We had another busy and successful week on Capitol Hill. I had a chance to meet with some new and old friends who were part of the political process trying to make this state a better place for all of us. Each week seems to renew my faith in our district and those around the state who try to make this the best state in the country.
Dyersburg residents Natalie Ryan, Shelley Payne, Jane Davidson, and Leanne Childress were in Nashville to talk with legislators about issues and pending legislation that could impact the Tennessee physical therapy industry. Members of the Tennessee Physical Therapist Association are very concerned about two upcoming bills, the Fair Co-Pay bill and the Concussion Management bill. I totally support our Physical Therapist and I feel they provide an important service to our community. I will do everything I can to promote the needs of their industry.
Lake County director of schools, Corwin Robinson, was in Nashville for the annual Tennessee School Board Association day on the hill. Director Corwin met with Representative Sanderson and they discussed many Lake County School issues and upcoming legislation that could impact education in the district and across Tennessee. This was my first
opportunity to meet Mr.Robinson and I really enjoyed talking about vouchers, small schools, growing up in the south, and marathon running. I really like Mr. Robinson and I feel Lake County is in good hands.
Along with Mr. Robinson, I met with Gary Houston, Curtis McClendon and Cathy Wagner, from the Union City School System who were also in town for the Tennessee School Board Association Day on the Hill. I along with other legislators from across the state met the school board members for an early morning breakfast and program outlining upcoming legislation that could impact local systems. School Board association lobbyist, Lee Harrell, lead the discussion to over 500 Tennessee School Board Association members and directors outlining the short and long term effects of proposed bills. Topics discussed were the election of directors, school vouchers, guns in schools and a dozen other upcoming bills. After the breakfast the members came to the Legislative Plaza and met with their Senators and Representatives.
2013 Dyer County Adult Leadership participants Craig Borden, Randy Butler, Melissa Caldwell, Don Engelhard, Candi Glisson, Eric Herren, Kalli Lipke, Patrick Gray, Karen Skelton, and Amy Watts were in Nashville for the group's annual visit to the Capital. My office coordinated the action packed day on the hill. I met with the group as their day began in one of the House standing committee rooms. It was a good way to start the day. They are highly motivated to make Dyersburg the very best it can be. The group had a tour of the Capitol and followed with a meeting with House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. Speaker Harwell shared with them about her early political career and gave them advice on how to be effective
leaders in their community and Lt. Gov. Ramsey was as usual very entertaining and informative. Joining the leadership group for lunch was Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Representative Bill Sanderson. Randy Butler, Dyersburg YMCA director said, "It was a treat seeing the fast pace of our State Government and feeling like I have friends and acquaintances in Nashville".
Jo Ann Spears, with the Tennessee Aviation Association hosted their first annual Day on the Hill. Spears, president of the TAA, wanted to bring awareness to the Tennessee Legislature and sponsored a come and go breakfast for State Assemblymen. "We had a great turnout and I talked to a lot of Senators and Representatives.
I want to make this an annual thing and I want to our State legislators to understand the
importance of Aviation in Tennessee", said Spears. Spears said the local airport receives various grants for expansion and operation and she wants to improve the relationship with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Department of Economic and Community Development in hopes to receive continued support. Representative Sanderson's assistant, Aaron Rummage, helped to arrange for the breakfast and event. "I appreciate all Representative Sanderson and his office did to help make this event a big success", said Spears.
15 bill limit drastically reduces legislation filed
Number of bills lowest since 1987
Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell announced this week that the number of bills filed for this legislative year have been drastically reduced due to the 15 bill limit approved by lawmakers in January. With the bill filing deadline having passed late last week, records show only 1,339 House bills were filed. The first session of the 107th General Assembly saw 2,124 bills filed.
"This is excellent news, and proof that the House rule change of a 15 bill limit is working--this is definitely a success," said Speaker Harwell. "Our goal was to reduce the amount of bills filed to save taxpayer money, and to have members focus on prioritizing their issues so we can properly vet the legislation before us. This reduction in legislation bodes well for Tennessee taxpayers, and I appreciate the body's willingness to give this a try."
Bill filings this year are at the lowest in nearly 30 years. In 1987, there were 1,186 pieces of legislation filed by the deadline. The bill filing deadline is on the 10th legislative day according to House rules, usually falling in mid-February.
"Each time legislation is filed, there is an enormous amount of work done by staff behind the scenes. The bill must be researched and written by legal staff, sometimes going through multiple drafts. Our House Clerks then work to put the bill into the system, and all of this cost taxpayers time and money," said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga). "This bill limit ensures a more efficient, effective and accessible government that will give us more time for thoughtful, deliberate analysis on each piece of legislation--something taxpayers expect and deserve."
The bill limit was part of a larger proposal announced by Speaker Beth Harwell in December to streamline government operations and make the legislative process more efficient and effective.
Constitutional Officers Tout Tennessee Financial Success
This week, State Treasurer David Lillard and Comptroller of the Treasury Justin P. Wilson discussed the positive financial position of Tennessee state government.
Both Constitutional Officers credit the financial success the state has experienced over the last two years to conservative fiscal policies implemented by Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly.
Despite a poor economy nationwide, both Lillard and Wilson believe Tennessee is on a clear path towards economic recovery, especially when compared to other states across the country.
"There have been numerous media reports over the last few years about serious financial problems experienced by governments elsewhere in our country and around the world. Tennessee stands in sharp contrast to those governments. Here, despite a fragile economy, our state government is managing its expenses and meeting its obligations quite well," stated Comptroller Justin P. Wilson.
Indeed, despite the failure of some states to adequately manage their expenditures in a fiscally responsible way, Tennessee leads the nation in several key economic areas, including being named by Barron's Magazine as the 3rd best-managed state in the country.
"Tennessee is in good financial shape - and that isn't just our assessment of our own situation. The bond rating agencies and other organizations that monitor government finances have given Tennessee strong marks for its financial practices. Tennessee's ability to control spending, manage debt, and adequately forecast revenues have all contributed to the state's strong financial condition," Treasurer Lillard continued.
Going forward, Lillard and Wilson agreed, Tennessee must continue its focus on providing essential services while still leaving room to cut unneeded expenses and keep debt costs low.
"I have confidence that Governor Haslam and the members of the Tennessee General Assembly will take the appropriate steps over the coming weeks and months to keep Tennessee moving on the trajectory of long-term financial success," Wilson concluded.
Disaster Recovery Request Approved By Small Business Administration
Following up on an inquiry by Governor Bill Haslam for disaster assistance after severe storms passed through several Tennessee counties in late January, the Small Business Administration formally approved the request earlier this week.
This disaster declaration by the SBA provides access to low-interest loans for homeowners, businesses, and non-profit organizations affected by the January storms.
For homeowner loans, if an applicant cannot obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 1.688 percent. If an applicant can obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 3.375 percent.
Business applicants with credit elsewhere will have an interest rate of 6 percent and business applicants without credit will have an interest rate of 4 percent. Non-profit organization applicants will have an interest rate of 2.875 percent, regardless of whether or not they have credit elsewhere.
Henderson, Carroll, Chester, Decatur, Hardin and Madison Counties are included in the SBA disaster declaration.
And in case you missed it...
Governor Rejects State Insurance Exchanges -- Governor Bill Haslam sent another letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in response to a February 14 deadline for establishing a state-federal partnership to operate a Health Care Exchange system under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. As of February 15, twenty-six states will be run by a federal exchange, while only 17 states and the District of Columbia have submitted a state-based exchange plan. The remaining 7 states will establish a state-federal partnership to operate an exchange system.
Anti-Income Tax Resolution Moves Through Committee -- House Joint Resolution 35 sailed through committee this week as Republican lawmakers continue the push to ban a state income tax from ever being implemented in Tennessee. Voters across the state will have the opportunity to weigh in on this issue as the question of whether to prohibit an income tax will be placed on the 2014 ballot. If approved, the state Constitution will be amended to explicitly prohibit lawmakers from ever levying a state income tax on the citizens of Tennessee.
Tennessee Ranks 3rd In Nation For Road Quality -- Tennessee ranks third in the nation for quality of roads according to Tennessee Commissioner of Transportation John Schroer, who appeared before lawmakers this week. Tennessee has achieved high marks for road quality, despite spending less money per capita than a majority of states with a gasoline tax. Schroer said these statistics show the Department of Transportation is working as efficiently and effectively as possible to maximize the impact of state road money in maintaining and improving Tennessee roads.