A Look at the Tennessee Legislature

April 23, 2011
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:

General Assembly Fights Tennessee’s Meth Problem

In a strong bipartisan move, the House approved HB 457—legislation that cracks down on derivatives of the deadly drug meth otherwise known as "bath salts" or "plant foods."

A wave of illicit drug production and illegal use has swept through parts of Tennessee where countless residents have been rushed to the hospital from the adverse effects of the drug. Various news outlets have even reported on many deaths directly linked to the rise in drug use associated with these ingredients.

The Speaker of the House congratulated the bill sponsor and remarked, “Concerned constituents brought this issue to our attention, and it has been a top priority for our Majority.”

After passage of the legislation, the author of the legislation said, “I’m proud to have the unanimous support of my colleagues on this important issue.” He concluded, “Families in my district and across the State are being torn apart because of drug abuse. We cannot let this continue. I believe passage of this legislation moves us in the right direction for combating meth production in Tennessee. But we must do more. I will continue working with Members of the General Assembly to end the emotional toll and physical destruction meth is having on the lives of Tennesseans.”

Governor Announces Jobs4TN Plan

This week, the Governor and Economic and Community Development Commissioner (ECD) announced the Jobs4TN plan, which lays out the Administration’s economic development strategy resulting from a top-to-bottom review of the department. The plan is consistent with the principles laid out by the Leadership of the General Assembly and implores unique initiatives to pave the way for job creation in Tennessee. The plan focuses on: Prioritizing the strategic recruitment of target industries; assisting existing Tennessee businesses in expansions and remaining competitive; supporting regional and rural economic development strategies; As well as investing in innovation and reducing business regulation.

“My top priority is for Tennessee to be the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs,” said the Governor. “Our Jobs4TN plan is a blueprint for doing just that. By leveraging our existing assets in each region, we will be able to attract new businesses to the State while helping our existing businesses expand and remain competitive. We will also be making significant investments in innovation to position Tennessee as a national leader well into the future.”

The plan was developed over a 45-day period and involved interviews with more than 300 stakeholders, community leaders, and national experts as well as through seven roundtables across Tennessee that were hosted by Legislators.

House Leadership applauded the plan and noted, “Our Majority laid out a clear vision for reducing regulations and passing common sense reforms to encourage job growth throughout Tennessee. This plan is an innovative blueprint that respects the unique aspects each region brings to the table and seeks out companies that will partner with those areas. The Governor and this Majority, once more, prove we are committed to economic development in this State.”

House Judiciary Committee Advances Common Sense Tort Reform Measure
Declaring he wants to “make Tennessee the most business-friendly state," the Member responsible for guiding tort reforms through the House won approval of the critical pro-business measure this week in the Judiciary Committee.
Essentially, the legislation caps "non-economic" damage awards at $750,000 and at $1 million in cases where victims suffer certain catastrophic injuries like the loss of two or more limbs. The bill also caps punitive damages meant to punish accidental negligence by businesses or individuals. Awards for injuries that can be quantified, such as medical care, rehabilitation, or loss of income, are not capped.

The bill is a central focus of the General Assembly’s legislative agenda. Proponents of the legislation believe these reforms will bring stability to the legal environment companies have to account for when considering relocation to Tennessee or doing business here.

On numerous occasions, the Majority Leader has talked about the fact this reform will drastically improve the business prospects for Tennessee. “Leveling the playing field so Tennessee is more competitive with other States in the region is the smart thing to do for our citizens,” he said recently.

House Bill 1085

On Tuesday I regretfully took House Bill 1085 off notice. Why? Because I did not have the votes to pass it out of the committee. However, I was able to address the committee and here is a copy of the text.

“I am taking HB1085 off notice and I am not happy about it! Nor will the legal citizens of this state that pay taxes and vote be happy about it either. Unfortunately lobbyists, members of this committee and school superintendents do not see the value in knowing how much it cost the people who foot the bill- the taxpayers of this state.

This legislation was simple- all we were asking for was a number of how many illegal students there are in our school system and how much did it cost to educate them. I ask you this, how can we as legislators make informed decisions without adequate information?

People of Tennessee want illegal immigration dealt with. It’s breaking the people’s piggy banks and sending our schools into the red.

THE FACTS AS I KNOW THEM ARE THIS:

•In just Davidson County alone there are 12,000 illegal students in the public school system. Add to that the cost of the dual language programs that they provide, and the cost of supplemental food programs that they provide.

•The total k-12 expenditure for illegal immigrants cost the U.S. 12 billion dollars annually. Add to that the number of children born here to illegal immigrants and the cost more than doubles to a staggering 28.6 billion.

This data is just one more example of us turning a blind eye to the problem of illegal immigration in this country.

When are we going to wake up and realize that we must restore integrity to our nation’s immigration laws?

Mr. Chairman it is with a heavy heart that I am regretfully taking house bill 1085 off notice.

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of this committee for your time.”

To view this bill in committee go to www.legislature.state.tn.us and click on schedules and calendars then click on House then click on Tues. 4/19 then click on the State and Local Government Video link.

House Bill 210

HB210 “The Tax That Won’t Die” which is nothing short of theft was placed behind the budget in committee this week. As prime sponsor of this bill it is important that we fight to protect family farms and small family businesses. Tennesseans work hard to achieve and to save so one can leave a good inheritance to their children. Being one of ten remaining states that have an estate tax, HB210 would exempt from taxation the first $1,000,000 and bump the dollar amount to $2,000,000. By seeking the greatest good and eliminating the death tax allowing heirs to keep what is rightfully theirs, think of all the new businesses, job growth and family farms that would continue on instead of the government putting an end to it? This bill has been placed behind the budget. I will keep you posted as this bill as to the outcome.

In closing, one of the highlights of the week was Pastor Tim Frank, of First Baptist Church of Carthage, joined me on the House Floor as my guest and as the Pastor of the Day. It is such a blessing our great state begins each session with prayer. Pastor Tim, thank you for your remarks and heartfelt prayer for the members of the 107th General Assembly. Of course yours truly also added a reminder in song, “Because He Lives.”

Have a great weekend and a Happy Easter!

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