Legislative Update, March 25, 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).

'No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is as formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.'  - Ronald Reagan

Please remember Rep. Barry Doss, as he recently lost his dad. Prayers are definitely needed as we move into the 'crazy' time of the session. Notification has been given that Senate Transportation, Energy and Ag and Commerce Calendars are the last for the 2017 session; likewise the House Health Sub. This always throws the session into hyper-activity with Legislators having to move between serving on their various assigned committees versus presenting their bills in other committees, etc. It also creates a lot of tension and stress. What we need is Grace, Respect, Peace and Patience, among other things!


This week there were two major bills in committees, so walking through the crowded hall was like swimming through molasses. Unfortunately the only bill I saw presented, was the  Improve Act. There was so much to discuss on this particular bill, and so many amendments, that the transportation committee spent the whole time on the sixteen amendments that had been filed. Some of them were very interesting, for example, Representative Mitchell proposed leaving the gas tax where it was, but raising the tobacco tax. The amendment failed with only two yes votes.


This Wednesday was quite busy as everyone was trying to catch up with their work from the lost day of work last week due to the President’s visit. That morning we talked to many Representatives and Senators about our thoughts and concerns on some bills. The real action didn’t happen till 12:30 in the Senate Education committee. We got to the committee a half an hour early to get a seat and see Sen. Mae Beavers present SB0771 or the Bathroom bill. As we watched the committee her bill finally came up only to get shut down because nobody moved or seconded it before Sen. Beavers even got to the stand. An action that Mrs. Bobbie, myself and many others agreed, seemed to be very discourteous to Sen. Beavers.

SB 0771 by *Beavers,(HB 0888) by *Pody
Students - As introduced, requires students in public schools and public institutions of higher education to use restrooms and locker rooms that are assigned to persons of the same sex as that shown on the students' birth certificates

We got into the committee room early to get seats because we expected it to be standing room only with the so called 'Bathroom' bill and the instate tuition for illegals on the calendar. We were right!!
SB771 was number four on the Senate Education Calendar on Wednesday. The Committee chairman said: " Sen. Beavers, you are recognized on SB771.  Is there a motion on the bill, I don't see a motion, no motion, (gavel went down).  Thank you Sen. Beavers. We are moving on."  Sen. Beavers didn't even have time to get completely to the podium.

Even if there wasn't going to be a motion, it would have been so much more courtious to let Sen. Beavers actually present the bill and talk about the proposed amendment that would have rewritten the bill. It would have removed Higher Education which removed ALL COSTS but an estimated $300K in potential lost sales tax revenue from a boycott, the equivalent of about 2/10ths of 1% of the General Fund, and would have provided protection and privacy for our students.
Tennessee bathroom bill dead in the Senate

Interesting background: In 2016, Sen. Mike Bell Sponsored SB2387, which, as amended, would have required students in public schools and public institutions of higher education to use the bathroom as indicated by their birth certificate; make appropriate accommodations with respect to restroom and locker room facilities. SB2387 Passed 7-2:  Senators voting aye were: Crowe, Gresham, Gardenhire, Haile, Hensley, Kelsey, Tracy -- 7;  Senators voting no were: Dickerson, Tate -- 2The companion, HB2414, was pulled by the sponsor, Rep. Susan Lynn, and not run in the house.

From my friend, attorney David Fowler, President, Family Action Council of Tennessee:
President Trump’s decision to rescind Obama’s policies made the bill unnecessary.
This is not true. President Obama tried to take away the authority of the states under Title IX to treat sex as a biological reality, trying to force on them the concept that “sex” in the law actually meant or included “gender identity.”
Trump’s action only allowed states to decide if they wanted to treat sex as a biological reality for the purposes of bathrooms, locker rooms, etc. But Trump’s decision also left it up to the states to abandon the idea that sex is biological for the amorphous concept of “gender identity.”
The members of the Senate Education Committee essentially said they were okay with local schools choosing to allow students to choose bathrooms and locker rooms based on how they identified, regardless of their biological sex.
Not passing the bill keeps the decision in the hands of local schools and out of the hands of federal judges.
This is misleading at best and not true at worst. The only way to keep this issue out of a federal judge’s hands is for schools to allow students to choose the bathroom they want to use, regardless of their sex. Here’s why. When the ACLU or other like-minded groups have sued local schools for not letting students choose the bathroom they want to use, they allege that this is discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That kind of claim means that, if the school loses, it will have to pay the ACLU’s legal fees. Given these facts, the only way a school system can be assured they will not be dragged into federal court (where a federal judge will decide the issue anyway!) is to let students choose the bathroom or locker room they want, meaning a boy can choose the girl’s bathroom or locker room. To say “no” to that student is to risk being threatened with or slapped with a lawsuit they can’t afford to litigate; schools will capitulate.
That is why a state law was needed—to make sure any lawsuits were against the state and not local school systems.
The bill had a large fiscal cost to the state.
Picture giving up 20 cents out of $1,000, and you will have a picture of what passage of the bill was estimated to cost the state. After colleges were removed from the bill by the proposed amendment, the only cost to the state was an estimated loss of $300,000 in state sales tax. This equal 2/100ths of 1 percent of the amount of the state’s General Fund revenues. Again, that’s like giving up 20 cents out of $1,000.

Student Sues School District After Claiming He Had To Change In Front Of Transgender Student In Locker Room.

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.
I could not be more pleased to report that HB1366 passed the House floor 73-21. SB816 is in Senate Judiciary Committee calendar for 3/28/2017.
ACTION:  Please contact the members of this committee and urge them to support this important legislation. Please note that Bell and Bowling are co-sponsors - you can THANK them.

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, the beat certainly 'goes on' with the journey to raise the gas tax.
SB1221 was in the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday, where it passed 9-0: Bailey, Briggs, Gardenhire, Jackson, Johnson, Ketron, Norris, Yarbro, Yager.
Now it goes to Senate Finance Ways and Means committee for Tuesday.

HB534 was much more entertaining and lengthy in House Transportation Committee on Tuesday. Sixteen amendments had been filed, most of which were ultimately withdrawn at the appropriate time. Rep. Bill Dunn succeeded in getting the same 105-page amendment on the bill that is on the Senate bill, plus a couple of other amendments were added. When the dust settled the final vote was 11-7:Representatives voting aye were: Alexander, Carr, Cooper, Doss, Dunn, Keisling, Sanderson, Smith, Travis, Turner, Whitson -- 11. Representatives voting no were: Hill T, Mitchell, Rogers, Sexton J, Weaver, Windle, Zachary -- 7.
It is scheduled in House
Local Government Committee on Tuesday.

ACTION:  Time is running out to make your voice heard on this legislation. Remember you can send emails or leave phone messages any time.
Gov. Bill Haslam's gas tax plan scores major win in House, Senate committees.

Concerned Veterans of America: ‘Veterans Being Used in Tennessee Tax Hike Ploy’.

SB 1180 by *Hensley,(HB 1189) by *Hill M, 
Matlock, Byrd, Lynn, Terry, Rudd, Eldridge, Weaver, Butt, Goins
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.

STATUS:  HB1189 is finally scheduled on the House Health Committee on Tuesday.
ACTION:  PLEASE contact the committee members and URGE them to support this very important legislation.

SB 0635 by *Gardenhire, (HB 0660) by *White M
Education, Higher - As introduced, authorizes the governing body of each public institution of higher education to determine the qualifications that students must possess to be eligible for payment of in-state tuition

STATUS:  SB635 is placed on the Senate Education Committee calendar on Wednesday.
HB660 was on the House Education Administration & Planning Subcommittee Calendar on Tuesday. Initial discussion was around the instate tuition of a number of students. The universities are in favor of this change. Rep. Harry Brooks asked White if he intended this as a mechanism for folks that are illegally in the country to receive instate tuition. White admitted that it would, but would be up to the schools.  If that happened, rules would be promulgated and they would have to be brought back to the Government Operations Committees for review. After some discussion, Rep. Brooks suggested that since there was another bill dealing directly with illegals, perhaps the one section in this bill could be removed to make the issues more separate.  In the end, the bill was postponed and will be in that same committee this coming Tuesday.  If indeed, that section is removed, it would be less objectionable.

SB 1014 by *Gardenhire, (HB 0863) by *White M
Education - As introduced, exempts certain students from payment of out-of-state tuition at state institutions of higher education
STATUS: SB1014 was in Senate Education on Wednesday where is passed 7-2
Crowe, Dickerson, Gardenhire, Gresham, Haile, Tate, Tracy -- 7; Senators voting no were: Hensley, Kelsey -- 2.  It was sent to Finance Ways and Means Committee.

HB863 is also scheduled in
House Education Administration & Planning Subcommittee, on Tuesday.
ACTION:  Please contact these committee members and urge them to oppose this legislation.  

Undocumented immigrants in Tennessee cheer another chance at in-state tuition


House approves bill to block Nashville, Memphis marijuana laws

Beth Harwell tells former Tennessee Republican Party chairwoman she's running for 2018 gubernatorial bid