News release from House Democratic Caucus
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh was joined today by members of the House Democratic Caucus at a press conference to discuss upcoming amendments to HB118, the ‘Guns in Parking Lots’ bill sponsored by Rep. Faison in the House and Speaker Ramsey in the Senate.
“We know the majority wants to pass this bill and pass it quickly,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “It’s made a mad dash through the Senate and the House, in some cases coming out of committee in less than six minutes. That’s why we’re here today previewing the amendments and laying out our concerns.”
Leader Fitzhugh has introduced seven amendments to the bill. These amendments would protect private property rights and promote public safety while still preserving the rights of handgun permit holders to carry their firearms with them.
State revenues are on the upswing, and so are lawmakers’ efforts to spend them, reports Action Andy. Altogether, House proposals total $589.56 million and Senate requests come to $501 million.
But the actual cost is less. That’s partly because a number of House and Senate amendments have identical goals. And some lawmakers have proposed halting scheduled cuts to programs that Haslam recently agreed to fund partially.
The House and Senate finance committees are expected to begin sorting through amendments this week as they try to wrap up their annual session before the beginning of May.
With state tax collections now running $107 million above December estimates, Haslam’s administration and Republican leaders have positioned themselves to stem the tide of spending requests.
“I think we need to avoid that temptation that just because we have money we need to spend it,” Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes said Friday. “We know we have significant expenses coming in 2014 and 2015 so the idea is, this extra money, let it roll over so we’re ready for that.”
….The governor has set aside $5 million for legislative initiatives in the projected $30.2 billion budget. McCormick said that may increase slightly, but not much.
See also Andrea Zelinski’s TNReport on budget amendments.
Legislators have reached what Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris calls “the stalemate place” on how Tennessee’s top judges should be selected and are now racing to delay a decision until next year.
After a convoluted series of events, the Senate now has before it two different proposals for amending the state constitution. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says he now hopes lawmakers will approve both before adjourning the 2012 session, probably in two weeks.
If that happens, lawmakers can pick up the stalemate next year and try to resolve it then. If not, the inaction will apparently mean no change in the status quo until at least 2018.
The two competing proposals are:
Lawmakers have a wish list up to $500 million in projects and programs long — a pipe dream they’ll have to whittle down to about $5 million, says Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, reports Andrea Zelinski. The governor included $5 million in legislative expenditures in his budget, and now lawmakers are clamoring for a piece of that available money. The proposals include projects specific to lawmakers’ districts and attempts to fund favored bills or existing state programs.
Norris said it’s too soon to say what lawmakers will decide to spend that available money on, but said they so far don’t see making many changes to the governor’s proposed budget and accompanied amendment.
“Given that we only have about 1 percent of what’s requested available, all of them will not make it,” said Norris, R-Collierville. “Though worthy, there’s not enough taxpayer money available to fund everything that people would like to see us fund.”
Senate lawmakers began combing through the requests this week in a budget subcommittee and expect to decide next week which of those proposals will actually be funded.
“People think there’s more money,” said House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, who said his office has 350 funding requests, an increase from last year’s 150 requests.
As the battle brews over how to pick the state’s most powerful judges, plans to make them earn their seat on the bench through popular elections narrowly failed in a House committee Wednesday, according to TNReport.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 7-7 on a plan to elect Supreme and appellate court judges, one vote shy of the majority vote necessary to advance the plan in the Legislature. (Note: And with two members absent.) “I’m disappointed, to say the least,” said bill sponsor Rep. Glen Casada, who contends the current practice flies in the face of the Tennessee Constitution. The constitution says judges of the Supreme, Circuit and Chancery Courts, and other inferior courts “shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State.”
“The constitution governs how we do business and do public policy in the state,” said Casada, R-Franklin. “To be out of compliance is wrong. If you can’t comply with the most basic, how can you trust us to comply with other parts of the law as well?”
The narrow vote shows there is still distinct division in the GOP-run Legislature over the best way to go about choosing who should sit on the bench in the state’s highest courts.
The measure, HB173, would have required high-ranking judges to face popular elections beginning in August 2014 instead of the yes/no retention elections they now face every eight years.
The Senate considered amendments to the state Constitution earlier Wednesday, but isn’t expected to vote on the plans until next week.
SJR183 would allow the General Assembly to solidify the current practice of the governor appointing judges who later face retention elections, called the Tennessee Plan.
SJR710, on the other hand, would require the governor’s judicial appointments to win approval from the General Assembly. Those judges would also face retention elections to renew their terms.