Tag Archives: legislation

Corker’s anti-human trafficking bill almost guaranteed smooth path to passage?

Legislation that would create a $1.5 billion global fund to combat human trafficking has won unanimous approval in a Senate committee Thursday, almost certainly guaranteeing a smooth path to becoming law, according to The Tennessean.

“We’re getting ready to have a profound impact on people, the 27 million who are in slavery,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the bill’s lead sponsor, said after the vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Corker is the chairman.

The nonprofit End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation would finance efforts around the world to rescue victims of human trafficking and prosecute the offenders.

The U.S. would contribute $250 million over seven years. Foreign governments would add $500 million, and $750 million would come from private donors.

Corker said the U.S. share, about $36 million a year, would come from existing foreign aid accounts and would not require new spending. President Barack Obama’s administration supports the idea, Corker said, and the State Department helped craft the legislation.

Here’s a video of Corker promoting the proposal, distributed by his office:

John Jay Hooker plans a final fight for ‘death with dignity’

At age 84, John Jay Hooker is facing terminal illness and plans to dedicate his remaining months to pushing for passage of legislation allowing Tennesseans to choose how they die, according to Frank Daniels III.

“It is the ultimate civil right,” John Jay said, “to be able to die with dignity, while you still have some choice in the matter.”

Only three states — Oregon, whose citizens passed a law in 1994 and re-confirmed the vote in 1997; Washington, whose voters passed a law in 2008; and Vermont, whose legislature enacted a doctor-assisted suicide law in 2013 — allow terminally-ill citizens to choose when they die.

Hooker knows that it will be a difficult fight, but wants Tennessee to be the fourth state.

…On Jan. 6, John Jay told me that he was going to see the doctor about a lump on his arm.

A few days later, he told me the grave news.

“It’s malignant melanoma, and it’s terminal,” he said. He was in surprisingly good spirits.

“Well,” he said, and I could hear the smile in his voice, “I have standing.”

John Jay was referring to his frequent battles in Tennessee courts over the constitutionality of the way we used to choose appellate judges, and how the Attorney General would argue that Hooker had no standing before the court.

Last week, Hooker began telling friends that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and that he wanted to dedicate his remaining months to passing a Tennessee Death with Dignity law, and suing for the right to choose the time of his death.

Thursday, Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, filed a caption bill to start the process in support of Hooker’s effort. Fitzhugh is a deacon in his Baptist church and has deep misgivings about death with dignity laws, according to his chief policy advisor, Zachary Kelley.

But, Kelley said, Fitzhugh’s respect for Hooker and his fights on behalf of civil rights outweighed the minority leader’s personal feelings.

Passing the legislation will be a long shot, but Hooker would not know what do to with an easy battle anyway.

“I want to be engaged, and vital, and when I can’t be engaged in the debate, then it will be time for me to go,” John Jay says. “And I want to be able to make that choice — when the time comes.”

Note: It appears the caption bill mentioned is HB887, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis.

Bill would make Bible TN’s official state book

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Freshman Rep. Jerry Sexton wants to add the Bible to the state symbols of Tennessee.

According to the Bean Station Republican’s legislation, the Holy Bible would be “designated as the official state book.”

It’s unclear how the proposal would meet a provision in Tennessee Constitution that states that “no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”

Tennessee has several state songs such as “Tennessee Waltz” and “Rocky Top.”

There are also numerous Tennessee state symbols on the books, including the tomato as the state fruit, the tulip popular as the state tree, the Tennessee cave salamander as the state amphibian and the square dance as the state folk dance.

Note: The measure is HB615, with no Senate sponsor yet listed. A similar bill was proposed in Mississippi to declare the Bible that state’s official book. The Mississippi Legislature’s website indicates it died in committee on Feb. 3.

Fiscal Review names Rep. White as chair, confirms new XD questioned by Democrats

The Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee has elected Rep. Mark White as chairman and confirmed outgoing Chairman Bill Ketron’s nomination of Jeff Spalding — whose current position as leader of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has prompted questions from Democrats – as the panel’s new executive director.

White, R-Memphis, succeeds Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, as chairman in accord with recent tradition of rotating the chairmanship between House and Senate members of the joint House-Senate fiscal watchdog committee. Ketron becomes vice chairman – the position White held for the past two years.

On motion of Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, the committee also voted to make the rotating chairmanship part of the committee rules – and White raised the possibility of legislation being introduced to do the same thing.

In Thursday’s meeting of the panel, Sargent noted that the late Rep. Shelby Rhinehart, D-Spencer, served 22 years as chairman of the joint committee and said that formalizing the rotation of chairmanship between House and Senate members would avoid a recurrence of such a thing. Legislative attorneys noted that Sargent’s motion – basically to make rotation a rule of the committee – could be changed by a vote of the committee in a subsequent session. Still, Sargent’s motion was unanimously approved.

Ketron told the panel that he had invited Spalding to apply for the position of executive director during a dinner while attending a November gathering of Tennessee legislators in Phoenix, Ariz., hosted by the Friedman Foundation to promote its school choice programs.
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Kelsey pre-files bills to implement Amendment 2, repeal Hall income tax

News release via Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE — Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) yesterday filed legislation related to Constitutional Amendments 2 and 3, which were sponsored by Kelsey and were ratified by Tennessee voters on Tuesday. Kelsey is the first person to sponsor two successful amendments to the 1870 Tennessee Constitution.

SB 1 will implement Amendment 2, which follows the Founding Fathers’ method of selecting judges. Appellate judges will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. Voters of Tennessee retain the ability to remove judges at the end of their 8-year terms. This new process differs from the previous process in Tennessee, in which judges were selected by an unelected, unaccountable panel of mostly lawyers. The constitutionality of that method had been in dispute since its enactment in 1971.

“Thankfully, a majority of Tennesseans voted to end a 40-year constitutional crisis by borrowing from the wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers,” said Kelsey. “I hope this legislation will stay on the books for 100 years or more.”

Amendment 3 banned a state income tax and any local payroll tax. It passed with 66% support. Amendment 3 left intact the Hall income tax, which is a state tax on interest and dividends. SB 2 will phase out the Hall income Tax over 3 years by reducing the 6% tax by 2% each year.

Kelsey said, “I am glad that an overwhelming majority of Tennesseans voted to ban a state income tax and local payroll tax with Amendment 3.” Kelsey continued, “Now it’s time to eliminate the Hall tax.”

Drafts of the bills are available HERE and HERE.

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 108th General Assembly.

Haslam trying to get USPS to go along with TN law banning book shredding

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he’s continuing to negotiate with the U.S. Postal Service to prevent it from shredding Imagination Library books delivered to incorrect addresses.

Haslam spoke to reporters following a ceremony celebrating the 10th anniversary of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Tennessee.

Earlier this year, the governor signed a measure lawmakers passed to ban the shredding of the books, and instead direct the U.S. Postal Service to donate them to pre-kindergarten or other programs.

For a while, many post offices had been setting aside the undelivered books until a volunteer could pick them up because the Governors Books from Birth Foundation — a partner with the Imagination Library — wasn’t paying to have them returned to their facility in Nashville.

However, USPS officials said that wasn’t fair to businesses that do pay for the right to get undelivered mail returned.

Haslam said his office, as well as U.S. Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, are still trying to work something out with the postal service.

“We have not had a resolution yet,” Haslam said. “We would like the opportunity to pick them up rather than have them just be destroyed.”
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Haslam fouled up bill signings; 79 actually became law without his signature

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Mistakes in Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s office caused 79 bills to become law without his signature and another 67 measures to be backdated to meet constitutional deadlines.

The governor must either sign or veto bills within 10 days, excluding Sundays, of receiving them from the Legislature, or they become law without his signature.

Haslam’s top legal adviser, Herbert Slatery in a memo dated May 13 — nearly a month after the end of the legislative session — said “it would be misleading to the public to leave this clerical error uncorrected.”

Slatery, who is among six finalists for an eight-year term as Tennessee attorney general, said that a review of internal documents and interviews confirmed that Haslam had approved the 67 bills within the 10 days, but that a staffer had incorrectly dated the signature on the day the measures were filed with the secretary of state.

Those bills were recalled from Secretary of State Tre Hargett to correct their signature dates, and an “addendum” on the effective date of the other 79 bills was added to clarify that Haslam’s signature had come after their effective date.

Haslam spokesman David Smith said Tuesday that some of the confusion stemmed from Good Friday wrongly being counted as a state holiday.

“It was a technical mistake that didn’t have an impact on the outcome of any legislation and was quickly corrected,” Smith said in an email Tuesday.

Among the bills that mistakenly became law without Haslam’s signature was a measure to punish pregnant women who abuse narcotics and harm their babies as a result. Haslam’s office announced on April 29 — a day after the 10-day deadline — that he had signed the bill despite calls from health and women’s organizations to veto the measure.

Tennessee became the first state to enact such a law, according to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Haslam in his first term has vetoed only three bills and has been sparing in sending a message about bills by purposefully allowing them to become law without his signature.

For example, Haslam in 2012 cited constitutional concerns in his decisions not to sign a bill that sought to limit the percentage of foreign employees allowed to work at charter schools. Advocates had decried the measure as anti-Muslim, and the state attorney general’s office later issued a legal opinion that the measure ran afoul of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Note: A letter sent to Secretary of State Tre Hargett explaining the mistakes is available by clicking on this link: billetter A memo prepared by Herbert Slatery on the foulup is available on this one: slaterymemo

New guns-in-cars law has some law enforcement officials uneasy

Some law enforcement officers are less than enthusiastic about a new gun law that quietly took effect last week, reports the Chattanooga TFP. It says Tennessee gun owners may now legally keep loaded firearms in their vehicles even if they don’t have a state-issued handgun-carry permit.

As of July 1, people who are legally able to possess a gun under state and federal law, you can keep a loaded handgun, shotgun or rifle in a car or truck you legally possess.

Previously, only those with state-issued handgun carry permits could legally keep loaded firearms in their vehicles. Those without carry permits could keep unloaded firearms in the vehicle if the ammunition was stored separately.

Proponents hail the measure as an expansion of gun rights and a fairness move for commuters who have no carry permits but are worried about safety, as well as for hunters.

“It’s essentially an extension of the ‘castle doctrine,’ that you can defend your ‘castle,’ … your home, if you feel threatened,” said Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, the Senate sponsor.

The new law, however, does not allow those without permits to carry loaded firearms outside their vehicle on streets or in businesses as permit holders can do.

Bell said the National Rifle Association-backed bill was a logical move, noting that courts “for years have recognized that you have private property rights that are associated with your car.”

But some law enforcement officials have reservations about the change. Col. Tracy Trott, with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, voiced doubts during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this spring.

“I do have concerns as a law enforcement officer for guns to be more readily available in this business,” Trott told lawmakers. “But my concerns are not enough for the administration to ‘flag’ the bill.”

…Chattanooga’s new police chief, Fred Fletcher, was appointed shortly after the bill passed. He has mixed feelings about the law, too.

A former top official in the Austin Police Department, Fletcher said Texas has allowed people to carry “long guns” — shotguns and rifles — for many years and officers “were very familiar and comfortable with that.”

But, Fletcher said Tuesday, Chattanooga “is plagued by a number of violent crimes that involve handguns” and criminal gang members.

“This law will make it easier for people who are up to nefarious purposes to carry a gun, to go commit violence,” Fletcher said. “That’s not a news blast to anybody. If people are allowed to carry guns they will carry them both for good and for ill.”

Can you run that yellow light or not? Legislature has an answer

Start of a TNReport post:

A new law that’s taken effect this summer seeks to shed light on an age-old and recurring conundrum motorists face when they’re on the move: Should I gun it through that yellow or play it safe and wait till the next green?

Tennessee drivers got some illumination in the law from the state Legislature this year: Go for it.

“It says if you enter a red light area when it’s green or (yellow), and something happens that you have to stop in there — some car ahead of you — and the light turns red while you’re in there, they can’t give you a ticket for clearing the intersection,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Strawberry Plains Republican Frank Niceley, during a Senate Transportation Committee hearing back in March. “That’s the way it was always meant to be, but evidently there was some confusion.”

Roger Hutto, with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, testified before the House Transportation Subcommittee in March, and said that under the previous law, a yellow light was a warning that a red light is imminent, but the law doesn’t say a motorist has to stop on anything but a red light.

Hutto added that this change was “more of a clarification than a need.”

The bill, SB2056/HB2003, passed the Senate 32-0, and passed the House 92-0. Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill into law on May 22. The House sponsor was Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis.

Niceley told TNReport that a friend of his told him there was an ongoing problem in Memphis with police officers giving out tickets for running a red light after it changed while the driver was in the middle of the intersection.

Niceley said he asked the Department of Safety about it, and they told him that’s not how the law was supposed to be interpreted.

“We read the law, and the Department of Safety said the law was vague, so we needed to rewrite the law to where everyone can understand it,” Niceley said.

It originally passed the Senate with different wording, but the House passed a version of the bill that read “even better” than what the Senate had passed, and Niceley asked the Senate to concur on the House’s language.

The version that passed the House was proposed as an amendment by House Transportation Committee Chairman Vince Dean, a Republican from East Ridge, after several minutes of committee debate on the language of two amendments. “We can make it very simple if we amended this and said it is not a violation of the red light law unless the vehicle crosses the stop bar after the light turns red,” Dean said in committee.

Governor signs hemp legalization bill for TN; Kentucky battling feds in court over its hemp law

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law a bill that legalizes the growing of hemp in Tennessee while Kentucky officials are battling the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in federal court over a dispute brought on by similar law enacted in that state.

Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, lead sponsor of the Tennessee hemp bill in the state Senate, said he is hopeful that Tennessee will avoid any conflict with federal authorities, perhaps because of Kentucky succeeding in court.

But Niceley also said he fears the move against Kentucky shows “the Obama administration has a double standard,” retreating from enforcement of federal laws prohibiting marijuana in states that have legalized sales while enforcing the law against hemp. The two plants are related – Niceley calls them “cousins” – but hemp has only a tiny fraction of the chemical in marijuana causing a narcotic effect.

DEA agents in Louisville recently seized 250 pounds of hemp seed that Kentucky Department of Agriculture officials had imported from Italy, contending the seed was imported in violation of federal controlled-substance laws. Kentucky officials contend that a provision in this year’s “farm bill” enacted by Congress, which authorizes research into hemp production, removed hemp from the federal controlled substances law.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer filed a lawsuit against the DEA and other federal agencies Wednesday, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, and at a hearing Friday U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn told the opposing sides to draft an agreement for submission to the court that would make the state and federal government “partners rather than adversaries.”
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