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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. This week’s highlights:

  • State Sovereignty
  • Charter Schools
  • SJR 127 (Abortion)
  • Appropriations

State sovereignty resolution continues forward

Tennessee Joins 8 other states in reclaiming state sovereignty

Tennessee joined eight other states this year in moving forward with resolutions to declare sovereignty under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. This week, House Joint Resolution 108 cleared the committee system, and will now be scheduled for a vote on the House floor.

The Ninth Amendment reads, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The Tenth Amendment specifically provides, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The resolutions have been filed in response to what many state lawmakers believe is an increased level of fiscal irresponsibility on the federal level, and over-reaching by the federal government. Republican lawmakers in Tennessee argued that the federal government has handed down a series of unfounded mandates and directives that are dangerously close to violating the Ninth and Tenth Amendments of the Constitution.

The House is expected to take up House Joint Resolution 108 sometime next week.

Legislation to expand charter schools deferred for one week

Debate raged on in the House Education Committee this week, as the Republican-sponsored public charter school legislation, House Bill 2146, was presented. Once again, concerns centered on the issue of “cherry-picking” students in order to improve a public charter school’s ranking.

In addition to expanding eligibility to more students, the legislation clarifies funding and addresses rules for renewal of the public charter schools. Tennessee currently has one of the most restrictive public charter school laws in the nation. Charter schools are public schools that are given flexibility to operate without the constraints of some of the rules and regulations normally imposed on traditional schools. In exchange for this flexibility, they are held accountable for performance through a charter, which is an agreement between the local education agency (LEA) and the charter school. It requires a strenuous approval process by the LEA and an equally tough renewal process of the charter every five years.

Tennessee now has 15 public charter schools, with six more opening in the fall. Of those 22 schools, Nashville will have five, Chattanooga will have two, and Memphis will have 15. The Memphis City School System also is converting four schools to charters this fall.

Pro-life measure to be taken up next week on House floor for first time

Senate Joint Resolution 127, having completed its “second reading” on the House floor this week, continues its historic journey through the House, having never made it beyond the Public Health Subcommittee until this year. In previous years, Democrats have blocked the constitutional amendment in the subcommittee, a move that Republicans argued subverted the right of the people to vote on the measure. The constitutional amendment will finally be heard on the House floor next Monday evening, where House lawmakers are expected to vote on the measure.

The resolution would address an activist state Supreme Court decision in 2000 that struck down provisions in Tennessee law allowing women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and a requirement to wait 48 hours before they received an abortion. The court also ruled against a state requirement that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital. That ruling arguably made Tennessee more liberal than the courts required in Roe v. Wade and made the right to an abortion a “fundamental right” in Tennessee.

The provision has already passed the Senate with a 24-8 vote. If passed this year by the 106th General Assembly by a simple majority, it must pass the 107th General Assembly by two-thirds before appearing on the ballot in 2014.

House to begin debate on appropriations bill next week; technical corrections also scheduled for presentation

As the nation faces an economic slump, Tennessee’s State Funding Board recently returned dismal revenue projections for next year. In response, the Administration acknowledged that cuts and reductions cannot be ruled out to solve a pressing budget issue. The General Assembly will begin next week to review the appropriations bill, which funds the bulk of state government, and the technical corrections bill.

House Republicans said this week they would remain vigilant on dissecting the technical corrections bill, after discovering a provision in last year’s legislation that would have done away with Family Owned Non-Corporate Entities (FONCEs).

In case you missed it…

  • A House panel has approved a measure that directs the Select Oversight Committee on Education to study the authorization of cyber-based charter schools in Tennessee and to report back to the General Assembly by January 15, 2010. Cyber schools have gained in popularity over the last several years as yet another educational option. Cyber schools primarily use a computer-based curriculum and accountability methods via Internet access. House Republicans believe the public cyber charter option is an attractive alternative for untraditional students or those with home-based needs. House Bill 1525 will now be heard in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
  • House Bill 250 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this week, and aims to discourage underage drinking. The bill creates a misdemeanor offense of knowingly allowing a minor to drink or possess alcohol. The bill also contains a provision for failing to stop a minor from drinking.
  • The House Judiciary Committee approved the Republican-sponsored House Bill 1762, which aims to protect parental rights. The bill, which was debated for nearly four hours after Democrats attempted to block the measure, requires doctors and hospitals treating minor children to release the results of medical tests and procedures performed to the child’s parents upon request.

The week ahead…

HOUSE SESSION 4:00 p.m.May 18, 2009 House Chambers
HOUSE SESSION 9:00 a.m.May 20, 2009 House Chambers
HOUSE SESSION 9:00 a.m.May 21, 2009 House Chambers
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Committee or Subcommittee Time Room Number
Calendar & Rules Committee 8:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Commerce Committee 9:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Agriculture Committee 9:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Health & Human Resources Committee 11:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Conservation & Environment Committee 11:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Finance, Ways & Means Committee 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
State & Local Government Committee 3:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Government Operations Committee 3:00 p.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Wednesday, May 20, 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
Judiciary Committee 8:30 a.m. Legislative Plaza 31
Education Committee 11:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Budget Subcommittee 11:00 a.m. Legislative Plaza 29
Transportation 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Consumer & Employee Affairs 1:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 30
Education Committee (continued) 2:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 16
Judiciary Committee (continued) 2:30 p.m. Legislative Plaza 31

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