Legislative Update, February 15. 2014

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).


We the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow men who would pervert the Constitution.  Abraham Lincoln

Please remember a longtime friend who is a administrative assistant.  Her husband is dealing with some of the unpleasant issues of aging which is hard on the entire family.  Please continue to pray for wisdom, clarity, and integrity as the lawmakers debate the various pieces of legislation.  Remember, we all have to live with the results!!

This week Mrs. Patray testified in Senate State and Local Government Committee and her opening sentence impressed me. She said "Sometimes people of good will can differ and still remain friends, however we can't be inconsistent with our position on the issue. Our principles remain unchanged as will our friendships." I believe this statement stands for what makes our legislative system so great. We may disagree but we will remain friends.  Debate is a cornerstone of our Government and our founding fathers very much promoted it.  Even Hubert H. Humphreys, vice-president to Lyndon Johnson, said "Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate."  Debate is requisite to the continuation of our freedom. We may disagree and we may debate but in the end it is all for the common cause of creating the best law we can.

SB 1432 by *Norris ( HB 1379 by *Brooks K)
Constitutional Conventions - As introduced, establishes that general assembly appoints and recalls delegates to Article V convention; requires delegates to abide by instructions given to delegates by the general assembly

STATUS: I am a bit disappointed, but not surprised to report that SB1432 passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee 9-0.  While this bill did NOT directly call for an Article V Constitutional Convention (Con-Con), it set the stage for and provides, in my opinion, a false sense of security, to the supporters of a Con-Con.  This bill is a part of a strategy being advanced by the national supporters of a Con-Con.  Lest you think I am exaggerating, after I testified against it, Roman Buhler, from McLean, VA, was there to testify for it. Later in the day he sent out an email nation-wide bragging about its passage!!
"How can we be against putting statutory restrains on TN delegates to a Con-Con?"  is the thinking.  Again, this bill did not directly call for a Con-Con, but is was certainly the first step in that direction and gives leverage to the Con-Con supporters across the nation and in the state.
As I started out my testimony:
Sometimes people of good will can differ and even remain friends.
As you can see, this and other bills/resolutions on an Article V Constitution Convention are sponsored by friends as well as long time personal friends.
However, we cannot be inconsistent in our position on an issue based on friendship.  Our principles remain unchanged as will our friendships.
         I know the folks that voted for this did so with the best of motives, but even if this proposal gets through the legislative process, it leaves UNANSWERED many of the questions about the Con-Con and its process.  I also know that this strong effort in TN is based on increased frustration and right down 'fear' that many of us share right now for the future of our country. 
If Congress is not following the US Constitution now, what makes us think they  would follow it after it was amended and what could we do if they didn't??
And lastly --  Do we have deficient Constitution or a disobedient Congress and Executive branch?
SB1432 is scheduled for the Senate floor on February 20th.

SJR 0493 by *Kelsey
Constitutional Conventions - Makes application to the U.S. Congress to call a constitutional convention for the sole purpose of proposing a federal balanced budget amendment
STATUS:  SJR493 is one of FOUR resolutions that call for a Con-Con for a Balanced Budget amendment and is scheduled on Senate Judiciary on Tuesday.   It looks like I will be testifying multiple times this year
As mentioned above, even if SB1432 gets entirely through the legislative process, it STILL will not answer many of the questions that remain about actually triggering the provisions of Article V:  CONGRESS calling a convention!
ACTION: Please contact the committee members urge them to oppose SJR493.
In addition to questions in red above, these are also important:
1. What authority would be responsible for determining the number of Delegates from each state?
2. What authority would be responsible for organizing the convention, such as committee selection, committee chairs and members, etc.?
3. How would the number of Delegates serving on any committee be selected and limited?
4. How would the Chair of the Convention be selected or elected?
5. What authority will establish the Rules of the Convention, such as setting a quorum, how to proceed if a state wishes to withdraw its delegation, etc?
6. Would non-Delegates be permitted inside the convention hall?
7. Will demonstrators be allowed and/or controlled outside the convention hall?

SB 1602 by *Bell , Gresham, Stevens, Yager, Johnson, Tracy, Hensley, Crowe, Tate

( HB 2249 by *Casada)
Textbooks - As introduced, restructures the textbook commission and the textbook selection process.
STATUS: SB1602 was in Senate Government Operations Committee on Wednesday. There was an effort to change the distribution of appointments (the bill gives three each to the Governor, the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House with confirmation by the legislature) to giving the Governor five appointments, and two each to the respective Speakers.  Thankfully, that was defeated, the the bill was passed 7-2. Sen. Bell did an excellent job of guiding this legislation through the process and now it moves on the Senate Education. 
HB2249 is scheduled in House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday afternoon.
ACTION:  PLEASE contact the committee members found HERE and URGE them to pass this excellent legislation intact!!!

SB 2566 by *Bell ( HB 2467 by *Dunn)
Religion and Religious Organizations - As introduced, permits persons and religious or denominational organizations, based on sincere religious belief, to refuse to provide services or goods in furtherance of a civil union, domestic partnership, or marriage not recognized by the Tennessee Constitution.
SB2566 is in Senate Judiciary on Tuesday afternoon. It is a shame that we live in a nation that people's businesses are at risk because of their religious beliefs, but, alas, we do, as you can see from the links below:
New Mexico Court: Christian Photographer Cannot Refuse Gay-Marriage Ceremony
Colo. Bakery Can't Refuse Wedding Cake to Same-Sex Couple, Court Rules
I also think of the battle that Hobby Lobby is fighting against Obamacare and what is at stake there.
The interesting thing is that it is not as if these couples cannot get services of whatever sort they want and be tolerant (isn't that the word we keep hearing?) of others' 'sincerely held religious beliefs'. No, in other states the goal seems to be to destroy the businesses.
David Fowler, President of FACT, issued a statement on SB2566.  You will want to read it HERE.
ACLU praises Sen. Brian Kelsey
The American Civil Liberties Union commended state Sen. Brian Kelsey on Friday for withdrawing from the sponsorship of a bill that shields individuals and businesses from legal liability for refusing goods and services for same-sex couples.

ACTION:  Will you please express your appreciation to Sen. Bell HERE for taking on this important protective proposal? In addition, would you please contact the members of the committee found HERE and urge them to support SB2566?

SB 0804 by *Kelsey
( HB 0937 by *Durham) TennCare - As introduced, prohibits Tennessee from participating in any Medicaid expansion authorized under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
STATUS: SB804 was in Finance Ways and Means on Tuesday and was the subject of spirited debate.  In a move that I am still scratching my head over, it was sent back to Senate Commerce where it will be heard on Tuesday. When it was in Commerce the first time, it passed 7-2, so it is expected to pass again, then go to the Calendar Committee.
HB937 was in House Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday.  Again, another spirited debate that included Senators Jack Johnson and Mark Green attending the meeting to comment on what happened in Senate Finance. HB937 will be in full House Finance committee on Tuesday.
ACTION:  As amended, all the bill does now is to require that any effort to expand Medicaid pursuant to Obamacare would be brought to the Legislature for approval. Please find the members of that committee HERE and urge them to vote for HB937 it has been amended.

SB 1835 by *Gresham ( HB 1549 by *Dunn)
Education - As introduced, establishes requirements for the adoption of educational standards; prohibits use of student data for purposes other than tracking academic progress and educational needs of students.
STATUS:  HB1549 was postponed until February 25.

SB 1470 by *Gresham ( HB 1882 by *Dennis)
Education - As introduced, enacts the "Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act", which regulates the collection and release of data by the department and state board of education
STATUS:  HB1882 was postponed until February 25.

SB 2410 by *Hensley ( HB 2333 by *Butt)
Education - As introduced, directs the comptroller of the treasury to audit the funding for the implementation of common core state standards and all components of PARCC, with cooperation from the department of education and the state board of education; requires the comptroller to audit the race to the top funding; requires a report of findings and recommendations to the education committees by July 1, 2015. - Amends TCA Title 49.

SB 2451 by *Ford ( HB 1385 by *Jones) Show Co-Prime Sponsors
Drugs, Prescription - As introduced, creates the "Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis Act".
Sen. Ophelia Ford sponsors medical marijuana bill

NOTE:  If you are not familiar with the 'Bluebook' it is a wonderful source of but current and historical information for any Tennessean.  This year's 'Orange' one will surely become a collectors item.  You should visit your Senator or Representative and ask for a copy.
In her 38 years coaching the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball team, Pat Summitt received hundreds of honors.
Her teams won more than 1,000 games, 32 Southeastern Conference championships and eight national championships.
Her players who completed their playing eligibility at UT had a 100 percent graduation rate.
And since being diagnosed with early onset dementia a little over two years ago, she has led a foundation that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund Alzheimer's research.
For all of those reasons and more, the next edition of the Tennessee Blue Book is being dedicated to Summitt, a 1970 graduate of Cheatham County Central High School.
"Coach Summitt has been an inspiration to countless Tennesseans first as a basketball coach and more recently as a strong advocate for Alzheimer's research," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said in a news release. "I am pleased that the next edition of the Tennessee Blue Book will pay tribute to her legacy."


CONGRATULATIONS: Bell appointed to POST Commission

(NASHVILLE) Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) announced the appointment Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) to the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) Commission.

Sen. Bell is a dedicated public servant who has distinguished himself as chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee,€ said Ramsey. Mike has shown great interest and aptitude on issues related to criminal justice. I am confident he will make an outstanding addition to the commission.€

The head of the Senate Transportation Committee moved to block funding for the Amp, introducing a measure Wednesday that would bar state money for some bus rapid transit projects.
State Sen. Jim Tracy announced at a hearing on the state Department of Transportation's budget that he would add language to an appropriations bill that would prohibit any spending on BRT services that use any portion of a state highway.
The measure would keep TDOT and all other state agencies from spending state funds on the Amp, the proposed 7.1-mile BRT line from Saint Thomas West Hospital in West Nashville to Five Points in East Nashville. Mayor Karl Dean's plan for the project calls for buses to follow dedicated lanes down West End Avenue, Broadway and Main Street, all of which are designated as state highways.The measure also would deter officials from considering dedicated BRT lanes along a suggested alternate route down Charlotte Avenue, which also is a state highway.