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.