Legislative Update, March 21, 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).


"The patriot who feels himself in the service of God who acknowledges Him in all his ways, has the promise of Almighty direction, and will find His Word in his greatest darkness, a 'lantern to his feet and a lamp unto his path.' He will therefore seek to establish for his country in the eyes of the world, such a character as shall make her not  unworthy of the name of a Christian nation." Frances Scott Key, February 22, 1812.

Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) had the fifth of six chemotherapy treatments yesterday.  Please continue to pray for him.  These treatments tend to be cumulative and he has a very busy legislative schedule next week.  Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) is no longer wearing his leg brace and continues to improve from surgery on his broken leg. Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis) was under the weather and was absent on Thursday.  A couple of other lawmakers have been under the weather this week
. As the session continues to ramp up, please pray for wisdom, insight, and clarity as important bills travel through the process.

The weather outside certainly matched the tempo inside the legislative chambers.  What a busy day! We started our day meeting with legislators and delivering information on bills that they would be seeing in committee this week.  We also worked with David Fowler, President of the Family Action Council of Tennessee and discussed pieces of legislation with him.  Tuesday was The Tennessee Right to Life Day on the Hill.  Kay James, a former director for the United States Office of Personnel Management under George W. Bush, was the keynote speaker.  She did a marvelous job, receiving a standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd.  Soon it was back to work and we were again moving about the halls, scheduling appointments and meeting with elected officials.  We wrapped up another full day by attending the Senate Judiciary Committee monitoring bills of interest.

Packed with the never ceasing push of activity, committee rooms were laced with drama Wednesday from morning and well into the afternoon. UT Day on The Hill added a touch of orange to the hallways and seemed to give everyone a skip in there step altogether. Lightheartedness was going to be needed for the long day ahead. Snagging a spot to see it all happen was harder than you'd think. At about nine in the morning I took my seat in a committee room and didn't refrain from doing so until about two thirty. I had never realized quite how uncomfortable one of those chairs can get. But there was hardly time to think about the lack of plushness in a seat when the real interest was coming at you from all sides. From Health to Criminal Justice and then Education, people around me were moving fast and focused to where they needed to be. It was interesting to see the many backgrounds that walked and talked around me. Organizations, class rooms, families, and individual citizens all sat anxiously to see how the decisions being made were about to affect them personally. It was almost humorous to see how foreign the surroundings were to some of them and how they reacted to it all for the first time. For me, however, it was just another day with Mrs. Bobbie and I look forward to doing it again next week

Next Tuesday should be fun. It is the annual Ag Day on the Hill.  This includes lots of animals in pens for petting.  Instead of the traditional milking contest between Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker Beth Harwell, this year there will be a  corn shucking contest.  On a different front, as bills  make their way through committees and on to respective floor action, the freshmen in each chamber are the recipients of the traditional 'good natured hazing' with their first bill.  In the House, Rep. Matthew Hill is the designee and in the Senate, Sen. Bo Watson seems to be the designee. Both men are very clever in carrying out their task.


Common Core State Standards Legislation

SB 1163 by *Bell, Massey (HB 1035) by *Spivey, Forgety, Harwell, Lollar, Coley, Todd, McManus, Sanderson, Hulsey, Matheny, Shepard, Wirgau, McDaniel, Calfee, Kane, Womick, Powers, Hawk, Matlock, Sexton J, Casada
Education, Curriculum - As introduced, requires the department of education to report on the availability and content of driver education and training courses in public schools to the education committee of the senate and the education instruction and programs committee of the house prior to March 1, 2016. -
DO NOT PAY ATTENTION THIS CAPTION.  SB1163-HB1035 has become a vehicle for a bill amended to address Common Core State Standards.


This is the message about the amendment that is on Rep. Billy Spivey's Facebook page:

"Legislation To Replace Common Core In Tennessee Moves Forward In House
"Lawmakers say no to allowing federal standards in state education system
       "House Bill 1035 advanced out of the Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee this week and will now move on to the full Committee, where it is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, March 24. The legislation establishes a process by which the state will formally replace the controversial Common Core education standards with a new set of standards crafted solely by Tennesseans.
       "As amended, the bill specifies that Tennessee is fully in charge of creating its own educational standards and ensures that none will be imposed on the state by the federal government in the future. The bill establishes a Standards Recommendation Committee that will be comprised of ten members, with four appointed by the Governor, three appointed by the Speaker of the Senate, and three appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
        "In addition, the legislation requires the State Board of Education to cancel the "Memorandum of Understanding" that had previously been agreed upon concerning Common Core State Standards.
        "Throughout the process of crafting these new education standards, House Bill 1035 provides multiple opportunities for public input and stresses transparency. Ultimately, the legislation will fully remove Tennessee from federal Common Core Standard guidelines while empowering Tennessee education professionals to craft new standards of educational excellence without undue influence from outside the state.
          "Heralded by proponents as the pathway to finally implementing Tennessee-based education standards in the state, supporters on both sides of the aisle agree this legislation will finally vanquish the Common Core standards that have drawn the ire of parents, teachers, school administrators, and advocacy groups nationwide over the last several years."

Ramsey: Deal keeps Common Core standards for now

New Common Core bill gets House sub OK - it 'strengthens' Haslam's review process

    The amendment says that the CCSS "will be reviewed and SHALL be replaced with new sets of standards adopted to fit the needs of Tennessee Students."  It also clearly states that the "Department of Education SHALL cancel any memorandum of understanding concerning the common core state standards entered into....." Both those things are good news.
    The remainder of the bill lays out what PROCESS would be followed to carry out the task.  Since I was not privy to the discussions that went on while the amendment was being developed, I don't know if national experts were consulted about this process or will be consulted, or if proven, rigorous, pre-Common Core standards from other states will be reviewed and considered for use in Tennessee.  It looks as if public involvement will be limited to responding to the standards on a website and when the recommendations are complete, the public will have opportunity for review. We don't know the identity of the 'third party' who will gather and transmit the data. Unless I am missing something, these new standards do not come back to the legislature for any kind of approval. The plan is for these standards to be adopted and fully implemented in the schools in the 2017-2018 school year.
STATUS: SB1163 is scheduled in Senate Education Committee calendar for 3/25/2015.
HB1035 is scheduled Education Instruction & Programs for 3/24/2015
ACTION: This is your opportunity ask your questions and make your voice heard.

SB 1193 by *Beavers, (HB 1348) by *Weaver
Education, Curriculum - As introduced, revises the provisions governing curriculum standards for K-12 students, such as prohibiting the implementation of the common core state standards and allowing the state board of education to come up with a new set of state academic content standards; creates the academic standards steering committee as a review authority for all legislation and proposals related to academic standards.
Bill Summary
This bill revises and adds provisions related to academic standards in the subjects of English language arts (ELA), mathematics, science, and social studies.
This bill prohibits the state board of education from adopting a proposed change or addition to academic standards in ELA, mathematics, science, or social studies until:
(1) The general assembly approves the proposed change or addition to the academic standards by joint resolution;
(2) The education committees of the house and the education committee of the senate hold at least one public hearing, at which time the members of the public will have the opportunity to speak and express their concerns and opinions on the proposed changes or addition to the academic standards; and
(3) The academic standards steering committee, described below, recommends the proposed changes or revisions to the state academic content standards.
  CLICK HERE, then the SUMMARY tab.
STATUS SB1193 is scheduled in the
Senate Government Operations Committee calendar for 3/25/2015.
HB1348 is scheduled in the Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee for 3/25/2015
ACTION:  Again, this is the opportunity for you to make your voice heard.

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 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
When in FW&M last week, some of the Senators brought up the fact that this bill would break federal law plus some other issues which caused the bill to be postponed until next week. I have spoken with one of the authors of the paper linked above, Hans A. von Spakovsky, who is a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School.  He told me that it didn't make any difference what conditions were set for the illegals, providing in-state tuition to them without giving it to everyone was a violation of federal law, period. I also learned this week that many schools depend on out-of-state tuition to help balance their books.
NOTE:  For us, the 'rule of law' is important and needs to be considered even before the merits of the bill.
STATUS: SB612, with two amendments (SA0046 and SA0047) is in Senate Finance Ways and Means again on 3/24/2015. HB675 is scheduled in Education Administration & Planning Subcommittee for 3/24/2015.
ACTION: PLEASE contact the members of these committees and urge them not to break federal law.

SB 1224 by *Bell,(HB 0889) by *Moody
Education - As introduced, requires any public school that uses a digital-learning platform in the classroom to provide students, parents, or legal guardians a written explanation of the digital-learning platform; authorizes schools to provide parents and legal guardians of students total access to the digital-learning platform; mandates the destruction of all data collected on the student from the digital-learning platform at the end of the course; and allows students to opt out of the digital-learning platform.
STATUS: HB889 is scheduled in Education Instruction & Programs Subcommittee for 3/25/2015
ACTION:  This is a VERY IMPORTANT parental rights bill.  PLEASE contact the committee members and urge them to support this legislation.

WHAT???  Nashville GOP senator to propose medical marijuana bill

Sen. Steve Dickerson: sen.steven.dickerson@capitol.tn.gov ;   Rep. Ryan Williams: rep.ryan.williams@capitol.tn.gov

Speaker calls for 'pre-meeting' transparency

Tennessee bill banning traffic cameras changed so it won't ban traffic cameras

Atheists want law removed that bars them from office 
[Never mind that these have been ruled unconstitutional and are not enforced.]