Legislative Update, June 20, 2009 - Session Adjourned

LEGISLATIVE ACTION  ALERT                    

June 20, 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).

SUCCESS…to laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty…to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have SUCCEEDED!”
~~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Please remember the husband of Carolyn Newman (assistant to Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Greeneville). He was taken to the hospital under emergency conditions, ended up having five-way heart bypass surgery and is now recovering. Rep. Mark Maddox (D-Dresden) was in the hospital this week. Rep. Larry Turner (D-Memphis) was out sick. Rep. John Tidwell (D-Johnsonville) was on crutches after tearing a muscle playing basketball. On a personal note, I would also ask prayers for my husband. Ron is diabetic and recent tests indicated a problem with kidney function. We are awaiting an appointment with a kidney specialist.
          On Wednesday, Rep. Terry Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) was asked to serve as ‘Chaplain of the Day’. She opened the session in prayer, led the Pledge and with her lovely voice, sang “America the Beautiful”.
After eleven p.m. on Thursday, Republican Leader Jason Mumpower (R-Bristol) stood to call the attention of the House members to the fact that Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) had been appointed ‘Chairman of the House Paper Drive’. This is a bit of a prank played each year on a freshman legislator when all the other members take their stacks of paper and place them on the ‘chairman’s’ desk completely obscuring the lawmaker.
In the Senate, there is a tradition for some type of presentation from the ‘greenhorn caucus’ (freshman senators) before the session adjourns. On Thursday evening, Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) ‘did his duty’ reading a clever poem written in the style of Cat in the Hat.
          Many of us remember the TV program, The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982), where Dr. Banner (Bill Bixby) turned into The Hulk (Lou Ferrigno). Well, you never know who will show up at the State Capitol. On Thursday, Ronnie Barrett, Barrett Rifles, brought to the Capitol his houseguests, Lou Ferrigno and his wife. At 57 and ten days passed a hip replacement, he is still The Hulk in great physical shape. It was interesting to see senators and others gather around to meet him, some getting their pictures made with him.
          Sen. Doug Henry and wife Lolly celebrated their 60th Anniversary this week.
          I was in elevator with a couple of legislators one day when one told me that someone said that he got his ‘marching orders’ from me everyday. (That was news to both of us.) The other responded with ‘a comment like that would get me votes in my district.”
 THE GOOD NEWS: On Thursday evening the first session of the 106th General Assembly adjourned for the year. (They can’t hurt you if they aren’t there!)
Memorials, Congress - Urges United States Senate to reject ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This became such a bazaar story that I will do a special, separate report on it.
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.
          The effort to pass this bill was difficult at every step in the process and in committee and on the House floor it generated raucous and heated debates. Go HERE, then move the blue slide over to 4:03 to view the House floor debate. When the dust settled, it passed the House 61-32-2. You will want to check to see how your House member voted. (NOTE: The first vote on the page of 69-22 is concurring with a senate amendment; it is the second vote on the page that is on the bill.)
          The bill then moved to Senate where it passed 25-7, and again I would encourage you to check to see how your senator voted. We are very grateful for the persistence of sponsors Sen. Jack Johnson (R-College Grove) and Rep. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) and to the bipartisan group of pro-life Senators and House members who consistently voted for this legislation.
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. 
          In early May, SB 2133 passed the Senate 22-7-1, unfortunately, the House Democrat Caucus stopped HB 2146 in its tracks, however House sponsor Rep. Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) is not one to give up easily. She wrote an excellent article supporting this legislation: Tennessee charter schools are most restrictive.  In addition, she continued to negotiate with the Tennessee Education Association, who had been totally opposed to this legislation. In the end after weeks of hard work, she finally was able to work out an agreement that strengthens Tennessee’s public charter school law and will expand opportunities to students statewide. In surprise move, House acts to expand charter school eligibility. It passed 79-15.
For more details, go to:
Public charter school bill approved by Senate.
Insurance, Health, Accident - As introduced, exempts utilization review agents who are accredited by National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) from payment of annual fee; authorizes utilization review programs for the mental health and chemical dependency care to comply with either NCQA standards or Utilization Review Accreditation Commission (URAC) standards.
          Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Lebanon) worked diligently to expose the problems of the government collecting our private medical information and she was successful in amending the legislation to provide another layer of protection for patient privacy.  While the amendment doesn’t ‘fix’ the bill, it certainly improved this proposal prior to it passing 67-28. Although Senators Bo Watson (R-Chattanooga) and Diane Black (R-Gallatin) addressed the fact that the fiscal note of $200 K was grossly understated based on what has happened in other states, it passed 19-11.
Religion and Religious Organizations - As introduced, prohibits a government entity from substantially burdening a person's free exercise of religion unless it demonstrates the application of the burden is essential to further a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.
       This was another piece of legislation that had a bit of a rough go, but finally passed the Senate
25-7, and the House 89-1-1.
Sunset Laws - As introduced, transfers the duties of the ethics commission to the registry of election finance if the ethics commission automatically terminates and ceases to exist on June 30, 2009, pursuant to the provisions of the sunset law.
          This became one of the most volatile issues at the Capitol this year and its success was in doubt. Background: Registry of Election Finance has been in place and functioning well for many years. The Ethics Commission was created AFTER
Operation Tennessee Waltz when the FBI and TBI swept into the legislature in May 2005, arrested, prosecuted and convicted a number of legislators (and others) for bribery. 
          From the beginning many lawmakers thought that an Ethics Commission should be a part of the Registry, but were unsuccessful in their efforts. Because of some recent problems with the Ethics Commission and the opportunity to save the state around $300 thousand, the effort at merging the two was pursued again this year and was finally successful. Neither commission will in any way be weakened nor their authority be curbed. SB 162 passed the Senate 22-11, HB 506 passed the House 81-12-1.
Tennessee Ethics Commission, finance registry to merge
General Assembly, Statement of Intent or Position - Supports erection of statues honoring Nobel Prize recipients, Cordell Hull and Al Gore, on State Capitol grounds using solely private funds.
               In the House, this resolution was placed on a Consent Calendar (a calendar containing a list of ‘non-controversial’ bills with no amendments that is voted on as a group) where it passed 95-1. However, thankfully, it ran into some resistance in the Senate. After being on the floor calendar a couple of times with extended debate, the resolution failed 14-15-1. Al Gore, Cordell Hull statues voted down
*SJR 0381 by *Tracy
General Assembly, Statement of Intent or Position - Expresses opposition to the use of any local jail, state prison, or private detention facility in Tennessee to house any prisoner currently held at Guantanamo Bay. This important resolution passed the Senate
28-1-1; then passed the House 84-3-3.
General Assembly, Statement of Intent or Position - Expresses opposition to efforts to amend the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 to remove the private election phase of union recognition campaigns and force binding arbitration on employers during union negotiations.
For more information on ‘Card Check”, go
HERE. This resolution passed the Senate 18-8-1.

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. This fierce opposition to this legislation finally necessitated that the bill be taken off notice for the year.
For the first time in the Tennessee Education Lottery's five-year existence, spending on HOPE scholarships and the state's pre-K program outpaced lottery profits. 
Lottery officials are "projecting a slightly lower return to education for FY09 than the previous year," said Kym Gerlock, the lottery's spokeswoman. "This will be the first time we are not projecting growth."
State finance officials plan to dip into lottery reserve funds to the tune of about $10 million just to pay for the HOPE scholarships already promised for this year. Read more here

A look at failed bills in the TN legislature
This is an interesting look at some of the bills that failed this year.