FINAL Legislative Update, May 4, 2019

Tennessee General Assembly information, click HERE. For information on State Senators, including phone numbers and email addresses, click HERE; for House members, click HERE. For information on legislation, click HERE.
Don't forget that you can now watch the Senate committee meetings and floor sessions online by going HERE; House committee meetings and floor sessions online HERE.
Phone calls can go to the legislative Switchboard at 615-741-3011 or to the Toll Free number 1-800-449-8366+1 last four digits of office phone number (available online).
"The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone,it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave."  Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

Well, we can pray that all the tired legislators got home all right. We should pray for them as they resume a more normal life in their real jobs, with their families, etc. Sometimes this transition is a bit difficult and takes some real adjustment time.

POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE:  Today is my precious daughter's birthday and she is with us this weekend from Jacksonville Beach, FL.  Oh Happy day!!  We are so glad she is here. She is a a nurse at Wolfson's Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, has three children, Stephen, Caitlin and Jacob and has a grandson, Alexander. 

NOTE: It was such a joy and a huge blessing to have these two remarkable young women with me this session. I can hardly wait to see what God has for them in the future!!

What a session it has been! We accomplished so much, and it is so relieving to know that our FGM bill passed, and is now on its way to the Governor for his signature. My first day interning with Bobbie Patray was unbelievably exciting, and has continued to be throughout the session. The first thing I said after week one was, “The first day of the 111th General Assembly was chaotic, to say the least, and according to many legislators this session is going to be extremely interesting.” That couldn’t have been more of an understatement. This session has been CRAZY! However, it has been an opportunity unlike any other, and remarkably informative. I remember meeting with Mrs. Bobbie at ten years old, and wondering how I could possibly wait any longer to intern with her. I waited five years, and I have had so much fun the past four months. I have immense respect for Mrs. Bobbie, and her dedication to preserving family principles in our country! She is definitely a force to be reckoned with. I also enjoyed the time I had with all of the legislators, their staff, and even the causal conversations I had with the security guards downstairs. Every piece of advice and encouragement they gave me has unquestionably inspired me. So, if you are one of those people and are reading this, thank you! Overall, the experience and knowledge I gained during the 111th General Assembly was such a blessing, and I look forward to taking it with me all the way to my presidency, and beyond!

I am speechless. I have sat at my computer for the past hour trying to find words that could express my experience interning with Tennessee Eagle Forum this session, but I am unable to articulate all that I have seen during my time at the capitol. Child artist, Benjamin Saar, once said, “Some things don’t have words. It just... feels.” That is the only way for me to convey my feelings in regard to being able to follow Mrs. Bobbie the past five months. I learned things that were fascinating, but I also discovered things that I wish were not reality. If I could only share only one  thing I have learned while walking the halls of our state’s center, the following would be what I say: People will never  fully know what goes on behind the scenes. Citizens cannot omnisciently judge our lawmakers. Especially when they only see what happens within the legislative chambers and not what happens in secret. There is so much that I do not understand. There is so much the general public will never understand. However, despite what happens in politics we should pray that whether it is in confidential spaces or recorded on television, our lawmakers would act in a way that upholds the oath they made before God and their country. As I wrote my very first week at the capitol, we can look to the words of civil rights activist Ralph Abernathy who once said, “I don't know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future.” Thank you, Mrs. Bobbie, for an amazing session at the Tennessee State Capitol!

SB 0016 by *Dickerson, (HB 0001) by *Staples
Gambling - As introduced, authorizes sports betting in this state only in jurisdictions that approve sports betting by local option election; imposes a 10 percent tax on gaming revenue; distributes 40 percent of the tax to the general fund for general appropriations, 30 percent to Tennessee colleges of applied technologies and community colleges for equipment and capital projects, and 30 percent to local governments for education and infrastructure; establishes the Tennessee gaming commission to regulate sports betting; authorizes the commission to collaborate with the Tennessee bureau of investigation for purposes of enforcement.

Passed House, as am., Ayes 58, Nays 37, PNV 2, 04/24/2019.
Passed Senate as amended, Ayes 20, Nays 12    04/30/2019 . Senators voting aye were: Akbari, Briggs, Dickerson, Gardenhire, Gilmore, Gresham, Jackson, Johnson, Kelsey, Kyle, Massey, Niceley, Powers, Roberts, Robinson, Stevens, Swann, Watson, Yager, Yarbro, Senators voting no were: Bailey, Bell, Bowling, Crowe, Haile, Hensley, Pody, Reeves, Rose, Southerland, White, Mr. Speaker McNally.
The Senate placed three amendments on it and it went back to the House. Unfortunately,the House concurred in S. am. no. 2,3, & 4 Ayes 51, Nays 40 PNV 3 HB0001, 04/30/2019

Reps. voting aye were: Beck, Bricken, Calfee, Camper, Carr, Chism, Clemmons, Cooper, Curcio, Dixie, Eldridge, Faison, Farmer, Freeman, Griffey, Hakeem, Hardaway, Helton, Hicks, Hodges, Holsclaw, Hulsey, Jernigan, Johnson C, Johnson G, Kumar, Lafferty, Lamar, Littleton, Love, Marsh, Miller, Mitchell, Moon, Parkinson, Potts, Powell, Ramsey, Rudder, Sanderson, Sexton C, Smith, Staples, Thompson, Tillis, Towns, Travis, Vaughan, Whitson, Williams, Mr. Speaker Casada ,
Reps. voting no were: Baum, Boyd, Byrd, Carter, Cepicky, Cochran, Coley, Crawford, DeBerry, Doggett, Dunn, Gant, Halford, Hall, Haston, Hawk, Hazlewood, Hill M, Hill T, Holt, Howell, Hurt, Keisling, Lamberth, Leatherwood, Lynn, Moody, Ogles, Ragan, Reedy, Rudd, Sexton J, Sherrell, Sparks, Stewart, Todd, Van Huss, Weaver, Windle, Zachary.
Reps. present and not voting were: Garrett, Powers, White.

Our decisions aren't just isolated choices. Our decisions point our lives (or our state) in the directions we're about to head. We need to know where the decisions will take us and make sure that is where we really want to go. 
Unfortunately and VERY SADLY, our lawmakers chose a decision that I believe will take us down a path we cannot even begin to fathom.  We started down this path when the legislature passed the Fantasy Sports Leagues bill and the Governor signed it. Then came the big, very funded, push for the Sports Gambling bill. 

The response among so many Tennesseans to the passage of this terrible legislation has been very negative including significant push back on conservative Talk Radio.  From what I can see and what I am hearing, the disappointment at its passage has exploded on Social Media and  concern is being expressed at the fact that the Governor has chosen to allow it to become law without his signature instead of choosing to VETO it to make a statement, especially in view of his position in October 2018.   Tennessee governor to allow sports betting to become law without signature .
Despite Misgivings, Gov. Bill Lee Plans To Allow Sports Gambling In Tennessee . "I hope to God that Gov. Bill Lee will veto this bill if does pass," Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, said during a House floor debate last week. "I'm asking him to do that right here in front of everybody." I understand that others are making this call.

At this point, I really don't know what to say about it except to repeat that I believe that the passage of this legislation will open the flood gates for other types of legal gambling in our state and will be used to justify additional types of state-sanctioned gambling.

I do want to thank my good friend, Rev. Skip Armistead for all the work and research he did trying to stop this travesty.  He provided resource material to lawmakers and testified against the bill in every committee in which it was heard. Some of his material was used by a couple of lawmakers in both the House and Senate debates.

SB 0795 by *Johnson, Gresham, (HB 0939) by *Lamberth, Dunn
Education - As introduced, extends, from 10 days to 30 days, the period of time after a local board of education orders a student's school assignment within which a parent, guardian, or legal representative may apply to the board for a hearing to challenge the reasonableness of the student's assignment and to request the student's transfer to another school,
Well, to say that the ESA bill was hotly debated is a real understatement. If my counts are right, it was re-written three times in the House and at least twice in the Senate.  Still, they could not come to an agreement. Finally the proposals went to a Conference Committee where it was re-written yet again and, for better or worse, the Report passed in both chambers. Conference Committee report adopted in the Senate, Ayes 19, Nays 14,05/01/2019 ;Conf. comm. report adopted in the House, Ayes 51, Nays 46 PNV 0 05/01/2019.
School voucher program could total more than $330M by 2024 but not all with new money, analysis shows .
Public School Principal May Have Violated Tennessee Law By Pressuring Teachers to Lobby Against School Vouchers .
Maury County Schools Formally Oppose School Vouchers, Rutherford County Officials Formally Oppose School Vouchers, Metro Nashville School Board Passes Resolution Opposing School Vouchers, Jackson-Madison County School Board Members Oppose School Vouchers, and other schools.
Tennessee lawmakers narrowly send voucher bill to Gov. Lee .

SB 0173 by *Swann, (HB 0164) by *Holsclaw
Traffic Safety - As introduced, expands the current offense for talking on handheld devices while driving within marked school zones to talking on such devices on any road, highway, or street
STATUS:  This hotly debated bill was re-written.  On the 17th, it passed the House 53-38-4; on April 30th, it passed the Senate 23-7-1.  Be forewarned and don't get caught after July 1, 2019.
Tennessee bill banning driver use of handheld cellphones heads to Gov. Bill Lee .


SB 1243 by *Gresham,  (HB 1016) by *Weaver
Local Education Agencies - As introduced, requires students to pass a civics test to receive a full diploma upon graduation from high school; requires LEAs to include all 100 questions from the United States civics test, instead of only 25 to 50 questions, on the civics test prepared by the LEA; increases from 70 to 75 the percentage of questions a student must correctly answer to pass the civics test. As amended, Passed House, as am., Ayes 77, Nays 15, PNV 3  04/22/2019; Passed Senate as amended, Ayes 30, Nays 0    04/30/2019

SB 1428 by *Bailey, (HB 1280) by *Hill T 
TennCare - As introduced, directs the governor, through the commissioner of finance and administration, to submit a waiver amendment to the centers for medicare and medicaid services to provide TennCare II funding by means of a block grant indexed for inflation and population growth.
The Senate and the House could not agree on the language for this complicated and much debated bill.  Finally it went to a Conference Committee.Conference Committee report adopted in the Senate, Ayes 26, Nays 6 - 05/02/2019; Conference Committee report adopted in the House, Ayes 63, Nays 19, PNV 1.
Tennessee lawmakers pass controversial TennCare block grant bill, adjourn for year .


SB 0360 by *Southerland (HB 1284) by *Reedy
Tobacco, Tobacco Products - As introduced, expands the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco and Vapor Products Act and other laws concerning juveniles' access to tobacco and vaping products for smoking. Passed House, Ayes 84, Nays 8, PNV 0 04/23/2019; Passed Senate as amended, Ayes 32, Nays 0 3/14/2019

SB1297 by *Pody (HB 1151) by *Ragan, Griffey, Sherrell
Criminal Offenses - As introduced, expands the offense of indecent exposure to include incidents occurring in a restroom, locker room, dressing room, or shower, designated for single-sex, multi-person use, if the offender is a member of the opposite sex than the sex designated for use. As amended, Passed House, as am., Ayes 69, Nays 25, PNV 0 04/08/2019; Passed Senate, Ayes 21, Nays 5 04/30/2019; Signed by Governor. 05/02/2019

SB 0398 by *Kelsey,  (HB 1262)by *Holt
Taxes - As introduced, clarifies that the commissioner of revenue's annual report on tax laws of other states is to be transmitted to the chief clerks of the senate and house of representatives and to the legislative librarian; authorizes the report to be transmitted electronically.  As amended, Passed Senate, Ayes 32, Nays 0   05/01/2019; Passed House, as am., Ayes 84, Nays 0, PNV 10 05/01/2019 
$22M tax break for 15 professions heads to Tennessee gov .

SB 1304 by *Rose (HB 0836) by *Rudd
Adoption - As introduced, prohibits a private licensed child-placing agency from being required to perform, assist, consent to, refer, or participate in any child placement for foster care or adoption that would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions
AMENDMENT #1 removes rulemaking authorization for the department of children's services from this bill and limits the provisions of this bill that prohibit government action against private licensed child-placing agencies based on acts and omissions that violate such agencies' convictions or policies so that such provisions will only apply to the extent allowed by federal law.Passed House 4/1/2019 Ayes 67, Noes 22, PNV 3; Senate Reset on first calendar of 2020  04/30/2019

SB 1499 by *Hensley (HB 1274) by *Holt
Attorney General and Reporter - As introduced, expands the attorney general and reporter's duties to include representation of an LEA or certain LEA employees in a court or administrative tribunal arising out of the adoption of a policy requiring students, faculty, and staff to utilize the restroom, locker room, or other facility that corresponds to that individual's biological sex. As amended, Passed House, as am., Ayes 72, Nays 23, PNV 1, 04/30/2019; In the Senate, Re-refer to Senate State & Local Govt. Comm.    05/01/2019

Rep. Ryan Williams was appointed as chairman of the Education Administration Subcommittee, replacing Rep. David Byrd. 
The Senate introduced 1551 bills and 640 Senate Joint Resolutions.
The House introduced 1543 bills and 655 House Joint Resolutions.
We are grateful that the Governor signed our FGM bill on April 30.


Democrats Violated the State Constitution and House Rules When They Walked out of the House Chambers .
Tennessee Lawsuit Relies on the U.S. Constitution’s New ‘Dignity Clause’ .   
House, Senate reach deal and pass $38.5 billion budget .
Lawmakers find agreement in bill drafted and passed by legislative intern .
Gov. Bill Lee signs new Tennessee law that punishes voter signup missteps; lawsuit filed .
Titans issue statement against anti-LGBT legislation during NFL Draft Day 3 .
Here's your guide to what happened to the bills pro-LGBT advocates called a 'slate of hate'

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