The following is a weekly legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:
Health Care Freedom Act Passes General Assembly, Headed to Governor for Signature
The “Tennessee Health Care Freedom Act” passed the House this week, meaning the legislation is now on its way to the Governor for his signature. This bill’s passage is part of a larger effort by the General Assembly to not only encourage job growth, but protect the valuable jobs already in Tennessee.
The legislation was an integral piece for many legislators’ agendas over the last two years. A majority of House Members felt it was necessary for Tennessee to take action and protect the State from job losses that would have inevitably occurred due to the onerous mandates stemming from the federal health care law. More importantly, the legislation protects the integrity of individual rights for Tennesseans.
Essentially, the soon-to-be law ensures every person within Tennessee is free to choose or decline any mode of health care services without penalty or punishment from the government. Additionally, it prohibits Tennessee officials from interfering with the health care insurance decisions of every Tennessean.
On Monday, the bill passed in an overwhelming, bipartisan fashion with a 70-27 vote. The bill sponsor said, “I believe this bill sets a precedent for States to begin protecting their citizens from a federal government that taxes too much, spends too much, and regulates too much. Tonight, with one voice that has been a long time coming, Tennessee tells Washington, ‘no’.” It was such a huge honor to carry this bill in the House.
Jobs Agenda Keeps Rolling Along in Tennessee
While the country is still grappling with the effects of a harsh recession, Tennessee’s economy continues to prove many experts wrong. In a mid-week announcement, the Governor and Commissioner of Economic and Community Development announced another company was expanding their facility in the Volunteer State. Tennessee has seen a surge of relocations and growth from many companies over the last few years that view our right-to-work State as a low-tax haven with a strong and qualified worker base.
The Japanese company is expanding its Coffee County manufacturing facility with a $32 million investment that will provide 70 news jobs to the area.
The ECD Commissioner stated this is another win for Tennessee's push to improve unemployment, especially in rural counties. The Governor added, “Japan has long been Tennessee’s largest foreign investor nation, and we are particularly grateful for the growing presence of Japanese companies in the Volunteer State and the investment and jobs they bring.”
Governor’s Education Reform Agenda Begins Moving in House
On Wednesday, the initial plank of the Governor’s education reform agenda began moving in the House with passage of the teacher tenure reform in the House Education Subcommittee.
The legislation passed the House Education Subcommittee with a strong 9-4 vote. As written, the reforms will require an educator to be on the job five years instead of the current three before being granted tenure. Additionally, in a common sense move, the legislation makes poor performance a reason for tenure to be revoked. These reforms will ensure Tennessee’s next generation is being taught by the best and brightest teachers. The bill places student achievement and excellent teacher performance as the main priorities for Tennessee’s educational system. The bill now goes before the full Education Committee for approval.
In related news, the Education Subcommittee passed an equal access bill that allows for other professional organizations to represent our State’s teachers. Currently, only one union is allowed to represent educators, essentially silencing thousands of teachers across the State. Next week, the Education Subcommittee will deal with legislation that reforms charter school requirements, including lifting the cap on the number of those schools. After that, the Subcommittee will move on to consider changes to the mandatory negotiating authority of the unions.
Agreement Reached That Allows Tennessee Veterans Day Flag Tradition to Continue
House and Senate Members announced this week they have been informed about an administrative change will take place to allow for the long-standing practice of placing American flags on the graves of veterans in Tennessee's veteran cemeteries on Veteran's Day. The lawmakers have worked with the Governor and the Veterans Affairs Commissioner to make the appropriate administrative changes to permit volunteers, like the Boy Scouts, to place the flags on the graves.
The cemeteries fall under the federal Floral Regulations for the gravesites of military veterans which prohibits the practice except on Memorial Day. Adherence to those regulations raised many concerns and questions by community organizations and others who sought to decorate the graves with flags last year on Veteran's Day. The administrative change anticipates a change in the federal regulations.
The VA Commissioner remarked, “Placement of flags on the graves of our heroes reflects honor and respect. It makes a public statement that the State of Tennessee shall never forget the many sacrifices of a few so that all can enjoy our freedom. Changing this policy is the right thing to do.”
Governor to Deliver His First State of the State Address Next Week
In what is often a highly-anticipated speech to highlight the priorities of Tennessee’s government, the Governor will deliver his first State of the State Address on Monday, March 14th. The House and Senate will enter into a Joint Convention in the House Chambers at 5:45p.m., with the Governor delivering the address at 6:00p.m.
The address offers all Members of the General Assembly and the citizens of Tennessee a unique chance to hear directly from the Governor about his Administration’s top initiatives. Tennesseans can expect to hear about economic growth, limiting government, education reform, and budget proposals, among many other important topics.
As always, I am so honored to represent each and every one of you. Please continue to keep me and the rest of the Legislature in your thoughts and prayers. Hope to see you all very soon.