The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers.
Senate Committees approved several important bills this week as they prepare to close for the 2010 legislative session. The focus will shift next week to the state budget as the State Legislature plans to conclude the 106th General Assembly within three to four weeks.
Committees prepare to close for 2010 session and address important issues, including resolutions against overreaching by Congress
Among legislation approved this week were two resolutions designed to fight back against the overreach of power from Congress, which includes the passage of the massive federal healthcare bill last month. Senate Joint Resolution 897, sponsored by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and co-sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers and which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, urges Tennessee’s Attorney General to join a growing number of other states in challenging the unconstitutional provisions in the federal government takeover of the nation’s health care system. The resolution states the General Assembly shares the concern with at least eighteen other states that mandated insurance coverage for citizens within their boundaries violates the Commerce Clause and the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Currently eighteen states, over one-third of the United States, are seeking to challenge the federal law in court.
Similarly, the Senate State and Local Government Committee and the full Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 715, which asks Congress to submit to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to stop the practice of passing unfunded mandates and programs to the states, except in a situation of financial emergency as declared by a two-thirds vote of their membership.
The resolution comes after the passage the federal healthcare bill, which is estimated to possibly cost the state as much as $200 million annually.
The proposed amendment would prohibit the federal government from authorizing state participation in federal programs or services unless funding is guaranteed by the federal government for the full duration of the programs or services. If federal funds are not appropriated for the program or service, the law enacted or regulation promulgated would become null and void.
Senate Judiciary Committee approves Resolution to let citizens decide whether the state’s Attorney General should be elected
The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a resolution sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers calling for an elected State Attorney General (AG). The resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 698, would amend the state’s Constitution to allow a popular election every four years.
“Tennessee is the only state in the nation that allows the State Supreme Court to select the attorney general,” said Senator Beavers, who is Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “Forty-three states already select their attorney generals through popular election and it is time for this General Assembly to also show their confidence in the collective wisdom of the people of Tennessee.”
In six other states, the Attorney General is selected by either the popularly elected Governor or the popularly elected state legislature. Beavers said that when Tennessee’s Constitution was written calling for nomination by the Supreme Court Justices, the court was popularly elected.
“Tennessee is the only state in the nation in which the people have neither a direct nor indirect voice in the selection of their Attorney General,” Beavers added. “Someone has to be accountable to the people, and this week’s AG opinion on the Health Freedom Act shows once again, the importance of having an Attorney General who represents the will of the people of this state.”
The amendment process would require approval by both the 106th General Assembly currently in session and the 107th, which will take office in 2011. If approved, the question would then go to voters in a statewide referendum in the year 2014.
“Along with the overwhelming majority of Tennesseans and 96% of the rest of this nation, I feel that the citizens of this state ought to have a ‘say so’ in the highest legal office in Tennessee,” she concluded.
Issues In Brief
Unemployment – Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February 2010 was 10.7 percent, unchanged from the January rate of 10.7 percent according to newly released statistics. The United States unemployment rate for the month of February was 9.7 percent. County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for February 2010 show that the rate decreased in 78 counties, increased in 10 counties and remained the same in seven counties.
Child Abduction – The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation, Senate Bill 3065, which aims to reduce the risk of child abduction in Tennessee. The bill would provide courts with guidelines to follow regarding potential child abductions and to provide courts with appropriate measures to prevent these crimes. The legislation would provide judges with information about abduction risk factors so that they can place appropriate restrictions to prevent abductions. Among factors included are whether the respondent has previously abducted or attempted to abduct the child; has threatened to abduct the child; has engaged in domestic violence; has refused to follow a child-custody determination; has strong family or cultural ties to another state or country; or other related factors.
Voter Registration – The Senate State and Local Government Committee has approved Senate Bill 194, which would require voter registration forms to carry a disclaimer that clarifies giving false information to register to vote carries a criminal penalty. The legislation also requires that the applicant affirm that they are lawfully in the United States.
Veterans / State Parks – The full Senate has passed legislation to instruct the Division of Parks and Recreation to designate one day per year during which access to and use of all state parks would be free of charge for all veterans. The bill, Senate Bill 3212, includes use of campgrounds, and golf courses, as long as the veteran shows proof of their status.
Finance Group upgrades state’s credit rating – Tennessee’s credit rating has been upgraded by Fitch Ratings from a AA to a AAA rating. Fitch is a leading global rating agency which provides the world's credit markets with independent credit opinions. Fitch, together with Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, are the three nationally recognized statistical rating organizations designated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.