Legislative Update, February 28, 2015

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).


Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

I could not be more thrilled to give you the following report.  As you know, Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), has been undergoing treatment for non-hodgkin's lymphoma.  Wednesday, he learned that his latest CT scan was clear!!!  He was scheduled for his fourth treatment yesterday and will complete two more for a total of six. Thank you for your prayers and please continue to lift Bill and his family to the Lord.  Getting ready to come to Nashville this week, Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) slipped on the ice and broke his leg.  He will have surgery on Monday to make the repair.  Rep. Tillman Goins (R-Morristown) was scheduled for out-patient surgery yesterday.  Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) was on crutches this week. She is still dealing with knee problems as a result of an automobile accident some time ago.  Please remember these needs and also remember the Executive Secretary to Sen. Mark Green (R-Clarksville), Alice Bingham, who recently lost her mother.

We had our first date on May 24, 1957
.Today, 56 years ago, Ron and I got married in Starke, Florida.  We moved to Jacksonville and lived there briefly, moved to Valdosta, GA, living there briefly until we moved to Gainsville in 1960, for him to attend the University of Florida.  I worked and put him through a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Electrical Engineering. After he graduated, we moved to Hunstville, AL where we lived until we moved to Lexington, KY in 1979.  We left Lexington in August of 1986 to move to Nashville. We have had many experiences, many friends and many blessings and we are grateful for them all. God has been extraordinary good to us and we stand in awe of His love and grace through the years. We have a wonderful daughter, Sherri, three grandchildren, Stephen (26), Caitlin (23), and Jacob (19); and great grandson Alexander (3). 

Mrs. Patray and I had a very busy Tuesday. We attended both the House Education committee meetings as well as a House Criminal Justice subcommittee.  Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the Center on Education and the Economy, presented a slideshow advocating for greater government control of education. Mr. Hunter was questioned by some representatives, notably Rep. Rick Womick (R- Rockvale) and notably changed his presentation to avoid the type of questions posed by Rep. Womick.  The highest profile bill in the Criminal Justice subcommittee was a bill that would decriminalize possession of a specialized strain of cannabis oil.  This would be used for treating children with severe seizures.  Several families with special needs children attended and presented emotion-filled arguments.  This is all in a normal day at work for these dedicated legislators.


Things were moving fast and busy this Wednesday on The Hill with everyone trying hard to make up for lost time from the ice and snow.  Mrs. Bobbie had her missions and there wasn't a moment of rest for us until she had checked them all off the list. We weaved in and out of offices, grabbing any spare second that the legislators could give us.  If they weren't in a committee then they were in a meeting or a luncheon and when they were done with that then they would actually try and sit down to read, pick, and sort the dozens of bills that are laid on their desks.  I heard several times that day the words "The job of the government is to do well and good, not to do it fast."  Its structure is one of obvious needed efficiency when dealing with the state's laws.  However, the acute time that they are given to be able to vote one hundred percent knowledgeably on legislation is a near impossible task to pick up and work with.  It's extremely difficult to make informed decision on everything that flies through there but a great deal of recognition should be given to those who face it head on unflaggingly.

NOTE:  In case you are wondering, Adam, Lauren and I do not coordinate what we write.  I am fascinated at seeing this legislative process through their eyes.

CONTINUING COMPLAINT:  More and more lawmakers are expressing their frustration with all this emphasis on SPEED.  I have said and will continue to say, to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen:  The goal of good government should be to do GOOD and do WELL, NOT to do FAST.
All this emphasis on speed just for speed's sake is putting unnecessary pressure on legislators to move bills that are not ready, it moves bills through the system only to have to come back later to fix a problems.  By putting deadlines on the different steps of process, sponsors no longer truly control the bills they are sponsoring.  Sometimes bills need time to 'ripen'.  The text of a bill may have unintended consequences, or it may involve stakeholders that were unanticipated.  Working out these details takes time and it makes for much better law.  As one legislator told me this week, the public would not care if we were here until the first of May.  I could not agree more. In fact, most of the public has no idea HOW long they are in session.

I hardly know where to being.  First, I must say that I was truly SHOCKED when I learned that the infamous Marc Tucker had been invited in to the State to address both of the House Education Committees. Eagle Forum has been opposing his ideas about education since the early 1990s. Among others, his newest book is Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World's Leading Systems. His presentation to both committees was entitled, "A Message From Our Competitors."

Education Administration and Planning met at 10:30am in Room 16.  If you can stand it, you can watch the video HERE. Actually, I suggest that you do watch it, especially the interaction between the committee members and Mr. Tucker at the end of his speech.

Education Instruction and Programs met at noon in Room 16. You can watch the video HERE. You will want to check out the interaction with the other committee members. 

This article is a pretty good review of the three hours of the meetings:
 Tensions rise during book presentation to legislators on standards, teachers
Interesting quote: "Rep. Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville), chairman of the House Education Administration and Planning Committee, said Tucker's book greatly influenced him. 'The first time I heard this gentleman speak, I began to challenge my basic ideas and views on education,' said Brooks, adding that the book pushed him to think about Tennessee's schools in a more global context, not just a national one."

During the Q and A Rep. Rick Womick (R-Murfreesboro) challenged much of what Tucker said and also asked how much money Tucker's organization has received form Bill Gates. Mr. Tucker said that they had not been a particular big supporter, his guess was about $2 million. Womick also asked about this educational background revealing that Tucker's degrees are not in education of any sort.  I found it very interesting that, and I believe based on Womick's questioning, he made substantial changes in the presentation in the second committee.

During the Q and A in the second committee, Rep. Shelia Butt (R-Columbia) questioned Tucker a length. 
When he was asked about his famous "Hillary" letter in the first committee, he sort of blew it off and could not quite remember, but when asked about it in the second committee, his memory was suddenly restored.

One of the most startling things Tucker said was: "We need a new economy." One can only wonder how he would propose to accomplish that task. He frequently mentioned Finland, comparing the United States to Finland.  Well, there are other views of Finland, which you MUST read: "Pasi Sahlberg and the Finnish "Truth about Finnish Schools". 

SB 0615
by *Hensley, (HB 0674) by *Rogers
Children - As introduced, requires revisions to information provided in a pamphlet associated with newborn testing and establishes requirements for the destruction of certain specimens and identifying informant.
BACKGROUND:  If you have had a baby in recent years, you might remember the heel stick on your newborn. Most parents have no idea what happened to that 'blood spot' after that.  Nothing should be more private than a person's DNA. Over time it has been discovered that some states keep these blood spots indefinitely, use them in research, etc., all without the parent's knowledge or permission.

[See: Newborns' Blood Samples Are Used for Research Without Parents' Consent or 10 PART OVERVIEW - Newborn Genetic Screening, Baby DNA Warehousing Government Research & No Parent Consent.]
This bill requires that the information be provided in pamphlet form that will be provided to the family to review and sign an acknowledgment of receiving the information about newborn testing before any blood sample for testing is drawn from the newborn. The pamphlet must disclose the exemption from testing or treatment of a child based on religious beliefs. The pamphlet must also inform the family of the newborn screening specimen use, retention, and disposal policy that this bill will implement.
It also requires that a newborn screening specimen taken for testing the presence of metabolic or genetic defects shall be kept for one year to permit time for the infant's physician to request additional tests. The specimen and the form containing the identifying information shall be kept separate. After one year, both the specimen and the form shall be destroyed. If a specimen is needed for quality assessment, quality control, or test calibration, that specimen may be retained for longer than one year; provided, that the form containing the identifying information has been separated from the sample and destroyed, to ensure that the source of the sample cannot be identified.
STATUS:  HB674 is scheduled in the House Health Subcommittee, Tuesday at 1:30pm.
ACTION:  Please contact the members of this committee and urge them to support this important legislation. Members contact information HERE.

SB 0005 by *Tracy,(HB 0003) by *Forgety , Harwell, Lollar, Byrd, Kane, Love, Sparks, Johnson , Lamberth, Faison, Casada, McManus, Williams, Swann, Eldridge, Sexton C, Marsh, Wirgau, Rogers, Pitts, Keisling, Sargent, McCormick, Brooks H, Towns, Hardaway, Ragan, VanHuss

STATUS:  HB 3 is back on the calendar on Wednesday in Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee. As you may recall, action on this legislation was postponed two weeks ago in order to come up with an amendment or plan. I don't know if that has emerged. In its present  form, we are absolutely opposed to its passage.
ACTION:  Please contact the committee members HERE and let them know that you are opposed to this bill in its present form.

SB 0612 by *Gardenhire,(HB 0675) by *White M
Students - As introduced, exempts certain students from payment of out-of-state tuition at state institutions of higher education. See Summary HERE.
Undocumented students in TN could get "in-state tuition"
There are 25,000 undocumented students in Tennessee who are not eligible for in-state tuition
[FYI:  This proposal was unsuccessful last year.]
BACKGROUND:   How do we get around this: In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens: A Violation of Federal Law
STATUS:  SB612 is scheduled in Senate Judiciary on Tuesday.
ACTION:  Contact the committee members HERE and urge the to follow the law.

SB 1039 by *Ketron,(HB 0670) by *Matheny
Education - As introduced, requires certain institutions to report nonimmigrant student enrollment to the department of safety.
BACKGROUNDThis bill requires each institution of higher education that accepts nonimmigrant students possessing either an F-1 or M-1 student visa for instruction in this state to report to the department of safety the following information:
(1) The number of nonimmigrant students enrolled at the institution at the beginning of each period of study; and
(2) The number of nonimmigrant students enrolled at the institution at the end of each period of study

STATUS: HB670 is in the Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee on Tuesday.
ACTION:  It makes good sense to know the status of students attending our colleges and universities. Please let the committee members know that you support this bill.