Legislative Update March 4, 2017
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).
|To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Thomas Paine|
FOR YOUR PRAYER LIST:
It was mentioned in committee this week that former Senator Doug Henry was not doing well. I understand that he is now under Hospice care, so you will want to remember him and his family. Rep. Mark Pody's brother-in-law died this week, so you will want to remember that entire family. Rep. Pody's assistant (Debbie Stephens) had to rush her husband to the hospital this week. It seems he was having some kind of heart problem. I believe they are home now with some medication. Also, the session continues to 'heat up', so lots to pray about.
The stress of watching a bill be presented to a committee, I’d imagine, is like watching your first child leave for school for the first time. Representative Matheny brought HB1366, or the Freedom to Report Act, to Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Tuesday. We were excited because this was the bill we had been lobbying from the beginning of session. Representative Matheny was prepared for every question the committee had for him, and it passed to the full Criminal Justice Committee next week.
How would you define a dedicated lobbyist? Arriving an hour early to a subcommittee just to get seat would be a good answer because that is exactly what Mrs. Bobbie and I did on Wednesday. After a busy morning of meeting with people and the senate Health committee, we arrived to the already filled Transportation subcommittee room. The reason behind this hustle and bustle was the controversial gas tax bill. I can’t wait to see what this next week will bring.
'FREEDOM TO REPORT ACT':
SB 0816 by *Green , Bell, Hensley, Beavers, Bowling, Ketron
(HB 1366) by *Matheny,Holt, Rogers, Moody, Pody, VanHuss, Carter, Ragan, Faison, Reedy, Hill T, Hill M, Rudd, Butt, Weaver, Matlock, Gant, Sexton J, Sparks
Criminal Offenses - As introduced, gives immunity from civil or criminal liability to a person for making a report to law enforcement of suspicious activity or behavior if the report is based on articulable suspicion
The bill would provide (1) that individuals who report suspicious, potentially criminal or terrorist activity in good faith cannot be sued as a consequence, and (2) the intentional making of a report known to be false, or a report made with reckless disregard for the truth of the report it not protected. When it comes to suspicious, potentially criminal or terrorist activity, Americans are encouraged to, "report suspicious activity." But before they do so, they have a right to know that they won't be sued for their efforts. Similar legislation has passed in New York and Mississippi.
STATUS: As Sarah noted, we are so happy to report that the 'Freedom to Report Act' passed out of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee and will be in the full committee on Wednesday. [Above right is a picture of Rep. Matheny presenting our bill.]
ACTION: PLEASE contact Rep. Jim Coley and Rep. Andrew Farmer and ask them to support this important piece of legislation.
ABOUT THAT GAS TAX:
SB 1221 by *Norris, (HB 0534) by *Casada,Doss, Dunn, Sargent, Swann, McDaniel, Whitson, White M, Marsh
Gas, Petroleum Products, Volatile Oils - As introduced, changes from July 20 to July 25 the date by which a commercial user of a vehicle propelled by liquefied gas or compressed natural gas must submit the annual report of miles traveled and tax due.
NOTE: This was the "Caption" bill that, with an amendment, was to become the IMPROVE Act, a.k.a, the Governor's bill.
SB 0963 by *Roberts, (HB 1012) by *Hawk
Taxes, Sales - As introduced, requires the commissioner of revenue to annually report the amount of revenue generated from the tax on the sale of food to the chairs of the finance, ways and means committees of the senate and the house of representatives
NOTE: This was the "Caption" bill, that, with an amendment, was to become the "Hawk" proposal, which calls for diverting a portion of the sales tax funds into the state's general fund to road construction without a tax increase.
You will want to watch this committee meeting which can be seen here:
The House Transportation Subcommittee, March 1, 2017
Malia and I arrived in Room 16 a full hour prior the time that the House Transportation Subcommittee was scheduled to start and I do believe we got the last two seats in the large room, which was alive with excitement. We sat down with thanksgiving! Before long the aisles started filling up and we had a visit by "Tank". And, may I say, that everyone in attendance that day, was very well behaved and respectful, unlike other groups who have been in the Plaza recently.
When Chairman Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver called the meeting to order, she noted that, because of the fire code limitations, the aisles had to be cleared, so a lot of interested folks had to go out to the lobby and watch the TV. And then the High Drama began.
As the meeting unfolded, we learned that 13 amendments had actually been filed on HB534. Amendment 1 rolled to the heel of amendments, Amendments 3 and 4 were withdrawn. Amendment 5, the same language as the 'Hawk' amendment was offered by Rep. Alexander. Voting YES were Alexander, Doss, Whitson; voting NO were Cooper, Rogers, Sexton Weaver, Windle.
Amendment 6, Alexander, putting money in the Airport trust fund, failed.
Rep. Doss then asked for a five minute recess, it seems that everyone wasn't on the same page.
Amendment 8 withdrawn. Amendment 9, Alexander, removes gas and diesel tax, replaces with the 'Hawk' language using sales tax, leaves the rest of the bill in tact. Voting YES, Alexander Cooper Doss, Whitson; voting NO were Rogers, Sexton Windle, Weaver. A tie vote leaves a bill in committee, however, supporters had planned very well, and they had Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson in the committee (the speaker or speaker pro tem can go into ANY committee and vote), so Johnson broke the tie and voted YES.
Amendment 10 through 13 and 1 were withdrawn.
Amendment 7, Alexander, removed the indexing from the from the bill. Voting YES were Alexander, Cooper, Rogers, Sexton, Whitson, Windle and Weaver, Voting NO was Doss.
Voting on the Bill, as amended, HB534: Voting YES were Alexander, Cooper, Doss, Whitson; Voting NO were Rogers, Sexton, Windle, Weaver. Once again it was a tie vote and Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson broke the tie and voted YES, sending the bill to the full committee.
Then Rep. Hawk presented his bill, HB1012 and the amendment that makes the bill. Voting YES were Rogers, Sexton Weaver; voting NO were Alexander, Cooper, Doss, Whitson and Windle. That bill failed.
ACTION: HB534, as amended, will be in the full House Transportation Committee on Tuesday at 1:30. NOW is the time to make your voice heard. Emails, phone calls, letters, etc., are needed, however, please continue to be civil and respectful
NOTE: The subcommittee action is just the first step in a process that is expected to have another FIVE steps: full Transportation Committee, Budget Subcommittee, Finance Ways and Means, Calendar and Rules Committee (usually just a step that assigns it to a place on the floor calendar, but one never knows) then the House Floor. At each of these stops, this bill can be amended and changed. Activists will want to stay engaged and continue to make their voices heard. And....don't forget to also be begin to contact the Senators.
Immigration - As introduced, prohibits state and local governmental entities and officials from adopting or enacting sanctuary policies; authorizes residents of this state and members of the general assembly to submit complaints to the attorney general and reporter; provides that violations will subject applicable entities to ineligibility of state moneys
STATUS: When presenting SB155, Sen. Green said that he had just learned that their was a Constitutional question about a portion of the text and that he was having an amendment drafted and would like to roll the bill for a week.
ACTION: Please contact the members of the State and Local Government Committee and urge the to pass this legislation
FORFEITURE OF ASSETS:
SB 0316 by *Gardenhire,(HB 0421) by *Daniel
Forfeiture of Assets - As introduced, establishes a new procedure for the seizure and forfeiture of assets as the result of criminal activity; requires conviction for the underlying criminal conviction before forfeiture can occur; requires clear and convincing evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture; and provides that all forfeited or abandoned money be deposited in state general fund and all property forfeitures be sold and the proceeds go into state general fund.
NOTE: This is a very important bill and we have seen serious situations here in Middle TN. This article from the Beacon Center explains the details:
Tennessee’s civil asset forfeiture system: Unfair and broken
STATUS: After a very lengthy discussion, in committee, HB421 was postponed until March 15.
ACTION: Please contact the members of the Civil Justice Subcommittee and URGE them to support HB421
Lawmakers move to start 'intellectual diversity' office at UT
A year after the General Assembly de-funded the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee's flagship campus in Knoxville, a panel of state lawmakers voted Wednesday to create an "intellectual diversity" office there.
Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, recommended the office while the Senate Education Committee was reviewing the UT budget as proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam. Hensley proposed an amendment that would set aside $450,000 from the budget to fund the office on the Knoxville campus, a move some senators suggested would encourage more people with conservative views to speak their minds.
UT President Joe DiPietro, who had been fielding questions from the committee for more than an hour, seemed blindsided. But he urged the lawmakers to give university leaders a chance to consider other options.
"I have not seen your amendment. You've caught me flat-footed," DiPietro told the lawmakers. "It's not a good thing for you or for us to be in these circumstances with these kinds of amendments."
The education committee unanimously approved Hensley's change, sending the budget on for consideration in the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee. It was the latest provocative action from a panel that has repeatedly put UT administrators on the defensive by taking aim at day-to-day campus operations.
Commission pick to replace Lovell could cast key votes
The Shelby County Commission could appoint a temporary successor for embattled former Rep. Mark Lovell on April 3 — perhaps days before the 2017 legislative session ends, but in time to vote on some of this year's most controversial legislation.
The county Board of Commissioners will accept applications for the interim appointment to the vacant District 95 seat March 21-27 and run background checks on the applicants, according to commission staff. A committee chaired by Commissioner Justin Ford will interview the applicants March 29, and the commission will hear and vote on nominations April 3.
By then, the legislative session could be over — or, perhaps, in the middle of an intense to debate over the bills too complicated or controversial to receive approval earlier. Lawmakers could be debating Gov. Bill Haslam's proposed 7-cent gas tax hike. Or a school vouchers bill by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, that would divert $18 million from Shelby County Schools. Or a de-annexation bill that could lose Memphis more than 20 percent of its population. Or a bill supported by the commission legalizing medical marijuana.