New 15-bill limit proving effective in reducing costs, hiking efficiency
by ERIC WATSON, State Rep.
Feb 25, 2013 | 486 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
State House Speaker Beth Harwell announced last week that the number of bills filed for this legislative year have been drastically reduced due to the 15-bill limit approved by lawmakers in January. With the bill filing deadline having passed, records show only 1,339 House bills were filed. The first session of the 107th General Assembly saw 2,124 bills filed.

“This is excellent news, and proof that the House rule change of a 15-bill limit is working — this is definitely a success,” Speaker Harwell said. “Our goal was to reduce the amount of bills filed to save taxpayer money, and to have members focus on prioritizing their issues so we can properly vet the legislation before us. This reduction in legislation bodes well for Tennessee taxpayers, and I appreciate the body’s willingness to give this a try.”

Bill filings this year are at the lowest in nearly 30 years. In 1987, there were 1,186 pieces of legislation filed by the deadline. The bill filing deadline is on the 10th legislative day according to House rules, usually falling in mid-February.

“Each time legislation is filed, there is an enormous amount of work done by staff behind the scenes,” according to House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga. “The bill must be researched and written by legal staff, sometimes going through multiple drafts. Our House clerks then work to put the bill into the system, and all of this cost taxpayers time and money. This bill limit ensures a more efficient, effective and accessible government that will give us more time for thoughtful, deliberate analysis on each piece of legislation — something taxpayers expect and deserve.”

The bill limit was part of a larger proposal announced by Speaker Harwell in December to streamline government operations and make the legislative process more efficient and effective.

Constitutional officers tout

Tennessee financial success

Last wek, State Treasurer David Lillard and Comptroller of the Treasury Justin P. Wilson discussed the positive financial position of Tennessee state government.

Both Constitutional officers credit the financial success the state has experienced over the last two years to conservative fiscal policies implemented by Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly.

Despite a poor economy nationwide, both Lillard and Wilson believe Tennessee is on a clear path toward economic recovery, especially when compared to other states across the country.

"There have been numerous media reports over the last few years about serious financial problems experienced by governments elsewhere in our country and around the world,” Wilson said. “Tennessee stands in sharp contrast to those governments. Here, despite a fragile economy, our state government is managing its expenses and meeting its obligations quite well.”

Indeed, despite the failure of some states to adequately manage their expenditures in a fiscally responsible way, Tennessee leads the nation in several key economic areas, including being named by Barron’s Magazine as the third best-managed state in the country.

"Tennessee is in good financial shape, and that isn't just our assessment of our own situation,” Lillard said. “The bond rating agencies and other organizations that monitor government finances have given Tennessee strong marks for its financial practices. Tennessee's ability to control spending, manage debt and adequately forecast revenues have all contributed to the state's strong financial condition.”

Going forward, Lillard and Wilson agreed Tennessee must continue its focus on providing essential services while still leaving room to cut unneeded expenses and keep debt costs low.

"I have confidence that Gov. Haslam and the members of the Tennessee General Assembly will take the appropriate steps over the coming weeks and months to keep Tennessee moving on the trajectory of longterm financial success," Wilson concluded.

Disaster recovery request

is approved by SBA

Following up on an inquiry by Gov. Haslam for disaster assistance after severe storms passed through several Tennessee counties in late January, the Small Business Administration formally approved the request early last week.

This disaster declaration by the SBA provides access to low-interest loans for homeowners, businesses and nonprofit organizations affected by the January storms.

For homeowner loans, if an applicant cannot obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 1.688 percent. If an applicant can obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 3.375 percent.

Business applicants with credit elsewhere will have an interest rate of 6 percent and business applicants without credit will have an interest rate of 4 percent. Nonprofit organization applicants will have an interest rate of 2.875 percent, regardless of whether or not they have credit elsewhere.

Henderson, Carroll, Chester, Decatur, Hardin and Madison counties are included in the SBA disaster declaration.

Governor rejects state

insurance exchanges

Gov. Haslam sent another letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in response to a Feb. 14 deadline for establishing a state-federal partnership to operate a Health Care Exchange system under the federal Affordable Care Act. As of Feb. 15, 26 states will be run by a federal exchange, while only 17 states and the District of Columbia have submitted a state-based exchange plan. The remaining seven states will establish a state-federal partnership to operate an exchange system.

Anti-Income Tax Resolution

moves through committee

House Joint Resolution 35 sailed through committee last week as lawmakers continue the push to ban a state income tax from ever being implemented in Tennessee. Voters across the state will have the opportunity to weigh in on this issue as the question of whether to prohibit an income tax will be placed on the 2014 ballot. If approved, the state Constitution will be amended to explicitly prohibit lawmakers from ever levying a state income tax on the citizens of Tennessee.

Tennessee ranks third

in nation for road quality

Tennessee ranks third in the nation for quality of roads according to Tennessee Commissioner of Transportation John Schroer who appeared before lawmakers last week. Tennessee has achieved high marks for road quality, despite spending less money per capita than a majority of states with a gasoline tax.

Schroer said these statistics show the Department of Transportation is working as efficiently and effectively as possible to maximize the impact of state road money in maintaining and improving Tennessee roads.