The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers.
Fueled by the recent passage of federal healthcare legislation in Congress, Senator Mae Beavers joined Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and members of the Senate Republican Caucus to hold a press conference on Wednesday urging the state's House of Representatives to take immediate action to pass the Tennessee Health Freedom Act. Passage of the bill, which is pending action in the House Industrial Impact Subcommittee, would put Tennessee into position to join the Virginia and Idaho legislatures on the front lines in filing legal action to support the rights of citizens within their boundaries not to participate in the massive federal government takeover of the nation's health care system.
The Tennessee Health Freedom Act was sponsored by Senator Beavers and approved in the State Senate on February 18 by a vote of 26 to 1, with 5 members abstaining.
“This legislation has become vital to challenge the massive unfunded mandate that has been passed down to the states,” said Senator Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, who is sponsor of the bill. “Never in history has the federal government mandated that Tennesseans buy anything. This is kind of equivalent to the federal government saying you have to buy a General Motors car because we bailed them out and we have an interest in it. If the people of Tennessee don’t want federal health care, this will be the way for them to choose other avenues.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 3498, prohibits the federal government from imposing fines or penalties on a person’s decision not to participate in the federal plan. Due to constitutional restraints, the bill does not “nullify” the federal law, as it would still allow individuals the option to participate in a federal program. However, it acknowledges the right of Tennesseans to refuse to participate in a government-run health insurance program. It also calls on the state’s Attorney General to take action in defending any Tennessean fined or penalized by the federal government for not abiding by what many believe to be an unconstitutional federal healthcare bill.
Earlier this week Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey renewed his efforts to persuade Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper to join his colleagues in at least 13 other states in legal action on the matter. Ramsey had already asked Cooper to make preparations for protective legal action when the federal health care bill was approved by the United States Senate in December.
The federal action is expected to cost Tennessee more than $200 million annually. It comes at a time when the state is in its 21st consecutive month in which sales tax revenues have recorded negative growth.
The Industrial Impact Committee amended the bill with a procedural amendment and delayed further action on the measure until next week. Tennesseans are urged to call the members of the House Sub Committee and encourage them to vote for the Health Freedom Act.
Issues In Brief
Abortion Coercion – Legislation that aims to educate women that coercion to have an abortion is a crime in Tennessee won approval this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill, Senate Bill 3812, would require a physician’s office or other clinics in which abortions are performed to post signs to provide women with this information about the state law and their option to receive help if they are being threatened. According to a survey published in the Medical Science Monitor, over 64 percent of women who received abortions said they felt pressured or coerced into having an abortion. The sign would be posted in the waiting area and patient consultation rooms, but would not apply to clinics where an abortion is performed to prevent the death of a pregnant female.
“Silver Alert System” – The Senate voted this week on Senate Bill 2903 to improve Tennessee’s “Silver Alert System” by removing the age requirement to include any citizen with Alzheimers, dementia, or a physical impairment to be covered under the act. Previously, the law was limited to those 60 years of age or older. The “Silver Alert System,” which was passed into law last year, works similarly to the “Amber Alert System” to help locate missing individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. The program calls for local law enforcement agencies to coordinate with non-profit organizations such as A Child is Missing or the Alzheimer’s Association to aid in their efforts.
Drivers License / English – The Senate Transportation Committee has given approval to legislation, Senate Bill 63, to require that Tennessee drivers’ license exams are given in English. The measure seeks to make sure that immigrants know how to read the road signs and can drive safely in Tennessee. The bill does not apply to persons whose presence in the United States has been authorized by Homeland Security for work in companies located in Tennessee through the efforts of Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development in order to accommodate those nationalities with manufacturing facilities in the state.
Veterans / Professional Privilege Tax – Senate Bill 2782 was approved in the Senate Finance Committee that would ensure that physicians who are deployed overseas as commissioned officers in the Armed Forces are exempt from Tennessee’s $400 occupational privilege tax.