Legislative Update, March 11, 2017

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).


Power is the great evil with which we are contending. We have divided power between three branches of government and erected checks and balances to prevent abuse of power. However, where is the check on the power of the judiciary? If we fail to check the power of the judiciary, I predict that we will eventually live under judicial tyranny.
Patrick Henry

Praise Report: Rep. Andy and Elli Holt welcomed Anderson Winston Holt, 9lbs 13oz, last Friday. He joins two brothers and three sisters. Mother and baby are doing well.
Linda Klingmann's (Sen. Dolores Gresham's assistant) mother has had a serious stroke. Debbie Stephens' (Rep. Mark Pody's assistant) husband is doing much better.
Of course, the big legislative news is that Sen. Doug Henry passed away this week.  He really was a giant of a man who was humble, principled, graceful, with impeccable manners, who championed so many wonderful issues as he served the state for 44 years. As I stood in line on Thursday to pay my respects, it was fun to share and listen to some of the many stories about Sen. Henry that were being remembered. Lawmakers pay tribute to Douglas Henry at Tennessee Capitol.
You will want to remember each of these families.


I never thought I would enjoy sitting in uncomfortable chairs, and listening to committee hearings all day. Fortunately the debate on HB0534, the gas tax, made it enjoyable. Representative Timothy Hill started out by asking if it was proper for Chairman Doss to preside over his bill. From prior discussions with Chairman Doss, I knew he was fully supportive of the gas tax, and it was interesting to see how that was handled by the other members. I could write an entire essay on the other committees we went to Tuesday, but for now HB0534 has been rolled a week.

This Wednesday was a very interesting day at the Legislature. Around noon Mrs. Bobbie and I started noticing quite a few people wearing pink that sported the phrase, “I stand with Planned Parenthood.” We knew why they were there. They were there in opposition of Rep. Matthew Hill’s bill, HB1189, and Rep. Micah Van Huss’s bill, HB108, which both pertained to abortion. The Health subcommittee ended up Rolling Rep. Van Huss’s bill to January 2018 and passing Rep. Hill’s bill, much to the dismay of the people from Planned Parenthood.

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:  I am so pleased to report that HB1366 was voted unanimously out of the Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday and was sent to House Calendar and Rules Committee. That committee will assign it a place on the House floor calendar.
ACTION: PLEASE contact your House member and urge him or her to support this important legislation.

SB 1180 by *Hensley,(HB 1189) by *Hill M
Abortion - As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Infants Protection Act," which prohibits abortion of a viable fetus except in a medical emergency and requires testing to determine viability if a woman is at least 20 weeks pregnant.

NOTE:  I just have to say the I have known Rep. Matthew Hill since he was a teenager. I watched him in committee this week and was SO PROUD of the impressive, knowledgeable, legislator that he has become.

STATUS: Opponents of the bill arrived early in the day. Before the committee was convened, the room was full with the hall outside holding the overflow. As Rep. Hill presented his bill, he clearly demonstrated how well prepared he was to defend the provisions of HB1189.  Rep. John Ray Clemmons quickly surfaced as the chief opponent of the bill asking a lot of questions of Rep. Hill, which Hill deftly handled. At end of the debate, HB1189 passed out of the committee on a voice vote with Reps. Clemmons and Favors requesting to be recorded as voting No. You can see the debate in the Health Subcommittee, scroll down to the bill number and click there.

ACTION:  HB1189 will be in the full Health Committee on Tuesday.  Yes, TN is a 'pro-life' state, but no one should EVER take the legislative process for granted.  PLEASE contact the members of this committee and ask them to support this important, common sense legislation.

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.

STATUS:  Well, well, where to start?? This is a bit like trying to follow the bouncing ball. As I understand it, SB1221 was heard in a special  Senate Transportation Subcommittee where it was amended to contain only the PROJECTS contained in the Governor's IMPROVE act.  This bill, as amended is on the regular Transportation Committee Calendar on Monday at 12:30. [Now keep in mind if you look at the content of this bill online, it will only show the language of the 'caption bill'.  The amendment has not been posted.]

The House companion, HB534 (which, at the moment, contains the "Hawk" language and an amendment to remove the indexing), was in the full House Transportation committee where a lively debate ensued, peppered with a number of strategic moves, including a motion to adjourn by Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, which failed on a tie vote. One of the main complaints was that the members of this committee really don't know what they are voting for because the action of this committee can be completely undone by the next committee.  So, a YES, vote here to move the bill forward, could actually end up being a vote to raise the gas tax, which many legislators oppose. In the end, the bill was held in committee and will be on next week's calendar.
It really is worth your time to watch the debate in the committee. Click HERE, then scroll down to the bill number and click on it.

ACTION:  Now is the time to let the members of the Senate Transportation Committee  and the House Transportation Committee hear from YOU!!

SB 0803 by *Dickerson,(HB 0495) by *Faison
Controlled Substances - As introduced, requires court clerks to forward, within six weeks instead of 45 days, information to the Tennessee bureau of investigation regarding convictions of persons to be included on the drug offender registry. [NOTE:  This is a 'caption' bill and the text of the actual bill will be added in committee as an amendment.]

STATUS: This has been a roller coaster ride this week.  We breathed a sigh of relief when Rep. Faison took HB459 'off notice' on Tuesday (Whew!) only to see it reappear the calendar next week. So.... we are in a 'full court press' to try to defeat it once and for all this year. The proposed amendment that 'makes' the bill is 52 pages long and, yes, I have read every word. Not only does it 'legalize' medical marijuana, made available in many forms including the edibles which children have been known to get into in other states, it is a comprehensive business plan to make a lot of money from the legalization. We have long maintained that for some, legalizing 'medical marijuana' is just a stepping stone.  Well here is the proof: “The key is medical access.  Because once you have hundreds of thousands of people using marijuana under medical supervision, the whole scam is going to be brought up . . . then we’ll get medical, then we’ll get full legalization” Dick Cowan, Director, NORML.
(There are many more quotes of a similar nature.)

Rep. Sabi Kumar. MD, had a helpful op-ed published last Friday, 11 myths about Medical Marijuana.

ACTION:  Please contact the members of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee and ask them to OPPOSE this legislation. 

SJR 0009 by *Kelsey, Bell, Ketron, Stevens, Crowe, Niceley, Norris
Constitutional Conventions - Calls for a convention of the states to plan for an Article V convention to propose a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution; creates a balanced budget amendment convention committee. -
HJR 0038 by *Powers
Constitutional Conventions - Appoints commissioners to the planning convention for a prospective Article V convention. -
HB 0093 by *Powers (SB 0031 by *Kelsey, Norris)
Constitutional Conventions - As introduced, removes limitation on the number of delegates that may be appointed to a constitutional convention. - Amends TCA Title 3, Chapter 18.
HJR 0124 by *Hulsey
Constitutional Conventions - Calls for a convention of the states to plan for Article V conventions under the United States Constitution; creates a convention committee.

STATUS:  Well, the House State Government Committee was interesting to say the least.  Each of these bills were on the Calendar Tuesday and the hearing room was filled with Convention of the States supporters.  However, an interesting thing happened on the way to a Convention.  It seems that the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force folks and the Convention of the States folks don't see eye to eye on how this thing goes forward. Bill Furth, of the BBA Task Force spoke and Ramona DeSalvo spoke representing the Convention of the States. After extended discussion, conflicting testimony from the speakers, and questions from committee members, all these bills/resolutions were sent to 'summer study' or were taken 'off notice', which means among other things, that there will not be a 'planning convention' here in Nashville this summer. We are, of course, very pleased about that.
I really encourage you to watch the debate, it was very instructive:   State Government Committee - scroll down and click on SJR0009 to see testimony.