State Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville Democrat who succeeded longtime lawmaker Harry Tindell last year, is just into the third month of her first term but already is a target by Republicans in 2014, reports Georgiana Vines. She was mentioned last week in a news release put out by the Tennessee Republican Party in which she was criticized for pushing a bill (HB1301) requiring cities, counties and other political subdivisions to grant an unpaid leave of absence to full-time employees for service in the Legislature. The bill died in the State Government Subcommittee for lack of a second.
Chris Devaney, state GOP chair, said in the release that Johnson, an educator, pushed the mandate on local governments to make “a change to the law that she would personally benefit from.”
“It’s a lie,” Johnson said Friday. “That law had nothing to do with me. This is for police and firefighters. It came from another representative (Antonio Parkinson of Memphis) who had already used all his bills.”
State law already allows teachers to be given a leave of absence to serve in the Legislature, she said.
She said she feels another bill failed to get a second in the State Government Subcommittee on March 27 — even though it passed the Senate unanimously — because she is the House sponsor.
The bill (HB676) required meetings of certain boards and commissions, like the Tennessee Election Commission, be made available by video streaming over the Internet. The only Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar, moved for approval.
“I couldn’t get a second. Even the Election Commission unanimously supported the bill. I’m No. 1 the Republicans want to defeat,” she said.
On the state Senate floor last week, Sen. Brian Kelsey brought up a resolution that he explained as putting senators on record as declaring “if the federal government tries to infringe on our rights as American citizens, then we will intervene and fight for those rights.”
This prompted Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris to ask his fellow Republican how the resolution (SR17) differed from perhaps the most prominent of several bills introduced this year to nullify federal laws and subject federal officers to prosecution should they try to enforce them.
The question was a bit of a gibe at Kelsey because Norris knew the answer. A resolution — especially one that faces a vote only in the Senate and not in the House — amounts only to a rhetorical statement.
And the resolution merely expresses the Senate’s “firm intention and resolve to fully marshal the legal resources of the state” to see that any federal laws violating 2nd Amendment rights are challenged in court.
“Are we going to go out and simply start shooting people? No,” said Kelsey, R-Germantown. “When we have disputes we do not resort to warfare and shooting.”
That brought Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, to her feet to declare that her bill (SB250) did not call for shooting federal agents, merely their arrest. As originally drafted, federal officers enforcing gun laws would have faced a felony prosecution, though that was amended to a misdemeanor.
Kelsey took a lead role in killing Beavers’ bill, which declared the state Legislature has authority to nullify federal gun laws and, once nullified, make FBI or ATF agents subject to arrest if they tried to enforce them. If failed after lengthy debate before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Kelsey chairs.
The measure is an example of what some Democrats call “the crazy bills.” Without referring to specific bills, House Speaker Beth Harwell has implored Republicans to steer clear of “fringe” legislation. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has lamented bills that are “a distraction.” Gov. Bill Haslam has chided media for focusing its reporting on the “craziest legislation.”
At the outset of the 108th General Assembly, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, among others, voiced fear that the new Republican supermajority would “run amok” enacting “all these right-wing extremist bills.”
With just two weeks remaining until the end of the first supermajority session, that has not been the case. Many legislators credit this to the generally quiet efforts of Harwell and Ramsey or, to a lesser extent, Haslam.
Here’s the latest list of bills signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, provided by his office:
This bill authorizes and encourages public higher education institutions to offer coursework on neurological or brain science research as part of teacher training programs.
(Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 33-0)
This bill authorizes tractor vehicle, freight motor vehicle, truck-tractor, trailer and semitrailer operators to deduct the weight of their idle-reduction technology or emissions-reduction technology, not to exceed 550 pounds, from the total weight of the vehicle for purposes of determining whether the vehicle exceeds the weight limit for operation on the roads.
(Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 31-0)
While the Legislature’s Republican “supermajority” regularly proclaims devotion to making Tennessee business friendly, on occasion a choice must be made between friends. And that is a good thing for the lobbying business.
The most publicized example of the current session has been authorizing the sale of wine in grocery stores. The dispute has pitted the 500-plus package stores, who present themselves as small businesses under attack, against convenience stores and big-box retailers, who present themselves as champions of consumer convenience.
Both, of course, are interested in maximizing profits. At this writing, it appears the liquor stores, defenders of the status quo, have prevailed again. That means in 2014 — for the seventh consecutive year — both sides will hire lobbyists for another round of what has become a major revenue generator for the lobbying business.
This year, 64 lobbyists for 43 clients listed “alcoholic beverage regulation” on their registration forms, which require a check beside areas of lobbying interest. A skim through the listings indicates the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, leading proponent of the bill (HB610), has registered the highest number of lobbyists at 10.
Here is a list of bills signed by Gov. Bill Haslam for the week ending March 22:
This bill redefines the functions and duties of the office of local government in the office of the comptroller of the treasury.
(Passed House 96-0; Passed Senate 31-0)
This bill designates the third week of June each year as “Lymphedema Awareness Week”.
(Passed House 93-0; Passed Senate 31-0)
This bill requires the return or destruction of any protected health information obtained by defendant during an interview with the relevant patient’s treating healthcare providers in a healthcare liability action.
(Passed House 94-0; Passed Senate 30-0)
This bill extends the board of funeral directors and embalmers to June 30, 2018.
(Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 31-0)
The latest list of bills signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, as provided by his office on March 15, 2012:
This bill expands the current confidential records statute and deems as confidential all information and records received or generated by the comptroller containing allegations of unlawful conduct, fraud, waste or abuse.
(Passed House 90-1; Passed Senate 30-0)
This bill allows the holder of a valid handgun carry permit to store a firearm or firearm ammunition in the permit holder’s privately owned motor vehicle subject to certain restrictions.
(Passed House 77-22; Passed Senate 28-5)
This bill requires that teachers who teach in multiple subject areas in which end of course examinations are required for a student to satisfy graduation requirements to pass the content specific licensure exam test for each content area in which they are teaching by January 1, 2014.
(Passed House 92-0; Passed Senate 29-1)
This bill extends the Investment Advisory Council to June 30, 2018.
(Passed House 92-0; Passed Senate 31-0)
This bill extends the Tennessee interagency cash flow committee to June 30, 2017.
(Passed House 90-0; Passed Senate 30-0)
This bill, pursuant to the request of the Gibson County Special School District, permits the district to issue and sell bonds or notes, participate in federal or state matching grants or loans, or enter into loan agreements with the state in an amount of $3 million or less.
(Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 32-0)
This bill extends the Tennessee auctioneer commission to June 30, 2018.
(Passed House 93-0; Passed Senate 32-0)
Here’s a list of bills signed into law so far in the 108th General Assembly from a list distributed by the governor’s office on Monday:
Signed February 28
This bill revises the governance of Erlanger Hospital and its associated hospital authority, including revisions to the authority’s Board of Trustees.
(Passed House as amended 95-0; Passed Senate 28-0)
Signed March 7
This bill reduces the size of the Board of Mayor and Alderman for the Town of Hornbeak from seven to five.
(Passed House 95-0; passed Senate 30-0)
This bill amends the Charter of town of Tellico Plains.
(Passed House 93-0; Passed Senate 30-0)
This bill amends the charter of Carroll County Highway Commission.
(Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 30-0)
Gov. Bill Haslam has introduced a package of 59 administration bills in the 108th General Assembly, excluding those dealing with state budget issues. He has a news release today proclaiming seven of them as “priorities.” Here it is:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced his priorities for the 2013 legislative session, building on momentum from his past proposals focused on attracting and growing Tennessee jobs, pursuing meaningful education reform, managing an efficient and effective state government, and strengthening public safety.
“In working together over the past two years with the Legislature, we’ve accomplished a lot for the people of Tennessee, and I look forward to working with the 108th General Assembly in the same way,” Haslam said. “Our proposals represent our top priorities of making Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs, continuing to improve education, being the best managed state in the country, and keeping our citizens safe.”
The governor’s legislation:
· Strengthens the state’s attractive business climate through the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Improvement Act by reforming worker’s compensation laws to simplify the process and to make it more equitable for both the employer and employee. Additional details here.
· Completes the governor’s two-year plan to cut the state’s portion of the sales tax on food and groceries from 5.5 percent by taking the last step and reducing the sales tax from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, a reduction that affects every Tennessean. Additional details here.
· Establishes WGU-Tennessee, an online competency-based program with curriculum geared toward the 800,000 adult Tennesseans with some college credit but no degree. The program also emphasizes mentors who guide these adult students through the academic process. Additional details here.
· Rewrites and simplifies the Criminal Gang Enhancement statute by clarifying the definition of “criminal gang offense” and creating a list of specific offenses considered criminal gang offenses. Additional details here.
· Gives Tennessee parents another option for school choice through a program that allows students in the lowest income brackets in the lowest performing schools to attend other schools. Additional details here.
· Encourages college accessibility by creating an endowment to provide need-based, “last dollar” scholarships or grants to Tennesseans pursuing a degree from a postsecondary institution. Additional details here.
· Reduces the Hall Income Tax burden on seniors for the second time since 2011 by exempting single filers with a total annual income of $33,000 or less and joint filers with either a spouse 65 years or older and having total annual income of $59,000 or less. Additional details here.
“We’re proposing to cut taxes further, address college affordability and encourage degree attainment, improve the environment for job creation and make Tennesseans safer,” Haslam said. “Tennessee is different. We’re not like Washington or other states because we work together to get things done for Tennesseans, and we’ll continue to focus on the things that matter most to Tennesseans.”
The governor will also strongly support SJR 2/HJR 8 regarding judicial selection, which is up for two-thirds vote this year in the General Assembly.
The Haslam administration has filed a total of 59 non-budget related bills, but the above pieces of legislation represent the governor’s priorities.
House Speaker Beth Harwell has proposed a major overhaul of House rules that includes a limit on the number of bills a lawmaker can file, a move to end “ghost voting” and a realignment of the committee system.
The rule revisions will require approval of the full House on a two-thirds vote after the 108th General Assembly convenes on Jan. 8. They will first be vetted in the House Rules Committee.
Harwell said in a statement that she believes the changes “reflect the will of the body” based on a survey of representatives in the last legislative session.
She said the changes also reflect citizen wishes that state government operate “efficiently and effectively while saving money.”
“While the Congress remains mired in partisan gridlock and continues to waste time, the state Legislture is working toward better government,” Harwell said.
Among the major changes:
–Each representative will be limited to filing 10 bills per year, though with some exceptions. That would be about half the average number of bills filed per representative in the last legislative session, which saw 3,887 House bills filed over the two-year life of the 107th General Assembly.
Not counted toward the 10-bill limit would be legislation filed on behalf of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, so-called “sunset” bills that extend the life of an existing government agency and bills that apply only to one city or county.
Gov. Bill Haslam ceremonially signs the “Tennessee Works Act” on Tuesday, surrounded by Democratic legislators including House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, and Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, who were lead sponsors of the measure.