Harwell Proposes Limits on Bill Filings, ‘Ghost Voting’ and a Committee Realignment

News release from House Speaker’s office:
NASHVILLE – Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) today announced she is recommending changes to the Tennessee House of Representatives internal rules that will make the governmental process more efficient and save taxpayer money. The changes follow an effort two years ago to streamline operations.
“Tennessee taxpayers have entrusted us with the task of governing–something I take very seriously,” Harwell stated. “These changes reflect the will of Tennesseans: that state government operates efficiently and effectively while saving money. These changes also reflect the will of the body. After surveying the members of the last General Assembly, we have incorporated some of their suggestions as well. While Congress remains mired in partisan gridlock and continues to waste time, the state legislature is working toward better government.”
The changes include:
•Restructuring the committee system to balance the workload of each;
•Adopting the annual ethics resolution into the House Rules which will ensure the body is abiding by an ethics policy from the first day;
•Limiting the number of bills filed to 10 per member annually which will encourage members to prioritize;
•Reaffirming that each member vote for only him or herself;
•And deleting the requirement that every document be printed to reduce the amount of paper used in committee and for floor sessions.
Harwell noted the committee restructuring, bill limits, and paperless measures are among those that will, in the long run, save the Tennessee taxpayer money.
“The new committee system will balance the workloads of each committee, ensuring that they are as efficient as possible. Bill limits will reduce duplication and ensure each member prioritizes their issues. I am seeking to eliminate the requirement that every document we produce as a body be printed in effort for us to adapt to the technology available and reduce the enormous amount of paper used each year. Each of these measures together ensure a more efficient, effective, and accessible government. This will also give us more time for thoughtful, deliberate analysis on each piece of legislation–which is something Tennesseans expect and deserve.”

Note: Some details below.
The proposed recommendations will be taken up by the House Rules Committee, which will be appointed by the Speaker in January.

Key rule proposals to enhance the administration and efficiency of the House of Representatives as proposed by Speaker Harwell for consideration:
• Committees – restructures House Committees to provide more even distribution of bills and resolutions between committees. Establishes thirteen standing committees and a Committee on Calendar and Rules.
Agriculture and Environment
Business and Utilities
Civil Justice
Consumer and Human Resources
Criminal Justice
Finance, Ways and Means
Government Operations
Insurance and Banking
Local Government
State Government
• Bill limits – establishes an annual session legislation limitation. Members are limited to filing ten (10) bills and substantive resolutions during each annual session of the General Assembly.
The following bills and resolutions do not count toward the limit:
(1) General bills of local application as specified in their captions and local bills;
(2) General bills designated by the sponsor as Administration Bills;
(3) General bills sponsored and designated by the Chair of the Government Operations Committee concerning entity extensions and terminations;
(4) Resolutions that are memorializing or congratulatory in nature and are not referred to a standing committee;
(5) Resolutions confirming appointments or authorizing annual charitable events; and
(6) Resolutions that are procedural in nature and are not referred to a standing committee.
• Voting – reaffirms rules on voting to provided that “No member shall vote for another member on the electronic roll call system or otherwise.” Authorizes Clerk to record certain votes and to lock an absent member’s electronic roll call machine.
• Ethics – incorporates former ethics resolution into the House rules and creates a 10-member House Ethics Committee.
• Paperless – with greater availability and use of the electronic system, several rules are amended to reduce requirements that paper copies and duplicates be printed and distributed including elimination of the “press copy” of filed legislation.
• Legislation scheduled for third consideration – allows legislation to be rescheduled for consideration three (3) times on the floor prior to rereferral to the Committee on Calendar and Rules regardless of who requests that the bill be rescheduled.
• Distribution of papers and use visual aids – papers distribution to members desks are restricted to general announcements only; prohibits use of props and visual aids.
• Local bills – conforms rules with the practice of requiring all local bills to be referred to committee.
• Conference committee reports – provides that “No member of a conference committee may sign more than one (1) report.”
• Floor presentations – adds rule to allow members to make two (2) floor presentations during the 108th General Assembly; presentations are nontransferable.
• Election contests – adds rule concerning election contests initiated by complaint to the House of Representatives

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