Legislative Update, June 13, 2009

June 13, 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).

"On some positions, cowardice asks the question, it is EXPEDIENT? And then expedience comes along and asks the question—is it POLITIC? Vanity asks the question—it is POPULAR? Conscience asks the question is it RIGHT? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular—but must take it because it is RIGHT.”   Last Sunday sermon given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sen. Doug Henry (D-Nashville) lost a member of his extended family this week. The mother of Rep. Curt Cobb (D-Shelbyville) hurt her ankle this week. “The days dwindle down to a precious few….” Someone commented this week that ‘nothing good happens when the legislature is in session in June”. There is a lot of truth to that!! Please be in prayer as critical decisions are made during what is expected to be the last week of the General Assembly. Everyone it tired, frustrations abound and dealing with a budget during times of dramatically reduced resources is difficult and stressful.
*HJR 0369 by Sen. Tim Burchett
Memorials, Congress - Urges United States Senate to reject ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This important resolution has passed the House 70-20-2 and was sent to the Senate Finance Committee. Because of the hours and hours that committee has spent on the budget bills, they did not get to their regular calendar this week. HJR 369 is expected to be heard on Monday afternoon. Because of a lack of knowledge about this treaty, you’re an email to your senator is all the more important. For more information, go HERE.
We live in a Constitutional Republic where we elect those who are charged with the responsibility of making our laws. 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.
ACTION ITEM: Please go HERE and send an email of support to your State Senator.

 Judges and Chancellors - As amended, changes the judicial selection process.
          The final ‘nail in the coffin’ has been driven (for this year) for giving the people of Tennessee the opportunity to carry out the Constitutional requirement: The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.”
          As you may recall when SB 1573 was on the Senate floor, we were reminded of the ‘delicate balance’ that had been achieved with the provisions of the legislation and that any changes could upset support for the bill. However, it turned out that 63 of the House members didn’t ‘get the memo’ about the ‘balance’.   They voted to remove the ‘reach down’ provision that permitted the governor, if the two panels of three nominees presented to him by the Judicial Nominating Commission were unacceptable, to select another approved nominee. That move required that the bill be sent back to the Senate for them to either ‘concur’ (accept) in the action or ‘non-concur’ (reject) the action. Then the standoff began.
Kyle, Norris Holding Bills Hostage in Judicial Selection Fight
Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris and Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle continued today a dispute that could threaten passage of legislation revising the state's system of selecting appeals court judges.
Some liken the situation to a game of "chicken," with neither senator willing to back down. Or you might say that each is holding a bill hostage. Read more HERE.
          Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville), who as majority leader, had sponsored the original bill which, which at one point, had been amended to include a call for a State Constitutional Convention that would give the voters an opportunity to decide if they wanted to change the method by which we elect/select our judges. When this amendment was defeated on the Senate floor, he introduced a separate bill to do just that.
Constitutional Conventions - As introduced, proposes a limited constitutional convention to determine the method for choosing appellate court judges.
          This proposal had to go to the Delayed Bills Committee and Sen. Kyle (who is running to become the Democrat nominee for Governor) refused to agree to let the bill out.
Norris had postponed acting on the House change hoping to get SB 2377 moving through the process. When that did not happen he removed his name from SB 1573, giving it back to the original sponsor, Sen. Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville). On Friday, Woodson recommended to her colleagues that they ‘concur’ in the House amendment.
Thanks to those voting NO: Mae Beavers, Dewayne Bunch, Tim Burchett, Rusty Crowe, Jack Johnson, Randy McNally, Mark Norris, Steve Southerland, Paul Stanley, and Bo Watson. (Reginald Tate and Diane Black were absent.)
           After the floor session, he commented to me ‘he had not yet begun to fight’, that this bill, as written, “isolates the voter from the judicial process, and insolates the judicial process from the voter”. He thought the issues were in ‘double harness’ and felt there had been a ‘double cross’. Norris is committed to working for a constitutional amendment and will begin that again in January.
Process for choosing, retaining Tenn. judges in tact
NASHVILLE -- Tennessee's basic framework for appointment and retention-election of state Supreme Court and other appellate judges remains intact under a bill lawmakers sent to the governor Friday.
The Senate's concurrence in a House-passed amendment was final legislative action on the hard-fought bill. Read more HERE
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.
          SB 470 had been in committee when Sen. Joe Haynes (D-Goodlettsville) asked for a delay so that he could contact the head of the Davidson Health Department. Sen. Johnson agreed to accommodate his colleague. Fast forward one week to June 9th when it was again on the calendar. Sen. Haynes said the he and the health department head had played ‘phone tag’, admitting that he had not tried very hard, and ask for one more day. Johnson agreed on the condition that they had a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to go forward the next day despite whether or not contact had been made.
          The Committee then turned its attention to all the budget bills never got back to the regular calendar. However, it too, is expected to be heard on Monday afternoon.
          HB 1756 was in House Budget Subcommittee on June 9th. After sponsor Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) presented the legislation, Committee Chairman Harry Tindell (D-Knoxville) urged delay of debate until an unexpected amendment could be received from the lawyers for the TN Health Department. Reps. Gary Odom (D-Nashville) and Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington) led the opposition to this pro-life legislation.
          On June 10th, Rep. Hensley once again stood before this Budget Subcommittee with the new amendment from the Department of Health, which, as it turns out, was acceptable and workable.
          Rep. Odom was once again the main protagonist, helped along by Rep. Naifeh, and Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar). To his credit, Speaker Kent Williams spoke up strongly in favor of HB 1756 commenting that this bill would transfer money from private entities to public health giving them more resources to do their work. However, once again, the bill was postponed to await a new fiscal note.
ACTION ITEM: Please go HERE to send an email of support.
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.
          This is a perfectly TERRIBLE piece of legislation that the Bredesen administration seems intent on passing. It creates a database of your private medical records with questionable guarantees of privacy, contains no ‘opt out’ for your or your physician, contains many terms not defined, and could cost a lot of money.
          Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Lebanon) has written an excellent article summarizing some of the major components to HB2289 (SB2239). Go HERE to review.
ACTION ITEM: Please go HERE to send an email to protect your personal, private medical information.
General Assembly, Statement of Intent or Position - Declares that Tennessee will not participate in a Federally mandated carbon cap-and-trade.
          Sponsor Senator Jack Johnson (R-College Grove) said the cap-and-trade system being debated in Congress would serve as a hidden tax on energy consumers. For more information on this issue, go HERE. The resolution passed the senate 19-13, and was sent to the House for action.
Local Government, General - As introduced, requires local governments and law enforcement to cooperate with federal officials on immigration status of any person in the state and prohibits local governments from enacting sanctuary policies toward immigrants.
          This bill aims to curb illegal immigration by prohibiting local governments from enacting ‘sanctuary’ policies, which follow certain practices to protect illegal aliens. Thirty-eight cities in the U.s. have been recognized as sanctuary cities, but may sources have identified over 200 city or country governments nationwide as having practiced such policies.
HB 1354 passed the House 80 to 8; SB 1310 passed the Senate 26-3-2.
Memorials, Congress - Urges Congress to recognize Tennessee's sovereignty under the tenth amendment to the Constitution.
The House had passed this excellent resolution 85-2-3. On Friday, the Senate passed it
Firearms and Ammunition - As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act."
This bill states that federal laws and regulations do not apply to personal firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition that is manufactured in Tennessee and remains in Tennessee.
HB 1796 passed the House 87-1. I am happy to report that SB 1610 passed the Senate 22-7 and will now go to the Governor.
Firearms and Ammunition - As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act."
This important legislative passed the Senate 22-7-1; Passed the House 87-1-2.
“Be it the federal government mandating changes in order for states to receive federal funds or the federal government telling us how to regulate commerce contained completely within this state – enough is enough,” urged Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers.  “Our founders fought too hard to ensure states’ sovereignty and I am sick and tired of activist federal officials and judges sticking their noses where they don’t belong.”