Legislative Update, February 2, 2013

Legislative Update
February 2, 2013

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)

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.  May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
- Samuel Adams, August 1, 1776 at the Philadelphia State House

Thankfully, it seems that the two week recess gave legislators and staff time to get well from all the various maladies we saw the first week of session.  God directs us in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 to pray for our leaders and I urge you to do that.  Would also suggest that you plug into the Tennessee Governmental Prayer Alliance.  They have suggested these thoughtful prayer points:

  • Protection for all leaders, their families and staff
  • Prosperity of spirit, soul, mind and body
  • Peace and wisdom to be granted as they serve
  • God's destiny and purpose for each life to be fulfilled
  • A passion for justice and righteousness to arise in each one
  • Purity of thought and agenda for the good of all citizens
  • God's perspective to be embraced as they serve

The first few weeks of the first year of the two-year session are always interesting in that most of the incumbent legislators in are different offices and with the huge freshman class in the Senate and House, finding everyone and the trying to actually remember where they are becomes a constant challenge.  In addition, the respective Speakers have expressed their desire to get the work done and go home, which means that things will be moving very quickly.  That isn't necessarily a bad thing, BUT, I certainly hope that 'speed' will not become the overriding objective -- it is much more important that the lawmakers take the time to make thoughtful, wise decisions for the people of Tennessee.

This week was  a flurry of activity as legislators and lobbyists work hard to meet the bill filing deadlines, TN Eagle Forum included.  The Senate faced their first cut-off date on Thursday, January 31st.  Up through that date the Senators can introduce an unlimited number of bills. After that date, each of them still have nine bills that they can introduce up until February 14th, the final cut-off date.  I think the cut-off date for the House is also February 14th.

The 108th Tennessee General Assembly has made history in a number of ways, but one of the 'fun facts' is that, for the first time ever, we have brothers serving in the State House:  Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville).  I have known Matthew since he was a teenager and have watched with great joy as he has become a husband, father, and VERY accomplished lawmaker. I have known Timothy for probably ten years or so and feel certain that he will be a good lawmaker too.  Looking forward to working with both of them!!

"Well, the session is in full swing and the Eagle Forum is as busy as ever. I spent this Wednesday with Mrs. Patray and Mrs. Bregman as they met with legislators and diligently worked to line up sponsors for bills the Eagle Forum is putting together. Additionally, time was spent in a quiet committee room and in the cafeteria scrutinizing and adjusting a particular piece of legislation. Indeed, this work can be done anywhere! Another highlight for me was getting to meet Gov. Haslam for the first time. I look forward to possibly getting work with him this session. Finally, we were blessed to get to meet with Lyndon Allen, a local pastor with a passion for the protection of innocent life and the defense of Biblical marriage. I have no doubt that the Eagle Forum's work with this Godly man will be beneficial to the citizens of Tennessee".

SJR 0001 by *Kelsey
Constitutional Amendments - Proposes an amendment to Article II, Section 28 of the Tennessee Constitution to explicitly prohibit any state or local taxation of payroll or earned personal income or any state or local tax measured by payroll or earned personal income.

NOTE: This proposed Constitutional Amendment is in the second step of the three-step process.  Last year, it passed both houses with far more than the simple majority of votes needed, to move on to this session. As it goes through the legislature this year it will need 2/3ds of the votes in both houses. SJR 1 in the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday where it is expected to pass easily.
ACTION: Although I don't think getting it out of the Finance Committee will be a problem, you can find the members of that committe HERE.


SB 0001 by *Kelsey
Health Care - As introduced, prohibits Tennessee from participating in the Medicaid expansion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. - Amends TCA Title 4, Chapter 3

Kelsey Gets 15 Co-sponsors on Medicaid Expansion Ban
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), January 31, 2013 -Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and 15 State Senate co-sponsors today filed the TennCare Fiscal Responsibility Act. Senate Bill 804 will prevent expansion of the Tennessee Medicaid program under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." The bill is an updated version of Senate Bill 1, filed by Sen. Kelsey in November.
"I am pleased to have the support so far of 16 of the 33 state Senators in Tennessee, and I hope to have other members sign on as co-sponsors," said Sen. Kelsey.
Last week, a similar version of the bill, House Bill 82, was filed in the House of Representatives with 22 co-sponsors by Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin).
In June 2012 the United States Supreme Court ruled in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that states have the right to opt out of Medicaid expansion without losing pre-existing federal Medicaid funding.
"Tennessee Taxpayers simply can't afford $200 million a year to expand TennCare," said Sen. Kelsey.
Under the Medicaid expansion envisioned by the Affordable Care Act, Tennessee is estimated to pay $200 million a year for its 10% share to expand Medicaid to individuals with incomes up to 138% of the poverty level. The federal government promised to pay 100% of the expansion cost for the first three years, diminishing to only 90% in future years.
"In 1981 Congress reduced its Medicaid funding match to help cut the federal budget deficit, and with over $16 trillion of debt, I suspect they'll do it again," said Sen. Kelsey. Read more here.

SB 0107 by *Haile ( HB 0080 by *Womick)
General Assembly - As introduced, beginning November 4, 2014, limits per diem payments to certain members; revises mileage allowance for certain members.
Haile proposes bill to cut per diems
In his first bill of the session, state Sen. Ferrell Haile is proposing to cut the pay of his fellow legislators by getting rid of money for hotel stays for those who live within 50 miles of the Capitol.
Haile, a Gallatin Republican, claims the legislation will save the state about $200,000 per year.
The measure, Senate Bill 107, would slash “per diem” expense payments for lawmakers who live near Nashville by as much as $100 per day. The legislators would still receive smaller expense allowances meant to cover food and incidentals only.
Mostly everyone who lives within the 50-mile radius goes home every night,” Haile said. “So they’re being paid but they are not renting a room.” Read more here.

SB 0882 by *Tracy
Public Health - As introduced, requires schools and other organizations conducting youth athletic programs to adopt concussion policies. - Amends TCA Title 49 and Title 68, Chapter 55.

Proposed law takes aim at youth concussions
Tens of thousands of Tennessee athletes who play school sports and in club leagues would be covered by a proposed law aimed at preventing children from returning to play after they suffer a concussion.
State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, filed legislation on Thursday that would require all public and private schools, city-run sports leagues and nonprofit organizations, like youth soccer clubs, to implement a three-pronged policy.
Tennessee is one of only seven states that have not yet passed a law aimed at reducing risks from concussions among youth athletes. The Tennessean produced a special report in October about the growing concerns about concussions in children, and the lack of safeguards in Tennessee in organized sports.  Read more here.

SB 0837 by *Ketron ( HB 0610 by *Lundberg)
Wine & Wineries - As introduced, allows cities and counties to hold a referendum to authorize selling wine at retail food stores; creates permit to sell wine at retail food stores
Today's Wine-in-Groceries Bill Report
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Supporters of a perennial legislative proposal to allow supermarkets and convenience stores to sell wine expressed confidence Thursday that their latest effort could succeed where previous ones failed.
But the bill is meeting its usual stiff resistance from liquor store owners and wholesalers, who want to keep the current system that restricts sales of any alcohol strong than 5 percent to liquor stores.
State Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro and fellow Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol said in a press conference that their bill would put the decision before the voters in cities and counties that currently allow liquor sales.
"Tennesseans deserve the opportunity to vote on this issue," Ketron said. "If you're not buying wine where you shop for food, you don't have to vote for it.
"But we think a lot of Tennesseans will vote for it," he said.
Opponents argue the change would unfairly harm existing small businesses and make higher-alcohol drinks more widely available to minors Read more here.

SB 0196 by *Norris ( HB 0190 by *McCormick)
School Vouchers - As introduced, enacts the "Tennesse Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act."

Governor Haslam defends plan for school voucher program
NASHVILLE — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam tonight defended his decision to go along with a school voucher program that would let low-income children in the state’s worst-performing public schools attend private institutions at taxpayer expense.
Using the bully pulpit of his annual State of the State address to Tennessee lawmakers, Haslam said “some have said that this administration and General Assembly aren’t committed to public education education, but that could not be further from the truth.”
His administration has been “literally putting our money where our mouth is, even when other states haven’t done so through tough budget times,” Haslam said, noting the state’s education funding formula has been fully funded in his three budgets. Read more here.

SB 0984 by *McNally ( HB 0368 by *Hawk)
Controlled Substances - As introduced, makes materials containing any quantity of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine a Schedule III controlled substance and exempts immediate methamphetamine precursors if they are not in form that can be used in manufacture of methamphetamine.

TN Pharmacists: Hawk’s Pseudophedrine Bill Wrongly Punishes Cold & Allergy Suffers

The following statement can be attributed to Baeteena Black, executive director of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association, in response to legislation (HB 0368) filed Jan. 30 by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, that would require Tennessee consumers to obtain a prescription for medications containing pseudoephedrine, such as Advil Cold and Sinus and Sudafed.
“The legislation filed today by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, punishes the vast majority of cold and allergy sufferers by making them go to the time and expense of obtaining a prescription from their physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner.
“The Tennessee Pharmacists Association strongly supports use of the National Precursor Log Exchange, the real-time, point-of-sale, tracking system put into place in Tennessee in January of 2012. That system ensures that our customers and patients continue to have access to the nonprescription cold and allergy medicines of their choice so they can effectively treat their symptoms without having to miss family or work obligations. In addition, this system provides law enforcement with access to valuable information about sales of pseudoephedrine-containing products.  Read more here.