILED.

Voting YES: Steve Cohen, Ward Crutchfield.

Voting NO: Jim Bryson, Rusty Crowe, Bill Ketron, Don McLeary, Jim Tracy, Jamie Woodson

HOORAY - the bill is DEAD in the Senate!!

REQUIRING BIRTH CONTROL AND CONTRACEPTIVES:
HB 3399 - Rep. Kim McMillan (D-Clarksville) Enacts the "Pregnancy Resources for Tennessee Women Act." Although this was not the only problem with the legislation, you will recall that a part of this bill would require the teaching of birth control and contraceptives in all sex education courses, thus endangering all our abstinence programs.

Special thanks to Rep. Joe McCord for his willingness to sponsor the amendment to remove the offending portion of the bill. Because the Senate companion was thankfully defeated in the Senate Education Committee last week, McMillan took this bill 'off notice' in the House Committee on May 1st , meaning that this proposal is officially gone!

PRO-LIFE AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION:
SJR 127 - March 9, 2006
This proposed amendment will do nothing more that 'neutralize' the State Constitution on the issue of abortion. Thus, negating the 2000 State Supreme Court which ruled that the Tennessee Constitution contains a stronger 'right to privacy' than the US Constitution. Once again Sen. David Fowler (R-Signal Mountain) masterfully guided the resolution through the process and fought off efforts to amend the language.

Voting YES: Mae Beavers, Diane Black, Jim Bryson, Tim Burchett, Charlotte Burks, Jerry Cooper, Rusty Crowe, Dr. Raymond Finney, David Fowler, Doug Henry, Doug Jackson, Bill Ketron, Tommy Kilby, Don Mcleary, Randy McNally, Jeff Miller, Mark Norris, Curtis Person, Ron Ramsey, Steve Southerland, Jim Tracy, Mike Williams, Jamie Woodson, Lt. Governor John Wilder.

Voting NO: Thelma Harper, Roy Herron, Joe Haynes, Rosalind Kurita, Jim Kyle, Ophelia Ford, Ward Crutchfield, Steve Cohen and Kathryn Bowers.

PRO-LIFE AMENDMENT FAILS:
SJR 127 - Rep. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) and 49 other sponsors
Adds new provision to Article I to provide that nothing in Constitution of Tennessee secures or protects right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. On Wednesday, April 12, the room was filled to overflowing with pro-lifers wearing big yellow buttons which read "Let the people vote on SRJ 127". There were a few folks in the room sporting "Pro-Choice Tennessee" stickers.

Because of the 2000 state Supreme Court decision granting a stronger right to abortion than the US Constitution, the only pro-life law still standing is our parental consent. Without this amendment to 'neutralize' the Constitution on this issue our elected representatives cannot pass any common sense, health-protecting legislation. Rep. Gresham presented the resolution and after some discussion, the vote was taken.

Voting YES: Tre Hargett (R-Bartlett), Jason Mumpower (R-Bristol) and Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville).

Voting NO: Lois DeBerry (D-Memphis), Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis) and Joanne Favors (D-Chattanooga).

Subcommittee Chairman Mary Pruitt (D-Nashville) passed.

'PAY EQUITY' (SO-CALLED) IN THE HOUSE:
HB 2621 - Rep. Kim McMillan (D-Clarksville) Enacts "Pay Equity in the Workplace Act of 2006." Equal Pay for EQUAL Work is already the law of the land and has been for years. This bill pushed the feminist concept of "comparable pay" - which is very subjective. This legislation was presented in the Consumer and Employee Affairs committee on Tuesday, April 11. Although it passed the committee, no Republicans supported it.

Voting YES: Ben West, Mike Turner, Jim Hackworth, Edith Langster, Gary Moore, Larry Tuner, Speaker Naifeh.

Voting NO: DeWayne bunch, Glen Casada, Chris Clem, Bubba Pleasant.

Passing: Stacey Campfield, Donna Rowland.
It went from this committee to the Budget Subcommittee.

"PAY EQUITY" (SO CALLED) BITES THE DUST:
SB 3122 - Sen. Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) Enacts "Pay Equity in the Workplace Act of 2006." The bill was presented in the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday, April 18. After some discussion, the vote was taken and thankfully, the bill failed. This 'full employment contract for trial lawyers' finally met its well-deserved fate.

Voting YES: Kathryn Bowers (D-Memphis), Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey), Tommy Kilby (D-Wartburg).

Voting NO: Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville).

PASSING: Jim Bryson (R-Franklin), Don McLeary (R-Jackson), Mike Williams (R-Maynardville), Jerry Cooper (D-Morrison).

PHOTO ID TO VOTE FAILS:
HB 3193 - Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) Requires a voter to present qualified photographic identification before voting; voters without proper identification shall be allowed to cast provisional ballots. This seems so simple - other states have done it - what could be the problem with having people identify themselves to vote?? Listening to the contentious discussion in the Elections Subcommittee on Wednesday, April 19, you would have thought that it would usher in the end of the world. When the vote was taken:

Voting YES: Tom DuBois (R-Columbia), Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald).

Voting NO: Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), Edith Langster (D-Nashville), John Litz (D-Morristown), Eddie Yokley (D-Greeneville).

TRAINING THP TO PERFORM CERTAIN IMMIGRATION LAW ENFORCEMENT FUNTIONS
SB 2426 - Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) Requires the department of safety to negotiate an agreement with federal authorities to train certain highway patrol officers to perform certain immigration law enforcement functions; authorizes highway patrol officers certified as trained under such an agreement to enforce federal immigration and customs laws in Tennessee. This arrangement has been very useful and successful in Alabama and other states. On March 29, it passed the Senate Transportation Committee 8-0. On April 3, it passed the Senate Floor 23-0-5-5.

Voting YES: Mae Beavers, Diane Black, Jim Bryson, Tim Burchett, Rusty Crowe, Raymond Finney, Ophelia Ford, David Fowler, Roy Herron, Doug Jackson, Bill Ketron, Rosalind Kurita, Jim Kyle, Don McLeary, Randy McNally Jeff Miller, Mark Norris, Curtis Person, Ron Ramsey Steve Southerland, Jim Tracy, Mike Williams, Jamie Woodson.

Voting NO: None

Present, Not Voting: Kathryn Bower, Charlotte Burks, Ward Crutchfield, Joe Haynes, Doug Henry.

Not Voting: Steve Cohen, Jerry Cooper, Thelma Harper, Tommy Kilby, Speaker Wilder.

HB 3229 - Rep. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville) had the companion bill in the State Subcommittee on April 11. Along party lines the bill was sent to September 2006. Of course the legislature is not in session in September, thus killing the bill. There are many ways to stop or kill legislation in the House and this is just one!!

VACATING SPECIAL ELECTION FOR SENATE DISTRICT 29:
On Wednesday, April 19, the State Senate made history by voting 26-6 to vacate the special election for District 29. Sen. Mike Williams (R-Maynardville) made his introductory remarks thanking the members of the Ad Hoc for the countless hours over the past seven months they spent working toward a resolution. The conclusion reached was that this special election was 'incurably uncertain' and he moved that the full Senate adopt the Ad Hoc Report and make it the action of the Senate. After about 30 minutes the bipartisan was 26-6.

Voting YES: Beavers, Black, Bryson, Burchett, Burks, Cooper, Crowe, Finney, Fowler, Henry, Herron, Jackson, Ketron, Kilby, Kurita, Kyle, McLeary, McNally, Miller, Norris, Person, Ramsey, Southerland, Tracy, Williams, Woodson.

Voting NO were six democrats: Kathryn Bowers (Memphis), Steve Cohen (Memphis), Ward Crutchfield (Chattanooga), Ophelia Ford, Thelma Harper (Nashville), Joe Haynes (Nashville).

Lt. Governor Wilder did NOT vote.


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