Legislative Update, April 21, 2012


Tennessee General Assembly information, click HERE. For information on State Senators, including phone numbers and email addresses, click HERE; for House members, click HERE. For information on legislation, click HERE.
Don't forget that you can now watch the Senate committee meetings and floor sessions online by going
HERE; House committee meetings and floor sessions online HERE.
Phone calls can go to the legislative Switchboard at 615-741-3011 or to the Toll Free number 1-800-449-8366+1 last four digits of office phone number (available online).

"No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty than that on which the objection is founded. The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
James Madison 1788 - Federalist No. 48

FOR YOUR PRAYER LIST: Congratulations to Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) on the birth of a granddaughter. It appears that the legislature is intent in concluding the work of the 107th General Assembly next week.  There are still many bills to be heard plus the Governor's budget--very important decisions to be made and votes to be cast.  Please pray for focus, clarity and the casting thoughtful votes.
Thursday, April 19th:  After spending 13 days in Vanderbilt Medical Center dealing with all the post-op problems Ron endured, he was finally well enough to be moved to rehab on Wednesday. He is in Room 2224A at Stallworth. I certainly want to express our appreciation for all the prayer support we have received.  His heart is still not fully staying in the proper rhythm, but his surgeon thinks that as it continues to heal, that will be resolved. This is certainly another prayer point as we want him off the Coumadin as soon as possible.  It has been a very long road, and I know he still has a long way to go, but it seems that he is finally on an upward trajectory. Our prayer now is that the overall healing will continue and that the rehab experience will enable him to regain his strength and that he will soon return to an independent and active lifestyle.

SB 3345 by *Ketron ( *HB 3540 by *Matheny)
Schools, Charter - As introduced, regulates charter schools' relationships with foreign entities and the use of non-immigrant foreign workers by charter schools.
HB3540 was on the State House Floor on Monday evening. Without all the time, energy and effort that Sponsor Rep. Judd Mathney was willing to invest in this legislation, it would have never passed.  It is such a joy to work with a man who has the the courage, integrity, persistence and statesmanship that Rep. Matheny demonstrates on a daily basis.  We are so grateful and profoundly blessed that he sponsored this bill and one other for Tennessee Eagle Forum this year.
STATUS: After a few minutes debate during which a Democrat lawmaker saw fit to try to smear Eagle Forum,  the vote was called for and the bill, as amended, passed 63-29-1:

  Representatives voting aye were: Alexander, Bass, Brooks K, Butt, Campbell, Carr, Casada, Cobb, Curtiss, Dennis, Dunn, Elam, Eldridge, Evans, Faison, Floyd, Ford, Gotto, Halford, Hall, Harmon, Harrison, Hawk, Hensley, Hill, Holt, Johnson C, Johnson P, Keisling, Lollar, Lundberg, Maggart, Marsh, Matheny, Matlock, McDaniel, McManus, Miller D, Montgomery, Niceley, Pody, Powers, Ragan, Ramsey, Rich, Roach, Sanderson, Sargent, Sexton, Shaw, Shepard, Shipley, Sparks, Swann, Tidwell, Watson, Weaver, White, Williams R, Windle, Wirgau, Womick, Madam Speaker Harwell -- 63.
          Representatives voting no were: Armstrong, Brown, Camper, Coley, Cooper, Favors, Gilmore, Hardaway, Haynes, Hurley, Jones, Kernell, McCormick, McDonald, Miller L, Moore, Naifeh, Odom, Parkinson, Pitts, Pruitt, Richardson, Sontany, Stewart, Tindell, Towns, Turner J, Turner M, Williams K -- 29.
          Representatives present and not voting were: Dean -- 1

As the Legislative Session winds down, I must take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to my lobbying partner, Joanne Bregman.  Without her brilliant legal expertise and endless energy (especially after Ron had surgery and I was only available by phone, text and email) we would not have been successful with our legislative agenda this year. She is a genuine Tennessee Treasure and all of us owe her a great debt of gratitude for all the VOLUNTEER hours that she invests into the public policy arena making Tennessee a better place to live. And...as you can see from the lovely article about her daughter Maya, the "Tennessee Volunteer Spirit" runs deep in the Bregman family.

Maya Bregman has been embedded with a volunteer spirit her entire life.
That spirit has benefited Second Harvest not only by the service Maya provides when she comes to volunteer; but by the inspiration she gives to employees and other volunteers who are privileged to work with her. Not only does she give of herself, she teaches others the value of the human spirit through making a difference.
Maya has overcome significant challenges in the form of developmental disabilities to volunteer at Second Harvest every week. In her time there, she has labeled more than 4,000 unlabeled cans. These cans would not have been distributed to hungry people without a label. She has packed multiple backpacks for Second Harvest’s Backpack Program and has volunteered in the Culinary Arts Center with Chef Mark Rubin, assisting with catered fundraisers.
Maya uses a computerized talker to communicate. This allows her to come to work at Second Harvest and greet staff, take instructions and speak with her talker. However, the radiant smile on Maya’s face, and the sheer joy in her eyes that greets staff is more rewarding than anything that her talker is able to communicate. Maya is a great listener and always completes tasks thoroughly. She pays attention to quality and can be counted on to show up to work with a huge smile on her face.
Read more here

For the past couple of years, the debate about the 'selection or election' of our Supreme Court Justices has continued. Our position has always been that we should either follow the State Constitution and 'elect' these judges or change the Constitution. Although I believe that our Constitution calls for direct elections, that really does give me a bit of heartburn, especially in today's political climate. And I certainly am opposed to enshrining into the Constitution the 'selection/retention' process. If we are going to go through the complicated amending process, I think what would be good for the state and a great compromise between the two positions is a modified federal plan. Please see the joint statement issued below:

Joint Statement on Constitutional Amendment Regarding the Judiciary

Since 1870 Tennessee Constitution has provided that "The Judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State." It is clear our founders meant real elections and the people have never changed that.

We appreciate those state legislators who understand that if we are going to use a process for seating Supreme Court Judges other than direct elections, then the Tennessee Constitution should be amended by vote of the people. But we are united in opposition to so-called "merit selection," the method of selection preferred by trial lawyers and liberal special interest groups, and we will vigorously oppose it.

Tennessee's judges play an extremely important role, impacting the law relating to everything from family values to property rights and the business climate. Their selection is simply too important to leave to an unaccountable, lawyer-dominated commission.

The undersigned encourage our state legislators to stand up for greater accountability in judicial selection. If our constitution is to be amended, please stand against "merit" selection as a method preferable to the model set forth by our Founding Fathers in the U.S. Constitution.

Organizations supporting:
Bobbie Patray, President, Tennessee Eagle Forum
David Fowler, President, Family Action of Tennessee
Brad Stevens, State Director, Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee

*SB 3310 by *Johnson ( HB 3621 by *Gotto)
Education, Curriculum - As introduced, requires that a family life education curriculum comply with certain restrictions.
For Background:
A Good Sex Ed Law in Tennessee Makes Sense
STATUS: SB3310 passed the Senate either 29-1 or 28-1 depending where you look on the Legislative website.  HB3621 passed House Education with DeBerry L, Fitzhugh, Naifeh requested to be recorded as voting No and it on its way to the House floor.
ACTION:  Please find your State Representative HERE and urge him or her to vote for this much needed update to the Family Life Education statute.

SB 2580 by *Campfield ( *HB 2725 by *Hurley) 
 Welfare - As introduced, requires applicants for TANF benefits to undergo a drug test before receiving such benefits; restricts TANF benefits for positive drug test results under certain circumstances.

Bill to drug test for welfare advances
STATUS of SB2580:The sponsor of a proposal to drug test people as a condition for receiving state welfare says he believes an amended version of his legislation will withstand legal challenges.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville was approved 8-3 Thursday in the Senate Finance Committee.
Campfield’s proposal differs from original legislation that the state’s attorney general opined was constitutionally suspect. That measure would have drug tested applicants who had been convicted of using drugs within five years.
The opinion said that approach would violate the constitutional rights of applicants who have a right not to be drug tested unless there is suspicion that they are taking illicit drugs.
Under the amended version, new applicants would undergo a special screening process. If suspicion is raised after the screening, then the applicant would be drug tested.
Read more here.
STATUS: HB2725 is the Budget Subcommittee on the 25th. Committee members can be found

SB 3412 by *Beavers ( *HB 3517 by *Evans)
Criminal Offenses - As introduced, revises definitions of fetus as victim for criminal homicide and assaults to remove viability requirement and include an embryo; revises legislative intent statement.
STATUS:  Rep. Josh Evans did such a good job presenting this bill and fielding all the contentious questions that came his way.  In the end, on Wednesday, it passed House
SB3412 is presently on the Senate floor calendar.  Senators can be found

The state House of Representatives approved a bill allowing homicide and assault prosecutions for the death of embryos in the earliest stages of development, in a vote tinged by the decades-long fight over abortion.|
House lawmakers voted 80-18 for a measure that would extend criminal punishments for killing a fetus to the first eight weeks of pregnancy.
Supporters said the bill would clarify a law passed last year that made it easier to prosecute people for harming fetuses.
Opponents said charges of harming an embryo will be difficult to prove because many pregnancies end naturally at that stage. They suggested the measure really is meant to set up future battles over abortion.
Tennessee law has long allowed prosecutors to bring two charges when a person kills or assaults a pregnant woman. A charge of harming a fetus can be brought only as a second charge to harming the pregnant woman as well.
Read more here.

*HJR 0587 by Bell 
General Assembly, Statement of Intent or Position - Recognizes the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 for Public Officials

RNC Passes Resolution Exposing UN Agenda 21 
STATUS: Scheduled on the Senate floor next week. You can find your Senator HERE.

SB 2280 by *Faulk ( *HB 2286 by *Lundberg) 
Criminal Offenses - As introduced, creates Class E felony of manufacturing or selling an imitation controlled substance and the Class A misdemeanors of ingesting an imitation controlled substance and possessing an imitation controlled substance for the purpose of ingesting it.
                As amended, adds punishments to manufacturing, selling, possessing, and ingesting these synthetic drugs.  Manufacturing and selling these drugs is a class E misdemeanor, while possessing and ingesting these drugs would be a class A misdemeanor. 
STATUS: HB2286 passed the House floor 99-0.
SB2280 passed Senate Finance 11-0 and is on its way to the Senate Floor


SB 3018 by *Beavers ( *HB 3175 by *Shipley)
Criminal Offenses - As introduced, implements various procedures concerning controlled substance analogues in the same manner in which those procedures are carried out concerning controlled substances. This bill targets these drugs, also known as “bath salts”, by updating Tennessee laws and implementing new law enforcement procedures to fight both drug manufacturers and users. 
STATUS: As amended, HB3175 passed the House Floor 94-0. SB3018 is on its way to the Senate Floor.

*SB 3762 by *Norris( HB 3760 by *McCormick)
Taxes, Inheritance Gift - As introduced, increases the maximum allowable exemption from $1 million to $1.25 million.
AMENDMENT #1 rewrites this bill to increase the maximum allowable exemption from the inheritance tax (presently $1,000,000) as follows:
(1) In 2013, $1,250,000;
(2) In 2014, $2,000,000; and
(3) In 2015 and thereafter, $5,000,000.
AMENDMENT #2 eliminates the inheritance tax beginning in 2016.

STATUS: HB3760 Passed House Floor 88-8, SB3762 is in Senate Finance on the 23rd.

*SB 3763 by *Norris( HB 3761 by *McCormick) 
Taxes, Sales - As introduced, reduces the state sales tax on food and food ingredients from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent; requires that the local option sales tax, which under existing law can be in an amount of up to 2.75 percent, be at a rate that is a multiple of 0.25 percent.
AMENDMENT #1 rewrites this bill and reduces the state sales tax on food to 5.25 percent.
STATUS: HB3761 passed State House 96-0, SB3763 is in Senate Finance on the 23rd where it is expected to pass.

*SB 0251 by *Marrero ( HB 0294 by *Richardson) 
 Controlled Substances - As introduced, enacts the "Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act.
STATUS:  After a lengthy hearing in a House Committee, HB294 was taken off notice and I thought that was finally the end of this bill.  However, it reared its ugly head again when SB251 was presented in Senate Health and Welfare where, thankfully, it failed for lack of a motion.