Legislative Update, May 2, 2009


LEGISLATIVE ACTION  ALERT                    
May 2, 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).

O n some positions, cowardice asks the question, it is expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question – it is 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.



An assistant to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), Debbie Rankin, is recuperating from back surgery. Several legislators have been under the weather. Also, please pray for the very important decisions that will be made during what will hopefully be the last month of the legislative session.
FOR PRAISE: Thank you to the many folks who have been praying for Eagle Forum Founder and President, Phyllis Schlafly. As you may recall, in February, while speaking in Berkley, CA, as she left the platform, she missed a step, fell and broke her hip, necessitating a hip replacement. She is now driving, going to the grocery store as well as political events. This is a great victory for God’s exemplary cultural warrior who will be 85 in August.


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: It is a pleasure and relief to report that SJR 127 was voted out of the House Budget Subcommittee. After Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar) made a statement about God, the Bible and abortion that had absolutely nothing to do with the purpose of SJR 127, a voice vote was taken and the ‘Ayes’ prevailed. Representatives Joe Armstrong (D-Knoxville), Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington), Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar) and Harry Tindall (D-Knoxville) asked to be recorded as ‘NO’. Now we move on to the full Finance Committee next week.
ACTION ITEM: You can go HERE to send an email of support to your House member.


 BACKGROUND: The legislature reviews commissions on a regular basis for renewal. The Judicial Selection Commission was up for review last year. This is the Commission made up mostly of representatives of various attorneys groups who select the three nominees for the Supreme Court or the Appellate Courts from whom the Governor chooses to fill an open position. When their term is up, they go on the ballot where the voters only get to vote “yes” or “no” to retain them.
          There is only one problem with this -- our State Constitution says in Article VI, Section 3: “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.” It seems fairly straightforward – we should either abide by our Constitution or the people should change the Constitution to a preferred method of selection.
          Because of this concern as well as other concerns, the legislature did not renew this commission, putting it in a one-year ‘wind down’ meaning it will expire June 30. Last year the debate began on how to change the judicial election/selection process.
          For more than 100 years the judges were elected. Then entered partisan politics.
Following the surprise election of Gov. Winfield Dunn—the first Republican elected to the office in 50 years—Democrats began to fear they might lose statewide judicial elections as well.
“The legislation, called the “Tennessee Plan for Judicial Selection and Evaluation,” created a 17-member commission of individuals appointed by the speakers of the House and Senate to evaluate potential Supreme Court and appellate court judges. This Judicial Selection Commission then offers three candidates to the governor who selects one to fill a judicial vacancy.
“The scheme was repealed in 1974 due to its unconstitutionality. In 1977, Tennessee voters were asked to amend the Constitution to legalize the Tennessee Plan. Fifty-five percent of Tennesseans voted against the amendment. Still the constitutionality of the plan is challenged to this date. Despite the public sentiment against the Tennessee Plan and the Plan’s obvious unconstitutionality, the legislature again voted to enact the Plan in 1994, stripping Tennesseans of their right to vote for judges.” For additional information, go HERE.
PART I: At the beginning of this legislature over 20 bills were introduced to address this issue in a variety of ways. After much discussion and debate, a new plan was introduced as an amendment to: SB 2114 by *Norris ( *HB 2141 by *Lundberg) See language HERE.
          There was high drama when Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) presented the bill in Senate Government Operations Committee on Wednesday. 
"The state's constitution requires that judges be "elected by the qualified voters of the state," said Senator Dewayne Bunch (R-Cleveland) who sponsored the amendment that would put the plan in place. "The day when we ignore the constitution is the day we really spit in the eye of our citizens and say to them, you're no longer necessary. You gave us the power on the front end and now we're going to ignore the plain language of the document that you've given us."
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. Because the Constitution seems to be silent on 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.
After some discussion, the vote was called. Because Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) was out of town, the vote was tied. Senators voting aye were: Republicans Dewayne Bunch, Jack Johnson, Paul Stanley, and Bo Watson. Senators voting no were Democrats: Tim Barnes, Ophelia Ford, Thelma Harper, and Reginald Tate. By rule, the Lt. Governor can vote in a standing committee to break a tie. Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey came in and cast his vote on both the amendment and the bill, moving it out to the Judiciary Committee where it will be heard on Tuesday.
The House companion will be in the Government Operations Committee on Wednesday.
The question has been raised about what will happen between the demise of the Judicial Selection Commission and the election cycle in the event of the death, removal or resignation of a justice. In order to ‘bridge that gap’, an amendment to this bill will provide 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 will be in Senate Judiciary on Tuesday and HB 2018 will be in House Civil Practice Subcommittee on Tuesday It will be a big day!
ACTION ITEM: Please go HERE to send a message of support to your Senator and Representative.


In the wake of the revelation that the Planned Parenthood office in Memphis was caught on tape (click HERE to view tape; go HERE for additional footage) counseling a prospective client that they thought was a 14-year-old girl, to lie about the age of her boyfriend 31-year-old to a judge, we have an excellent opportunity to do something that we have wanted to do for a long time – remove the $1.1 million of our tax dollars now going to this organization.
One interesting side note, CEO of the Memphis Planned Parenthood affiliate, Barry Chaser, repeatedly referenced Tennessee's parental 'notification' law even though Tennessee statute calls from parental consent---not notification.
Approximately $1.1 million in Title 10 funds are provided to Planned Parenthood for women’s health-related services like family planning, birth control, and exams.  Although current law bans the use of the money for abortion, the Title 10 funds supplement the organization’s operations.  Every tax dollar they receive frees up more money to promote abortion. Fortunately, there was a bill waiting in the wings to do just that.
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. Tenn. bill seeks to divert state funds from Planned Parenthood
SB 470 is scheduled in General Welfare on Wednesday, Room 12 at 10:00 a.m.; HB 1756 is scheduled on Public Health Subcommittee, Room 30 at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday. It is very important that we take full advantage of the God-given opportunity to re-direct these tax dollars.
ACTION ITEM: Go HERE and send an email of support to your Senator and Representative.



Safety, Dept. of - As introduced, prohibits state from being required to participate in the implementation of the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, which mandates a national identification card for each citizen of the United States.
Tennessee would be the 12th state in the U.S. prohibiting the issuance of a REAL ID card if legislation approved by the Senate Transportation Committee this week becomes law.
“This bill sends a message to Washington that they need to back off plans to implement a national identification card,” said Senator Burchett.  “REAL ID is an encroachment on our freedoms that we must not tolerate.”
          The REAL ID Act was signed into law in 2005.  The federal initiative forces states to standardize driver’s licenses cards across the nation into a single national identity card and database.  It does this by stipulating that state driver’s licenses and state ID cards will not be accepted for “federal purposes” unless they are in compliance with the Act.  Those purposes include boarding an aircraft or entering a federal facility unless the state issuing the identification meets all of the law’s numerous conditions, like standardizing data element and security features on the IDs, a machine readable zone that allows for easy capture of data, and the construction of a interstate-linked database that makes information in each person’s file available to the government.
          The presentation of this bill provided a rare opportunity for Sen. Burchett. He was able to tell the committee that Bobbie Patray (TN Eagle Forum ) and Hedy Weinberg (ACLU) supported this legislation. Never a dull moment at the Plaza!
Because this bill will SAVE the state $30 million over time, it is on its way to the Finance Committee. HB 1426 is in the Public Safety Subcommittee on Tuesday.
ACTION ITEM: Please send an email of support of HB 1426 to Henry Fincher and Ty Cobb.


Memorials, Congress - Urges United States Senate to reject ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
            This VERY IMPORTANT resolution is in the Children and Family Affairs Committee 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.
Tennessee faces deeper cuts to this year's already tight budget as tax revenues continue an unprecedented slide, falling as much as $1.2 billion below original estimates released in December.