Andy Sher has a review of major issues still pending as the Legislature enters wind-down week of the 2015 session. Excerpt (with all the topics, but without most of the elaboration):
* Abortion restrictions: The House is expected to take final action on a previously passed Senate bill that imposes 48-hour waiting period and mandatory informed consent by a physician for women seeking an abortion. Virtually every one of the 73 Republicans in the GOP-controlled House back the bill, as do some of the 26 Democrats.
* School vouchers: The Republican-controlled Senate has already passed this bill, just as it does every session. But it awaits action in the House Finance Subcommittee, where its prospects are unclear. The bill allows low-income parents to use tax dollars to send their children to private or religious schools — Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim — provided the student’s zoned public school is in the bottom 5 percent for achievement statewide….
* Auto insurance: Decades in the making, this bill (HB606) finally puts teeth into enforcing the current mandatory insurance law. The bill, which passed the House last week, could affect one of every five vehicle registrations in Tennessee, or about 1.1 million vehicles and their owners who have no insurance.
The state’s 95 county clerks will be required to check a computer to see if vehicle owners have insurance, and reject registrations if they don’t. And they can revoke registrations if insurance is dropped.
* Common Core education standards: Action is expected in the House and Senate on a compromise on the state’s Common Core standards for math and English language arts. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam hoped to stall an attack by conservatives on the states-initiated standards aimed at ensuring students know what they should.
The compromise retains Haslam’s current review process. But it officially repeals Common Core standards. And it adds a 10-member commission with four gubernatorial appointees and three each by the House and Senate speakers. The commission would have to OK the new standards before passing them along to the state Board of Education for final approval. Proponents say it will retain high standards. Critics contend it’s simply a rebranding of Common Core.
* Municipal de-annexation: Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, have a bill letting some city residents initiate referendums to “de-annex” their properties. If a majority of voters in the territory approved, the municipality still could levy taxes to pay for improvements like sewers incurred before the de-annexation. Watson’s version is ready for floor action. Carter’s bill, a follow-up to his 2014 bill eliminating annexation by ordinance and requiring public votes, is up in the House Finance Committee on Tuesday….
* Undocumented students: After passing the Senate 21-12 last week, Sen. Todd Gardenhire’s bill granting in-state college tuition rates to some undocumented students living in Tennessee faces its next big test in the House Finance Subcommittee this week.
…* App-based rideshare services: Popular online transportation networks like Uber and Lyft are bypassing cities and lobbying legislatures to authorize their operations.
A bill by Watson strips cities’ authority to license and regulate rideshare services and makes them self-regulating. The companies would be required to conduct criminal background checks on drivers.
…* Revenue reform: Senators are expected to take final action on Haslam’s proposed Revenue Modernization Act. Haslam says the bill, passed last week by the House, brings fairness to Tennessee-based companies….The bargaining and negotiations on the bill were conducted secretly by the Haslam administration and various companies. The bill that originally would have raised some $45 million a year now will bring in about $17 million, according to the state Revenue Department….
* Transportation Equity Fund: A bill makes major changes to the 4.5 cents-per-gallon aviation fuel tax that helps pay for improvements at dozens of Tennessee airports, including Chattanooga’s. The bill delivers a tax break to Memphis-based FedEx, capping its aviation-fuel tax liability at $10.5 million annually. As a result, the Transportation Equity Fund — now $41 million to $48 million — would shrink by two-thirds.
UPDATE/Note: See also Andrea Zelinski’s list, posted Monday HERE. She has some other items, such as legislation impacting Achievement School District.