Legislative Update, February 23, 2013

Legislative Update
February 23, 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).

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . . ."  Thomas Jefferson

Rep. Tim Wirgau (R-Buchanan) has hurt his achilles tendon and is in a walking boot.  Please remember the mother of Rep. Billy Spivey (R-Lewisburg).  On the PRAISE side Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Sindy were blessed with another grandson this week. Please  welcome Graham Russel Tinsley.

Nate was out this week (we REALLY missed him) visiting the college in Florida that he wants to attend next fall.  His notes will return next week!

I certainly support efficiency in state government!  However, I don't see the people of Tennessee being well served if the ONLY goal is to see how fast the lawmakers can 'get out of Dodge'. I am already seeing evidence that the emphasis on 'speed' may have the potential to be counter-productive to making good and thoughtful decisions, and some of the legislators are feeling the tension.  A number of very important issues are before the Tennessee General Assembly for deliberation that need appropriate attention and action, and they certainly don't need to lay over until the 2014 session.  So  I hope that 'doing good and doing well' will, in the end, trump speed for just speed's sake.

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.
NOTE:  I know we have a huge meth problems in Tennessee, but in this allergy-prone state, requiring a prescription for cold and allergy medicines will greatly increase the cost of healthcare, require time to make and get to an appointment with the physician, then get the prescription filled.
STATUS:  HB368 is scheduled in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday.
ACTION:  Committee members can be found HERE.  Please contact them and ask that they vote NO on this bill.

NEW POLL:  Tennessee Voters Strongly Oppose Making Popular Cold and Allergy Meds Prescription Only
Most Respondents Want To Give Tennessee's Existing Meth Law Time To Work
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Tennessee voters, by a 20-point margin (56 to 36 percent), oppose making common cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) available by prescription (Rx) only, and nearly two-thirds of respondents (61 percent) who use nonprescription cold and allergy medicines to treat symptoms oppose the proposal.  The new poll, which was conducted by North Star Opinion Research and released today by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), also found that nearly three-fifths of Tennessee voters (57%) believe the state's current anti-meth law, which utilizes real-time, stop-sale technology known as the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx), is effective and should be given time to work. Just 33% say the law should be changed.........
In addition to the clear majority of Tennessee voters, a number of prominent Tennessee groups, including the Tennessee Pharmacists Association and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, oppose the measure because it would produce a number of unnecessary burdens for law-abiding consumers, healthcare providers, retailers, and the state as a whole.  Read more here.

SB 0802 by *Beavers ( HB 0534 by *Pody)
Education, Higher - As introduced, prohibits public institutions of higher education from denying recognition, privileges or benefits to a student organization or group on the basis of religious content of the organization's or group's speech or the manner in which the organization or group determines its organizational affairs.
This bill specifies that a religious student organization may determine that the organization's religious mission requires that only persons professing the faith of the group and comporting themselves in conformity with it qualify to serve as members or leaders.
STATUS:  HB 534 is in House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday.
ACTION:  Committee members can be found HERE.  Please contact them and urge them to vote YES on this important bill.

SB 0108 by *Haile ( HB 0009 by *Lamberth)
Public Records - As introduced, makes confidential and not open for public inspection all information contained in and pertaining to a handgun carry permit application or renewal application and the status of a handgun carry permit.
STATUS:  HB9 is in the State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday. 
ACTION: Committee members can be found HERE. Please urge members to support this legislation.

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.
STATUS: SB837 is scheduled in Senate State and Local Government on Tuesday.  We always oppose the expansion of the availability of alcohol
ACTION:  Committee members can be found HERE. Please urge the members to vote NO on this bill.

SB 0142 by *Ramsey ( HB 0118 by *Faison)
Handgun Permits - As introduced, allows person with a valid handgun carry permit to transport and store a firearm or firearm ammunition in the permit holder’s privately-owned motor vehicle in public or private parking areas under certain conditions.
STATUS:  SB142 passed the State Senate floor 28-5 on March 11th.
STATUS:  HB118 is scheduled on the House floor on Thursday, February 28. House members can be found HERE.

SB 0244 by *Tracy ( HB 0119 by *Weaver)
Welfare - As introduced, prohibits recipients of public assistance from using electronic benefit transfer cards to purchase certain goods or services in certain establishments. - Amends TCA Title 71.
STATUS:  SB244 was amended and passed by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee 9-0 and is scheduled for the Senate Floor on Monday evening. Senate members can be found HERE
HB119 has been assigned to the Health Subcommittee.
Members can be found HERE.
Senate scales back on EBT card restrictions bill
NASHVILLE — Several proposed restrictions on the use of electronic benefit transfer cards have been dropped from proposed legislation so that it will conform with federal law, prompting complaints from some senators.
As originally filed, SB244 declared that the EBT cards, used as a debit card to provide welfare payments and food stamps, could not be used in businesses primarily selling tobacco products, tattoos or "psychic services." Those references were deleted in an amendment presented to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week at the urging of state Department of Human Services officials.
Remaining are provisions covering liquor stores, "adult cabarets" and "casinos or gaming establishments."
Nathalie Essex, assistant general counsel for the Department of Human Services, told the committee that a law enacted by Congress last year specifically authorizes states to impose the remaining restrictions, but declares states going beyond the authorization can lose federal funds. Legislative staff says the original version would "jeopardize" almost $10 million in federal money now sent to the state.
Responding to a suggestion that the bill had been "gutted," sponsoring Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, said, "I wouldn't call it 'gut,' but it did change some. … I personally would like to go further, but we are staying within the bounds of what we can do."  Read more here.

Senate Saluting 'Three White Stars on a Field of Blue'
In addition to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag, an official "Salute to the Tennessee flag" is now part of the state Senate's opening ceremony at the start of a day's meeting.
The first recitation came Thursday in compliance with a Senate Rules Committee proposal adopted earlier by the full Senate.
Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, the Legislature's senior member, had proposed the recitation and led colleagues on the first occasion. The salute goes like this:

"Three white stars on a field of blue
God keep them strong and ever true.
It is with pride and love that we. 

Salute the flag of Tennessee." Read more here.

    State House Speaker Beth Harwell announced this week that the number of bills filed for this legislative year have been drastically reduced due to the 15 bill limit approved by lawmakers in January. With the bill filing deadline having passed late last week, records show only 1,339 House bills were filed. The first session of the 107th General Assembly saw 2,124 bills filed.
    “This is excellent news, and proof that the House rule change of a 15 bill limit is working—this is definitely a success,” said Speaker Harwell. “Our goal was to reduce the amount of bills filed to save taxpayer money, and to have members focus on prioritizing their issues so we can properly vet the legislation before us. This reduction in legislation bodes well for Tennessee taxpayers, and I appreciate the body’s willingness to give this a try.”
    Bill filings this year are at the lowest in nearly 30 years. In 1987, there were 1,186 pieces of legislation filed by the deadline. The bill filing deadline is on the 10th legislative day according to House rules, usually falling in mid-February.
    “Each time legislation is filed, there is an enormous amount of work done by staff behind the scenes. The bill must be researched and written by legal staff, sometimes going through multiple drafts. Our House Clerks then work to put the bill into the system, and all of this cost taxpayers time and money,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga). “This bill limit ensures a more efficient, effective and accessible government that will give us more time for thoughtful, deliberate analysis on each piece of legislation—something taxpayers expect and deserve.”
    The bill limit was part of a larger proposal announced by Speaker Beth Harwell in December to streamline government operations and make the legislative process more efficient and effective.