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The Tennnessee House GOP Review

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.

Immigration measures see passage

Republicans scored two major victories this week as two measures that will combat illegal immigration passed out of subcommittees and will now be heard before a full committee. Republicans have supported the legislation for several years, dating back to the “Tennessee Trust” initiative House Republicans proposed in 2006 as a “contract” with voters.

English in the Workplace

The “Protecting English in the Workplace,” or House Bill 480, legislation was overwhelmingly approved this week by the Employee Affairs Subcommittee, with Republicans praising the bi-partisan nature of the committee. The bill sponsor said he believes there is a pressing need for the legislation, which would clarify that it is not against the law for businesses to require that English be spoken on the job.

Having worked on the legislation for several years, House Republicans argue that the legislation is needed so that businesses may take the necessary safety precautions without fear of being sued. Businesses where employees are continuously handling toxic products or food containers have a need to require English so that employees understand what they are handling. In the same vein, businesses such as factories have signs displayed in English that communicate critical
safety information to employees that can protect them. The sponsor pointed out there is a provision in the bill that exempts employees during scheduled breaks such as lunch.
The bill closely mirrors legislation brought to the U.S. Senate in 2008 by Senator Lamar Alexander, who said that the legislation was necessary to prevent frivolous lawsuits targeting businesses that felt English should be spoken on the job due to safety concerns. “Protecting English in the Workplace” now faces the House Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee.

Sanctuary Cities

A “sanctuary city” is a term given to a city in the United States that follows  certain practices to protect illegal aliens. Thirty-eight cities in the U.S. have been recognized as sanctuary cities, but many sources have identified over 200 city or county governments nationwide as having practiced such policies. As originally written, the bill would cut off economic and community grant money to any Tennessee city that might declare itself a “sanctuary city” for illegal aliens. Because of the difficult economic times facing the state and local governments, the sponsor agreed to work with other members to change that penalty provision, and maintained the bill aims to be a pre-emptive strike to guard against the adoption of such policies by cities in the state.

The legislation, House Bill 1354, cleared the Criminal Practice and Procedure Subcommittee and will now face the full House Judiciary Committee.

Republicans pass legislation to honor fallen Tennessee National Guardsmen

House Bill 1346 passed on the House floor Thursday, with an overwhelming number of House members applauding the measure, and signing onto the legislation as co-sponsors. The bill requires the Adjutant General to notify the Governor in the event of the death of any Tennessee National Guard member that is called into active military service and who is stationed outside the United States. In any month in which one or more notifications of death are given to the Governor, the Governor will be required to proclaim a day of mourning and order the state flag to be flown at half mast to honor the deceased National Guard member or members.

The law will only apply to the Tennessee National Guard because the Adjutant General is not notified of deaths from other military branches. The Republican sponsor explained that he would be interested in expanding the legislation in the future to include all those serving in the military from Tennessee who are killed overseas as a result of their service, if possible.

Common-sense legislation continues to die along party lines in Elections Subcommittee

For the third week in a row, the Democrat-controlled Elections Subcommittee has killed common-sense voting legislation along party lines. The Republican-sponsored House Bill 639 was presented in the Elections Subcommittee this week, and would require photo identification to vote. Republicans have fought for the provision for several years, arguing that the measure is needed to combat voter fraud and ensure that every vote counts. The legislation eventually died on a tie vote.

The bill is the third common-sense Republican legislation to protect the integrity of elections that has been bottled up in the Elections Subcommittee. Another bill, one that would have required photo identification to register to vote, died last week by a tie vote in the same subcommittee. Two weeks ago the subcommittee killed legislation that would have made it easier for military men and women serving overseas to vote by absentee ballot.

House Republicans vowed to revive the legislation, if possible, in another form. The Senate has already passed the Senate version of the bill with an overwhelming 29-3 vote.

In case you missed it…

  • A proposal that would change jail cell regulations advanced out of the House State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday. The Republican-sponsored measure was approved unanimously, and would prohibit the Tennessee Corrections Institute from decertifying a jail facility based on square footage of a jail cell if the measurement meets the requirements of the American Correctional Association’s Manual of Correctional Standards. The sponsor said the bill was needed to ensure that local governments across the state are not required to pay more money than they have to on either existing jail facilities or construction of new jail facilities.
  • Legislation that would prohibit sending or reading text messages while driving cleared the Calendar and Rules Committee this week. House Bill 107 will now move to the House floor. Transportation Committee members last week discussed the possibility that texting while driving fell under the “distracted driving” statute, but ultimately determined that the legislation would clarify the law and allow law enforcement some discretion.
  • House Bill 431 was passed by the K-12 Education Subcommittee this week, and seeks to expand the recognition of home schoolers’ diplomas. The bill requires that diplomas issued by home schools be recognized by all state and local governmental entities as having the same rights and privileges of diplomas issued by public school systems.
  • A bold education initiative called “Education Pays” was passed out of the House Education Committee today, winning approval from representatives from both sides of the aisle. House Bill 556 seeks to encourage  student academic achievement through award of Education Pays rewards. An “Education Pays reward” is a reward of cash or other thing of value given to students or the parent or guardian of a student or both in recognition of academic achievement. The bill authorizes funding of an Education Pays pilot program through private funds.
  • A bill to curb aggressive driving passed out of the House Budget Subcommittee this week, and will now face the Finance, Ways and Means Committee. House Bill 18 creates a new violation of aggressive driving if the driver is guilty of at least three of the following violations in one continuous episode:
    • Overtaking on the right
    • Overtaking and passing in no passing zones
    • Following too closely
    • Failing to yield for emergency vehicles
    • Failing to yield to pedestrians
    • Failure to signal turn
    • Speeding
    • Stopping, standing, or parking in prohibited places
    • Following fire trucks
    • Improper use of HOV lanes
  • The Budget Subcommittee passed the “Market Regulation Act of 2009” this week, which is legislation brought forth by AT&T Tennessee that would deregulate much of AT&T’s operations. The Republican sponsor of the bill said the proposal can lower rates and level the playing field, and would maintain Tennessee’s probusiness and pro-job reputation. In addition, the state could see more companies relocating here, investing, and creating jobs with the passage of the legislation. The Senate has already passed the legislation.
  • House Bill 959 passed out of the Budget Subcommittee this week and will next be presented to the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee. The bill would seal the records of handgun carry permit holders that are currently public record. Tennesseans became outraged earlier this year when the Commercial Appeal, a Memphis-based newspaper, published the handgun carry permit database in an easily searchable format on their website. Republicans criticized the paper, calling the action ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous.’ The House GOP contended that in addition to printing a list that would make it easier for criminals to steal weapons, non-gun owners were also at risk because it would be easy for criminals to use the database to find homes that likely did not have a firearm.

The week ahead…

House Sessions: 4:00 p.m. Monday, April 27, 2009 in the House Chambers  and 9:00 a.m. Thursday, April 30, 2009 in the House Chambers

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Committee or Subcommittee Time Room Number
Calendar & Rules Committee 8:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Higher Education Subcommittee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Consumer Subcommittee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 30
Professional Occupations Subcommittee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 31
Commerce Committee 9:15 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Agriculture Committee 9:15 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Health & Human Resources Committee 10:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Consumer & Employee Affairs Committee 10:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Utilities & Banking Subcommittee 10:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 30
State & Local Government Committee 12:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Environment Subcommittee 12:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Civil Practice & Procedure Subcommittee 12:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 31
Finance, Ways & Means Committee 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Employee Affairs Subcommittee 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Small Business Subcommittee 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 30
Rural Roads Subcommittee 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 31
Transportation Committee 3:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Consumer & Employee Affairs Committee 3:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Public Safety Subcommittee After Trans Legislative Plaza 16
Public Health Subcommittee 4:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 30
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Committee or Subcommittee Time Room Number
Calendar & Rules (TBA) 8:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Children & Family Affairs Committee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
State Government Subcommittee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Judiciary Committee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 31
Local Government Subcommittee 9:15 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
K-12 Education Subcommittee 10:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Government Operations Committee 10:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Industrial Impact Subcommittee 10:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 30
Elections Subcommittee 10:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 31
Education Committee 11:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Budget Subcommittee 11:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Criminal Practice & Procedure Subcommittee 12:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 31
Healthcare Facilities Subcommittee 12:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 30
Finance Budget Hearings 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
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