The House GOP Review is a weekly feature that gives Tennesseans an in-depth look at what our Republican state legislators have been working on this week, and a glimpse into what’s planned for the coming week at our state house.
“Right to hunt” constitutional amendment passes 105th General Assembly
House Joint Resolution 108 passed on the House floor this week with overwhelming aproval. The constitutional amendment would add provisions to the state constitution establishing the right to hunt, fish, and harvest game subject to “reasonable rules and regulations.” An excerpt from the resolution reads:
Hunting and fishing are honored traditions in the state; citizens have enjoyed the bounty of Tennessee’s natural resources from the time prior to statehood, including hunting and fishing for subsistence and recreation; therefore, hunting and fishing is a vital part of the state’s heritage and economy and should be preserved and protected.
Having already passed the Senate this year, the amendment must now win the approval of the 106th General Assembly next year by a two-thirds vote. The measure could be on the ballot for referendum as early as 2010.
“Pass the bottle” clears committee
The “Pass the Bottle” legislation, which would ban open containers in vehicles, and one of several DUI bills rolled out as a comprehensive effort to combat drunk driving, passed subcommittee this week and will next be heard in the State and Local Government Committee. The bill has met resistance for the last several weeks, however, members who previously seemed to oppose the bill wrangled over amendments, one of which lessened the charge for having an open container in a vehicle to a misdemeanor and a $50 fine.
If the bill is signed into law, federal funds to the tune of over $13 million could be returned to the road building account, and used in much-needed areas of maintenance such as road paving. Currently, the state receives the federal funds, but is restricted in how the money is spent. Due to these restrictions, much of it is now used for public safety campaigns.
Legislators participate in “Ag Day on the Hill”
Legislators participated in “Ag Day on the Hill,” an event sponsored by the House Agriculture Committee to raise awareness regarding the many things Tennessee farmers contribute to our economy and identity. Representatives from the Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and produce, dairy and beef producers were all on hand to meet with legislators and discuss their initiatives and products. Below are some highlights:
Tennessee Farmers Cooperative: Despite a difficult year in which farmers were plagued with drought conditions, the Tennessee Farmers Cooperative reported a successful year due to the hard work and determination of their farmers. All of the state’s feed manufacturing facilities were designated Safe Feed/Safe Food Certified Facilities by the American Feed Industry Association, a rigorous process ensuring safe food.
U.S.D.A.: Although the number of farms in the U.S. decreased slightly, cash receipts from farm marketings increased by 11 percent. The top commodity in the state of Tennessee proved to be cattle.
Produce and Dairy: The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has rolled out a new website, http://www.picktnproducts.org/, that features great gifts, seasonal recipes, games, and where to find fresh produce, and hardy plants.
Dairy farmers reported that Americans are consuming more dairy than ever before. Per capita consumption of total milk has climbed to 605 pounds today from 552 in 1983. Tennessee is part of the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, which also recently rolled out a new website, http://www.southeastdairy.org/.
For more information, please visit www.tennessee.gov/agriculture.
- Schools: The House voted unanimously this week to pass legislation that requires school principals to grant students excused absences for up to 10 days for the purpose of visiting a parent who is stationed outside of the country. Currently, if a student’s parent, custodian, or other person with legal custody or control is a member of the United States armed forces or National Guard, a public school principal must give the student an excused absence for one day when the member is deployed and another day when the service member returns from deployment. Having already passed the Senate, the bill will now be sent to the Governor for his approval.
- Public Records: House Bill 2750 passed the Local Government Subcommittee this week, and will now be heard in full committee. The measure will allow elected bodies to set up websites where they can “instant message” one another, making the “conversations” available for the public and the media’s viewing. The bill was filed in response to the problems associated with the state’s Sunshine Law.
- Energy: The House voted this week to support House Joint Resolution 838, a measure that encourages the governor to establish a goal of reducing fuel consumption by at least 15 percent in the state’s vehicle fleet by June 30, 2010. The resolution was embraced by House members on both sides of the aisle. The sponsor said he believed that 2010 was a realistic goal to reduce the fuel consumption.
- Education: A bold education initiative called “Education Pays” was passed out of the House Education Committee, winning bi-partisan approval. The bill’s sponsor said he was extremely pleased that the Education Committee is thinking outside the box. The Education Pays Act creates a pilot program to give cash rewards to encourage academic achievement among at-risk students.
The week ahead…
- House Bill 3519 exempts home-based kitchens where non-potentially hazardous foods are made and the sale of such foods at farmers’ markets from department regulation. (Agriculture)
- House Bill 3715 requires meat or milk from cloned animals and all food for human consumption that has been genetically altered or modified to be labeled as such and that notice be appropriately given to the public. (Agriculture)
- House Bill 3865 requires all birthing hospitals to provide educational materials for parents of premature newborns. (Health and Human Resources)
- House Bill 3059 creates a Class B misdemeanor offense of consuming alcoholic beverage while driving motor vehicle on public highway and Class C misdemeanor offense of possessing open container of alcoholic beverage within passenger area of motor vehicle on public highway. (State & Local Government)
- House Bill 4023 prohibits the diminution in value of gift cards and gift certificates. (Consumer & Employee Affairs)
- House Bill 3991 creates new Class E and D felony offenses of assault on law enforcement officer; and Class B felony offense of aggravated assault on law enforcement officer. (Judiciary)
- House Bill 4042 authorizes human resource agencies to apply for grants and implement statewide an intervention program called “Moral Kombat.” (Education)
- House Bill 0009 creates K-12 lottery capital outlay special account; establishes grant program for capital outlay projects for K-12 educational facilities administered by comptroller of the treasury. (Education)
- House Bill 4185 adds a new classification of limited resource waters to the Water Quality Control Act of 1977. (Conservation & Environment)