Legislative Update, May 23, 2009

May 23, 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).

We are “the Land of the Free”, because of the Brave.
“Thank you Father, for the veterans of the armed forces who have sacrificed so much to protect our land and our freedom. Many thousands have died in the service of our country and we thank you for giving them the courage and honor to lay down their lives for us. We acknowledge the truth that no man or woman has a greater love than that which is demonstrated by their willingness to lay down their lives for another.”
From my friend, Travis Monroe:
119 Tennessee patriots have died in the war against Islamic Jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. This Memorial Day, take time to pray for our bereaved families: cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead. Visit www.tntribute.com
to help you appreciate their great sacrifice and gain greater understanding of our world today. Lest we forget and neglect: they laid their greatest sacrifice upon the altar of freedom



Rep. Eric Watson (R-Cleveland) went to the hospital with suspected gall bladder problems this week. (I don’t know what is up, but this is the third lawmaker stricken with gall bladder problems in the past few weeks.) Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis) went from the House floor to the hospital on Thursday. Rep. Ben West (D-Nashville) continues to be absent as he recovers from heart surgery.
FOR PRAISING: Former Representative Chris Clem (R-Signal Mountain) is home recuperating from surgery to remove a kidney with a tumor. The good news is that the surgeon is satisfied that he got all the problem tissue and is not even recommending chemotherapy or radiation. He will have a complete follow-up exam every six months for a while. Chris and Liz are expecting their fourth child in July. 


          With your support we have seen some significant victories this year. After four years of work, the bill requiring written, informed parental consent for prior to mental health screening of their students has become law. We were able to stop a bill requiring ‘comprehensive sex education’ before it was ever heard. We played a supporting role in the passage of SJR 127. We are expending a lot of time and energy trying to assure that the election of judges is put back into the hands of the people and not left to the lawyer groups.
As you might imagine, this work comes at a cost. We are completely dependent on donations (not tax deductible) for our existence. If you have been a subscriber for any length of time you know that Tennessee Eagle Forum offers a unique service to the families of our state – background information, educational materials, state and national alerts, and these Legislative Updates.
This week I received a notice that my annual ‘professional privilege tax’ is due – it is a ‘privilege’ to represent YOU at the capitol, but the state charges me $400 a year for that privilege, plus $300 to lobby. In addition, our annual $2,000 bill for VoterVoice (our wonderful email delivery/contact service) will be due soon. Other costs include parking, office supplies, copier contract, etc. Will you make a donation TODAY? We really need the support. Checks can be sent to 3216 Bluewater Trace, Nashville, TN 37217, or go to the website Tennessee Eagle Forum and use PayPal.


          Bills normally go through one committee in a week. At the speed with which the judicial bills have moved this week (through two committees into a third in a day and a half) one could get a severe case of whiplash!!   In addition, the text of the bills was subject to change in each committee and there have been changes in prime sponsors too.
          There are four bills moving – two we support IN THEIR PRESENT FORM, two we oppose.


          In the Senate this bill has been completely re-written (SAO356) to provide for the election of our judges as the Constitution directs, and also contains a call for a State Constitutional Convention. Delegates would be elected; meet in Nashville to decide what to recommend to the people, then the people would vote on the proposed changes.
We support this bill ONLY as amended in the Senate.
SB 2114 is sitting in the Calendar committee; HB 2141 is scheduled in House Budget Subcommittee on Wednesday.
Courts - As introduced, authorizes the governor to make interim appointments to fill judicial vacancies if the judicial selection commission sunsets on June 30, 2009.
          We have referred to this as the ‘stop-gap’ bill. If the House and Senate cannot come to some acceptable agreement, this bill would provide a way to deal with any vacancies that might occur until they come back in 2010 for further debate on the issue.
SB 2168 has been referred to Senate Government Ops; HB 2018 is in House Budget Subcommittee on Wednesday.


Judges and Chancellors - As introduced, rewrites various provisions of the judicial selection and judicial evaluation provisions. This bill continues the Judicial Selection Committee meaning that lawyers will be choosing the nominees sent to the Governor for his selection instead of actually holding ‘elections’ as the State Constitution clearly requires.
SB 1715 is in Senate Finance on Tuesday; HB 1892 is in House Budget Subcommittee on Wednesday.
This bill has been re-written to continue the Judicial Selection Committee and is very similar to SB 1715-HB 1892, as amended.
SB 1573 is Senate Finance on Tuesday; HB 1448 is on the House Floor on Thursday.
I know this seems complicated – it IS complicated – but we REALLY need you to engage and to make the appropriate contacts. The basic question is: Shall we abide by the requirements of the State Constitution and elect our justices or shall we change the constitution. For background information, go HERE.


Go HERE to send an email message to send a message to the Budget Subcommittee.
Go HERE to send an email message to the legislators for the bill on the House Floor.
Go HERE to send an email message to the Senate Finance Committee.


Memorials, Congress - Urges United States Senate to reject ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. .
For background on this important issue, go HERE.
          The good news is that HJR 369 was voted out of Calendar and Rules Committee and is on the Consent Calendar (a list of unamended bills that are voted on as a group) on the House floor Tuesday afternoon where passage would be expected. If a legislator asked to have it ‘bumped’ (removed from the Consent Calendar), it would be moved to the next regular calendar for debate. Stay tuned.


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. On May 7th, SB 2133 passed the Senate Floor 22-7
          However, the journey in the House has been much more problematic. The House Democrat Caucus had a meeting to let their members know that they were requiring a NO vote on this bill. Never mind permitting these lawmakers to vote their conscience or vote the way their constituents desired – no, the Caucus was requiring a NO vote.
          Why did this happen?? Because the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) was opposed this legislation. Using a union to negotiate pay and, in general, look out for their members is one thing. But is it appropriate for a union to set the educational policy for the state? After hours and days of debate, a motion to adjourn the Education Committee for the year was made and passed and that was that.
          However, Rep. Harwell is not one to give up on something so important to at-risk students. She plans to meet with Democrat Caucus Chairman Rep. Mike Turner (D-Nashville) to see if there is a way to resolve this conflict and pass this bill.
Democrats block charter schools bill


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.
          SB 2089 was presented in Senate General Welfare Committee and of course opponents came after it. There seemed to be a great deal of confusion and the amendment that had been written to resolve many of the problems raised did not get fully examined. When the vote was taken, most of the committee members passed, which resulted in the bill staying in the committee. There is a plan to bring the bill back before the committee.
ACTION ITEM: Please go here to send an email of support.


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.         
          Although the House bill was postponed until 2010, Sen. Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) went ahead and ran the Senate bill on the floor Wednesday. While presenting it, he commented that the “ACLU and Tennessee Eagle Forum held hands and blessed it.” (Believe it or not there are a few things we agree on!) After a brief discussion, it passed 28-1


Memorials, Congress - Urges Congress to recognize Tennessee's sovereignty under the tenth amendment to the Constitution. This Resolution is on the House Floor Tuesday afternoon.
ACTION ITEM: Please go HERE to send an email of support to your House member.
General Assembly, Statement of Intent or Position - Affirms Tennessee's sovereignty under the tenth amendment to the United States Constitution. This Resolution has been sent to Calendar and Rules.
Memorials, Congress - Reaffirms Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, claims sovereignty of state of Tennessee, and serves as notice and demand that Congress cease and desist mandates beyond those that are constitutionally delegated. Has passed the Senate 30-0
and was sent to the House Judiciary Committee.