House of Representatives
CAPITOL HILL REVIEW
A weekly wrap-up of legislative news
May 16th-20th, 2011
House Working on Fiscally Conservative Budget That Lowers State Spending
This week the General Assembly kicked it into high gear as Republican legislators sense the end of the legislative session is near.
The House is quickly winding down and will likely wrap up the work of the legislature earlier than usual. Republican Members are working hard to finish the work of Tennessee within a reasonable time frame in an effort to save taxpayers money. Many news reports have noted if the House finalizes its work in the next week, it will be one of the shortest sessions in the past decade.
Much of the focus has been on working with the Administration to craft a budget that meets Tennessee’s needs but lowers the overall spending by State government. House Republican leaders have been working late into the night to become acquainted with the conservative budget outline provided by the Administration.
Current plans call for the House to pass a fiscally-responsible budget that will spend nearly $2 billion less than last year. The House Majority Chair stated, “Clearly, this Republican Majority is focused on honoring our pledge to lower government spending in Tennessee so the private sector can grow and provide jobs to our citizens.”
GOP Passing Major Government Reforms and Job-Growth Policies As Session Nears End
A number of conservative bills are coming to the forefront as the legislative session enters its stretch run. For example, details are being finalized for bills such as Senate Joint Resolution 127.
This strong pro-life legislation calls for an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution that will return our State Constitution to a position of neutrality on abortion. A number of pro-life groups are backing the bill as well as an overwhelming majority of Tennesseans.
Historically, it is difficult to change the language of the State Constitution. However, SJR 127 has received broad support throughout the General Assembly from a number of legislators concerned about protecting life. That said, the amendment still has a number of hurdles before it. Procedurally, the bill must go through a third reading this General Assembly before being sent to the Governor. After that, it is sent to the ballot for a referendum by the voters of Tennessee during the next gubernatorial race and must receive a majority of votes in support of the amendment.
Additionally, other measures like tort reform are being readied for presentation to the Governor to be signed into law. The bill is a central focus of the Republican legislative agenda. Proponents of the legislation believe these reforms will bring stability to the legal environment companies have to account for when considering relocation to Tennessee or doing business here.
Anti-Looting Legislation Clears the House
Early in the week, Republicans advanced a measure in response to a recent upswing in the reports of looting taking place following the historic storms that crossed the South and tore through Tennessee.
HB 1946, known as the “retail theft” bill, provides a new offense whereby courts may require a criminal to perform public service as designated by the court. The offender would be required to perform at least the number of hours of public service necessary to satisfy the fine assessed by the court at minimum wage.
The conservative sponsor of the legislation represents one of the areas devastated by the storms. He remarked, “By passing this legislation, our Republican Majority responded quickly and effectively to reports of looting against our citizens. These crimes are perpetrated by some of the most despicable criminals who hurt families in their time of most need. Instead of just throwing them behind bars, this legislation ensures they are put to work rebuilding our communities and doing hard work to make up for their unacceptable crimes.”
The bill was approved by both the House and Senate by wide margins and has been sent to the Governor for his signature.