Legislative Update, March 14, 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).


"Above all, I know there is a Supreme Being who rules the affairs of men and whose goodness and mercy have always followed the American people, and I know He will not turn from us now if we humbly and reverently seek His powerful aid."
Grover Cleveland, both the 22nd and 24th President, stated in his 2nd Inaugural, March 4, 1893

Not sure he should have been, but Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) was back at the Plaza this week after surgery to repair the leg he broke falling on the ice. Pray for his healing.   Also, continue to pray for Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) as he continues his treatment for non-hodgkin's lymphoma. He expects his 5th round of chem on March 20.

The weather outside may have been dreary but the atmosphere inside The Capitol was anything but that.  Because of the shortened legislative calender there are fewer available days for groups to host their "Day on the Hill." Consequently,  the halls are always filled.  The main focus this Tuesday was the "baby spots bill." Many of you with children are familiar with a baby's heel pricked after birth to gather medical information.  However this information is also part of your child's DNA. What can be more private than that?  Some medical facilities in other states have been keeping these samples indefinitely, thus raising privacy concerns.  This bill would mandate that hospitals destroy these samples after a year.  Much of the morning was spent ensuring that enough votes were in sub-committee to send it to full committee.  The bill cleared sub committee, showing some fruits of our labor from earlier in the day.  After seeing this bill pass sub-committee we attended other committee meetings watching proceedings on bills of interest.  There is never a drab day in Nashville!

Life can put you in some unthinkable situations and provide incredible opportunities when you least expect them. My Wednesdays are defiantly something of that sort. Unpredictable per usual, the legislature flowed in and out of issues with quick urgency of precision and we went right along with it. We had the privilege of meeting with several senators and representatives alike, making our voice heard on matters and getting input from them on what we had. Squeezing a word in with people right here in the middle of the session is an interesting task to say the least but where there is a will there is a way. And Mrs. Bobbie always has her will with her. Every day with her down at the legislature is a blessing and I can't express gratitude enough.

Secretary of State Presents the Tennessee State Capitol Documentary
    It has endured an army occupation, the interment of two of its founding fathers, and a car cruising through its hallways. Not to mention its role as the site of many of the most important events in Tennessee's history. The Tennessee State Capitol building has many great stories to tell - and some of those stories were revealed in a documentary about the building that premiered last week. In attendance were state legislators, department commissioners, representatives from preservation groups and others.
    The documentary was created by the staff of the Tennessee State Library and Archives. It is the first part of a project that will eventually include a virtual tour of the Capitol building and its grounds, and feature stories about the building and influential people in Tennessee history.   If you have not seen this video, you MUST watch it HERE.

It was on March 13, 2014, that the members of the House of Representatives, working hard to represent their constituents, made sure that Common Core and PARCC  was addressed on the House Floor.   While these courageous legislators were unable to repeal Common Core they did get TN out of the PARCC testing, as well as see major changes in how future standards would be adopted.  Looking back it seems that this event was the 'turning point' in the battle to replace Common Core standards with 'home-grown' Standards.  Step by step, we are hopeful that during this legislative session we will move further toward that goal. 

I wish I knew exactly what to tell you about the efforts to replace the Common Core Standards with TN Standards.  Since Rep. Forgety took his bill (HB3) off notice, a lot of work has been taking place to prepare a piece of legislation that would outline the process for writing the 'replacement' standards and the process for putting them into place.  However, we don't have any details yet.  Hopefully, we will know more the first of next week.

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:  Nothing is more personal nor should be more private that a person's DNA. In other states there has been a lot of controversy about what happens to these blood spots.  It was discovered that, in some states, these spots were kept indefinitely and in some cases, were used for research which was performed without the knowledge of permission of parents.  We want to make sure that does not happen here in TN.
AS IT WAS AMENDED: Present law requires the department of health to implement public education programs to inform persons of genetic screening, genetic disorders, and birth defects and the various services available. Present law also requires the department to disseminate information about the birth defects registry that the department maintains to the participating perinatal centers that will be made available to the family, that explains and describes the purpose and process of the registry and how confidentiality will be protected.
    This bill requires that the information described above be provided in pamphlet form that will be provided to the family to review 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
STATUS: So pleased to report that HB674 received an unanimous vote in the Health Subcommittee and is scheduled in the full Health Committee on Wednesday. SB615 will be in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday.
ACTION:  I have already seen most the members of the House Health Committee and think we are good there; please contact members of the Senate Health Committee HERE and ask them to support this legislation. Remember that Sen. Hensley, who is on the committee, is our sponsor.

SB 0614 by *Hensley, (HB 1058) by *VanHuss
Textbooks - As introduced, requires any local board of education that provides electronic textbooks and instructional materials to students to provide the public access to view such materials.
BACKGROUND:  A father in Rep. VanHuss' area learned that the digital textbooks were available for review only to parents with a password.  This bill would make these tax-payer funded textbooks available for review by the public in general.  Some Tenn. schools pass on social studies books
 STATUS:  Sometimes when a piece of legislation is introduced it is like tossing a pebble into a pond.  One never knows where those ripples will go. It seems that HB1058 was like that. As the digital world continues to explode around us, it is bring new opportunities and problems.  It seems that providing any taxpayer who is interested, with access to the digital textbooks is a bit more complicated than we anticipated. After talking with folks connected to several 'stakeholders' and not wanting to do something 'fast', but to do something 'good' and workable for everyone, we will be taking HB1058 off notice. I have been assured that during the summer, we will be able to develop a plan that will provide access to these digital textbooks in a timely fashion when we return in January.

SB 0439 by *Haile, (HB 1089) by *Dunlap
Education - As introduced, allows a student's parent or the student's teacher to view a state-required standardized summative assessment taken by the student and the student's answers subject to certain conditions.
This bill requires that a parent of a student be given access to the test questions and the parent's student's answers on the Tennessee comprehensive assessment program (TCAP) tests, the end-of-course examinations, or any other state-required standardized summative assessments administered to the parent's student. Access to such information must be given within 30 days after the last date for the administration of the test. This bill also requires that notice of the right to such access be given to students' parents
STATUS:  SB439 is scheduled in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday
ACTION:  Please contact committee members HERE and urge them to pass this important piece of legislation. (Remember that sponsor Sen. Haile is a member of the commitee.)

SB 1292 by *Hensley,(HB 1151) by *Terry
Textbooks - As introduced, permits citizen groups to submit error reports detailing any errors in textbooks used in public schools in this state to the textbooks and instructional materials commission; creates an appeal process before a joint education committee; implements various provisions of law to address errors in textbooks.
This bill authorizes any group of citizens to submit error reports to the state textbook and instructional materials quality commission. The error reports must contain:
(1) Identification of the error with a reference to the text and a photocopy of the page containing the error;
(2) The text title, edition, and publication date;
(3) A description of the error;
(4) Citation to any authority for the fact asserted disputing the information in the textbook;
(5) Any recommendation for corrective action; and
(6) Signatures of the citizens in the citizen group who are submitting the report.
Further information HERE and click on Summary.
STATUS: HB1151 is scheduled in Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee for 3/18/2015
ACTION:  Please contact committee members and urge them to support this legislation.

SB 1128 by *Gardenhire, (HB 1372) by *Holt
Motor Vehicles - As introduced, enacts the "Tennessee Freedom From Traffic Cameras Act, " which prohibits a municipality or county from contracting with any person or entity to provide for the use of any unmanned traffic enforcement camera to enforce or monitor any traffic violations; applies to contracts entered into or renewed on or after effective date of this act
STATUS:  SB1128 has been Placed on Senate Transportation and Safety Committee calendar for 3/18/2015
HB1372 was voted out of subcommittee and will be in the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday.
ACTION:  This has become a hot topic in recent months and now you have the opportunity to make your voice heard.

SB 1188 by *Beavers, (HB 0939) by *Matheny
Election Laws - As introduced, requires a person to declare a statewide political party affiliation before voting in a primary election.
NOTE:  Here is your chance to make your voice heard.
STATUS: SB1188 scheduled was moved to Senate State and Local Government Committee on 3/24/2015. 
HB939 is scheduled in Local Government Subcommittee for 3/18/2015

ACTION: You can find the Local Government Subcommittee members HERE and urge them to pass this legislation.

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.
[FYI: This proposal was unsuccessful last year and we opposed it on the basis of 'rule of law' then too.]
BACKGROUND:   How do we get around this: In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens: A Violation of Federal Law
STATUS:  SB612 is scheduled in Finance Ways and Means on Tuesday.
HB675 is scheduled in Education Administration & Planning Subcommittee for 3/17/2015. (Note that Sponsor White is chairman of this committee.)

ACTION:  Please contact committee members and encourage them to oppose this bill.

SJR 0023 by *Green
Memorials, Congress - Expresses support for and urges Congress to maintain current troop levels at Fort Campbell.
The Tennessee Senate adopted a resolution sponsored by Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville) on Thursday urging Congress to oppose any measure that would reduce current troop levels at Fort Campbell.  Senate Joint Resolution 23 comes after a recent U.S. Army Environmental Command report showed that a reduction of 140,000 troops, plus associated civilian reductions, would be needed in order to achieve the savings required by the Budget Control Act if sequester cuts to the defense budget are reinstated.  That action would affect approximately 7,000 troops at Fort Campbell, representing a 22 percent reduction, with a possible decrease of more than 15,000 active duty troops by 2020.
Fort Campbell sustained cuts last year, with the reductions made in the 159th Aviation Brigade.
"These cuts would skeletonize units in order to maintain some infrastructure," he continued.  "We're basically just dismantling the United States Army in order to save money."
SJR23 passed the Senate 33-0; and moved on to the House.