Legislative Update, February 9, 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)

The very essence of a free government consists in considering offices as public trust, bestowed for the good of the country, and not for the benefit of an individual or a party."  John C. Calhoun

Rep. Andy Farmer (R-Sevierville) and his wife had a bit of a scare this week. There appeared to be a problem for Mrs. Farmer, who is expecting a little girl in a couple of months. After extensive testing, praise the Lord, it was determined that everything was all right.  Please pray that things go smoothly for the last two months.  Continue to pray for the lawmakers and they begin to wrestle with the important issues that are starting to move through the committee system.  On a personal note,  my husband, Ron, has pneumonia.  He is 76 and has a number of serious, chronic health problems, so we would really appreciate your prayers.

Knowing that, like all other organizations, Tennessee Eagle Forum (TEF) must raise the funds to keep the work going, a faithful supporter, Betty Anderson, has issued a CHALLENGE.  She has sent TEF a check for $26 - one dollar for each of my 26 years.  Her CHALLENGE is that each subscriber would do likewise.  Certainly, we are humbled and appreciative of her thoughtfulness. If you want to take up that CHALLENGE, you can send your check to 3216 Bluewater Trace, Nashville, TN, 37217 or go to our website and use PayPal.  Donations are not tax deductible.

Wednesday was spent diligently gathering co-sponsors for a bill which has been carefully constructed by the Eagle Forum. For those who may not know, a co-sponsor is an endorsement of or statement of solidarity with a piece of legislation. While there is a specific legislator who carries the bill before the session, the other individuals who signed the bill as cosponsors act as additional support and votes that can typically be counted on when the bill comes before committee and before the assembly. Gathering co-sponsors is time consuming because it can be necessary to explain in detail what the bill entails to a legislator before he or she will endorse it. On a lighter note we closed out the day meeting with Matthew and Timothy Hill, the brother legislators from east Tennessee. I so enjoyed getting to know these Godly, humorous and committed men. With legislators like them in office, there is a lot of hope for the state of Tennessee.

Joanne, Nate and I are still working on getting our bills prepared for filing and getting co-sponsors to sign on. This flurry will end on February 14th as that is the last filing deadline for both the Senate and the House.  Some of the legislator's new offices are still not ready for occupancy.  Takes a long time to re-locate most of 99 House members and finding everyone is still a challenge!!

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
SJR 1 was in Senate Judiciary on January 29, where is passed 9-0:
Kelsey, Overbey, Campfield, Bell, Finney L, Ford, Gardenhire, Green, Stevens -- 9.
 SJR 1 was in Senate Finance on Tuesday, where after a brief discussion, it passed 9-1:
 Senators voting aye were: McNally, Watson, Overbey, Dickerson, Finney L, Haile, Hensley, Ketron, Norris -- 9. Senators voting no were: Henry
It will now move on the the Senate floor where it is expected to pass handily

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 was in Judiciary on Tuesday where it passed 8-0-1:
Kelsey, Overbey, Campfield, Bell, Finney L, Gardenhire, Green, Stevens -- 8.  Senators present and not voting were: Ford -- 1.
It is scheduled for the Senate floor Monday evening.  If you have an interest in this bill, you can find your senator  and his or her contact information HERE.
STATUS:  HB118 is scheduled to be heard in House Civil Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday.  Members of that subcommittee can be found HERE.

SB 0595 by *Johnson ( HB 0500 by *Casada)
Secretary of State - As introduced, creates office of the repealer for four-year period.
STATUS:  HB500 will be in the State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday. Members can be found HERE.

TN Lawmakers Create Office of the Repealer to Shrink Government


Tennessee state GOP lawmakers Representative Glen Casada and Senator Jack Johnson, both from Franklin, announced they have filed HB 500 and SB 595 to modify the TCA and create the Office of the Repealer.

Under the direction of the Office of Tennessee’s Secretary of State, Tre Hargett, the Office of the Repealer would be tasked with “Investigating and collecting information regarding the state’s laws and rules and regulations to determine instances in which such laws and rules and regulations are unreasonable, unduly burdensome, duplicative, contradictory or unnecessary;”

Representative Casada noted that once the idea for creating the Office of the Repealer had been conceived, rather than risk reinventing the wheel, he checked to see if any other states had undertaken such a comprehensive review of their legal code. His research revealed Kansas had enacted similar legislation. Tennessee’s law is modeled on the Kansas bill.

Regardless, this effort continues Tennessee’s cutting edge commitment to good governance and reducing legislative and regulatory burdens on citizens and business alike. It is a welcome first glimpse into the intentions of Tennessee’s GOP super-majorities in its House and Senate. Such actions bode well for keeping Tennessee positioned as one of the best states in the union in which to live, work and conduct business. 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.

STATUS: SB107 is in Senate State & Local Committee on Tuesday. Members can be found HERE.
HB80 is in House State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday. Members can be found HERE.
Senator Haile files bill to end payment for hotel stays for legislators who live within 50 miles of Capitol
NASHVILLE) –  State Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) filed legislation today to end expense account payment for lodging for state legislators who live within 50 miles of Tennessee’s State Capitol Building.  Haile said Senate Bill 107is a big step forward in reforming the per diem system through which members receive reimbursement for expenses.
“I should not be reimbursed for a hotel stay if I sleep in my own bed at night,” said Senator Haile.  “This legislation would end reimbursement for lodging for those who live within a 50-mile commuting distance to the State Capitol Building.”     
“We are accountable to the taxpayers, and we felt it was time to change the system,” Haile added.  “This fulfills a promise I made to file this legislation as my first bill of the 2013 legislative session.” Read more 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.
STATUS:  SB244 will be in Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday.  Members can be found HERE.

Tracy, Weaver File Bill to ‘Curb Abuse’ of EBT Benefits Program

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; January 29, 2013:

(NASHVILLE) — State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) have filed legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly to curb abuse of purchases made through Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) cards used by recipients of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Senate Bill 244 prohibits use of a welfare recipient’s EBT card in establishments that primarily sell tobacco products, tattoo facilities, psychic services, adult cabarets, and any establishment open to the public where liquor, wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverages are served for consumption on the premises.

“It is outrageous that these benefit cards, which are meant to help feed families with children in times of desperate need, are reported to have been misused for everything from theatre tickets and a tour of Graceland, to the purchase of alcohol and nightclub entertainment,” said Senator Tracy. “Tennessee law should make it perfectly clear that we will not tolerate this fraudulent use of taxpayer money.” Read more 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

Hearing on Bill to Prohibit Medicaid Expansion Blocked (for now)

"Look, my job is not to bail out the special-interest hospital lobby," he [Sen. Kelsey] said. "My job is to represent Tennessee taxpayers. I do not represent Tennessee hospitals."

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Republican lawmakers are putting the brakes on a bill seeking to bar Tennessee from expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville announced the move at a legislative preview session Thursday hosted by The Associated Press and the Tennessee Press Association. He said he persuaded fellow Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown to park his bill to block the expansion.

"It was on notice yesterday, and not on notice today, OK?" Ramsey said.

(Note: In legislator language, that means the sponsor had scheduled it for a committee vote next week, then backed off and took it 'off notice' -- in this case, presumably at the request of Ramsey and/or others.)

Ramsey remains skeptical about whether Tennessee should participate in growing the program known as TennCare in the state, but said he doesn't want to preclude the governor from examining all angles before making a decision.

Haslam said he's "seen some growing flexibility" in the U.S. Health and Human Resources Department about which services the state would have to cover among the expanded TennCare population. He also said he wants to check with other Republican governors who have recently decided to pursue an expansion in their states.

Haslam promises Medicaid expansion decision by end of legislative session

Gov. Bill Haslam said he plans to come up with a decision on whether the state should expand its Medicaid program before lawmakers go home for the year.Read more here.