Tennessee Legislative Update From the Eagle Forum April 9, 2017

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).


United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs. Patrick Henry


I Timothy 2:1-2 – “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” We have a responsibility and a duty to pray for our leaders.


This week was homeschool day on the hill, and as a homeschooler it was nice seeing kids around the plaza. It must have made an impact on the legislators to see young children doing their homework, and taking cookies to their offices. It’s easy to talk about legislation that impacts the homeschool community, but it’s a whole other story when you can look them in the eyes and tell them what you’re doing to help. Mrs. Bobbie told me we have officially entered the part of the session where legislators are so busy, they have to be in three places at once.


The committees and subcommittees are coming down to their last calendars and meetings which has caused the already hectic legislature to get even crazier. In the Finance subcommittee, HB534 or the gas tax bill came up and unfortunately passed to full Finance committee. At 2:00 we arrived in the Senate Education committee to watch what would happen to SB635, Sen. Gardenhire’s bill on instate tuition that includes illegal aliens. This also happened to be the last meeting for the Senate Education committee so no matter what they were going to get through all their bills. To my dismay SB635 passed to Senate Calendar Committee 4 hours after the committee started.

A number of important legislative issues are coming to a head. We can either be a member of the ‘gee ain’t it awful, hand wringing club” or we can be a part of the solution.  Being part of the solution means letting the legislators hear from you.  Your help has NEVER been needed as much as it is now in these waning days of the 2017 session.  Remember, every day at the Plaza there are numerous people and groups working to support the bills that we oppose.  If we don’t act, we don’t win. PLEASE be faithful!!


SB 1014 by *Gardenhire, (HB 0863) by *White M
Education – As introduced, exempts certain students from payment of out-of-state tuition at state institutions of higher education

First a comment about both of these bills.  The men and women whom we elect to go to the Capitol to represent their constituents and do the business of the state, have had, as a part of their duties,  a voice in governing of the tuition fees process for higher education.  Both these bills remove that legislative oversight and leave the institutions with the authority to decide who gets instate tuition. In addition, these bills are much broader than the bill that was previously defeated:

Gardenhire and White Broaden Scope of In-State Tuition Bill to Cover More Illegal Immigrant Students, Including ‘Unaccompanied Alien Children’ .

This fiscal note on SB1014 clearly states: “Exempts undocumented students from paying out-of-state tuition at a state institution of higher education, at the discretion of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), the state university governing boards, or the University of Tennessee (UT) board of trustees.”

STATUS:  SB1014 is still just sitting in Senate Finance, but HB863 is in Education Administration & Planning on Tuesday.

ACTION:  It MUST be STOPPED in this committee. Please don’t let a day go by with calling and leaving a message or sending an email to the members of this committee.

Providing In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens: A Violation of Federal Law.

SB 0635 by *Gardenhire, (HB 0660) by *White M

Education, Higher – As introduced, authorizes the governing body of each public institution of higher education to determine the qualifications that students must possess to be eligible for payment of in-state tuition

STATUS: I am pleased to report that when HB660 was heard in the Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee, sponsor Rep. Mark White, listening to his colleagues and the public, amended it to REMOVE the section that would have allowed ILLEGAL ALIENS to receive instate tuition. It is in Education Administration & Planning on Tuesday and we will be watching it carefully as it continues through the process.

Unfortunately SB635 was voted out of Senate Education on Wednesday 5-1-1: Senators voting aye were: Dickerson, Gardenhire, Gresham, Haile, Tate — 5, Senators voting no were: Hensley — 1,Senators present and not voting were: Kelsey — 1. and is now sitting in the Senate Calendar Committee. Sen. Gardenhire did not mention the House action and DID NOT remove Section 5 in the senate companion. This bill is UNACCEPTABLE unless Section 5 is removed.  The next step is the Senate floor. We will keep you posted.

In-State College Tuition for Illegal Immigrant Students No Guarantee for Future Employment


SB 1221 by *Norris,  (HB 0534) by *Casada,Doss, Dunn, Sargent, Swann, McDaniel, Whitson, White M, Marsh
Gas, Petroleum Products, Volatile Oils – As introduced, changes from July 20 to July 25 the date by which a commercial user of a vehicle propelled by liquefied gas or compressed natural gas must submit the annual report of miles traveled and tax due.

NOTE: This was the “Caption” bill that, with an amendment, was to become the IMPROVE Act, a.k.a, the Governor’s bill.

STATUS: Well, this “IMPROVE ACT”  situation gets more and more interesting as, after all this time, debate, and anguish, there is now going to be yet another proposal put on the table (see articles below).

SB1221 was amended in State and Local  on March 21 with the tax cuts being emphasized by the sponsor. It is in the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee on Tuesday.

HB534 was in Finance Ways and Means Subcommittee this week.  Before the committee took up this bill, they took up HB169 which was amended to remove the veterans and the elderly tax breaks from the gas tax bill so these benefits could not be held hostage as some have observed. You can go HERE and click on Amendments to read the text of the 11-page amendment.

Then the committee spent the next hour on HB534.  You can see the debate HERE. Rep. Barry Doss suggested a name change from the IMPROVE ACT to the ‘Tax Cut Act of 2017’. As it stands now the gas tax would be raised over three years to 6 cents and it would raise the diesel tax 10 cents over three years. The bill names 962 projects that would be scheduled for repair and various tax cuts.

HB534 is in the Finance, Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday.

ACTION: Now it the time to let the legislators on these committees hear from you on this important legislation.

Speaker Harwell Says She Will Have a Road Funding Plan That Does Not Raise The Gas Tax .

House leadership still working on alternative to gas tax plan .


SJR 0092 by *Jackson , Harris
Constitutional Conventions – Makes application to Congress for the purpose of calling a constitutional convention for proposing a congressional term limit amendment.

Former TN GOP chairmen Bob Davis (who lobbied for the National Popular Vote Compact last year) and Chris DeVaney have been lobbying hard on this proposal. This is a bad idea on two counts.  We don’t need yet another call for an Article V Constitutional Convention and we certainly don’t need term limits.

  1. We have ‘term limits’, they are called “elections”, every two, four, and six years. Just because voters are derelict in their duty, does not mean we must change our process.
  2. ‘Artificial’ term limits means giving the bureaucracy a LOT more power, in that institutional memory and experience is no longer available.
  3. Voters are prohibited from voting for the person they believe is best for that office.
  4. We all know that in the last term any official serves, without re-election on the horizon, there is no longer the accountability that was once there.
  5. This would also interfere with legislators gaining seniority to gain committee chairmanships and leadership positions.
  6. This would prevent legislators from gaining the experience they need to become skilled lawmakers.
  7. Gives Lobbyists more influence.

In his presidential farewell address in 1989, Reagan rightly pointed out that term limits are “a preemption of the people’s right to vote for whomever they want as many times as they want.”

Enough already with the foolish push for term limits

STATUS: SJR94 is in Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

ACTION:  Please contact every member of this committee and urge them not to go down this road.


SB 1180 by *Hensley,(HB 1189) by *Hill M,, Matlock, Byrd, Lynn, Terry, Rudd, Eldridge, Weaver, Butt, Goins
Abortion – As introduced, enacts the “Tennessee Infants Protection Act,” which prohibits abortion of a viable fetus except in a medical emergency and requires testing to determine viability if a woman is at least 20 weeks pregnant.

STATUS: SB1180 will be in Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday; HB1189 will  Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee on Wednesday.

ACTION:  Please urge the members of both committees to vote for this important legislation.


SB 0816 by *Green , Bell, Hensley, Beavers, Bowling, Ketron, Kelsey, Stevens.
(HB 1366) by *Matheny,Holt, Rogers, Moody, Pody, VanHuss, Carter, Ragan, Faison, Reedy, Hill T, Hill M, Rudd, Butt, Weaver, Matlock, Gant, Sexton J, Sparks, Kumar, Terry, Byrd, Powers, Eldridge

Criminal Offenses – As introduced, gives immunity from civil or criminal liability to a person for making a report to law enforcement of suspicious activity or behavior if the report is based on articulable suspicion

The bill would provide (1) that individuals who report suspicious, potentially criminal or terrorist activity in good faith cannot be sued as a consequence, and (2) the intentional making of a report known to be false, or a report made with reckless disregard for the truth of the report it not protected. When it comes to suspicious, potentially criminal or terrorist activity, Americans are encouraged to, “report suspicious activity.” But before they do so, they have a right to know that they won’t be sued for their efforts. Similar legislation has passed in New York and Mississippi.

STATUS:  Thrilled to tell you that SB816 passed the floor of the Senate Monday evening 31-0 and will now be engrossed and sent to the Governor for his signature.  TN was the third state in the nation to pass this important legislation.  Hopefully more states will follow suit.

And if you have been under a rock for the past 24 hours:

President Trump nominates Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green for Army secretary

, USA TODAY 5:03 p.m. ET April 7, 2017
WASHINGTON — President Trump has nominated Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green to become secretary of the Army.

The White House made the announcement Friday.

Green is a former Army officer and West Point graduate who is popular among many Tea Party-aligned Republicans. His nomination still must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The Tennessean first reported Green as a finalist for the position last month, and some expected an announcement when Trump visited Nashville for a rally in March. Green spoke at the Municipal Auditorium event with other lawmakers and leaders, but no announcement was made. His remarks referenced additional funding and resources Trump has suggested he wants to provide to the military.

Senate eyes recess while House tussels with taxes


State Senate leaders are considering a week’s recess in late April to let the House catch up in acting on legislation – most notably Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax package and the interrelated state budget for the next fiscal year.

And there’s more senatorial criticism of House Speaker Beth Harwell’s move to seek an alternative to the Haslam plan that does not include a gas tax increase.

The budget cannot be approved until the fate of Haslam’s tax plans is decided. Senators expect to approve their latest version, including gas and diesel fuel tax hikes, in Finance Committee next week, clearing it for a floor vote. Harwell, on the other hand, says she wants to instead propose an alternative to the Haslam plan next week.

From the Times-Free Press:

“There’s a fine line between indecision and deception,” Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, told reporters when asked about (Harwell’s move).  “Next question.”

Asked to elaborate what deception he was referring to, Norris replied, “it’s hard to tell.”

(Note: Both Harwell and Norris are considering a run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination next year.)

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