Legislative Update, February 20, 2010

February 20, 2010 
Tennessee General Assembly information and contacts: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/
To email legislators, look on the left side of the page, select House or Senate, then ‘Members’.
Don’t forget that you can now watch on your computer the committee meetings and the floor sessions: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/livevideo/
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).
"Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late - and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.  To pray for revival while ignoring the plain precept laid down in Scripture is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble. Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience." -- A. W. Tozer 

This week we have some ‘praises’. After thinking that Sen. Ophelia Ford (D-Memphis) might miss most or all of this session, she was back this week and looking well. Some effective treatment enabled Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) to be back this week. Inskip Elementary School Principal Elisa Luna (former Sen. Jerry Cooper’s daughter) said in a statement Thursday she's looking forward to getting treatment at an Atlanta medical center that specializes in spinal cord injuries as she recovers from the Feb. 10 attack inside the school. Read more here.
Democratic state Rep. Ben West to retire
West, whose father was a former Mayor of Nashville, was first elected to the legislature in 1984. The 68-year-old was forced to miss time during last year's legislative session after suffering a heart attack and having by-pass surgery.

We passed this resolution in the House last year.   It was on the Senate Floor the last day of the session and through a series of problems was not passed. This is our LAST CHANCE.
*HJR 0369 by *Bell , Curtiss, Bass, Harmon, DeBerry J, Bone, Casada, Weaver, Dunn, Floyd, Shipley, Cobb J, Swafford, Mumpower, Hawk, Haynes, Niceley, Matlock, Harwell, Halford, McManus, Lynn, Maggart, Eldridge, Evans, Rich, Dean, Lollar, Carr, Brooks K, Hensley
Memorials, Congress - Urges United States Senate to reject ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Do you want the United Nations telling you how to raise your child? Probably not.
This Treaty was signed years ago, but in the wisdom of the US Senate, was never ratified. This proposal moves the normal and generally recognized ‘needs’ of a child into ‘rights under law’. Under Article VI of our Constitution, treaties signed by the United States become the law of the land. A few things in this treaty: your child would be guaranteed the ‘freedom of association and the freedom of peaceful assembly’, the right of freedom of expression, freedom to seek received and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers…., access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources…..right to rest and leisure…to participate fully in cultural and artistic life….
Ratifying this Treaty would put an unaccountable, 18-member committee in Geneva in charge of the relationship between parents and children, and families and the state.
          This resolution urges Senators Alexander and Corker to reject this treaty.
          For more background information go HERE.
STATUS: Will be on the Senate Floor Monday evening.
ACTION: Please go HERE to send your senate an email of support.
*SJR 0763 by *Kelsey , Jackson, McNally, Black, Beavers, Ramsey, Gresham, Bunch, Burchett, Tracy, Ketron, Faulk, Southerland, Johnson, Watson
Constitutional Amendments - Proposes an amendment to clarify the constitutional language that currently prohibits the levying of a tax on any class of income, other than income derived from stocks and bonds, and to prohibit any tax levied on or measured by employer payrolls
          SJR 763 was on the calendar in Senate Judiciary this week where it passed with a ‘positive recommendation’ and will soon be heard in the Finance Ways and Means Committee. Senators voting aye were: Beavers, Black, Bunch, Faulk, Overbey, Kelsey -- 6.
Senators voting no were: Marrero B -- 1. Senators present and not voting were: Kyle -- 1.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Twenty-three years of experience and there are still new things to learn. In the update last week it was reported that SJR 682 ‘failed’. Well the ‘new thing’ learned is that the Judiciary Committee cannot ‘kill’ a proposed Constitutional Amendment. With regard to Constitutional Amendments, that committee can only ‘make recommendations.’ Based on only receiving four yes votes, SJR682 will move on to Finance Ways and Means with a ‘negative recommendation’. The proposal will then ‘live or die’ in the Finance Ways Means Committee when it is heard. 
*SJR 0682 by *Beavers
Constitutional Amendments - Proposes a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote by the senate and a two-thirds vote of the house in order to approve legislation that seeks an increase in appropriations in excess of the Copeland spending cap for any fiscal year.
Senators voting aye were: Beavers, Black, Bunch, Kelsey -- 4.
Senators voting no were: Kyle, Marrero B -- 2.
Senators present and not voting were: Faulk, Jackson, Overbey -- 3.

Education - As introduced, requires local boards of education to give preference to parent's request in classroom placement of multiple birth siblings.
          Mom of twin boys, Gwen Adams, became a superb advocate and ‘lobbyist’ for this proposal. Her experience mirrored that of many other families when she was told that it was the ‘school policy’ to separate twins, offering no reason, no research, no purpose and nothing in writing to support this decision. ALL the science supports keeping multiples together especially in the early years. Research demonstrates that educators receive almost NO training on how to meet the needs twins and other multiples, so these are just arbitrary decisions based on nothing.
On Tuesday we visited with members of the Senate Education Committee. By the end of the day we felt confident that this ‘Parents’ Rights’ bill would pass with ‘flying colors.’
          Enter the Tennessee School Boards Association. Wednesday morning their representative, Lee Harrell, realized that our bill actually gave some power to parents and went in to action. When he talked to me I told him I was willing to look at some compromise language. Literally minutes prior to the Education Committee meeting he offered an amendment that would prevent a policy of separation and ‘give weight’ (whatever that means) to a parent’s written preference, but still left the decision completely in the hands of the school, setting no standard, requiring no conference, no meetings, and providing no appeals process.
          We rolled the bill until next Wednesday and met with Mr. Harrell for about an hour that afternoon. He is ‘willing’ to look at some compromise language, but was pretty clear that the TSBA wants the final authority to rest with the schools, based on nothing.
          We frequently hear that decisions should be made ‘in the best interest of the child’. Well, how does that apply in this case? Clearly there is no concern about the ‘best interest of the child’, only the arbitrary desires of the schools.
          This is just another example of the control that schools want to have over students and their families. Please help us stand up for parents and their children! For more information go HERE.

STATUS: SB2480 will be in Senate Education on Wednesday.
ACTION: Please go HERE and send an email to the Education Committee supporting parents’ rights.
HB 2059 by *Lynn ( *SB 0153 by *Ketron)
Criminal Offenses - As introduced, classifies as a Class A misdemeanor, subject to a fine only, the unauthorized implantation of an electronic identification and/or tracking device or mark placed on any human being.
          Another week, another period of time in the Criminal Practice Subcommittee!
The committee had a long calendar and didn’t get to HB 2059 until the end of their meeting time. Rep. Eddie Bass (D-Prospect) produced a surprise amendment that would EXEMPT from the provisions of this legislation “the United States military, the Tennessee national guard or any governmental employer whose primary responsibility is law enforcement, public safety or security.” Huh?? This is EXACTLY what we are trying to prevent – the FORCED ‘chipping’ of ANYONE. Needless to say the bill was postponed once again. Channel 4 did a story: Bill Would Prohibit Forced Microchip Device. Related video HERE.

STATUS: HB 2059 will be in Criminal Practice once again on Wednesday.
ACTION: Please email rep.eddie.bass@capitol.tn.gov and politely ask him to support the bill as presented and let him know that giving the government the right to force implants is just what we want to prohibit. Please email rep.barrett.rich@capitol.tn.gov asking him to support the bill as presented and politely let him know that one legislature cannot bind the hands of a future legislature; that as technology advances, issues are readdressed regularly.
SB 3498 by *Beavers ( *HB 3433 by *Harwell)
Health Care - As introduced, enacts "Tennessee Health Freedom Act." would protect a citizen's right to participate, or not participate, in any healthcare system, and would prohibit the federal government from imposing fines or penalties on that person's decision. It does not seek to "nullify" any federal law, as it would still allow individuals the option to participate in a federal program; however, it would also acknowledge the right of individuals to refuse to participate in a government-run health insurance program. The bill also calls on the state's Attorney General to take action in the defense or prosecution of rights protected under the
          On Wednesday the State Senate passed SB3498 passed 26-1-5. Action on this proposal will now move to State House.
          Senators voting aye were: Beavers, Black, Bunch, Burchett, Burks, Crowe, Faulk, Finney L, Ford, Gresham, Henry, Herron, Jackson, Johnson, Kelsey, Ketron, McNally, Norris, Overbey, Southerland, Stewart, Tracy, Watson, Woodson, Yager, Mr. Speaker Ramsey -- 26.
          Senators voting no were: Berke -- 1.
          Senators present and not voting were: Barnes, Harper, Haynes, Marrero, Tate -- 5.
*SB 2511 by *Marrero B ( HB 2562 by *Richardson)
Drugs - As introduced, enacts the "Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act."
On Tuesday, February 16, Tennessee NORML hosted a legislative "Day on the Hill" at the capitol in Nashville to lobby elected officials in support of the Tennessee Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act.  Participants were provided with training on how to be a citizen lobbyist and will meet with the bill sponsors and party leadership.  As I understand it, 13 states have passed such initiatives. Neither bill has been scheduled in committee yet. WKRN covered the lobbying efforts: 
Bill would legalize marijuana for medical purposes
– [Wed/ Feb 10. 2010] Tennessee sales tax collections continue to be a concern for the state’s general fund. Negative growth in sales tax collections continued in January, with overall January revenues coming in at $947.4 million, which is $16.1 million less than the state budgeted….  The general fund was under collected by $5.2 million and the four other funds were under collected by $10.9 million.
Read more here.