Members Ensure Strong
Pass the House
In the final legislative days, the House moved legislation that will amend the state's Constitution. Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 127 is a constitutional amendment that would bring the Constitution of the state of Tennessee back to a position of neutrality regarding abortion. Once again, SJR 127 enjoyed bi-partisan support.
The amendment is intended to restore to the people of Tennessee, acting through their elected state representatives and state senators, their rightful authority to regulate abortion, all within federal constitutional limits.
The conservative sponsor stated, “This amendment restores protections for citizens through common sense measures regarding a very personal matter in the lives of many women. SJR127 simply restores the authority of the people acting through their elected officials to legislate abortion. Our state has a strong record of protecting life and this amendment will forever enshrine that principle in our Constitution.”
Many members fought for the passage of the constitutional amendment for several years, but their efforts were blocked in subcommittees. The process for amending the state's Constitution is a long one. Joint resolutions must pass one General Assembly by a majority which members accomplished last year. In the subsequent General Assembly, it must be passed by two-thirds before finally being put to the voters in the next gubernatorial election. Having accomplished those requirements, the amendment now goes before voters in 2014.
In addition to this amendment, the House also took another strong stand to respect life of the unborn. House Bill 498 passed unanimously because of strong leadership. The new law treats the murder of a pregnant woman as two separate deaths.
House Takes Strong Stand
Against Illegal Immigration
On the next-to-last day of the session, the House of Representatives took a strong stand against illegal immigration in Tennessee by passing legislation authorizing the use of the federal E-Verify system by Tennessee companies. The bill passed by a unanimous 96-0 vote.
The bill requires all employers with six or more employees to participate. Businesses are provided two options: the E-Verify program, which has a 97 percent accuracy rate, or the presentation of a valid Tennessee driver's license to check the lawful status of an individual.
The author of the bill stated, “I am proud to lead our state in this effort to crack down on illegal immigration. Our citizens demanded a reform to ensure job opportunities are reserved for Tennesseans and not those individuals who are here illegally.”
“The federal government has completely failed in its constitutional responsibility to ensure the integrity of our borders. Because of that, it is up to us in Tennessee to take action,” said another conservative member. “Passage of this bill today shows we are serious about honoring our pledge to voters to make a difference when it comes to combating illegal immigration.”
In addition to providing avenues for Tennessee businesses, HB 1378 also requires the use of driver’s licenses for 1099 non-employees to show lawful presence and provides that participation in the E-Verify program provides “safe harbor” for businesses. If a business elects to use a driver's license instead of E-Verify, the “safe harbor” provision is not available. The legislation also assesses penalties for non-compliance of E-Verify. They include $500 for a first-time offense, $1,000 for a second time offense and $2,500 for each subsequent offense. Moreover, should a business knowingly hire an illegal alien, its business license will be suspended.
House Reduces the Size
and Scope of Government,
House members passed a measure that keeps with the party's principle of smaller government. The plan literally downsizes government operations and saves Tennessee taxpayers money.
The legislation calls for the elimination of duplicative committees and consolidates subcommittees as well. Overall, the move is expected to save nearly $1 million in taxpayer funds.
In praising the legislation, a conservative member stated, “This legislation will save the state money while also eliminating duplication in our committee system. As Tennesseans are setting priorities in their family budgets, so too should the Legislature.”
With its passage, the law ensures that Tennesseans will be able to easily follow legislation as it moves through the process. It affords citizens the opportunity to be present for legislative hearings and register their thoughts and concerns on matters with their legislators.
Representatives Crack Down
on Crime in Tennessee
Throughout the legislative session, members were vigilant about updating Tennessee's criminal code to ensure it reflected modern technology and closed loopholes criminals were taking advantage of to escape paying for their actions.
Ending Meth Production
Members were unanimous in their commitment to ending meth in Tennessee. The House passed HB 1051, GOP legislation that adds new criminal acts for meth production and enrolls pharmacies in a national drug exchange program that tracks pseudoephedrine purchases.
The bill is a strong reaction to the outbreak of meth use and addiction that is hurting Tennessee families. Recent news reports have detailed the numerous instances where meth production has cost lives throughout the state.
During the discussion on the legislation, one conservative House member stated, “We cannot sit here and pretend this meth problem will go away. There are far too many families who are losing loved ones because of the ease in which meth can be created.”
After passage of the legislation, a proponent of the bill added, “This bill represents a smart and strong step toward stopping the creation of meth. That drug is hurting our citizens and we need to be doing all we can to put an end to its destructive effects.”
The bill passed the House by a unanimous vote.