The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers.
With only days left before adjournment, State Senators worked tirelessly this week to find common ground on the budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year that will begin on July 1. The Senate Finance Committee then approved a “no tax budget” that reduces spending and holds the line against funding pork projects in a time of economic recession. The Senate Republican plan cuts $100 million from Governor Phil Bredesen’s $28 billion budget proposal to offset $139 million in tax increases which Republicans would not adopt.
The Republican plan, as amended, provides funds in this year’s budget for career ladder teacher pay, perinatal outreach grants, and agricultural enhancement funds. The plan is also a longevity pay stipend for health care expenses of state employees contingent on revenues exceeding budgeted projections.
The Republican budget provides funds that would be available for an employee buyout plan. The employee buyout plan entails offering “voluntary buyouts” to reduce the state payroll by an estimated $60 million in recurring funds. The buyout plan is based on Governor Phil Bredesen’s 2008 plan which provided cash incentives, health insurance assistance, and tuition assistance to those in targeted areas for reorganization.
The full Senate will take up the appropriations bill on Wednesday.
State Senate votes to uphold citizens’ Second Amendment rights by overriding governor’s veto
The State Senate voted this week to uphold the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans by overriding the governor’s veto on legislation to allow law-abiding handgun permit holders to “carry” into establishments serving alcohol as long as they do not consume alcoholic beverages and the owners of the premises have not posted notification that firearms are banned. The bill, Senate Bill 3012, clarifies language in the law passed last year, particularly as it applies to the posting of notices, and adds penalties for those who consume alcohol while carrying their gun in violation of the statute.
All states surrounding Tennessee, except North Carolina, allow legal gun-carry permit holders to carry in places that serve alcohol. The legislation upholds the U.S. and Tennessee Constitution’s right to bear arms. It also follows 13 years of experience with Tennessee’s handgun carry law that shows an outstanding record of safety among permit holders.
The bill addresses Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman’s decision to strike down the law due to ambiguity. The measure makes clear what signs qualify as a legal posting so there is no vagueness or ambiguity. The notification must be of appropriate dimensions. The wording must also contain key components spelled out in the proposed law, or owners could post notification by using the international gun symbol drawing with a mark through it, or both.
Finally, the bill prescribes a Class A misdemeanor offense for those convicted of drinking alcohol in violation of the gun carry permit law. In addition, those convicted of intoxication would be subject to losing their gun carry permit for three years.
Senate passes bill calling for Tennessee jails to send information regarding prisoners who are in the U.S. illegally to ICE
The State Senate approved legislation calling for Tennessee jails to send information to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office (ICE) regarding prisoners who do not have documentation that they are in the U.S. legally. The bill requires the jail keeper to fax, email or send a copy of the booking information to ICE. It helps to ensure that Tennessee will not be open to lawsuits that have been problematic in other localities with similar laws. The bill does not apply to any county or municipality that enters into a memorandum of understanding with the United States Department of Homeland Security or ICE concerning enforcement of federal immigration laws.
The legislation now goes back to the House for approval of the Senate amendments.
Issues In Brief….
Veterans / State Contracts – Members of the Senate Finance Committee voted this week to encourage state government relationships with veteran-owned businesses that have not always had access to state government contracts. Senate Bill 2785 calls for state agencies actively to solicit bids and proposals for equipment, supplies, and services from veteran-owned businesses. These businesses are defined as those which are at least 51 percent-owned by a veteran who has served honorably on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that there are at least 548 veteran-owned businesses in the state.
Kaiser study / Obama health care plan – Tennesseans could be paying an additional $1.5 billion in health care services in the first five years of implementation of President Obama’s health care plan passed by Congress in March. A study by the Kaiser Foundation reports that Tennessee could add nearly a half million more residents on the TennCare program during that period. The analysis projects the nationwide Medicaid enrollment will increase by 15.9 million at a total cost of $464 billion.