Today’s installment in this series of detailed summaries of the work of the 108th General Assembly of the Tennessee Legislature will be my final contribution in this eight-week perspective.
My House of Representatives colleague, state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland representing the 24th Legislative District, will conclude our wrap-up in next Sunday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Before taking a look at a few pieces of remaining legislation from the state House, I want to thank the Cleveland Daily Banner for working closely with the Bradley County legislative delegation in helping us to get the word out to our constituents about what we’re doing in Nashville and how we’re teaming up to look out after the best interests of our districts as well as Tennesseans statewide.
The 108th General Assembly was another memorable, seemingly historic, legislative session because of the number of significant changes we have brought to the state, and to our citizens. We believe each is in the best interest of Tennessee and we will continue to work to improve the lives and opportunities for anyone who calls the Volunteer State their home. I know I do so certainly I want what’s best for my district, my loved ones and all of Tennessee.
So now, getting back to a few more pivotal pieces of legislation:
Legislation designed to help
curb EBT card abuse signed
by Tennessee governor
A Republican-sponsored bill designed to help curb abuse of purchases made using Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards passed the General Assembly earlier this year.
House Bill 119 prohibits use of a welfare recipient’s EBT card in liquor stores, adult cabarets, casinos and other gambling facilities. In addition, welfare recipients who use EBT benefits illegally would be subject to disqualification from the program as permitted by federal law.
House Republicans agree the proposal is needed in Tennessee to ensure taxpayer dollars are not abused and to redirect EBT benefits to where they are intended to go — to help struggling families across the state.
GOP expands 2nd Amendment
rights for all Tennesseans
Republicans moved forward this year with several pieces of legislation aimed at expanding the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans by allowing those licensed by the state to carry firearms in certain places where they were previously prohibited. Tennessee’s Constitution guarantees “that the citizens of this State have a right to keep and bear arms.”
Firearm legislation moved forward this year as Republicans passed a key measure that allows permit holders to carry firearms safely secured in the trunk of their vehicles in parking lots.
Most recently, Texas became the latest state to prohibit employers from adopting policies that interfere with an employee's right to transport firearms to work and keep them in their locked, private vehicles while parked in an employer-provided parking area. In addition, 18 other states besides Texas have some varying degree of this law, including five of Tennessee's eight bordering states.
The General Assembly exhaustively debated the subject with a supermajority determining that legal carry permit holders were responsible individuals who should be able to protect themselves, regardless of where their vehicle may be parked.
Another firearm measure that passed this session will help prevent school violence by providing faculty with the resources needed to protect Tennessee students.
As amended, the bill will allow previous or current law enforcement officers across the state to possess a firearm on school property if the person has a handgun carry permit, is authorized in writing by the school superintendent, is in compliance with all laws, rules and regulations of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, and has had at least 40 hours of basic school police training.
In the wake of the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Republican lawmakers are committed to doing everything in their power to protect the children and educators of Tennessee.
House Republicans change
legislative per diem rules
A bill that changes the way per diems are granted to lawmakers in the Tennessee General Assembly passed the House earlier this year. House Bill 80 eliminates the lodging reimbursement for members living within a 50-mile radius of the Capitol. Currently, all members of the General Assembly are paid $173 per day which is the federal per diem rate. The money is used to cover lodging, food and other costs.
Since 1984, the Legislature has used the federal per diem rate. In addition, the state law which provides for the reimbursement of per diem is not a permissive statute, meaning reimbursement is not optional.
The House Republican sponsor said the proposal eliminates the automatic reimbursement for lodging and will save taxpayer money while continuing efforts to reform state government. Lawmakers also say the proposal is a more business-like approach that voters expect and deserve.