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Senator Mae Beavers Legislative Update

February 12, 2010
Dwayne Page
State Senator Mae Beavers

The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers

Healthcare and the state budget were recurring topics for discussion on Capitol Hill as lawmakers completed the third week of the regular 2010 legislative session. While Senate committees are beginning to move a number of bills to the floor for final consideration, they continue to be updated on a wide variety of important matters facing Tennessee.

Senator Mae Beavers Passes Tennessee Health Freedom Act through the Senate Commerce Committee

The Tennessee Health Freedom Act, a bill that mirrors legislation currently moving through the Virginia and Idaho legislatures and being considered in over thirty other state legislatures, cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday by passing through the Senate Commerce Committee by a vote of 8-0, with one abstention. The legislation’s sponsor, Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt Juliet), presented a passionate plea to the committee regarding the need to adopt a measure that ensures Tennesseans’ right to choose whether or not to purchase a particular type of health insurance, and to defend them from federal mandates and penalties if one chooses to not purchase a particular product.

“This act seeks to protect the rights of Tennesseans to choose what type and quantity of health insurance to purchase,” said Beavers. “No matter what legislation eventually passes through Congress, as state legislators, we need to stand up for the citizens of this state, our fantastic doctors and hospitals, and stand up against unconstitutional and unprecedented federal mandates.”

Senate Bill 3498 would protect a person’s right to participate, or not participate, in any healthcare system, and would prohibit the federal government from imposing fines or penalties on that person’s decision. The bill does not seek to “nullify” any federal law, as it would still allow individuals the option to participate in a federal program; however, it would also acknowledge the right of individuals to refuse to participate in a government-run health insurance program.

“Unlike car insurance which is not compulsory but is required when one chooses to utilize the privilege of driving on public roads, the pending health insurance mandates are entirely different because they are based solely as a requirement of U.S. citizenship,” said Beavers. “Never in our history has the U.S. government required its citizens – simply because they are citizens – to purchase a particular product from a private company or government entity.”

The Tennessee Health Freedom Act will now move to the Senate floor in the coming weeks to be voted on by the entire Senate, and then the measure will have to pass through the House before it will go to the Governor for his signature.

Copeland Cap Amendment Moves to the Senate Finance Committee

SJR 682, a resolution proposed by Senator Beavers to make it harder for the Governor to pass a budget that contains excessive spending as a percent of economic growth, failed to receive a majority of votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

The “Copeland Cap” is a provision in the state constitution that says that state spending can grow no faster than the annual growth in personal income. The cap is supposed to make tax hikes unnecessary, and allow Tennessee to operate as a “pay-as-you-go” state with a balanced budget. Yet, currently the cap can be broken with a simple majority vote of the legislature.

Senator Beavers hopes to restore fiscal accountability and to control the growth of state government with a new amendment that will require a 2/3 vote by the House and Senate to override the Copeland Cap, not a simple majority as it currently requires.

The bill will now proceed to the Senate Finance Committee, where it will need to receive five votes to move to the Senate Floor. If passed by two consecutive General Assemblies, the citizens of Tennessee will get to vote on the amendment and decide whether or not stronger fiscal responsibility should be a priority in our state’s constitution.

Bredesen Announces CoverKids To Resume Enrollment

February 12, 2010

Governor Phil Bredesen today announced that CoverKids, Tennessee's program for uninsured children, will reopen enrollment to new members on March 1, 2010. Enrollment in CoverKids was suspended late last year when membership reached the maximum that could be supported by the current budget.

Bredesen's proposed budget for FY 2010-2011 includes an additional $13.1 million in recurring state dollars to continue the CoverKids program next fiscal year, which would support increased program enrollment. Reopening enrollment on March 1, however, means children will have access to this coverage four months earlier.

"For three years, children across Tennessee have benefited from the quality coverage provided through CoverKids," Bredesen said in a speech to members of the Tennessee Press Association. "In light of the state's budget situation, we had to make a tough decision to suspend enrollment last year. Fortunately, we've been able to dig deep and find additional funding to keep this option available to families in need."

In addition to the new state appropriation, $41.5 million in federal funds will come to Tennessee as a result of the state's increased contribution. Combined, this budget increase will allow for continued growth in CoverKids' membership.

When CoverKids originally opened, officials estimated somewhere between 40,000 and 45,000 children in the state would qualify for the program. The program's capped enrollment of 45,000 indicates the number of CoverKids-eligible children has increased, which is likely a result of the national economic downturn.

"CoverKids plays an important role in serving the needs of Tennessee's uninsured children," Bredesen said. "While the number of eligible children who have yet to enroll is relatively low, we hope to serve as many of them as possible through this increased funding."

Looking forward, program administrators believe as many as 5,000 more children in Tennessee qualify for coverage through CoverKids.

In Tennessee, TennCare remains the primary provider of insurance for low-income uninsured children. TennCare currently has more than 750,000 children on its rolls.

As part of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, CoverKids picks up where TennCare eligibility ends and provides comprehensive health and dental coverage to children in families who cannot otherwise afford or access private health insurance.

Tennessee families earning less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $55,125 per year for a family of four, qualify for CoverKids and pay no monthly premium for the plan. Income-based co-pays are required for most services, though preventive care, including well-child visits, teeth cleanings and vision screenings are fully covered.

CoverKids is a program of Cover Tennessee, Bredesen's initiative to address the health care needs of Tennessee's uninsured. Cover Tennessee offers three other programs including CoverTN, a limited benefit health plan for the working uninsured; AccessTN, which offers comprehensive health insurance for those who are uninsurable due to pre-existing medical conditions; and CoverRx, which provides access to affordable prescriptions for Tennesseans who lack pharmacy benefits.

For more information about any of the Cover Tennessee programs, visit www.CoverTN.gov or call

Property Taxes Due February 27th

February 12, 2010
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Trustee Sean Driver

DeKalb County property taxpayers have until Saturday, February 27th to pay their tax bill.

Trustee Sean Driver says even though February 27th falls on Saturday, his office will be open all day until 4:30 p.m. on that date to accommodate you. "As a courtesy to you, the Trustee's Office would like to remind you that February 27th is the last day to pay the 2009 property taxes before penalties start accruing March 1st. The Trustee's Office will be open from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 27th."

"The Trustee's Office offers the State of Tennessee Tax Relief. If you would like to check on a possible tax relief for 2009, come and see us at the courthouse, room 206, or call 597-5176. The income limit is $25,360 for single or combined household income. The last day to sign up on tax relief is April 5th, 2010."

" Also any unpaid property taxes will be turned over to the Chancery Court on April 1st."

School H1N1 Vaccination Clinics Set for Next Week

February 12, 2010
Dwayne Page
DeeAnna Persinger (file photo)

The Upper Cumberland Regional Health Office will set up school clinics to administer H1N1 vaccinations beginning next week.

A team of nurses and health department staff will be manning the clinics

In order for children in the school system to receive the immunizations, their parents or guardians would first have to complete and sign a form, giving permission. The immunizations will be free of charge.

Dee Anna Persinger, School Health Coordinator, reported to the school board Thursday night that the clinics will begin Tuesday, February 16th. "The H1N1 shots will be given at DeKalb West School starting at 8:00 a.m. That is open to anyone as long as you fill out a consent form. We will move on to the Middle School after that, and after lunch we will move to the high school. We will start Wednesday morning, February 17th at Smithville Elementary at 8:00 a.m. and as soon as we finish there we will move to Northside Elementary School."

During last month's school board meeting, Persinger said the school system, nor the board of education would be held liable since "children are covered through malpractice insurance through the health department, just the same as if they went to the health department themselves."

The vaccinations would not just be available to children. Persinger says others could receive the immunizations as well. " Not only is this H1N1 flu vaccination and or mist available to our students, its also available to any adult, faculty or staff member, a younger sibling, or parents as long as they fill out the form. They (health department) are going to have plenty of vaccinations while they are at the school so anybody can get this for free. There's no cost, they just have to fill out the form and sign it."

A consent form and a letter has been sent to parents and guardians from the Upper Cumberland Regional Health Office:

"As you may have heard, a new influenza virus, called the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, was first identified in the United States in late April 2009. The virus has caused illness ranging from mild to severe, including hospitalizations and deaths in adults and children. Many children have gotten H1N1 infection and there have been large outbreaks in some schools across the country. Flu is unpredictable and activity can rise and fall throughout the season, but flu is likely to continue for months, caused by either 2009 H1N1 viruses or regular seasonal flu viruses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that children and young adults be vaccinated against H1N1."

"Vaccination is the best way to protect your child from this potentially serious disease. The health department is working with your child's school to give the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine to children at school. A vaccination clinic will be held at your child's school in the month of February 2010. Please complete the consent form along with your signature giving permission to vaccinate your child."

"Children under age 10 need two doses of vaccine spaced one month apart to provide adequate immunity. Only one dose is required for children age 10 and older or for children that obtain the first dose at age 9 and will turn 10 before the second dose is due. If your child meets the criteria for a second dose, it will also be administered at school to fulfill the requirement. There will be no cost to you for this vaccine."

"If you have any questions about the vaccine or the vaccination clinic, please call your local health department from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Please visit the CDC's H1N1 web site at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/and http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/parents for information especially for parents.

School Board Pays Tribute to Principals and Assistant Principals

February 11, 2010
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night adopted a resolution expressing appreciation to principals and assistant principals in the school system.

The resolution states that "Whereas, principals and assistant principals are charged with the responsibility of providing safe, healthy, welcoming and supportive places for children to learn and grow in knowledge, understanding and character development; and,

Whereas, principals provide leadership for learning in our school district by helping students achieve high standards of excellence and ensuring that every child succeeds; and,

Whereas, principals serve as mentors to teachers, students and staff by providing support, direction and inspiration to be the best that they can be, by showing respect and appreciation for the contributions of individuals, by establishing a tone of encouragement and cooperation, and by recognizing and celebrating their successes; and,

Whereas, principals lead their faculties into analysis and discussions about student learning and promote improvements in teaching and learning; and,

Whereas, principals seek to build collaboration and support from parents and community and seek their engagement in their schools; and,

Whereas, principals and assistant principals establish and maintain discipline so that students learn and practice to be self reliant and productive citizens; and

Whereas, principals are directly responsible for every aspect of school operations and performance,

Now, Therefore, be it resolved that, the DeKalb County Board of Education hereby established February 11th, 2010 as Principal Appreciation Day in all of our Schools; and

Be it further resolved that, the board expresses deep appreciation to principals and assistant principals in our school system and encourages each school and community to recognize their principal and assistant principal on this day for the leadership they provide in the success of our school system and in the lives of students."

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby presented his monthly update on personnel.

The following have been employed since last month:
Brenda Bandy, Robert DePriest, Sharon Moffett, Joel Moss, and Tara Young as substitute teachers

Clay Bumbalough, transferred to a full time custodian position at Smithville Elementary School

Leave of Absence:
Dena Haugh, DCHS Educational Assistant, leave as requested
Barbara Hibdon, cafeteria worker DeKalb Middle School, leave as requested
Gina Arnold, Supervisor Special Education, leave as requested

Dianne Page, Education Assistant, DeKalb Middle School

In other business, the board gave permission for the Department of Health to have a rabies vaccination clinic at the DeKalb Middle School parking lot on April 17th from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.

The board gave permission for three DCHS students to attend the Tennessee Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville February 24-26th.

Permission was also granted for FCCLA students to attend the State Leadership Meeting April 6-8 at Opryland Hotel.

The school board voted to ask permission from the county commission to bid two school buses and a new maintenance van/truck for delivery in August to be funded in the 2010-2011 general purpose school budget.

In other business, the board re-appointed two school board members as Trustees to the Sick Leave Bank.

The purpose of the sick leave bank is to provide sick leave to contributors who have suffered an unplanned personal illness, injury, disability, or quarantine and whose paid leave is exhausted.

The sick leave bank shall be administered by a committee of Trustees. The committee shall be composed of five members: two members appointed by the board, two members appointed by the Teachers Association and the Director of Schools who shall serve as chairperson.

The two board members are Kenny Rhody and Joan Draper.

The request for the Sick Leave Bank was presented to the board in August, 2006 by John Isabell, former President of the DeKalb County Education Association. Isabell said "A Sick Leave Bank serves the purpose of allowing teachers to contribute some of their stored up sick leave days into a pool that would allow teachers who are experiencing a catastrophic event, such as a sickness in the family or sickness to themselves, who have exhausted their own sick leave, the ability to go into that pool and use some of those days."

Officials say the Sick Leave Bank is a voluntary statewide program for certified employees of Tennessee Public Schools, established by state law. Members donate earned sick leave to the bank and are then eligible to supplement normal paid sick leave if diagnosed or an immediate family member is diagnosed with a serious or catastrophic illness.

A participant shall not receive any sick leave from the Bank until after having exhausted all accumulated sick, personal, and or annual leave including all paid extensions.

Members must submit an application to the Sick Leave Bank Trustees for review. Medical documentation must accompany the application.

The employee will be notified in writing the status of the application.

The board voted to declare the following items surplus property and will sell by sealed bid to the highest bidder:

2-Blue Bird Bus 1997 Models, a Vulcan gas convection double stack oven, a large Vulcan pizza type gas stacked oven, and 2-five gallon Vulcan commercial gas kettles.

The items will also be advertised on the Internet.

Young Magician Accepts Houdini’s Challenge

February 11, 2010
 Devon Owens

Illusionist Devon Owens is planning to follow in the footsteps of the world’s most famous magician, Harry Houdini. Devon will be performing at Tennessee Tech University on Feb 13th at the half time of both the Golden Eagles and the Lady Golden Eagles basketball games. The Women’s game begins at 5:30 and the Men’s Game begins at 7:30.

Greg, Devon’s father says, “He’s always looking for the next big challenge and he has now found that challenge.” At 13 years old, Devon will be attempting Houdini’s Strait Jacket Escape for the first time in front of an audience. “We’ve been rehearsing this at home for several weeks, but to put this in front of people will be a different bird all together.” Greg continues, “It took a lot of convincing as parents to buy him a strait jacket. No parent wants to see their kid struggle. Devon made me promise that I wouldn’t help him on the 13th; that’s going to be really hard for me.”

“The Tech crowd has lots of energy. I enjoyed performing there last year and I’m looking forward to returning,” says Devon. “I chose to do this escape because I wanted to see how hard it was and it is actually a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”

Devon is an award winning magician. One of his major awards includes the Youth Stage Magic Competition at the Winter Carnival of Magic in Pigeon Forge, TN against some of the best youth magicians in the country. He’s also a percussionist in the DeKalb County High School marching band. “I’ve been in the Band since 5th grade and have been performing magic since 3rd grade,” says Devon. “Music and Magic are a very big part of my life.”

According to Devon and Greg, the Strait Jacket escape is not a magic trick; it’s based strictly on skill. When Harry Houdini first took on the challenge of the strait jacket, he would go behind a curtain and several minutes later he would come out with the Strait Jacket in his hands. He would get a lukewarm response from his audience. It was then that Houdini’s brother, Theo, suggested he try the escape while the audience watched. That’s when the escape became a world-wide sensation. Devon will be escaping from a regulation strait jacket right in the middle of Tennessee Tech’s Hooper Eblen Center.

Tennessee Tech’s Director of Corporate Sales and Marketing, Misty Pearson said, “Our fans have been asking when we’re bringing the ‘little magician’ back. We’re excited to see Devon again this year. We’re all wondering what he’s going to pull out of his hat.” There will be no hat, but in addition to the Strait Jacket escape, Devon will be performing The Metamorphosis, which is the illusion that made Harry Houdini famous.

You can find out more about Devon and even become a fan on Facebook at www.MagicOfDevon.com.

Man Gets Six Year Sentence for Sexual Exploitation of Minor

February 11, 2010
Dwayne Page
Joseph Buck

A 60 year old man, allegedly involved in the distribution of child pornography, recently received a six year sentence after pleading guilty by information in criminal court to a charge of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.

Joseph Buck was accused of knowingly possessing less than 25 images with intent to promote, sell, distribute, transport, or exchange material which includes a minor engaging in sexual activity or simulated sexual activity.

In addition to the six year sentence, Buck is under lifetime community monitoring and shall not possess any computer which is capable of accessing the Internet.

Only One "Snow Day" left for DeKalb School System

February 11, 2010
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County School System is about to run out of "snow days".

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby says only one "snow day" remains to be used and any further days missed would have to be made up somewhere.

Eleven days are built into the school calendar each year for "snow days" or inclement weather and two days are included for so called "stockpile" or professional development days. On the stock pile days, students do not attend. One of the stockpile days has already been used and the other is scheduled for Friday, March 5th. Willoughby says the school board could elect to have school on the remaining stockpile day, if necessary.

If more than two days are missed, the board would have to decide how to make them up.

State law requires students to be in school a certain number of days each year.

The remaining school calendar calls for students to be off again for President's Day, Monday, February 15th and spring break March 29th to April 2nd

Students will not attend on Friday, May 21. That will be an administrative day and all teachers must attend.. The last day of school will be Saturday, May 22nd. That will be an abbreviated school day and report cards will be sent home.

Mantz Gets Eight Year Sentence on Drug Charges

February 9, 2010
Dwayne Page
Joseph Mantz Jr

51 year old Joseph Mantz,Jr. received a total sentence of eight years in the Tennessee Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to a total of eleven drug charges in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Monday.

Judge Leon Burns Jr. presided.

Mantz entered a plea to four counts of sale of a schedule II drug and he received three years in each case; four counts of delivery of a controlled substance with a three year sentence in each case; one count of sale of a schedule III drug and a two year sentence; and two counts of delivery of a schedule III controlled substance with a two year sentence in each case. Most of the sentences run concurrently but three counts run consecutively for a total of eight years.

In other cases, Mantz's wife, 47 year old Mary L. Mantz received a total sentence of eight years, suspended to probation supervised by community corrections after pleading guilty to ten drug charges. Mantz entered a plea to three counts of sale of a schedule II drug and received a three year sentence in each case; three counts of delivery of a controlled substance with a three year sentence in each case; two counts of sale of a schedule III drug and a two year sentence in each case; and two counts of delivery of a schedule III controlled substance with a two year sentence in each case. Most of the sentences are to run concurrently but three counts will run consecutively.

33 year old Christopher E. Young pleaded guilty to theft of property under $500 and a second offense of driving under the influence. He received a sentence in each case of 11 months and 29 days to run consecutively. The sentence is to be suspended except for 45 days to serve. He will lose his drivers license for two years. Young must also pay a $610 fine, and complete the alcohol safety education program. He was given jail credit of twenty days of time served.

41 year old Donna Estes pleaded guilty to a worthless check charge. She received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended to supervised probation to run concurrently with another criminal court sentence against her. Estes must pay $75 to the economic crime fund, perform 10 hours of community service work, and make restitution of $71.78 to Food Lion.

30 year old Brandon Loader pleaded guilty to a fourth offense of driving under the influence. He received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation except for 150 days to serve. Loader will lose his drivers license for five years and he must complete the alcohol safety education program and pay a fine of $3,015. He is also under an order classifying him an habitual motor vehicle offender, with three or more requisite convictions within a ten year period. This order means he has lost his driving privileges for at least three years and must petition the court in order to have them restored.

44 year old Ricky Estes entered a no contest plea to theft over $1,000 and received a three year sentence to be on probation except for one year to serve. He must make restitution in the amount of $385 to one victim and $75 to another. Estes also pleaded guilty to a fifth offense of driving under the influence and received a one year sentence. He must pay a $3,000 fine in that case. Estes was also found to be an habitual traffic offender and received a one year sentence.. All the sentences are to run concurrently and Estes was given jail credit of 260 days.

43 year old Eddie Leroy Taylor pleaded guilty to five counts of passing a forged instrument and received a two year sentence in each case to serve in the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The sentences are to run consecutively for a total of ten years but concurrently with other cases against him in DeKalb, Rutherford, and Warren Counties. He was given jail credit of 398 days.

30 year old Robert Paul Brawley pleaded guilty to theft over $1,000 and possession of drug paraphernalia. He received a four year sentence in the theft case, to be released on probation after being given credit for time served. Brawley received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on the drug paraphernalia charge, also to be released on probation.

30 year old Ken W. Bly was found to be an habitual motor vehicle offender, with three or more requisite convictions within a ten year period. This order means he has lost his driving privileges for at least three years and must petition the court in order to have them restored.

Harold Blackwell pleaded guilty to violation of probation, was given credit for time served, and released back on probation.

Philando Darnell Fullilove was found in violation of probation after a hearing and ordered to serve the balance of an eight year sentence.

Rodney Hugo Gora pleaded guilty to a violation of probation and was ordered to serve the balance of a sentence

Mark George Koch pleaded guilty to a violation of probation, was ordered to serve ten days, and then he will be released back on probation.

Patsy Estes McCoy pleaded guilty to two counts of violation of probation and was ordered to serve one year in each case.

Billy Paul Mooneyham pleaded guilty to a violation of probation and must serve 45 days.

Mark Randall Robinson was found in violation of judicial diversion after a hearing and a sentencing hearing will be held for him on March 22nd.

Stephanie L. Vanatta pleaded guilty to a violation of probation and she must serve the balance of a four year sentence.

The LOOP- A Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

February 7, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Greetings! The 106th General Assembly was presented with the proposed 2010-2011 state budget this week, as the Governor addressed a joint convention on Monday night. Overall, the proposal includes a 5 to 6 percent decrease in the budget total, with roughly $200 million being used from both the Rainy Day Fund and the TennCare reserve fund.

In the coming weeks as budget hearings begin in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee, I will be going over this 612 page “budget book” the same way I did for last year’s budget line by line with my highlighter. I remain committed to fully discussing the budget over the coming weeks as I learn more about the details.

Priorities protected
The Department of Safety had originally prepared to cut state troopers in 13 rural counties, but the proposed budget includes a driver’s license renewal fee increase intended to avoid those layoffs and pay for new radio equipment for the state troopers. Currently, it costs $19.50 every five years to renew a Tennessee driver’s license. The proposal increases that fee to $46 every eight years, which state officials say will make the process more efficient. The driver’s license renewal fee has not been increased since 1988.

The Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System was not on the chopping block, as the system will receive an infusion of $82 million to shore up the fund. K-12 also escaped major cuts, with the proposal protecting BEP funding and even includes $47 million in growth. K-12 capital projects were cut, as were many capital projects across the state. However, money will not leave the classrooms in the budget as proposed.

In addition, the state will mostly avoid mass layoffs and the budget as proposed includes a one-time bonus of 3 percent for state employees. The Governor did outline a plan to eliminate 456 unfilled positions in order to save money. I have some concerns over some of the items in the budget and I will continue to thoroughly look through each of these expenditures.

Recurring Reductions
I have always believed that our state government should be run like a family budget – live within your means. Because our revenue intake continues to drop we must be careful not to spend more than we take in and bust the Copeland Cap. The Governor addressed this Monday night; however, actions do speak louder than words. Tennesseans are tightening their belt and so must the state government. With the state in its 20th straight month of revenue decline—a record—some reductions are inevitable. They include:
$200 million in recurring reductions in TennCare;
$64 million reduction in higher education;
$20 million recurring reductions in K-12 capital projects; and
$16 million in recurring Child Services

Technical Corrections Bill

The technical corrections bill originates in the Department of Revenue and proposes revenue increases through specific changes to the Tennessee Code. This year, the legislation includes a tax on real estate investment trusts, and an increase in the cable tax, totaling $49.8 million among a few other smaller proposals.

The first $15 of cable TV service is currently taxed at 8.25 percent, with the rest being exempt. On the other hand, satellite TV is taxed at 8.25 percent, but without the $15 exemption. The technical corrections bill proposes to tax an entire cable TV bill at 8.25 percent, bringing it in line with satellite service. In addition, cable providers will be charged a new tax on equipment such as cable boxes. Members have expressed concern that this equipment tax will be passed on to the consumer.

Secret Ballot Protection Act dies in subcommittee
The “Secret Ballot Protection Act” appeared in the Employee Affairs Subcommittee this week. The proposal defines the denial of secret-ballot elections as an unfair labor practice. It also establishes penalties (class C misdemeanor) and civil remedies for violation.

The bill is a remedy for “card check,” which has been proposed in Congress. Card check would require unionization ballots to be public, so that unions could see if a worker voted for or against unionization. Currently, the vote on whether to unionize is a secret ballot, which protects workers from undue harassment by union leaders. The Secret Ballot Protection Act would declare that those votes remain private in order to protect workers.

The sponsor argued that voting is sacred whether it is in the voting booth or the workplace, and that the bill is consistent with the state’s Constitution in guaranteeing ballot secrecy. Ultimately, however, the bill failed along party lines.

House to vote next week on veto-override of menu-labeling measure
A bill that would have barred some local entities from requiring nutritional labeling on menus passed both the House and Senate last year, but was then vetoed by the Governor. The legislation was filed as several states, municipalities and cities began considering laws that mandated chain restaurants put calories and other nutritional information on menus.

Last year, many of us were concerned that mandating chain restaurants to put certain nutritional information on menus places an unnecessary burden on restaurant owners in an already struggling economy and creates an atmosphere that is unfriendly to business owners. We also said that often, the laws are selective, targeting only large restaurant chains. In addition, if every city enacted something different, large or even medium sized companies would have difficulty in following the law properly.

The legislation was amended to prohibit non-elected bodies from making the decision to require nutritional information on menus. It also specifies that if the federal government passes legislation requiring menu labeling and the federal action specifically authorizes state departments to enforce such action, then the Tennessee Department of Health will be the department that is primarily responsible for the implementation and supervision of the new requirements. The more we allow government to rule over our day to day life, in instances such as this, our individual freedom becomes not only threatened but non-existent.

The Senate has already voted on the veto override, with a vote of 24- to 7. The House is expected to take up the veto override next week.

The Week Ahead…
Next week I will be moving full steam ahead with two of my bills: HB 3628 concerning workman’s compensation and HB 3627 which deals with rural roads and bridges. House Bill 3627 will be discussed in the Rural Roads a sub- committee of Transportation. I will be working hard with the Caucus on both sides of the aisle to ensure this bill pulls through intact. Being a staunch supporter of rural Tennessee when it comes to our bridges and roads I consider the infrastructure to be vital to our district in not only creating jobs but retaining them as well. I am a strong voice for rural Tennessee which comprises most of our state. Ensuring that we receive equal recognition from our local government that our larger cities obtain effortlessly is one of my main goals. It is an honor to serve you, the 40th district.


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