Tag Archives: rules

Action anticipated on TN Walking Horse ‘soring’ rules

Lawmakers and animal-rights activists who have pushed the federal government to crack down on an illegal practice that’s sometimes used to give Tennessee Walking Horses their exaggerated, high-stepping gait are hopeful that President Barack Obama’s administration will soon act on related new rules, according to The Tennessean.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture served notice in April that it is proposing a new rule to strengthen federal requirements aimed at eliminating the practice known as “soring.”

The proposed changes would update the existing Horse Protection Act and would impact everything from inspection procedures to the responsibilities of managers of show horses, exhibitions, sales and auctions. The agency said it’s also looking at devices, equipment, substances and practices that can cause soring.

In late May, a bipartisan group of House members urged the administration to move as quickly as possible on the new rule so it can be finalized before Obama leaves office next January.

“These changes will not destroy the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, as you may hear from opponents of the proposed rule, but will instead save this industry from imploding because of the bad actors who continue to abuse horses at the expense of the breed’s reputation,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Shaun Donovan, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The letter to Donovan was signed by 175 House members, including U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat. Cohen was the only Tennessean whose signature appeared on the letter.

“Soring horses is both illegal and morally unacceptable, but some trainers are clearly taking advantage of lax oversight and wide loopholes to do it anyway,” Cohen said last week. “We need to strengthen enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and ensure that trainers are following the law to finally put an end to this terrible abuse.”

A ‘seismic shift’ in legislative control over state government rules

With generally strong backing from the business lobby, Tennessee legislators made a theme this year of curbing the power of state departments and agencies while enhancing the General Assembly’s oversight of their rules and regulations.

The move with perhaps the greatest long-range consequences came with passage of HB2068 by Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville.

The bill, signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam despite concerns from several of the departments he oversees, makes it more difficult to promulgate rules and regulations. And it makes clear that the Legislature, acting through the Government Operations Committees of the House and Senate, has absolute authority to reject any rule that a majority want to overturn.

As Daniel put it: “The primary effect of this bill will be to eliminate the liberal construction of the Administrative Procedures Act.” Currently, the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA) contains provisions that say, more or less, that if there’s a doubt about the authority of an administrative agency, the dispute will be resolved in favor of the agency having the authority to act.

The bill effectively flips that. The presumption now is that the agency does not have authority and must establish that the rule is necessary through “convincing” evidence. During debate, Democrats said the move is an unprecedented revision to the UAPA, a model law that has been adopted to govern administrative operations in all states, though each state can make modifications.
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State issues rules for Obamacare ‘navigators;’ complaints ensue

Representatives of organizations seeking to help the uninsured sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act reacted with dismay, anger and disappointment Thursday when Tennessee issued emergency rules restricting their activities, reports The Tennessean.

The rules require their employees and volunteers to be fingerprinted, undergo background checks and limit the advice they can give to people. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance said the agency is protecting consumers from fraud, but religious and social service leaders question the motive.

The rules were issued less than two weeks before the Oct. 1 launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace, where the uninsured can shop for policies and possibly qualify for subsidies toward buying coverage. Organizations are uncertain how to comply and worry that it will delay their work.

“It binds people’s hands to bring about resources that can actually impact someone’s journey of health or illness purely for political motivation,” said Timm Glover, chief mission and ministry officer for Saint Thomas Health. “It has no concern for the common good of society. It flies in the face of human dignity.”

And critics of the rules say they don’t protect anyone from fraud because scammers aren’t going to register with the state.

Bipartisan legislation overwhelmingly passed by the legislature this year authorized the state agency to regulate navigators and certified application counselors. Navigators are tasked with doing outreach activities to inform people about coverage opportunities, while counselors can help them apply for coverage. The state law prohibits them from selling, soliciting or negotiating any insurance policy.

It sets a penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation.

“I guess the question we’re asking is, ‘Where does it stop?’ ” said the Rev. Merrilee Wineinger, coordinator of holistic living and outreach for the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. “The state is coming in and telling churches that they can’t counsel. It’s something that we have been doing so long. They are regulating how we do ministry. Where does it stop?”

The regulations did not undergo any public hearings because they were issued as emergency rules, said Beth Uselton, a program officer with Baptist Healing Trust.

Note: The Commerce and Insurance news release is below.
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Rule Freeze Followed by Thaw, Repeals and New Legislative Scrutiny

NASHVILLE — Since beginning his term as governor by ordering a 45-day freeze on implementation of any new state government rules and facing questions about one frozen proposal, Gov. Bill Haslam has used less direct means of impacting the bureaucratic regulatory process.

In the state Legislature, which under state law must give its approval to all new rules, an effort is afoot among members of the Republican supermajority to end the practice of rubber-stamping the plans promulgated by state departments, boards and commissions, says Sen. Mike Bell, who chairs a committee reviewing all rules.

Tennessee’s bureaucracy has continued to generate scores of new rules since Haslam’s freeze ended, but there have been 33 rules repealed — recent examples include the Department of Agriculture’s elimination of requirements that makers of milk and ice cream keep extensive records of the prices they charge and a whole system for certifying tomato, broccoli, cabbage and pepper plants.

Also eliminated — with approval of a legislative committee last week — were rules dealing with strawberry plants, Irish potatoes and a quarantine on bringing camellia flowers into Tennessee from some areas.

Full story HERE.

 

Haslam, TennCare Chief Unhappy With Latest Fed Medicaid Rules

Gov. Bill Haslam and his TennCare chief aren’t happy with the final federal rules on Medicaid expansion, saying they don’t provide the flexibility the governor wants on cost-sharing for enrollees, according to Andy Sher.
The “early read” on the 606-page set of rules, released July 5 by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are “not encouraging,” but Tennessee is “still having discussions,” Haslam told reporters this week.
Haslam, a Republican, doesn’t want to expand the state’s version of TennCare, as envisioned in President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, to additional low-income residents.
But instead of flatly refusing to participate, he wants to use the additional federal money intended for the Medicaid expansion to buy these adults’ way onto the federal health care exchanges where the uninsured can purchase private insurance.
The governor said he still holds out hope that federal officials will accept his “Tennessee Plan” that includes higher cost-sharing for people under 100 percent of the federal poverty level than the new rules allow.
“It’s awfully early to get down,” he said.
TennCare Director Darin Gordon said the state still is sorting through the rules. But he noted “some of the early takeaways” are the added flexibility on cost-sharing Tennessee is seeking isn’t there.
The Haslam administration was looking for more flexibility in “nominal” charges on care that officials hope to use to shape enrollees’ use of services and lifestyle choices.
“What they did was basically finalize what they put out in January,” Gordon said. “If you’re trying to read between the lines, it doesn’t seem to indicate they are interested in being flexible beyond what they set out in the Jan. 22 rule. This is a final rule.”
Still, Gordon said Tennessee and several other states interested in the same approach “will have some discussions” with federal officials
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Committee Signs Off on Fracking Rules (after a partisan spat)

A legislative committee Wednesday approved Tennessee’s first regulations for the use of “fracking” to extract oil and natural gas from wells after hearing several environmentalist complain the rules don’t go far enough.
The vote effectively marks the last hurdle for putting the rules promulgated by the Department of Environment and Conservation into effect next month.
It came after the Republican majority on the Joint Government Operations Committee rejected a Democratic effort to also ask TDEC to consider adding provisions to the rules in the future.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, who made the motion, said the idea was to at least require consideration of some suggestions from the environmentalists. Under his motion, TDEC would have considered requiring companies to publicly disclose all chemicals they use, to conduct periodic testing of water wells within a mile of fracking sites and to mandate that companies file plans for dealing with leftover waste water.
On an initial vote, two Senate Republicans sided with Democrats. The ensuing convoluted parliamentary situation was resolved when one of the Republicans, Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin, changed to vote with GOP colleagues.

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Kyle Proposes Making Open Meetings Law Part of Senate Rules

News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – State Sen. Jim Kyle pushed for greater transparency in the 108th General Assembly during the first day of session, by moving to apply the Open Meetings Act to the state Senate.
Sen. Kyle’s motion would have amended preliminary Senate rules to apply the act, applying the same standard to Senate caucuses that’s followed by local governments, Senate committees and the Senate itself. Sen. Kyle withdrew his motion when Rules Committee Chairman Mark Norris agreed to take up the issue.
“If Republicans want open government, they can join with us and support this proposal,” Sen. Kyle said. “By amending the rules, their deliberations will be subject to public scrutiny, as should be the standard in state government.”
Under former Lt. Gov. John Wilder, the majority caucus meetings were open to the public, but that has not been the case under Republican control.
“We seven Democratic Senators represent not only our constituents, but the 2.5 million Democrats in Tennessee,” Sen. Kyle said. “Fighting for their values means fighting for open government. It levels the playing field for ideas, where they can be judged on merit, not politics.”

House Bill Limit Criticized by Some Republicans

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — House Speaker Beth Harwell’s attempt to reel in the number of bills introduced each legislative session was met with resistance among some of her Republican colleagues as the legislative session got under way on Tuesday.
Harwell has proposed a cap of 10 bills per lawmaker each year. There are no current limits on the number legislative proposals that can be introduced each year, and Harwell said the annual flood of legislative proposals is expensive and inefficient.
“This is not what Republicans stand for,” she told colleagues at a Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol. “We believe in less government.”
The proposal would limit House members to about 1,000 bills per session — about half the annual average filed in recent years. Harwell said most other state legislatures file far fewer bills and that several have bill limits in place.
“I’m not making up a problem, OK?” she said.
But several Republican members raised concerns about whether they would be able to adequately serve their constituents’ needs if they could only file 10 bills per year, and Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah said he’s against the proposal in its entirety.

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House Bill Limit May Limit Legislative Powers

Speaker Beth Harwell’s move to impose limits on bill introductions, if accepted by the full House, should indeed save money and speed things up in Legislatorland, just as she predicts. But it has other ramifications, possibly including a lessening of legislative power, that may stir some misgivings.
The 10-bills-per-year limit is part of a shake-up in House operations proposed by the speaker as she begins a second two-year term with a new Republican supermajority in place. The rest of the package is substantial and substantive, though perhaps less controversial.
Legislative leaders have talked for decades about limiting bill introductions, but nothing has been done until now. It’s worth noting that Gov. Bill Haslam made a point — after 2,200 bills were introduced in the 2011 session — of saying the number should be cut by about a third and that he’d work with legislative leaders on meeting that goal.
Said the governor at the time: “One of the points that we try to make is that every bill that’s proposed actually does cost money. We have commissioners who have to run down and say, ‘How does this impact? What’s it going to cost?’ And then we have to have a position on that.”
He’s right, of course. Every bill introduced costs staff time and taxpayer money. And many duplicate other bills, are frivolous or even downright goofy.
So the governor prodded the legislative leadership on the matter about 18 months ago. Harwell subsequently sounded out House members, and now we have action in response to gubernatorial guidance.

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On Harwell’s Overhaul of House Rules and Committees

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.

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