This wraps up the second week of the second half of the 109th legislative session. I am completing my 3rd term as state representative and each year I have represented you in Nashville we have tackled some very serious issues while continuing to maintain a balanced budget and steady economic growth. This legislative session should very exciting and productive. I look forward to keeping you informed on what happens at the Capitol.
This week the House committees convened and there was no shortage of highly contested bills that were voted on. Early in the week the House Finance subcommittee passed HB 1049, the Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship act, by a voice vote. This bill was very contentious and has many advocates on both sides. Rep Bill Dunn (Knoxville) is the House sponsor. This legislation will create a voucher pilot program that will transfer money away from public schools and into private schools if families meet the income limits required by the legislation.
This session is also the first time the Tennessee General Assembly has met since the controversial Obergefell v. Hodges lawsuit was decided by the US Supreme Court. This decision allowed for same-sex couples to be married in any of the 50 states and territories of the Unites States. This week saw the first bill filed to counteract this decision and it was highly debated for a couple of hours before the House Civil Justice subcommittee. Rep Mark Pody (Wilson County) filed the legislation on the house side and Senator Mae Beavers (Wilson County) was the Senate sponsor. The legislation, if passed, would have instructed the state to ignore the US Supreme Court decision and would have created a new department of the state that would verify who could be married and who could not. The fiscal note assigned an 8.5 billion dollar cost due to the potential withholding of federal funds from our state budget by choosing to ignore this decision. The bill failed and only received one vote from Rep. Jim Coley (Bartlett). My last count had 6 other representatives with bills related to marriage that most likely were filed in response to this controversial decision. I will keep you updated.
This week also saw the filing of Governor Haslam's legislative package for the year. Each year the governor files his legislation under the House majority leader, Rep. Gerald McCormick from Chattanooga. The governor's legislation usually has some controversial bills along with some that are well received. This year's priorities include: Increase sentencing requirements for serious crimes while taking steps to reduce recidivism by expanding services and drug treatment for offenders, make handgun carry permits valid for eight years, up from the current five-year permit, add reporting requirements for the disposal of human fetal tissue after abortions, and restructuring of the Tennessee Board of Regents and how the TBR schools are administered.
Each year I look forward to carrying legislation that I think will be beneficial to the citizens of the state and this year I am proud of my priorities. The following are some highlights of my legislative package:
* A bill to allow therapy dogs to be present in court with child victims of abuse as they testify against their abusers.
* A bill to require state contractors to reveal if they are being investigated before they apply and receive a state contract.
* A bill to make the Tennessee lottery more secure and protect it from future security threats.
* A bill to update the renewal process for medical professions to avoid costly delays.
* A bill to more fairly treat businesses who use the TDOT LOGO program.
Finally, I look forward to meeting with many of you in Nashville this legislative session. Last week I met with Paul Carson and Donald Ray Pennington from Dyersburg at the annual Insurers of Tennessee legislative reception. We also will have both Dyer County and Obion County adult and youth leaderships groups along with many others from all over Northwest Tennessee. If you would like to schedule a visit please contact my office at 615-741-0718.
Talk to you soon!