Tag Archives: restrict

Bill Curbing TSEA Activities Clears House Panel, Delayed in Senate

A bill putting new restrictions on the Tennessee State Employees Union – enough to disable or eliminate many of the organization’s functions, according to a TSEA official – won approval of the House State Government Committee on Wednesday.
The bill (HB913) is being pushed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, who said it is intended to assure that state employee dues “do not go into political areas.”
But Sarah Adair, director of government affairs for TSEA, said the bill actually forbids TSEA from using dues money for anything but collective bargaining, enforcing a bargaining contract or helping members with grievance procedures. The bill permits lobbying only to the extent of contacting the group’s own members.
Since Tennessee prohibits state employee collective bargaining and there are no contracts, the organization would effectively be left to do nothing to handle grievances, she said. And even that may be in doubt because a state law enacted last year eliminates the term “grievance” in state law and instead sets up an appeals system for a state work who believes he or she has been wrongly disciplined or discharged, Adair said.
The bill is a case of a “national organization bringing a bill to a state that does not have a problem” with public employee labor unions “that may be a problem in other states,” she told the subcommittee in remarks limited to one minute by the panel’s chairman.
In the Senate, where the bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, the measure was discussed at length in the Commerce Committee and a vote and Campfield agreed to a week’s delay to consider amendments.
The bill declares that union dues cannot be used for political activities unless voluntarily donated. Adair said TSEA already requires members to check off whether or not a portion of dues can be sent to the group’s political action committee and the organization would not object to that provision.
Current law also allows a TSEA member to take a two-year, unpaid leave of absence to serve as president of TSEA. The bill reduces that to one year and Campfield said that is not an area where he thinks there can be a compromise, though Adair said the president – as now the case – is typically retired because active employees cannot afford to take unpaid leave

New Effort Underway to Allow Local Governments More Closed-door Meeting

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A renewed push is under way to get Tennessee lawmakers to allow local official to hold more closed-door meetings.
Williamson County Commissioner Bob Barnwell, who also spearheaded a similar attempt last year, has written to local government colleagues around the state urging them to encourage state lawmakers to pass a bill to allow private meetings among officials as long as a quorum isn’t present.
Current law forbids members of a local legislative body from meeting privately to deliberate on public business. It does not ban officials from speaking to each other during chance encounters or from having other conversations.
But Barnwell notes in the letter that the law does not apply to the General Assembly.
“The goal of this legislation is to make the Open Meetings Laws as consistent as possible for all elected officials whether state and local,” he said.
Kent Flanagan, director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, called the effort “misguided.”

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Haslam Wants Legislators to Back Off on Bill Filings

By Erik Schelzig
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam wants Tennessee lawmakers to file 700 fewer legislative proposals next year.
The Republican governor said in a speech Tuesday that he would like the number of bills reduced by one-third, or from the about 2,200 filed this year to the 1,500 range.
“As Republicans, we’re saying we’re the party of smaller government,” Haslam told reporters after the speech. “Let’s see if we can do that in terms of bill proposals.”
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis criticized the governor for trying to interfere in a separate branch of government.
“I do not think it’s appropriate for the governor to try to dictate to the Legislature how to do its business,” he said. “I don’t believe that is the best interests of Tennessee.”
But House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said the governor’s comments dovetail with efforts already under way in the General Assembly, where the GOP holds large majorities in both chambers.
Harwell said her office plans to send a memo to House members this week outlining a mechanism to avoid duplication of efforts.
Attorney-client privilege currently prevents the lawyers who draft legislation from informing other lawmakers that similar proposals have already been filed. Harwell said a new form will allow lawmakers to waive that privilege and allow the legal staff to divulge the subject matter of the bills they are working on.
“It’s consistent with the Republican philosophy that less government is best,” she said.
The speaker said she was pleased that Haslam shares the desire to cut down on the volume of legislation, but agreed that the governor and Legislature have different roles.
“The role of the Legislature is to develop and pass laws, and the role of the governor is to administer,” she said. “I don’t take lightly the role of the Legislature.”

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