The “Addison Sharp Prescription Regulatory Act of 2013,” named after a Knoxville Catholic High School graduate who died of a prescription drug overdose, won final approval in the House and Senate in the windup of the legislative session.
Theh bill (SB676) makes multiple changes to state laws dealing with prescription drugs, including a mandate that no more than a 30-day supply of some frequently-abused drugs can be issued by a pharmacist at one time. It also requires the state health commissioner to develop a “standard of care” for dealing with commonly abused medications and requires all medical professions to have two hours of training every two ears on tho standards, once issued.
Jessica Akhrass, Addison Sharp’s sister, and Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch were among those actively pushing for passage at the Legislature. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, who described it as a good step forward toward curbing the growing abuse of prescription drugs.
A bill repealing the need for corporations to disclose political contributions and more than doubling the amount of money partisan caucuses can put directly into legislative campaigns fell two votes short of passage Wednesday on the House floor.
The bill (HB643) by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada would also repeal a law prohibiting direct political contributions to legislators by insurance companies, which now must form political action committees to make donations.
The vote was 48-41 with 50 votes required for passage. Thirteen of Casada’s fellow Republicans voted no on his bill, two others abstained and eight simply refused to vote at all – including House Speaker Beth Harwell, who was presiding over the chamber. Democrats unanimously opposed it.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada sponsored the bill, calling for passage as a means of bringing more political contributions into the state political system.
“Limiting money is limiting free speech,” declared Casada.
But critics faulted the bill for putting more money into state politics with less transparency. Perhaps the most impassioned protest came from Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, who said the flow of new money under the bill could be “perceived as unethical.”
“If you have received thousands and thousands of dollars, you may feel like your vote has been purchased,” she said.
“We are not bribeable,” replied Casada.
Other criticism came from Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethton, the Legislature’s only independent, who said insurance companies would make political donations and pass the cost on to customers paying premiums, and several Democrats who objected to repealing the disclosure requirement for corporations.
Casada said the corporate reporting of donations is unnecessary because candidates receiving the money would still have to disclose receipt of the money.
Critics pointed out that the Registry of Election Finance now matches corporate and PAC contribution reports of donations made with candidate reports of donations received – occasionally finding cases where a candidate failed to report a donation. The bill would have removed the ability to make such a check with corporate money.
A bill approved by a House committee on Tuesday will allow political parties and the Legislature’s partisan caucuses to more than double their contributions to state legislator campaigns.
The bill (HB643) by House Republican Caucus Leader Glen Casada would raise the current maximum donation from $40,000 to $150,000 in state Senate campaigns. For House campaigns, the maximum donation would increase from $30,000 to $75,000.
Casada earlier this year had previously planned to push legislation to completely repeal all campaign finance limits this year. But he said his thinking had changed after talking to others – including House Speaker Beth Harwell, who opposed a complete repeal – and the bill presented Tuesday is the replacement plan.
In practical effect, it would substantially increase the clout of the Democratic and Republican caucuses of the General Assembly, along with the state’s two party headquarters in funding legislative races. Current law already allows the caucuses and parties to accept unlimited amounts of cash from corporations, political action committees and individuals. The bill broadens there ability to spend such monies when collected.
The bill contains other provisions as well. One of them repeals an old law that prohibits insurance companies from directly donating to legislators’ political campaigns. Since state law, after a 2011 revision, allows other corporations to donate directly to legislative candidates, Casada said the measure simply puts insurance companies on equal footing with other businesses.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Attorney General is defending a state law that caps damages in civil cases in a lawsuit filed by the husband of a Brentwood woman who died after getting fungal meningitis from tainted steroid injections.
The lawsuit was filed by Wayne Reed over the death of his wife, Diana, against the owners and operators of Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center, which administered the shots produced by the Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center.
Diana Reed died on Oct. 3 and was the primary caregiver for her husband, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease and uses a wheelchair. The lawsuit accuses those who ran the outpatient clinic of being negligent and reckless for using compounded drugs from NECC.
More than 700 people have gotten sick from the injections and 50 have died across the country stemming from the outbreak that was first discovered in Tennessee last fall.
Wayne Reed’s complaint asks for $12.5 million in compensatory damages, well above the maximum amount that plaintiffs can receive under a Tennessee law that went into effect in 2011 that caps damages from personal injury cases.
Reed’s attorneys claim the law that caps damages at $750,000 for non-economic damages and $500,000 for punitive damages is unconstitutional. The lawsuit says that it deprives him of his protected right to trial by jury and usurps the powers of the judicial branch.
Attorney General Robert Cooper filed a motion to intervene in the case to defend the state law and a hearing on the state’s request is scheduled for Friday morning in Davidson County Circuit Court.
Perhaps on a bipartisan basis, state legislators are moving toward repealing Tennessee’s limits on political campaign contributions while requiring more rapid and complete disclosure.
Rep. Glen Casada, elected House Republican Caucus chairman last week, said Friday that concept is at the core of a “comprehensive” revision of state campaign finance law that he and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron hope to introduce in the 108th General Assembly that convenes Jan. 8.
U.S. Supreme Court decisions, along with the ever-increasing expense of campaigns, mean that contribution limits are no longer needed or desirable, said Casada.
“A campaign is, in essence, getting your message out,” he said. “That is free speech and free speech costs money.”
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, who was reelected to his post last week, told reporters that he has decided the time has come to “re-think” past support of campaign contribution limits because they are no longer effective.
“I’m coming around to that (repeal of limits),” Kyle said. “What we’ve found is that Republicans are so good at circumventing the law, why go through the effort?”
The limitations on contributions to political candidates in our fair state have become so meaningless that maybe it’s time to just get rid of them.
The thought is inspired by last week’s Registry of Election Finance decision to dismiss contentions that two political action committees violated the limits law. The facts were similar, but the case involving Truth Matters PAC perhaps is the best illustration.
Andrew Miller Jr., a politically astute Nashvillian of substantial wealth, started talking up establishment of a PAC with friends sharing his views a year or so ago. The views, it seems, are more conservative than those of many Republicans, and Miller has become known as “a RINO hunter.” Or, perhaps more properly, as a supplier of ammunition to RINO-hunting candidates. RINO, of course, stands for “Republican in name only.”
Truth Matters was set up in July with Miller giving the PAC $71,000. With the Aug. 2 Republican primary looming, the PAC — which consisted then of Miller and his brother, who was listed as treasurer — promptly distributed money to conservative Republican legislative candidates trying to unseat suspected RINOs or, in other cases, prevent their election.
News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE – Republicans are pushing a last-minute change to weaken campaign finance laws and make it easier for corporations to give to political campaigns.
House Bill 3281 would remove disclosure rules that require corporations to register as political action committees in order to give to candidates. Additionally, the bill removes aggregate PAC limits that prohibit candidates from receiving all of their funding from PACs and, for the first time, would allow insurance companies to donate to candidates.
“Under these new rules, corporations aren’t just ‘people,’ they are super-people that receive special privileges and access that everyday Tennesseans can’t get,” Forrester said. “Instead of using the last few minutes of this legislative session to put Tennesseans back to work, we’re seeing an extreme move that hurts the working and middle class families by putting special interests ahead of our families’ best interests.”
The law, if passed as amended by Casada, would allow corporations to adhere to the PAC donation limits, currently $10,700 per candidate, but would allow them to donate as individuals, effectively giving corporations a “best of both worlds” situation.
“If Rep. Casada is dead set on treating corporations like people, why not apply the same contribution limits to them as we do to human beings?” said Forrester. Background
During the discussion of the amendment, Rep. Casada either misrepresented or outright lied about the impetus for this last minute legislation, namely, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. Casada stated that the law passed in 2011 requiring corporations to file as PACs in order to donate to candidates was a “mistake” and was “out of compliance” with the Supreme Court decision. This is absolutely false. Citizens United addressed Independent Expenditures, and expressly confirmed that bans on corporations donating to individuals are still legal. Video: Rep. Casada says during the House State and Local Government Committee that this amendment would put the state in compliance with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wswJdGVOJMQ Court Unlikely To Stop With Citizens United – Eliza Carney, National Journal Dec 18, 2010
“The court’s dramatic reversal does not threaten the existing ban on direct corporate and union campaign contributions. So while those players may now lavish money from their treasuries on independent campaign expenditures, they still may not donate directly to candidates.”
Life After Citizens United – NCSL: “the ruling does not directly affect state laws”
It took about three minutes to deftly destroy the latest effort to impose term limits on state legislators. The maneuver, accomplished with bipartisan collaboration, assures that no term limits can be put in place for another decade or so and that there’s really no record of anyone being against the idea.
The effort was HJR625, crafted by Rep. Art Swann, R-Maryville, with a good bit of thought. Basically, it provided that state representatives — in exchange for term limits — would have their term of office changed from two years to four years, then be limited to serving no more than three terms or 12 years.
Swan brought the bill before the House State and Local Government Subcommittee last week and gave a brief explanation. Whereupon House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said the measure seemed to have some merit, but also raised questions and declared it needed to be studied. He thereupon made a motion that the proposal be sent to “summer study.”
Rep. Art Swann’s push for term limits on state representatives was effectively killed by the same subcommittee Wednesday. On motion of House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, the panel voted to assign the bill to a “summer study.”
Swann, R-Maryville, has proposed term limits as an amendment to the state constitution with an eye toward having it on the statewide ballot in 2014. Because of the rules for adopting constitutional amendments, the subcommittee action effectively assures it cannot be put to a vote any earlier now than in 2018.
“It’s hard to get people to make a decision to work themselves out of a job,” said Swann afterwards.
Swann said he had been optimistic about advancing the measure in the 107th General Assembly, which concludes this year, but some colleagues who had indicated they would support HJR625 had changed their minds.
Rep. Art Swann, R-Maryville, says some colleagues have urged him not to push for a vote on a plan that could impose a 12-year term limit on service in the state House, but he plans to move forward anyway.
Swann’s proposal, HJR625, filed Feb. 1, proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would increase the term for a state representative from two years to four years, but then impose a three-term limit in consecutive service.
Under the plan, if the Legislature approves, the question of amending the constitution would go before voters in the 2014 election and then, if approved in the referendum, take effect for legislators elected in the 2016 elections.
Straightforward term limits for legislators have been proposed several times in the past, but never reached the point of a floor vote. Swann said his proposal, by coupling longer terms with the limits, should have a better chance.
Also, the plan calls for implementing term limits on a phased-in basis “so you don’t end up flushing everybody out all at once,” he said.
Further, he said, he addresses concerns voiced by opponents of term limits about losing “institutional knowledge” since the proposed amendment would not apply to state senators.
The idea of term limits, Swann said, is highly popular “with the people who elect us” in the general public and among many legislators, “particularly freshman Republicans. Still, there is enough opposition among other lawmakers – such as those asking him not to push for a vote – to make passage “an uphill battle.”
Swann said he intends to put the proposal “on notice” for a vote in committee next week.