Legislative Update from State Senator Mae Beavers

June 15, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page
State Senator Mae Beavers

The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers.

Session finally came to a close last week as the state was able to pass a budget and conclude its business. The budget process consisted of weeks of negotiations, mainly with Senate Republicans attempting to pass a responsible budget against the will of many House Democrat and Republican leaders.

After passing a conservative budget out of the Senate Finance Committee, Senate leaders were constrained by members of the State House in what spending they could cut to balance the budget, and negotiations with House leaders allowed numerous pork projects to be included into the budget, in addition to raiding Tennessee’s “Rainy Day” savings account by hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I applaud the Senate for attempting to pass a conservative budget during these hard economic times,” said Senator Beavers. “However, due to certain House members’ wish lists when it came to pork projects that are not affordable during these times, in addition to spending hundreds of millions of dollars from our rainy day fund, I had to vote against this budget. It’s a shame that House members would rather spend, spend, spend and borrow, borrow, borrow rather than operate within our means. My family operates in a pay-as-you go fashion…and the state of Tennessee needs to do the same.”

Senator Beavers Proud to Have Passed Tennessee Health Freedom Act Twice this Session – Discouraged with the State House for Refusing to Protect Tennesseans from Obamacare

On Friday, June 4th, Senate leaders enacted a procedural method that revived the Tennessee Health Freedom Act. The original Health Freedom Act, SB 3498, was sponsored by Senator Beavers and passed the Senate Floor overwhelmingly last February. Yet, due to parliamentary maneuvers and side-deals being struck by House members and the House Speaker, that bill was killed last week in a budget subcommittee.

“The House Speaker cast a tie-breaking vote to kill that bill in committee last week,” said Senator Beavers. “The House committee then decided to pass out a similar, but substantially weaker bill to cover their tracks; however, all of the members knew that bill had not moved in the Senate. Their attempt to only advance the version that was dead in the Senate was their attempt to kill the Tennessee Health Freedom Act.”

The legislature was then left with a predicament in that there were two different versions of a bill that sought to protect Tennesseans from unconstitutional provisions of the national healthcare bill; however, both of their companion bills were stalled in the opposite legislative chamber. Therefore, SB 2560 was recalled from committee and brought straight to the Senate Floor. The only way the Senate agreed to recall the bill was to have an amendment that would put Beavers’ version of the Tennessee Health Freedom Act onto the bill since that was the only amendment that had been through the Senate committee process. If the Senate had not adopted that version of the bill, the bill would have been dead.

“This was an unusual procedural motion,” acknowledged Senator Beavers. “However the difference between this motion and others that have failed in the past is that this amendment has been vetted in committee and passed overwhelmingly in February. To me, it’s not a question of politics, it’s a matter of policy and principle…the Tennessee legislature needs to send a firm message to Washington that we do not agree with their unprecedented and unconstitutional national healthcare legislation. My amendment protected Tennesseans from the federal government, the other bill only said that the state legislature could not impose mandatory healthcare – which is irrelevant because it’s the federal government, not the state, who will impose such a mandate.”

Then, after passing the Senate overwhelming for the second time, the Tennessee Health Freedom Act failed to receive the necessary 50 votes to pass in its final form in the House of Representatives.

“I was incredibly discouraged that House Democrats voted to kill this bill,” said Senator Beavers. “The Senate did every maneuver we could to resurrect this bill - even passing the Tennessee Health Freedom Act once in February and then again last week.”

Many Democrats cited the reason for their vote being that Tennessee's Attorney General said it was likely unconstitutional, yet Senator Beavers argued that such a statement was merely his opinion. "The only way you could say that my bill is unconstitutional would be if you believe Obamacare is constitutional – and the State Senate said loud and clear that we do not think it is…it’s the Attorney General's job to defend the policies of this state, and there is no way that an unconstitutional federal law should trump a constitutional state law!"

To read about the different versions of Tennessee Health Freedom Act (SB3498 and SB2622), you can visit http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/106/Amend/SA0829.pdf; http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/106/Bill/HB2622.pdf; and the compromise reached: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/106/CCRReports/CC0027.pdf

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