Legislative Update, February 14, 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).

Please remember Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and his family.  His mother passed away this week.  Continue to remember Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) continues his treatment for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This session has started out with a 'bang', once again, 'speed' being the object.  Please pray for wisdom, clarity, and integrity as we move forward on the state's business.

This past Tuesday was the first "normal" legislative session after Insure Tennessee was defeated in special joint session. It seemed anything but normal.  That morning Mrs. Patray told me, "I think we are going to need roller skates today."  She sure was correct.  We had meetings with quite a few lawmakers discussing a wide range of issues from immigration to Common Core.  In one meeting I observed Mrs. Patray and a legislator finding common ground even when there were other issues they didn't see eye to eye on.  This is truly reaching across the aisle.  We wrapped up a busy day with a visit to Rep. Andy Holt's office. From his office we watched emergency vehicles arrive at the Tennessee Supreme Court building in response to an envelope containing a white powder. What an end to an exciting day!

Governor Haslam's Insure Tennessee has been cleared from everyone's desks last Wednesday and in its place a new flood of bills, discussions, and controversies.  The people's focus has shifted to an array of different issues but one that is inevitably to have hit their ears at some point or another is that of education.  Truly a topic of a national scale, many bills have and will be coming through greatly affecting the way that our public schools will be seeing their curriculum dealt with in the upcoming years.  A remark was made in a passing encounter in the Plaza hallways saying that many of our legislators wanted to lower our state standards. I find that quite hard to believe and the facts just don't support it.  The care and focus that I have seen shows me that there is not one person in there that intentionally wants to lower standards for our children in the schools.  The education of our future generations is vitally important to them as it is for everyone in our state.  A great amount of attention from all needs to be paid to the upcoming legislation that is going to be coming into their hands.  Lower standards is not what we want but it just might be what we get if we are not careful and attentive.

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 heard in Education Instruction & Programs Sub-Committee on Wednesday at noon and was rolled until the 18th.
COMMENTS:  The room was filled beyond capacity with Common Core supporters (with their 'red shirts') and opponents.  The interesting thing was that I don't think a single person there supported HB 3. While I appreciate any effort to replace the CC standards, among other questionable provisions, HB3 put that work into hands of the TN School Boards Asso.; The TN Organization of School Superintendents (yes, THOSE superintendents: Tennessee School Superintendents Support Common Core); the TN Parent Teacher Asso.; the TN Higher Education Commission, Board of Regents, the TN Business Roundtable, etc. Well, you get the picture.
Prior the the meeting A LOT of conversation had taken place and the decision had been made to roll the bill so that another plan could be considered. Rep. Billy Spivey (R-Lewisburg) had come up with some thoughts that he wanted to pursue ('Epiphany' delays debate on plan to revise Common Core). Sponsor, Rep. John Forgety (R-Athens) agreed to the roll, but did go through the provisions of this proposal. Another big 'bump in the road' was the new fiscal note released on HB 3, which started with $668,000 for FY2015-16
. As I said from the beginning, at this point, we see ALL bills on standards to be 'conversation starters' and you can rest assured we will be following every development very carefully and keeping our subscribers informed.

While we will certainly be working hard on a number of the addition education bills, as well as helping other legislators with their bills, we are excited to have these and grateful for our sponsors.

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.

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.

SB 1224 by *Bell,(HB 0889) by *Moody
Education - As introduced, requires any public school that uses a digital-learning platform in the classroom to provide students, parents, or legal guardians a written explanation of the digital-learning platform; authorizes schools to provide parents and legal guardians of students total access to the digital-learning platform; mandates the destruction of all data collected on the student from the digital-learning platform at the end of the course; and allows students to opt out of the digital-learning platform.

Bill cut off date was Feb. 12: 1397 bills introduced in the Senate; 1372 bills introduced in the House.

SB 0004 by *Gresham,(HB 1280) by *Spivey
Education - As introduced, creates the Tennessee standards commission to recommend curriculum standards to the state board for adoption.

SB 1022 by *Gresham,(HB 0685) by *VanHuss
Education - As introduced, requires approval by the senate and the house before new standards or changes to curriculum standards adopted by the state board of education become effective

SB 1193 by *Beavers, (HB 1348) by *Weaver
Education, Curriculum - As introduced, revises the provisions governing curriculum standards for K-12 students, such as prohibiting the implementation of the common core state standards and allowing the state board of education to come up with a new set of state academic content standards; creates the academic standards steering committee as a review authority for all legislation and proposals related to academic standards

SB 0063 by *Kelsey, (HB 1171) by *Smith
Education - As introduced, permits a local board of education to refuse to accept federal funding for an education program without a penalty being assessed by a state agency or state official.

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. (This proposal was unsuccessful last year, but now the effort is back to give undocumented students in state tuition.)

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.

SB 1108 by *Southerland,(HB 0615) by *Sexton J
State Government - As introduced, designates the Holy Bible as the official state book.

HJR 0071 by *VanHuss
Constitutional Amendments - Proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Tennessee recognizing that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God, our Creator and Savior.

SB 0716 by *Green, (HB 0948) by *Lynn
Abortion - As introduced, requires that surgical procedures to terminate a pregnancy be performed in an ambulatory surgical treatment center (ASTC); removes current language requiring providers performing a substantial number of those procedures to be performed in an ASTC; removes requirement that medical terminations of a pregnancy be performed in an ASTC.

Looks like the debate over Medicaid Expansion is not over after all:
SB 0072 by *Kelsey, (HB 0061) by *Durham
Insurance, Health, Accident - As introduced, prohibits the state from operating a health insurance exchange, pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; the prohibition is contingent on a certain disposition of King v. Burwell by the U.S. supreme court

SB 1161 by *Massey,(HB 1134) by *Powers
TennCare - As introduced, establishes a health insurance voucher program by means of a federal waiver that expands eligibility for Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty line; funds the vouchers with an increase in the hospital assessment from 4.52 percent to six percent; removes expiration from the hospital assessment.

SB 0885 by *Yarbro, (HB 1018) by *Stewart
TennCare - As introduced, repeals requirement that the general assembly must authorize by joint resolution any expansion of optional enrollment in the medical assistance program, pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

SB 1124 by *Yarbro,(HB 1209) by *Love
TennCare - As introduced, requires the state to establish a health insurance exchange under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act if King v. Burwell is decided by the United States supreme court in a certain manner.

SJR 0093 by *Yarbro
Health Care - Authorizes implementation of Insure Tennessee substantially as described in TennCare Demonstration Amendment

SJR 0105 by *Yarbro
Health Care - As introduced, authorizes the governor to do all that is necessary and appropriate to expand enrollment in Tennessee's Medicaid program.

HJR 0085 by *Fitzhugh
Health Care - Commends Governor Haslam for his efforts concerning Insure Tennessee; encourages continued negotiations in order to procure a written agreement with CMS to be presented to the general assembly for approval or disapproval.

HJR 0090 by *Miller
Health Care - Authorizes implementation of Insure Tennessee substantially as described in TennCare Demonstration Amendment #25.

Mark Green: Solutions after Insure Tennessee
February 11th, 2015 By Mark Green

Tennessee is national leader in adoptions -- Department of Children's Services Commissioner Jim Henry appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week to deliver his annual report to review any policy changes to the department that affect children in state custody. Henry said Tennessee continues to be the national leader in timeliness to adoption.  In 2014, the state finalized 1,136 adoptions

Broadband Internet Services -- The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee held a hearing on potential forthcoming legislation to authorize municipal electric systems to provide high speed Internet services outside their boundaries to communities that do not have commercial services and have requested them to provide it. A 1999 Tennessee law prohibits cities that operate their own Internet networks from providing access outside the boundaries where they provide electrical service. Committee members also heard from the opponents of the legislation who argue that government intrusion squeezes out free enterprise which helps to provide competitive rates. Expect the debate to continue as this legislation comes before the committee for consideration in the coming months