House leaders support U.S. balanced budget amendment
Feb 16, 2014 | 597 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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(Editor’s Note: This week’s legislative update has been submitted jointly to the Cleveland Daily Banner by state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, who represents the 24th Legislative District, and state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, who represents the 22nd Legislative District. Both are longtime members of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Brooks serves as assistant majority leader.)

House leaders last week joined together to voice support for House Joint Resolution 548 which calls for a convention of the states to consider a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. The introduction of the resolution follows several other states which have already passed or are in the process of considering the same measure. Currently, the legislation has more than 50 co-sponsors in the House.

“It is time the states take the power and authority granted to them by Article V of the constitution and propose an amendment to rein in the reckless spending of the federal government,” said the proposal’s sponsor, state Rep. Dennis Powers, R–Jacksboro. “It is crucial this be addressed, and Washington’s failure to act has the states taking action.”

Speaking this week to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) at their annual Day on the Hill, House Speaker Beth Harwell endorsed the idea and praised the important effort.

“Congress remains mired in partisan gridlock with no end in sight, and has run up a debt of over $17 trillion,” Speaker Harwell said. “We need to send a message that in order for America to prosper, Washington needs to get its fiscal house in order.”

Other conservative leaders across the state also support the resolution, and have created an online petition through which citizens can voice their support at www.fixthedebt.us.

Twenty states have already passed a resolution calling for a convention to pass a federal balanced budget amendment. Once 34 states do so, Congress is required to call a convention and set the date and location. Subsequently, 38 states must then ratify any changes to the constitution in order for them to take effect.

House Speaker Harwell

appoints task force

to review rural

economic development

House Speaker Harwell, R-Nashville, announced last week the appointment of a task force on rural economic development, a committee dedicated to finding ways to promote the economic well-being of rural Tennessee.

The task force, chaired by state Rep. Ryan Williams, R–Cookeville, also includes state Rep. Barry Doss, R–Leoma; state Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown; and state Rep. Tim Wirgau, R-Buchanan, who each represent one of the grand divisions of Tennessee.

“Today, I am pleased to announce the appointment of a Task Force on Rural Economic Development,” Speaker Harwell said. “Rural Tennessee is vital to the success of our state, and it is important that we explore all opportunities to help rural areas prosper through economic development, education and workforce training.”

In total, rural communities in Tennessee make up 23 percent of the state’s total population. In addition, rural areas provide the space and resources needed to create Tennessee’s No. 1 industry — agriculture — which generates more than $3.5 billion annually in farm receipts and nearly $300 million in timber sales. Overall, Tennessee farmland accounts for more than 40 percent of the state’s total land area. However, the average unemployment rate is 9.8 percent, higher than both state and national averages.

“In every sense, the state’s rural communities touch the lives of all Tennesseans through the food we eat, the fuel we pump, the clothes we wear, the wood products we use and the land we enjoy on a daily basis,” Rep. Williams said. “Without a doubt, rural communities are the backbone of our state and it is imperative we do all we can to explore opportunities that increase the economic well-being of rural Tennessee.”

The Taskforce on Rural Economic Development had its first organizational meeting on Feb. 11, with the next scheduled meeting to take place later this month. The task force plans to take their efforts statewide, asking farmers, business owners, key individuals and local experts to share their ideas with the group on ways to improve rural economic development in Tennessee.

In case you missed it:

n U.S. History: Legislation designed to ensure Tennessee schools are teaching students about the nation’s heritage as recorded through our country’s historical documents easily passed out of the House Education Committee this week with near unanimous support from lawmakers of both parties.

The bill requires that the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, along with other historical American documents, be taught in Tennessee public schools. In addition, the bill requires the Department of Education to report the progress of the legislation’s implementation back to the state Legislature on a yearly basis.

Now that the House Education Committee has passed the legislation, the bill will travel to the House Calendar & Rules Committee where it will be given a date to appear before the full House of Representatives.

n Unemployment insurance rates for new business: House Bill 1386, which is legislation designed to help attract new businesses to the state and save tens of thousands of dollars once businesses relocate here, passed out of the House Consumer & Human Resources Committee last week.

Under present law, workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own are provided weekly unemployment insurance payments. These payments are funded by employers who pay taxes on the wages paid to employees. The tax rate that employers must pay is based on whether they are a new employer or an experience rated employer. New companies locating to the state must currently pay a higher rate because they have no prior experience in Tennessee.

House Bill 1386 allows new companies coming to Tennessee to base their unemployment insurance premiums on the past history of the state they are relocating from, saving thousands of dollars for the company. Proponents of the legislation believe this change in the unemployment insurance law will help recruit an additional five manufacturers to the state each year.

n Medicaid expansion: Legislation to prohibit the expansion of Medicaid in the state, unless authorized by the Tennessee Legislature, passed the House Finance, Ways & Means subcommittee last week.

Supporters of the legislation argue the bill ensures the Tennessee General Assembly has the final say on whether or not to exercise fiscal responsibility and refuse to put our state in another financial crisis by expanding Medicaid pursuant to ObamaCare.

The legislation will be heard in the full Finance, Ways & Means Committee later this week.