The following is a legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver.
Greetings Folks of the Fortieth! I pray this week’s update finds you and yours blessed. The tempo on the hill is beginning to pick up as bills are now appearing in committees this week. Also, many department heads are presenting their respected jurisdiction as it relates to specific committee topics. In Full Committee we heard a presentation by Max Thomas, Director of the Department of Agriculture Crime Unit, concerning forest fire investigation, livestock, equipment theft, state forest crimes, and homeland security as it relates to Agriculture services. This is one department of many that will experience major cuts as a result of this critical recession.
In the House
The House voted 65 – 31 to override veto of menu-labeling. Again, putting certain nutritional information on menus places an unnecessary burden on restaurant owners in an already struggling economy. Common Sense dictates what to consume for good health.
House Bill 270 will require that voter registration forms carry a disclaimer that clarifies giving false information to register to vote carries a criminal penalty, and also requires that the applicant affirm that they are lawfully in the United States. An amendment was offered, and the bill was discussed by the committee. It is expected to be up for a vote next week.
Another measure presented in the House Elections Subcommittee would make it easier for troops overseas to vote absentee. House Bill 2799 would allow election commissions to email ballots that troops could then print and return by mail. Currently, election administrators mail the ballots overseas and do not utilize electronic means.
The legislation hit a roadblock in the Elections Subcommittee last year, as the bill failed on a party line vote. I was livid! The state should do all it can to ensure the votes of our brave men and women serving overseas count.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Pew Research Center for People and Press reports that one-third of states do not allow enough time for overseas voters, listing Tennessee as one of 16 states that sent ballots after the date necessary for voters to meet deadlines. Last year, at least seven states enacted legislation to authorize some form of electronic transmission. The committee will vote on the bill next week.
SCORE releases ‘Race to the Top’ application summary
The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) released a summary of the state’s ‘Race to the Top’ (RTTT) application this week, taking a straightforward look at the key points in the document. The summary mirrors the application and breaks it down into seven sections: governance and oversight; standards and assessments; data systems; teachers and leaders; low-performing schools; STEM; and budget.
If Tennessee wins the RTTT funds, districts will have 90 days to submit a plan outlining how they will locally implement the program. The Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation, and Development (TN CRED) will be created, and will identify best practices and research the impact of the RTTT grant.
By 2010, the application specifies that Common Core Standards will be adopted and are to be closely related to the Tennessee Diploma Project. The application also explains how the training programs for teachers and administrators are to be set up, and includes other details on professional development.
The application was submitted last month after the legislature wrapped a special session on education to compete against other states across the nation for the federal government’s ‘Race to the Top’ funding. Grant recipients will be notified by the end of March.
Being ever the supporter of limited government, legislation that would have saved the state $30,000 failed in Full Committee this week. HB2535 by Representative Harwell, as introduced terminates a particular selected committee in education that was established in 1984. Certain topics call for extended study therefore selected members are called to the roundtable to discuss those items of interest. Change is hard to do sometimes; however, in lieu of the critical budget cuts, at least this bill does not eliminate any jobs. We can still study topics of significance by transferring its duties to the senate and house education committees when we are in session and save the state money by eliminating excessive per diems. HB2535 failed by 13 to 18. I hope this is not any indication of the “Budget Climate” here on the Hill.
Issues in Brief
House members introduced House Bill 2789 this week, which would create a violent juvenile sexual offender registry. The bill passed out of the House Criminal Practice and Procedure Subcommittee.
Next week, the House Criminal Practice and Procedure Subcommittee is expected to take up DUI ignition interlock legislation. House Bill 2768 would require a device to be attached to the vehicle of certain DUI offenders and will only operate if the offenders have not consumed alcohol.
House Bill 746 would urge 911 call centers to accept text messages. The legislation passed unanimously out of the House State Government Subcommittee.
The Week Ahead
I continue my work to give rural Tennessee a voice. My colleagues and I have been attending budget hearings and meeting with other rural Tennessee legislators to work on legislation for our district. To that end, I am thrilled to announce the bridges and road projects in my district are moving forward. Working together with my local government brings a get-r-done result. It is teamwork indeed! Many of you will soon be receiving the first edition of my newsletter. In fact, as I write this text there is an army of interns down the hall folding and placing labels on over 12,000 pieces of mail. It is important to me to keep you, those I work for, informed. This was a promise I made when you sent me here to represent you.
Visitors from the Fortieth such as teachers, hospital administrators, session judges and avid outdoorsman all came this week with concerns about the budget, certain legislation, and some good visit time as well. I really enjoyed each and every visitor. It is such an honor to serve you. I look forward to many more visits here in War Memorial Building 105.
Blessings Folks of the Fortieth!