Legislative Update, May 9, 2009

LEGISLATIVE ACTION  ALERT                    
May 9, 2009                                                                                
Tennessee General Assembly information here.
To email legislators, look on the left side of the page, select Legislators then select House Members or Senate Members, or ‘Find My Legislator’.
Phone calls can go to the Legislative Switchboard: (615) 741-3011 or to the Toll Free number 1-800-449-8366+1+ last four digits of office phone number (available at the same location).

“At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office…” Thomas Jefferson, 1823

Rep. Ben West (D-Nashville) had a little set back this week in his recovery from his open-heart surgery, but is better. Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis) was taken to a Nashville hospital Wednesday evening with chest pains and nausea. Rep. Harry Tindell (D-Knoxville) was ill and absent all week and a couple of other legislators were at the Capitol, but were not well. Please remember these needs and, as the days get longer and more challenging, please pray for insight, discernment and wisdom for the very important decisions are yet to be made.
*SJR 0127 By  Maggart
Constitutional Amendments - Adds new provision to Article I to provide that nothing in Constitution of Tennessee secures or protects right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion; states that the people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.
UPDATE: Rep. Charles Curtis (D-Sparta), co-sponsor of SJR 127, presented this proposal in the House Calendar and Rules Committee on Thursday were is was voted out with no problem. It will have its first of three readings and votes on Monday evening, May 11. Please go HERE and send emails of support to your House members.
Public Health - As introduced, establishes a new methodology for disposition of family planning funds that disburses funds to public women's health services programs before other providers are funded.
BACKGROUND: Every year the Tennessee Department of Health gets over million dollars in Federal money, which they direct to Planned Parenthood to pay for family planning services. Because Planned Parenthood is one of the largest abortion providers and any money they received for other services frees up more of their funds to promote abortion, for a number of years pro-lifer supporters have been trying to redirect these tax dollars. The catalyst for this present effort came this year with an undercover tape from the Memphis Planned Parenthood where the girl pretending to be 14 pregnant by her 31-year-old boyfriend was coached to lie to the judge about the age of the boyfriend.
          On Tuesday, Rep. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) presented HB 1756 in the Public Health Subcommittee. After some extended discussion, it was voted out on a voice vote with only Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) asking to be recorded as a “NO”. It will be in the full Health Committee on Tuesday.
          The most interesting debate was when Sen. Jack Johnson (R-College Grove) presented SB 470 in Senate General Welfare on Wednesday when Johnson really exposed what Planned Parenthood does and promotes. Asst. Commissioner for Health, Jim Schulman, testified about the ‘constitutionality’ of ‘singling out’ a specific entity to deny funds. Well, for one thing, the bill does not deny funds to any specific entity, but would require that Public Health Departments be considered prior to any private entity. 
          Never one to let an opportunity pass her by, Sen. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) remembered that, in the part of the statute being amended by this legislation, Planned Parenthood was mentioned by name (“…including, but not limited to, planned parenthood affiliates”.) Rightly concluding that if singling out a private entity to ‘exclude’ is problematic, the singling out a private entity to ‘include’ should be treated exactly the same way! She proposed an amendment to remove that phrase from the law and it was adopted. Don’t you just love it??
          Despite stiff opposition from the Department of Health and after some intense discussion, primarily from Sen. Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis), the bill was sent to Finance Ways and Means by an 8-1 vote, Marrero being the lone NO vote.
ACTION ITEM: Please go HERE and send an email of support to your Senator and House member.
Schools, Home - As introduced, requires that diplomas issued by home schools be recognized by all state and local governmental entities as having the same rights and privileges of diplomas issued by public school systems.
BACKGROUND: Despite the fact that home schooled students are being accepted in colleges and universities all across the nation as well as being recruited by Ivy League schools, it was learned a couple of years ago that some entities here in Tennessee that require a high school diploma to work decided that home schooled students from a ‘Category IV’ schools did not meet that criteria. This decision affected day care workers and potential law enforcement recruits among others. Since the state recognizes and authorizes this kind of education, it is only just that diplomas from these schools be recognized. An effort to fix this problem failed last year.
SB 433 was on the Senate Floor Monday where is passed 30-0. Voting YES were Barnes, Beavers, Berke, Black, Bunch, Burchett, Burks, Crowe, Faulk, Finney L, Ford, Gresham, Haynes, Henry, Herron, Jackson, Johnson, Ketron, Kyle, Marrero, McNally, Norris, Overbey, Southerland, Stanley, Stewart, Tracy, Watson, Yager, Mr. Speaker Ramsey.
          HB 431 was on the House Floor Thursday morning. You would have been so proud of prime sponsor and home schooling dad, Rep. Mike Bill (R-Riceville) as he stood in ‘the well’ (the lectern at the front of the House floor) for about an hour and 40 minutes defending this ground-breaking piece of legislation. Mike did an outstanding job as he was peppered with questions, some that didn’t have anything to do with the bill. This was such a picture of ‘grace under fire’, that when the bill finally passed, he received a well-deserved round of applause.
          In the end this bill passed Ayes 61, Nays 27. (See vote HERE.) There was a minor change requiring it to go back to the Senate for a concurring vote on Monday evening, but no problem is expected. Bill orders equality for home-school diplomas
For pertinent background information, please go HERE.
Part I:
Courts - As introduced, revises the membership of the judicial selection commission and the judicial evaluation commission; decreases term of commission members from six to four years; requires senate confirmation of governor's nominee to fill a vacancy for any state court judge; increases the vote from a majority vote to 60 percent vote that a judge must receive in a retention election; extends the sunset provision for the judicial selection and evaluation commissions to June 30, 2011
As amended, this proposal would give the people the right to directly ELECT the State Supreme Court Justices. The governor would fill any vacancies due to death, resignation, etc., then that judge would stand for election. For the appellate level courts, the electorate would vote to “Replace” or “Retain” these judges.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: The legislation also envisions passage of a Constitutional resolution that would allow the people to decide on how judges should be selected in the future, by retention or by popular vote.
SB 2114 is in Senate Judiciary on Tuesday; HB 2141 is in House Budget Subcommittee on Wednesday.
Part II:
Courts - As introduced, authorizes the governor to make interim appointments to fill judicial vacancies if the judicial selection commission sunsets on June 30, 2009.
In the event that other bills fail, this becomes the ‘bridge’ by providing that the position “be filled at the next biennial election in August, occurring more than thirty (30) days after such a vacancy, and in the meantime the governor shall appoint...” a qualified person to that vacancy.
SB 2168 is in Senate Judiciary on Tuesday; HB 2018 is in House Judiciary on Wednesday.
ACTION ITEM: Please go HERE to send a message of support for both these bills to your Senator and Representative.
Memorials, Congress - Urges United States Senate to reject ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
          This VERY IMPORTANT resolution was on the calendar in Children and Family Affairs Committee last week but they didn’t get to it. It is again on the calendar on Wednesday.
We must protect parents’ rights, family rights, and states’ rights. Go HERE for more details.
ACTION ITEM: Please go HERE and send an email of support to the committee members.
Medicine, Practice of - As introduced, requires doctors and hospitals treating minor children to release the results of medical tests and procedures performed on the child to the child's parents upon request.
          Rep. Tony Shipley (R-Kingsport) is working very hard to protect the parent-child relationship in matters of health care decisions and access to information. In the Civil Practice Subcommittee he received some assistance when Speaker Williams helped Shipley move the bill out to the full Judiciary Committee where it is on the calendar on Wednesday.  SB 2089 is in Senate Judiciary Wednesday.
ACTION ITEM: Please go HERE to send an email of support.
Schools, Charter - As introduced, expands definition of chartering authority to include the state board of education; provides for open enrollment charter schools; lifts caps on number of charter schools.
          SB 2133 has passed the State Senate 22-7 on Thursday. The road in the House as been much more difficult, however, after an extended debate, Rep. Beth Harwell successfully moved her bill out of the K-12 Subcommittee to the full Education Committee on Wednesday.
Voting aye were: Dunn, Harwell, Hawk, Hensley, Lollar, Maddox, Weaver -- 7.
Voting no were: Barker, Brown, Jones U, Turner L, Winningham -- 5.
ACTION ITEM: If your house member is listed here, please click on their name and send them an email urging them to support HB 2146 and give more children the opportunity to attend a charter school: Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis), Rep. Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville), Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston).
$10 million needed to fully fund scholarship grants for students
The state probably will have to pull about $10 million from reserves to keep lottery scholarships fully funded this year, budget officials said after reporting a revenue shortfall last week. State Budget Director Bill Bradley said the state will fall short by an additional $3.2 million of the $266 million needed to fund the scholarships. Gov. Phil Bredesen already had requested $6.6 million from reserves to cover a projected shortfall in the scholarship fund. The full amount is likely to come from the $381 million lottery reserve fund. Read more HERE.