State Comptroller encourages citizens to report fraud, waste, or abuse
Nashville, TN – Tennessee State Representative Joe Pitts’ (D-Clarksville) House Bill 0431 (Senate Bill 0251), which would enhance the penalty from a Class C misdemeanor (punishable by a $100.00 fine) to a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to 11 months 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500) when the offender is at fault for an accident resulting in bodily injury or death due to criminal negligence passed the House Criminal Full Committee.
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Brewster and Amber Tuchscherer (3 of the 4 people injured by the uninsured motorist) attended the committee meeting and have vowed to continue to attend all committee meetings until this legislation is sent to the Governor for his signature.
The next step in the process in the House is scheduled for Wednesday, March 6th in the Finance Sub Committee.
“Due to the positive financial impact to the State, I don’t foresee any difficulties in the Finance Committee,” Pitts said. “I am grateful to Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville), the senate sponsor of this legislation, who will begin moving the bill through the Senate soon,” said Pitts.
State Licensure Bill for Military Personnel
House Bill 0422, sponsored by Rep. Pitts, passed the full House State Committee this week and will be heard in the Government Operations Committee next Tuesday, March 5th. This proposal would expedite issuance of certain professional licenses and temporarily extend certain licenses for active duty personnel that were deployed when their licenses came due for renewal.
School Vouchers Bill passes House Education subcommittee
The House Education Subcommittee heard testimony from concerned citizens and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman on legislation (HB190 by McCormick) that would create a private school voucher program in Tennessee.
Also speaking before the committee in opposition to the proposal was Dr. Tommie Morton-Young, who has received numerous awards for her struggles in the fight for civil rights and her contributions to the education system. Dr. Young said at the committee hearing that “whatever problems exist in public education, privatization and separatism will not solve the problem.” Watch video here.
“The proposal targeting at-risk students in failing schools in our state is flawed,” said Pitts. “It does not provide transportation services to those students, nor does it concern itself with that basic human need – school lunch – which these families depend on because of their financial situation. We must not build an education program for our children on the cheap. If we are serious about giving students a choice, let’s put our money where our mouths are and provide a full, and robust education.”
Special education students, while eligible, could also be left without the extra support they need for their specific learning disability because the funding of the bill falls far short.
The bill will be heard in the House Education committee on Tuesday at noon.
“Guns in Trunks” bill passes the House and the Senate this week
Legislation (HB0118) that would change the punishment for handgun permit holders who carry their firearm onto private property where it is expressly prohibited from criminal prosecution to trespassing passed the House on Thursday after a lengthy debate. Thirteen amendments were filed by Democrats and Republicans which sought to clarify language or exempt certain public places, and all were defeated.
Questions and concerns over private property rights, employment protections, and public safety were all raised in the nearly one and a half hour discussion over the legislation. Despite the long discussion, the bill ultimately passed without amendment and will go to the Governor’s desk, where he can either sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature.
It is important to note that while the proposed new law offers protection for valid handgun carry permit holders, it does not shield the employee who violates a company policy of no guns from being dismissed or disciplined. The property owner may still post or create policy prohibiting guns, and employees, students on school grounds, and visitors are obligated to adhere to that policy.
Military Home of Record and HOPE Lottery Scholarship Program
Legislation has been filed to help dependents and spouses of our military personnel and soldiers also cleared another hurdle this week. House Bill 0427, sponsored by Rep. Pitts, would change the eligibility criteria for the HOPE scholarships for dependent children of active military personnel.
Currently, the active duty soldier’s “home of record” dictates dependent eligibility for the scholarship. As proposed, this legislation would allow the dependent to be eligible for the HOPE Lottery scholarship based on the “home of record” or if the child qualifies for in-state tuition at the time of enrollment. “I am thankful to the U.S. Department of Defense for bringing this bill to my attention,” said Pitts.
House Bill 0426 also passed its first hurdle this week. This legislation creates a new scholarship program for dependents and spouses of certain disabled veterans. Both of these bills are scheduled to be heard in the House Education Full Committee on Tuesday, February 26th.
Other helpful legislation
A bill to help teachers with state-mandated exams (HB 369/SB268) passed on the House Floor yesterday and has been sent to the Governor for his signature. This legislation would give teachers until January 1st, 2014 to take their Praxis exams in order to be qualified to teach multiple subjects.
Tennessee State Comptroller
State Comptroller’s encourages citizens to report fraud, waste, or abuse
The State Comptroller’s office is encouraging citizens to report fraud, waste, or abuse in State and Local Government by offering a toll-free hotline. “Exposing fraud is one of the best ways to prevent fraud,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson.
If a citizen suspects, or has knowledge of illegal, improper or wasteful activities within a government agency or by a recipient of public funds, the citizen should report these activities.
A citizen wanting to make a notification anonymously may do so by contacting the Comptroller’s Fraud, Waste, and Abuse hotline at 1.800.232.5454 or by submitting the notification electronically at: https://www.comptroller.tn.gov/shared/safwa.asp.