The following is a legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver
Greetings! This week session is rolling right along as we continue to present and hear bills. One of the bills heard this week was a constitutional amendment giving Tennesseans the right to hunt and fish. This amendment to the Tennessee Constitution has completed its journey through both the House and Senate and will now appear on the ballot in the form of a referendum in 2010. Before a constitutional amendment is adopted, it must pass one General Assembly by a majority, a subsequent General Assembly by two-thirds, and receive a majority of voters’ approval on a ballot in a gubernatorial election year. Senate Joint Resolution 30 was approved by the House this week with a 90-1 vote, and has already passed the Senate.
Senate Joint Resolution 30 adds a new provision to Article XI, Section 13 of the state’s constitution which reads: “The citizens of this state shall have the personal right to hunt and fish, subject to reasonable regulations and restrictions prescribed by law. The recognition of this right does not abrogate any private or public property rights, nor does it limit the state's power to regulate commercial activity.”
Since, other countries have outlawed certain types of hunting the House sponsor believes this measure will act as a pre-emptive strike to protect the time-honored traditions. Fourteen other states have approved similar provisions.
This week, Tennessee joined states across the nation in celebrating ‘Sunshine Week,’ a time designed to remind public officials and citizens of the value of open records and other transparency in government measures. In recent years, Tennessee has passed a numerous laws designed to make the public’s access to open records an easier process. To that end, we created an Office of Open Records Counsel within the Comptroller’s office to deal with open records request, and to help citizens navigate local governments’ public records process.
The state’s open record counsel recently presented the office’s 2009 report, which showed that the number of requests coming through the office has increased over 2008. The Office of Open Records Counsel handled 1,085 inquiries about the requirements of various open records laws. Roughly half of those inquiries came from within state government, media and citizens made up the other half—with private citizens edging out the media for more requests. For more information on the Office Open Records Counsel in Tennessee, please visit www.state.tn.us/comptroller/openrecords.
Students entering childcare facilities, pre-k, kindergarten, or seventh grade this fall will have a new set of immunization requirements. According to the State Department of Health, this is the first update to immunization requirements in ten years. Most of the new rules take affect on July 1.
New childcare, pre-k, and kindergarten children will be required to show proof of vaccination for Haemophilus influenzae type B (HBV), Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B. Previously, these shots were recommended but not required.
Meanwhile, students entering seventh grade will be required to have a tetanus booster shot and show proof of immunity against chicken pox. This can be demonstrated by having a prior chicken pox diagnosis or by taking two doses of the vaccine.
The state is providing new official immunization certificates to doctors. After completion of the required vaccinations, a doctor will complete a certificate which will be given by the parents to the school as evidence of required vaccinations. As with other required vaccinations, students may be exempted for medical and/or religious reasons. For more information, you can visit www.health.tn.gov.
HB2685 ‘English in the Workplace’ continued to advance this week, winning approval from the Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee. The bill will next be presented in the House Calendar and Rules Committee, which sets floor calendars.
House Joint Resolution 746 which is a resolution urging 911 call centers to accept text messages was approved by the House on Monday evening. It was drafted after other states began implementing technology within their 911 call centers to accept text messages. Idaho was the first state to begin accepting the text messages and so far results have shown this to be positive, especially for those who are hearing impaired.
House Bill 3007 encourages departments in state government to implement new strategies and innovative ideas in regards to saving money and operating more efficiently. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority of House members’ approval, and many House members signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.
In closing, I was delighted to have so many folks from my district visit the Capitol this week. The Farm Bureau from Macon, Dekalb, and Smith County took the time to visit and discuss issues important to us all. We had the Firemen from Dekalb County who also came to the Capitol as well as two leadership groups, one from DeKalb County and the Youth Leadership from Smith County. It is always inspiring to see today’s youth take an active interest in government. They are the future. I applaud the youth Leadership group for participating in my Education Committee as we discussed bills that would affect the schools across the state. It was great to see them appointed as honorary members of the Education Committee. We discussed current issues and had a short Question and Answer session as well. Doug Dillard, pastor of Lighthouse Community Church in Smith County, was gracious enough to be Pastor of the Day on Thursday and pray before ses sion began. Before I introduced him I began with a Song for the Lord. This truly has been a busy week but a blessed one indeed! I always look forward to hearing from my constituents and hearing your concerns. I am here for you; please do not hesitate to call my office.