Headline on Lamar Alexander Press release today: Alexander Votes to Secure Border, End de Facto Amnesty Says immigration reform now goes to U.S. House of Representatives to “improve the legislation and finish the job”
Headline on Marsha Blackburn Press Release today: Senate Amnesty Bill D.O.A. In House Of Representatives
Text of the releases is below, along with statements from Sen. Bob Corker and Reps. Scott DesJarlais and Diane Black on the Senate’s passage of the immigration bill.
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.
The House gave final legislative approval Wednesday to legislation intended to eventually end Tennessee’s status of having the nation’s highest beer taxes.
The bill was approved 87-2 by the House on Wednesday without debate beyond sponsor Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, describing it as “simply replacing an antiquated 1950s tax structure.”
The Senate approved SB422 last week, 30-1, under sponsorship of Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown. It now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam, who is expected to sign it.
The bill transforms Tennessee’s 17 percent tax on beer at the wholesale level to a flat-rate tax of $35.60 per barrel.
A Haslam administration initiative that could result in annual rate increases for local customers of for-profit utilities like Tennessee American Water and Chattanooga Gas is on its way to the governor, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Senators gave final approval to the bill Monday on a 29-1 vote. The House passed the bill last month.
….Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, called Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s utility bill (SB197) a “continuing part of the administration’s top-to-bottom reforms.”
The legislation has drawn concerns from State Attorney General Bob Cooper’s office that the Tennessee Regulatory Authority would no longer effectively protect consumers from monopolies.
Among other things, the bill would allow the TRA to approve “trackers” for companies that allow them to pass along some costs, such as fuel, automatically on to consumers.
The bill also authorizes the TRA to approve “alternative methods” for utility rate reviews and cost recoveries instead of full-blown rate cases.
In a rate case, cities, businesses or the attorney general’s Consumer Advocate Division can intervene if they believe the hikes go beyond a utility’s legal ability to earn a reasonable profit.
Cooper’s office said in a memo that utilities had overstated their rate requests by as much as 60 percent over the past 10 years. The office said the rate cases protect consumers against unwarranted increases.
“What this does in our opinion is make it more likely that rates will increase for business and households,” Assistant Attorney General Vance Broemel told a House panel last month.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill to overhaul the state’s workers’ compensation system was approved 28-2 by the Senate on Monday evening and now needs only an expected favorable House floor vote to reach his desk.
The bill (SB200) makes multiple changes to current law, including directing disputes over claims by workers for on-the-job injuries from the courts to a new administrative system. Norris, sponsoring the bill for Haslam, said Tennessee is now one of just two states that still adjudicates such claims in courts and currently has higher rates for workers’ compensation insurance than neighboring states.
“I feel confident these reforms are not only going to keep Tennessee competitive but will benefit employees as well,” said Norris.
The two no votes came from Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson and Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, both lawyers.
Overbey gave the only speech in opposition, saying he approved of most changes but is “troubled” by the creation of 20 new state government positions in the new “court of workers’ compensation claims” and various other new administrative jobs in the new system. Court clerks and judges across the state are already familiar with handling claims and could continue, he said.
The senator also said that, under the bill, there is little difference between what a worker is paid if he or she returns to work and payments if he or she does not. The bill could thus reduce incentives for injured workers to return to work, he said.
Norris said most of the newly created positions will be covered by eliminating current jobs in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Some state employees in those jobs may get positions in the new system.
By the Associated Press
Here is a list of some of the legislation that has been approved by the Legislature this year:
ABORTION DOCTORS: Requires physicians to have hospital privileges in the home or adjacent county of woman seeking abortion. HB3808.
AMAZON SALES TAX: Requires Amazon.com to begin collecting Tennessee sales taxes in 2014. HB2370.
BATH SALTS: Makes it a felony to sell synthetic drugs known as bath salts. HB2286.
BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS: Allows governor to appoint heads of boards, including Tennessee Higher Education Commission. HB2387.
CASH GRANTS: Creates more ways for state to give cash grants to companies investing in Tennessee. HB2344.
Lawmakers have given final approval to legislation that would penalize people who file lawsuits that are later dismissed as baseless, reports The Tennessean. They would have to pay up to $10,000 to cover court costs and their opponent’s attorney fees. The legislation is the latest in a series of GOP efforts over the past year aimed at reducing a business’ exposure in civil lawsuits. Legislation approved last year capped non-economic damages at $750,000 and punitive damages at $500,000, with some exceptions.
Backers say the new legislation, HB 3124, will cut down on unfounded lawsuits and would apply only to a small number of cases.
“It is a very limited loser-pays bill,” said Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, the bill’s House sponsor. “It goes to purely frivolous lawsuits, lawsuits that don’t have any merit.”
But Democratic opponents argue the legislation will restrict access to the courts only to the state’s wealthiest residents.
Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, said it would make the state’s legal system more like Europe’s, where in many countries the losers of lawsuits must pay costs. The bill would have a “huge chilling effect” on average residents seeking attorneys willing to take on their cases, he said.
“The plumber who got run over by a car. The student who was walking to school and got hit by a bus,” Stewart said during House debate Tuesday. “Those are who will be the people who will be kept out of court by this law.”
The legislation would require plaintiffs to pay up to $10,000 when the court dismisses a lawsuit because there is no basis in law for the claim.
It would not apply to actions against the state or other governmental agencies or plaintiffs representing themselves, except where the court determines the person acted unreasonably or refused to voluntarily withdraw a dismissed claim. The legislation also would not apply to lawsuits expressly aimed at changing existing law or legal precedent.
The House approved the bill 58-38 on Tuesday and rebuffed efforts by Stewart to amend the legislation to apply to a defendant who loses a motion to dismiss. The Senate gave its approval in a 17-12 vote. If signed by the governor, it would apply to lawsuits filed on or after July 1.
The Senate passed and sent to Gov. Bill Haslam Friday legislation abolishing Tennessee’s inheritance tax and lowering the sales tax on groceries.
Legislative leaders, meanwhile, said they will also back passage of a third bill that would repeal the state’s gift tax. Haslam has said he supports that move as well.
The bill providing a phased-in elimination of the inheritance tax, HB3760, passed the Senate 32-1. The House had approved earlier, 88-8.
As approved, the bill calls for raising the current exemption for the inheritance tax from $1 million to $1.25 million this year and increase the exemption annually until 2016, when the tax would be eliminated entirely.
The sole no vote in the Senate came from Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, who had attempted to amend the bill to block the final step, leaving the exemption at the scheduled $5 million level for estates of those dying in 2015.
The Senate approved and sent to the governor Thursday legislation that would mean most children reaching age five after Aug. 31 would have to wait a year before entering public school kindergarten.
The measure (HB2566) is supported by teachers who say many kids now are not ready for “the rigors of kindergarten,” according to Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, the sponsor.
Currently, children may enter kindergarten if they turn 5 on or before Sept. 30 of the school term they’re entering. The bill moves the cutoff date to Aug. 31 next year and to Aug. 15 in 2014.
Children could receive a waiver to the general requirement and be admitted earlier by local school systems if their parents request and they pass an evaluation on readiness for kindergarten.
House Republicans soundly defeated a raft of Democratic attempts to revise their plans for state spending of $31.4 billion in the coming year Thursday and, by a closer margin, put down rebellion against closing a Taft Youth Center.
The end result was a 66-39 vote for HB3835, the budget bill submitted by Gov. Bill Haslam. It includes virtually everything that Haslam wanted along with some additions.
The additions, however, are in conflict with Senate plans and leave uncertain the prospects for enactment of the budget in time to adjourn the 107th General Assembly this week as leaders had planned.
The Senate will take up the budget today. As approved in committee, it includes several special projects that the House has axed.
The longest debate in the House – if not the most heated – came on an effort led by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, to block Haslam’s plans to close the facility for juvenile offenders in Bledsoe County.