The following is a Legislative Update from State Senator Mae Beavers
The Tennessee General Assembly returned to Capitol Hill this week to close out the Special Session on Education and begin the work of the 2010 legislative session. Although the budget deficit will be the predominant driver for legislative action this year, among many issues that will headline the legislature’s agenda are unemployment, job creation, and preparing for Congressional action on health care that could have a huge negative impact on the state’s finances in the future. In addition, Thursday marked the last day in which Senators could file legislation to be debated throughout the coming months.
Senator Mae Beavers Files 2010 Legislation
This week Senator Beavers completed the filing of her 2010 legislative package. Legislation filed by Beavers included bills that address Tennessee’s DUI laws, healthcare, worker’s compensation, job creation, and the court system. Beavers once again hopes to pass an “ignition interlock” bill that would require a repeat DUI offender to purchase a device that would not allow that person to start his or her vehicle while intoxicated. In addition, Beavers filed bills that would encourage the purchase of certain health insurance across state lines, and also proclaim Tennessean’s constitutional right to not buy health insurance if a mandated and nationalized healthcare reform bill were to pass in Washington.
In addition, Senator Beavers continues to push for a repeal of a 2008 law that mandated worker’s compensation insurance be purchased on sole-proprietors and small contractors. Beavers also filed legislation that would encourage a “Tennessee-Made” logo be made available for businesses that employ Tennesseans and produce Tennessee goods and products. Finally, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Beavers filed many bills dealing with the courts and constitutional amendments, including a constitutional amendment that would make it harder for the administration to spend over the limits of the “Copeland Cap” as set forth in Tennessee’s Constitution, as well as a constitutional amendment that would require the Attorney General be held accountable to the people of Tennessee through an election every four years.
Resolution would ensure future generations have the right to hunt and fish in Tennessee
The State Senate approved a bill this week that would give Tennessee voters the opportunity to decide if the state’s Constitution should be amended to recognize that citizens have the right to hunt and fish. The resolution was approved after Senator Beavers and other members of the Senate were added as sponsors of the measure. Tennessee, like most other states, predicates wildlife conservation efforts on a user pay system supported by sportsmen. Protection of sportsmen’s right to hunt and fish will ensure wildlife preservation efforts in Tennessee continue indefinitely. In addition, sportsmen pump millions of dollars into Tennessee’s economy. The resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 30, will give sportsmen a voice in court on any future action that would deny their right to hunt and fish if approved by the voters.
Issues in Brief
Tennessee Prime Milk – The Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill this week to help Tennessee’s dairy farmers by establishing a category of milk to be called "Tennessee Prime Milk.” The voluntary use of this label and program is designed to promote Tennessee's new official state drink: milk. The bill, Senate Bill 1899, aims to help Tennessee's dairy farmers which have declined from 10,000 active farms at the height of the business to 500 today. This voluntary program allows marketing and sale of a "home grown" milk product and calls for the milk to be certified by the state’s Department of Agriculture for sale at retail stores as “Tennessee Prime Milk” if it meets higher standards. Bottling plants can label their milk as "Tennessee Prime Milk", as long as 80% of the milk is produced in Tennessee.
Veto Override on Restaurant Menu Mandates – The Senate voted 24 to 7 to override the governor’s veto of legislation approved last year to ban unelected local government regulatory agencies from imposing requirements on restaurants to post calories on menus. The Senate passed the measure, Senate Bill 1092, last year after many small businesses raised concerns that some unelected agencies will impose different standards, which will significantly increase costs to small restaurant owners.
Tourism – Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker appeared before the Senate Conservation and Environment Committee this week to update lawmakers on efforts to promote travel to and within the state. Whitaker said tourism is up from $14.2 billion to $14.4 billion over the last year, although some parts of the state have been hit hard by the recession. The state is in the top ten in the U.S. in tourism and is doing very well compared to neighboring states, some of which are in double-digit decline. Tennessee is promoting a scenic by-ways project to get tourists into the more rural areas of the state, which is already meeting with some success.