The House Democrat Review is a weekly feature that gives Tennesseans an in-depth look at what our Democratic state legislators have been working on this week, and a glimpse into what’s planned for the coming week at our state house.
This week, the House moves spring sales tax holiday to April, tax breaks for disabled homeowners approved, scrap metal theft legislation moves to budget subcommittee, green laws continuing movement through committees, border dispute resolution expected on House floor soon, and animal abuse registry in full judiciary committee
NASHVILLE (Mar. 6) – This week the Tennessee House of Representatives passed legislation changing the spring sales tax holiday from the weekend of March 21 to the weekend of April 25.
“There were a lot of people who felt that having the sales tax holiday on the same weekend as Easter would limit people’s ability to take advantage of the savings as well as take away from the importance of the holiday,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Randy Rinks (D-Savannah). “We were glad that with last year’s budget surplus we’re able to give back to those who deserve it the most – the taxpayer.”
The spring sales tax holiday weekend will take place on April 25 through 27 and will be available on all products designated school supplies. For a complete list of products that qualify for the sales tax holiday, go to http://www.tntaxholiday.com/.
This week the House also passed a bill expanding property tax relief to disabled homeowners. Passing unanimously, House Bill 2455 raises the maximum income for disabled homeowners to $24,000 for the 2007 tax year.
“This legislation continues the momentum we set last year to provide tax relief for Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens like our seniors and our disabled military veterans,” said Representative Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville), prime sponsor of the legislation. “Our job is to continue to look for ways to help those who need it.”
Scrap Metal Theft Legislation Moves to Budget Subcommittee
The consequences of scrap metal theft continue to make headlines in the news and this week a bill to combat those crimes was moved out of the House Government Operations Committee for hearings in the Budget Subcommittee of the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
“As the economy continues to waiver, and as prices on precious metals like copper continue to skyrocket, we will continue to see scrap metal theft increase,” said Chairman Mike McDonald (D-Portland). “This bill is vital to combating this growing crisis in Tennessee and needs swift passage through the House.”
House Bill 2433 would require anyone buying or selling scrap metal to register with the Department of Commerce and Insurance, and would prohibit immediate payment for purchased of copper, catalytic converters and air conditioner evaporator coils. The bill would also increase criminal penalties and civil forfeitures for those who violate the law.
“Those who own businesses dealing in scrap metal are just as liable as those who would steal and sell it,” said McDonald. “We have to deter this illegal practice and protect the honest and hardworking citizens of this state.”
Green Laws Continuing Movement through Committees
A number of bills focusing on the reduction of Tennessee’s energy consumption and production of greenhouse gases made their way through the committee system this week.
“As private businesses start to embrace energy conservation and green policies, so should we in the state,” said Rep. Gary Moore (D-Nashville). “We must do our part to protect our surroundings and keep it safe and clean for the next generation.”
Three bills focusing on the energy management and conservation were placed on the calendar of State and Local Government. House Bills 2815, 2816 and 2817, sponsored by Chairman Mike McDonald, all deal with expanding and developing new strategies for energy conservation among state departments and agencies. A bill by Rep. Moore, that is expected to be heard in House Government Operations next week, encourages the State Building Commission to adopt rules and regulations requiring design, construction and certification of state building to fall in line with that of equivalent green standards.
“Living green no longer means living out of the mainstream,” said Moore. “Our cars, our homes, our farms, our towns all have ways to be less destructive on the environment and we should embrace those tools in our state government.”
Border Dispute Resolution Expected on House Floor Soon
A bill rejecting the Georgia Legislature’s request to form a multi-state study group with the goal of redrawing the state line between Georgia and Tennessee moved swiftly through committee and is expected on the House floor soon.
House Joint-Resolution 919 states that Tennessee will not engage in talks regarding changes to its nearly 200-year-old state border with Georgia and that any attempt to do so by Georgia would be defeated by precedents upheld by the United States Supreme Court.
“I understand that the drought situation in Georgia, specifically in Atlanta, is quite severe and I can sympathize with what the people of Georgia are going through,” said House Major Leader Gary Odom (D-Nashville). “But moving a nearly two-hundred-year-old border so you can steal another state’s water is flat wrong and does nothing to address the real problem.”
The joint resolution is expected to be taken up next week.
Animal Abuse Registry in Full Judiciary Committee
Finally, a bill that would put those convicted of animal abuse on a registry list similar to the current sex offender registry is expected to be taken up by the full House Judiciary Committee next week.
“Most everyone I know, like myself, is an animal lover whose heart breaks when you hear stories of animal abuse and cruelty,” said Chairman Janis Sontany (D-Nashville). “Having a registry for those who commit such acts will not only be a great way to monitor abusers, but hopefully will work as a deterrent for those who might think to hurt an animal.”
The “Tennessee Animal Abuser Registration, Tracking and Verification Act of 2008” establishes registration, verification and tracking requirements for an animal abuser, which means any person who commits aggravated cruelty to animals, felony animal fighting, or bestiality. The requirements under this bill are similar to the present law requirements for sex offenders, with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) maintaining the registry.
The bill is slated to be reviewed by the full committee on Wednesday of next week.