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Senator Kelsey’s Constitutional amendment to ban Hall Tax passes Senate in 26-3 vote

(NASHVILLE), February 22, 2018 – A proposal by State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) to amend the Tennessee Constitution to ban the Hall income tax passed the Senate by a vote of 26-3 this morning.

Senate Joint Resolution 494 proposes additional language in Article II, Section 28 of Tennessee’s Constitution which would eliminate state and local governments’ authority to levy state or local tax upon income derived from stocks and bonds that are not taxed ad valorem.

“The Hall Tax on interest and dividends discourages saving and investment and disproportionately impacts senior citizens on fixed incomes,” said Senator Kelsey.  “More and more citizens are relying on interest from stocks and dividends to fund their daily living expenses when they retire.  Not only is the Hall tax oppressive to these seniors, but it encourages them to move out-of-state.”

The Hall income tax, enacted in 1929, is the only tax on personal income in Tennessee. It is currently a four percent tax on income derived from dividends on stock or from interest on bonds after the General Assembly has made several reductions over the past several years. Legislation was approved last year to incrementally phase the tax out by January 2021. However, Senator Kelsey’s proposed amendment would constitutionally prohibit the General Assembly from ever levying or permitting any state or local tax upon income derived from stocks and bonds.

“Enshrining the Hall Tax repeal in the Tennessee Constitution is a pro-growth move that will encourage investment and reinvestment in the State, its companies, and its people,” Senator Kelsey added.

In order for a constitutional amendment to be approved, it must be receive approval by a simple majority during the current 110th General Assembly, and a two-thirds vote in the 111th General Assembly.  It would then be placed on the ballot for consideration by voters during the 2022 gubernatorial election, where it must receive a majority of votes cast in the governor’s race.

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown.  He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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SENATOR BECKY MASSEY TO CHAIR TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ARTS CAUCUS

NASHVILLE -- Senator Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) has been tapped to chair the Tennessee General Assembly Arts Caucus. Senator Massey will be the second chair of the Caucus since its inception over a dozen years ago.

“It is an honor to succeed former Senator Doug Overbey as chair of the Arts Caucus. Having been involved with different aspects of the arts over the years, I understand the positive impact of the arts in our state,” said Senator Massey.

The Arts Caucus was created to promote the importance of the arts and to help facilitate valuable policy discussion concerning the preservation and cultivation of the arts in Tennessee. It consists of approximately 38 members of the Tennessee legislature.

“Senator Massey is the ideal choice to lead this caucus,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally.  “She is a valued member of our Senate team serving on essential committees, including Transportation and Finance, Ways and Means. Senator Massey’s passion and advocacy for the arts is well-known and well-established. She will do an excellent job promoting the arts within the General Assembly and throughout the state of Tennessee.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell noted, “Senator Massey has been an active member of the Arts Caucus and will be a strong leader.”

A long-time community advocate and supporter of the arts in Knoxville, Senator Massey has been active with many nonprofit arts and cultural organizations including as past chair of the Dogwood Arts Festival and former executive director for the Sertoma Center, which serves individuals with disabilities including through the arts. Her sister is a successful visual artist and her daughter is a professional dancer and choreographer.

A recent arts and economic prosperity study found that each year Tennessee’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $1.17 billion in annual economic activity, supports 38,482 jobs and generates $135.9 million in state and local government revenue.

“The arts offer all of us a better quality of life, stimulate economic development and help attract tourists to our state,” continued Senator Massey.

Senator Massey will be the keynote speaker at Arts Advocacy Day, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at the Nashville Public Library.

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Senate Judiciary approves Henry’s Law stiffening penalties against drug dealers who kill minor

NASHVILLE – Drug dealers or others who unlawfully distribute Schedule I or II drugs to minors will be facing more jail time when it results in a death under legislation passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.  Senate Bill 1875, sponsored by Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), is named Henry’s Law for a Knoxville teenager, Henry Granju, who died due to a lethal opiate overdose.

“This was a tragic case,” said Senator Massey.  “Those who pedal drugs to our youth should face greater consequences and this bill ensures that these predators who kill will serve more time behind bars.”

The killing of a minor in Tennessee when the drug is a proximate cause of death is second degree murder, which is a Class A felony.  Under the state’s current sentencing guidelines, a standard Range I offender for a Class A felony can receive 15 to 25 years in jail, but the 30 percent requirement places the actual sentence at 4.5 to 7.5 years. The bill proposes to make that same Class A felony a Range II offense, carrying a 25 to 40 years sentence at a 35 percent requirement.  This means offenders would serve a minimum of 8.8 to 14 years behind bars.

Schedule I drugs include heroin and other psychedelics, while Schedule II drugs include opiates, cocaine, methadone, methamphetamines and amphetamines.

Henry’s mother, Katie Allison, and his aunt, Betsy Tant, told members of the Judiciary Committee about the importance of this bill to save other families from suffering the same fate as Henry.  “Clearly, this opioid epidemic is hitting our kids hard,” said Allison. “And there are adults out there, unfortunately, who would prey on the vulnerability and poor decision-making that many adolescents show. They try to cultivate new customers and, in doing so, kill them instead.  The reason we believe it is important for our state criminal code to attach an enhanced sentencing range to second degree homicide is because currently we don’t hold those who prey on our children with these horrible opiate drugs fully accountable for the damage and death they are bringing to this state.”

Approximately 70 to 80 juveniles die each year in the state of Tennessee due to opioid overdose.

"I greatly appreciate Senator Massey's work on this legislation and the compelling testimony of Katie Allison and Betsy Tant," said Lt. Governor McNally. "Henry's death was a true tragedy. Increasing the penalty for these crimes will go a long way towards preventing more Tennessee families from having to go through what Henry's family has gone through. It is time to institute real justice for victims in these cases."

Allison and Tant started Henry’s Fund, a non-profit which works to end teen and young adult drug addiction through treatment funding, education, support and advocacy.

The bill now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

 

 

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Senator Kelsey’s bipartisan proposal to prohibit judges from incentivizing sterilization passes Senate Judiciary Committee

(NASHVILLE), February 14, 2018 – A proposal by State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and State Representative Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) to prohibit Tennessee judges from offering defendants reduced jail time in exchange for sterilization passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 8-0 this morning.

Senate Bill 2133 prohibits a sentencing court from making a sentencing determination based on defendant’s consent or refusal to any form of temporary or permanent birth control, sterilization, or family planning services, regardless of whether the defendant’s consent is voluntarily given.

“Having children is one of the most important decisions an individual will ever make in his or her life,” Sen. Kelsey said. “The decision to have children should be left out of the courtroom.”

Sen. Kelsey and Rep. Akbari filed the bill in response to a White County judge offering reduced jail time to defendants who volunteered for sterilization. Judge Sam Benningfield said his goal was to break a “vicious cycle” of repeat drug offenders with children. The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct found that Benningfield violated rules regarding judicial independence, integrity, and propriety.

“Reproduction is a fundamental right,” Sen. Kelsey said. “In Tennessee, we respect life and we respect reproductive rights.”

The bill in no way prohibits defendants from seeking sterilization services if they so choose. It simply prohibits judges from incentivizing sterilization with reduced jail time. The bill will next be heard in the full Senate. Sen. Lee Harris (D-Memphis) is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown.  He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

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Senate approves bill to give students who suffer dependency on alcohol or drugs greater opportunities to succeed

NASHVILLE – The full Senate approved major legislation Monday night which authorizes Local Education Agencies (LEA) to create recovery high schools for certain students with alcohol or drug abuse dependency like Substance Use Disorder (SUD) or Major Depressive Episode (MDE). Senate Bill 1626, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), authorizes LEAs that open recovery schools to enroll eligible students, including those who are in another county.

“The staff of recovery high schools most often includes administrative staff, teachers, substance abuse counselors, and mental health professionals, with each playing a critical role in supporting their students,” said Sen. Gresham.  “This bill will help students keep up with their studies, while having the best supports possible to help them recover.”

The bill authorizes the State Board of Education to promulgate additional rules and policies in consultation with the Department of Education, the Department of Health, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to ensure best practices are employed as schools are authorized.  It will also allow LEAs to collaborate with other school districts to establish a school to serve their students.

Introduction into a recovery high school would be voluntary under the bill. Students who graduate from the recovery school would receive a diploma from the high school they attended prior to enrollment to lessen the possibility of a stigma being attached.  Grades earned by the students would also be transferrable to other high schools.

Research shows students who attend treatment and go back into their normal high school have about a 70 percent chance of relapse. That number drops to approximately 30 percent when the student attends a recovery school after treatment.  In addition, a recovery school in Houston found that about 98 percent of the students who attended had planned to drop out of school due to their addiction. After attending a recovery school, 90 percent of the students graduated, and over 80 percent went on to seek a post-secondary degree.

“Research on recovery schools show it is a game changer for kids that were headed towards a very dangerous path in life of dropping out of school and possibly ending up in jail down the road,”  added Senator Gresham.  “As we battle drug abuse in Tennessee, it is important that we apply every means possible to get these kids back on the right path so they have the best opportunity to be successful and addiction-free.”

The bill is sponsored by Representative Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville) in the House of Representatives.  It is scheduled to be heard on consideration in the House Government Operations Committee on Wednesday.

 

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Senate passes legislation which helps persons with disabilities have as much independence as possible in decision making when courts considers conservatorship

NASHVILLE – The Senate unanimously approved legislation on final consideration on Monday which would help individuals with disabilities have as much independence in their decision making as possible when a court is considering conservatorships or other actions to protect their best interest.  Senate Bill 264 defines “least restrictive alternatives,” a term which is already in Tennessee law, as “techniques and processes that preserve as many decision-making rights as possible for the person with a disability.”

“This legislation helps to ensure that when a conservatorship is pursued, it is, in fact, the least restrictive alternative for that person as required under current law,” said Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville), sponsor of the bill.  “This generation of people with disabilities has more opportunities than previous generations.  They are educated with their peers without disabilities; go to college; get jobs; get married; go out with friends; and live fully included lives in their communities.  They need an option that supports them to make decisions without removing their rights.”

“Defining it in law ensures that all parties – families, attorneys, judges, educators, health care practitioners, and others – recognize it is not the only option for many of those who have disabilities,” she added.

Research supports that when people are empowered to make their own decisions, to the maximum extent possible, they are better able to recognize abusive situations and surround themselves with healthy relationships.  Massey said the courts are committed to working with the disability community to provide training for judges on how least restrictive alternatives can be employed to maximize independence for people with disabilities, while minimizing the risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

The bill is sponsored by Representative Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) in the House of Representatives.

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Fresh Start legislation aims to help remove licensing barriers for prisoners after they are released to keep them turning back to a life of crime

NASHVILLE – Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris (D-Memphis), Representative Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) and Representative John DeBerry (D-Memphis) held a press conference today to discuss legislation which helps ensure Tennessee’s occupational licensing does not keep offenders who have served their time in jail from obtaining employment and getting a fresh start in life.  Senate Bill 2465 would reduce barriers to entering a profession by only allowing state licensing boards to deny licenses for past crimes that are directly related to the job sought excluding certain felonies. It would give those who committed an unrelated crime to the profession they wish to join a “fresh start.”

“When the prison doors open and it is time for those who have served their time to be returned to our communities, one of the most critical factors to keep them from reoffending is an opportunity to make a living,” said Senator Roberts.  “This bill helps remove barriers that exist in licensing so that they have access to employment as long as the offense does not directly relate to the occupation or profession.”

"Last year there were over 13,000 felons released out of our jails and prisons in Tennessee with over 2,200 released from Shelby County," said Sen. Lee Harris.  "The most important thing we can do to ensure these folks don’t return is to provide them with a path to employment.  Easing restrictions on job licensing will help those who have served their time obtain employment, and stay on the path of being a productive citizen."

“Unfortunately, we didn’t learn from Nathaniel Hawthorne when he wrote the Scarlet Letter, added Rep. Faison.  “Giving people a criminal record for victimless crimes has done way more to harm society than to help.   This bill is a good start at undoing the huge mistakes we have made.”

Tennessee requires a license for 110 different jobs, many impacting blue collar jobs.  Almost every state licensing board can deny a license to do a job based off a past criminal record, including low-level misdemeanor crimes.

Senate Bill 2465 provides that if a licensing board denies someone a license for a past crime, the board must consider the nature and seriousness of the crime, the passage of time since the crime was committed, and the relationship between the crime and the license sought, among other factors.  It also allows applicants for licenses to petition a state licensing board upfront to determine whether a past crime will disqualify them from obtaining a license. This will help keep them from spending hundreds or thousands of hours obtaining educational requirements for a license in which they will ultimately be denied.

“There are over 1,000 barriers that would keep an individual from returning to productive citizenship after coming out of incarceration,” said Rep. Parkinson.  “This idea and this strategy will remove a huge barrier for some of those citizens.”

Rep. DeBerry added, “If a man or woman comes out of jail and knows they made a mistake and are willing to accept the responsibility for their actions and their behaviors.  If they do everything we ask them to do so that they are accepted and start their life as a productive, taxpaying citizen, then why in the world we get in the way of that.  That is not smart for us as a society.”

According to the Council of State Governments (CSG), nearly 10 million adults return to the community from jails and federal and state prisons each year in the United States, facing significant challenges related to employment.  CSG reported that estimates reflect occupational restrictions can result in 2.85 million fewer people employed nationwide and raise consumer expenses by more than $200 billion.

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Legislation seeks to end emissions tests for vehicles in Tennessee

NASHVILLE – Legislation that would end mandatory emissions tests for vehicles in Tennessee has been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly.  Senate Bill 2656, sponsored by Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson), Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) and Representative Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah), would apply to Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson or Wilson Counties where the test is still required prior to vehicle registration or renewal.

The 1990 Federal Clean Air Act required the State of Tennessee to develop more restrictive regulations to control air pollution from mobile sources in counties which were not meeting the Federal Standards for air quality.  In August, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced that the entire State of Tennessee meets federal air quality health standards.

“Vehicle owners in these counties should not be penalized as the standards have been met,” said Senator Watson.  “Emission testing is not only time-consuming, but has costs attached, which are especially hard on low-income families.  This legislation would relieve this burdensome regulation for citizens in these six counties.”

Emissions testing is done on vehicles with a model year of 1975 and newer if they are powered by a gasoline or diesel engine and weigh up to 10,500 lbs.  Over 1.5 million vehicles went through emissions testing in Tennessee last year in the six counties where it is required.

"The idea that we have to choose between clean air and placing costly, burdensome regulations on Tennessee's working families is a false choice,” added Rep. Carter.  “I reject it. Vehicle emissions testing is a perfect example of a well-intentioned government program with harmful, unintended consequences for Tennessee's middle class. Frankly it has outlived its usefulness. I'll be happy to see it go."

“The people who can least afford it are being penalized,” added Sen. Gardenhire.  “Most of our automobile pollution has been from truckers and cars passing through Hamilton County, which we have no control over.  We are hopeful that we have the support to pass the bill this year.”

The bill now goes to the Transportation and Safety Committee in the Senate and the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Senator Kelsey’s Constitutional amendment to ban Hall Tax passes Senate Finance Committee

(NASHVILLE), February 6, 2018 – A proposal by State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) to amend the Tennessee Constitution to ban the Hall income tax passed the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee by a vote of 9-2 this morning.  Senate Joint Resolution 494 proposes additional language in Article II, Section 28 of Tennessee’s Constitution which would eliminate state and local governments’ authority to levy state or local tax upon income derived from stocks and bonds that are not taxed ad valorem.

“The Hall Tax on interest and dividends discourages saving and investment and disproportionately impacts senior citizens on fixed incomes,” said Senator Kelsey.  “More and more citizens are relying on interest from stocks and dividends to fund their daily living expenses when they retire.  Not only is the Hall tax oppressive to these seniors, but it encourages them to move out-of-state.”

The Hall income tax, enacted in 1929, is the only tax on personal income in Tennessee. It is currently a four percent tax on income derived from dividends on stock or from interest on bonds after the General Assembly has made several reductions over the past several years. Legislation was approved last year to incrementally phase the tax out by January 2021. However, Senator Kelsey’s proposed amendment would constitutionally prohibit the General Assembly from ever levying or permitting any state or local tax upon income derived from stocks and bonds.

“Enshrining the Hall Tax repeal in the Tennessee Constitution is a pro-growth move that will encourage investment and reinvestment in the State, its companies, and its people,” Senator Kelsey added.

In order for a constitutional amendment to be approved, it must be receive approval by a simple majority during the current 110th General Assembly, and a two-thirds vote in the 111th General Assembly.  It would then be placed on the ballot for consideration by voters during the 2022 gubernatorial election, where it must receive a majority of votes cast in the governor’s race.

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown.  He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

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Lawmakers propose bipartisan gun safety legislation

NASHVILLE – State Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) and Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris (D-Memphis) today announced bipartisan legislation that would make it cheaper for gun owners to safely store their firearms.  Senate Bill 2476 would exempt the purchase of gun safes from the state’s sales tax.

The announcement was made at an afternoon press conference on Capitol Hill.  Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville), Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), Senator Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) and Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) also attended.

“This is common-sense legislation that will make gun safes more affordable and accessible for gun owners,” said Senator Roberts.  “Further it will create a safer environment for children and hopefully prevent the heartbreaking tragedies that occur from time to time.  Finally we believe this legislation will prevent thefts."

“In 2017, Memphis led the entire nation in negligent storage shootings,” said Leader Harris.  “Any increase in the number of gun safety devices sold could lead to fewer accidental shootings and gun thefts. We believe that exempting them from the sales tax is a step forward in that effort.”

“Firearm ownership carries with it a responsibility of safeguarding the welfare of others and yourself when handling them,” said Kyle.  “The improper storage of a firearm at home could have tragic consequences such as potentially causing the injury or death of a child who discovers the firearm and plays with it.”

Gun safes are currently exempt from sales tax in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and Washington.

The bill is sponsored by Representative William Lamberth (R-Portland) in the House of Representatives.

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Legislation aims to prevent sexual misconduct by teachers with their students

NASHVILLE, (January 31, 2018) – Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), along with members of the Senate Education Committee, have filed five bills to prevent sexual misconduct by teachers with their students.  The legislative package follows a comprehensive report from Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson which revealed deficiencies in hiring practices for school personnel that could allow predators to slip through the cracks.

Other members of the committee include Senators Reginald Tate (D-Memphis), Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville), Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol).

“While the vast majority of teachers act in a professional manner, these bills hold teachers who are in violation fully accountable,” said Sen. Gresham.  “Parents need to know when they send their child to a public school that he or she will be safe.  This legislation works to close any potential loopholes to prevent predators from gaining employment or from moving to another school district when such reprehensible behavior occurs.”

The package includes:

  • Senate Bill 2014 which ensures that background checks are conducted to identify sexual predators before a teacher license is issued and that reports are done on an ongoing basis for those who work with children.  Presently, school districts require an initial background check before hiring.
  • Senate Bill 2015 which prohibits a Local Education Agency (LEA) from entering into a non-disclosure agreement with a teacher that would prevent other school districts from knowing about sexual misconduct.  It also allows districts to access information about the previous employment of a teacher with another school district.
  • Senate Bill 2013 which updates the state’s Teacher Code of Ethics regarding inappropriate teacher-student relationships, including engaging in sexual behavior with students or furnishing them alcohol or drugs.
  • Senate Bill 2011 which grants the State Board of Education’s authority to reprimand school directors for not reporting instances of misconduct and clarifies the board’s authority to reprimand educators for violating the Teacher Code of Ethics.
  • Senate Bill 2012 which calls for the State Board of Education to post all final teacher disciplinary action on its website to allow school districts, as well as out-of-state entities responsible for the licensing and hiring of Tennessee educators, to access information regarding the final disciplinary action of an individual’s license case.  It also requires final licensure action be reported to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) database for the same purpose.

In addition, committee members support an appropriation in the budget presented by Governor Bill Haslam on Monday for an additional staff attorney in the State Board of Education to review educator misconduct investigations and outstanding cases, and determine what licensure action, if any, should be taken.

“The proposed reporting requirements enhance information sharing, both in Tennessee and with other states, so that no predators can fall through the cracks.  I believe we have a lot of support to move these bills forward,” she concluded.


Legislation directs TennCare to seek federal waiver to prevent abortion providers from receiving taxpayer funds

NASHVILLE -- State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) announced today that he has filed legislation directing TennCare officials to seek a Medicaid waiver to exclude facilities in Tennessee that perform elective abortions from receiving taxpayer money.  The announcement was made today at a press conference with House sponsor Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City) and numerous co-sponsors of the bill.

“Tennesseans do not want their hard-earned tax dollars going to abortion clinics,” said Senator Bell.  “Allowing our tax dollars to go to abortion clinics, even though they supposedly are not used directly for abortions, helps pay for their operational costs.  This is a practice known as cost-shifting and the practical effect is that it keeps clinics that perform elective abortions afloat at taxpayer expense.”

The Department of Finance and Administration estimates abortion providers have received almost $1 million in taxpayer funding from 2012-2017.

Bell said under the administration of President Obama, states could not get waivers to exclude abortion providers, but he believes that this could change with President Donald Trump’s administration.

“We are asking that the current TennCare II waiver be amended to exclude facilities which perform elective abortions,” he said.  “Texas and other states have already begun to seek waivers and we are optimistic that they will now be considered.”

The funds for other women’s health services, such as breast exams, cancer screenings and birth control, would not be affected by the proposal.  The funds would be redirected from elective abortion clinics to other health care providers so women will continue to receive care.  All of Tennessee’s 95 counties have identified community health centers and other providers aside from those who perform elective abortions, who meet criteria to receive taxpayer funding for other women’s health services.

Twenty-five the Senate’s 33 members have signed on to co-sponsor the legislation.


Senator Kelsey’s Constitutional amendment to ban Hall Tax passes Judiciary Committee

(NASHVILLE), January 31, 2018 – A proposal by State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) to amend the Tennessee Constitution to ban the Hall income tax passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 7-1 yesterday.  Senate Joint Resolution 494 proposes additional language in Article II, Section 28 of Tennessee’s Constitution which would eliminate state and local governments’ authority to levy state or local tax upon income derived from stocks and bonds that are not taxed ad valorem.

“The Hall Tax on interest and dividends discourages saving and investment and disproportionately impacts senior citizens on fixed incomes,” said Senator Kelsey.  “More and more citizens are relying on interest from stocks and dividends to fund their daily living expenses when they retire.  Not only is the Hall tax oppressive to these seniors, but it encourages them to move out-of-state.”

The Hall income tax, enacted in 1929, is the only tax on personal income in Tennessee. It is currently a four percent tax on income derived from dividends on stock or from interest on bonds after the General Assembly has made several reductions over the past several years. Legislation was approved last year to incrementally phase the tax out by January 2021. However, Senator Kelsey’s proposed amendment would constitutionally prohibit the General Assembly from ever levying or permitting any state or local tax upon income derived from stocks and bonds.

“Enshrining the Hall Tax repeal in the Tennessee Constitution is a pro-growth move that will encourage investment and reinvestment in the State, its companies, and its people,” Senator Kelsey added.

In order for a constitutional amendment to be approved, it must be receive approval by a simple majority during the current 110th General Assembly, and a two-thirds vote in the 111th General Assembly.  It would then be placed on the ballot for consideration by voters during the 2022 gubernatorial election, where it must receive a majority of votes cast in the governor’s race.

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown.  He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


TN Senator Todd Gardenhire Issues Challenge to US Reps to Support Trump Immigration Proposal

NASHVILLE, Tenn., (January 29, 2018)Tennessee State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) is issuing a challenge to US Congressmen Steve Cohen and Jim Cooper to support President Donald Trump’s recently released immigration plan that includes a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million individuals brought to the US as a minor child by an illegal immigrant parent or parents.

“It’s time for those who constantly demand protections for children to actually vote the same way and support Trump’s immigration proposal,” noted Gardenhire, whose legislative tenure includes an effort for those identified as “Dreamers” to pay in-state tuition at Tennessee’s colleges and universities. “Tennessee is about to find out if these men are serious about solving problems or are being led around by Nancy Pelosi to keep the issue alive for political points and division.”

Preceding the State of the Union Address on Tuesday, the Trump Administration released a proposed framework based on previously cited tenets of a bipartisan comprehensive approach to deal with an array of issues involving immigration. Four key components of the legislative initiative include $25 billion in funding for a wall system that uses a physical barrier where geography warrants, surveillance and patrol measures, a reduction in chain migration involving family-based immigration that currently extends to distant relatives rather than just immediate family, an elimination of the VISA lottery program that has been recently tied to criminal and terror activity and, finally, a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million individuals identified as Dreamers.

“A very few of us have been willing to address the reality that these kids brought here by their parents need to be productive, not wards of the state by allowing them to pay in-state tuition to encourage education, not entitlement. The calls for bipartisanship and solving problems rings pretty hollow from those who are given exactly what they want with this pathway to citizenship but still refuse to support a proposal,” declared Gardenhire. “So, Congressman Cohen and Congressman Cooper, do you represent Tennessee or Ms. Pelosi?”

In a move that is a clear concession to Democrats, Trump is including in the bipartisan proposal the more-than-doubled request of 1.8 million Dreamers who would be eligible for a pathway to citizenship versus the requested approximate 800,000 as cited in previous negotiations on a bill. Details of the proposal will likely be a key topic of interest addressed in President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

“Tennesseans are tired of politicians who want to have an opportunity to solve a problem but love to keep the crisis alive for votes. Let’s get behind this proposal and do the right thing,” concluded Gardenhire, representing Senate District 10 in parts of Hamilton and Bradley Counties.

Senator Gardenhire serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and is a member of the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee as well as the Senate State and Local Government Committee. Todd and his wife Sylvia reside in Lookout Valley and have four grown children and five grandchildren.

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MEDIA ADVISORY: Senate committees to hear the effects of new ELD rule on Tennessee’s agricultural community

NASHVILLE, (January 26, 2018) – The Senate Transportation and Safety Committee will meet jointly with the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, January 30 to hear from officials of the Tennessee Department of Safety and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration about the effect of the new Electronic Logging Device (ELD) on the state’s agricultural community.

The Senate Transportation and Safety Committee is chaired by Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta), while the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is chaired by Senator Steve Southerland (R-Morristown).

The new federal rule requires an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) to be installed in any commercial vehicle.  These devices track the amount of time a driver can drive.  This new mandate has caused much confusion and concern within the agricultural community regarding the effects it will have on livestock and farm haulers.  These issues will be discussed at the meeting.  It will be live streamed on the General Assembly’s website at:   http://www.capitol.tn.gov/ at 1:30.

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WHO: Joint Meeting of the Transportation and Safety Committee and the Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee

WHAT: Presentations on new ELD rule and its effect on Tennessee’s farm communities

WHEN: Tuesday, January 30, at 1:30 p.m. CST

WHERE: Senate Hearing Room 1, Cordell Hull Building, Nashville, TN


Senator Yager Offers Students Opportunity to Learn About Government First-Hand as Senate Page

(NASHVILLE, TN) -- State Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) today invited local students in grades 6 – 12 in the 12th senatorial district to experience the legislature in action as a Page in the State Senate.  An adult is required to accompany Pages under the age of 18. The Page duties consist of anything from making copies, running errands within the Capitol building, to distributing legislative information to members of the General Assembly.  The student pages report to the Chief Clerk of the House and Senate.

"This is the best civics lesson I can imagine," said Senator Yager. "Student Pages are right there with us on the Senate floor. They get a unique front-row view of the lawmaking process."

Students wishing to be considered as a Senate Page can contact Senator Yager online at [email protected] or they can call his office at 615-741-1449. The Pages will also receive a tour of the capitol.  Parents or teachers are invited to attend with their child or student.

“We will certainly take care of as many requests for Pages as we can before the General Assembly adjourns,” added Yager.  “I look forward to sponsoring many local students in our State Senate.”

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Senator Southerland appointed to Tennessee Council for Career and Technical Education

(NASHVILLE)Senator Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) was recently appointed to serve as a member of the Tennessee Council for Career and Technical Education by Lt. Governor Randy McNally. The Council was authorized under a law passed by the General Assembly last year.

His term as a member of this council is effective until June 30, 2019. The Tennessee Council for Career and Technical Education advocates for quality Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs which prepare students for success in postsecondary education, careers, and life.

“Steve Southerland understands that career and technical education is the pathway to personal fulfillment and financial success for many of our citizens,” said Lt. Governor McNally. “This council does important work to advance the cause of CTE education in Tennessee.  I am confident that Steve’s talents and experience will serve the council well.”

The duties associated with this role include analyzing and reporting on the distribution of spending for career and technical education in the state and on the availability of career and technical education activities and services within the state.  This is in addition to advising the state board of education and making reports to the governor, the business community, and the general public on ways to strengthen career and technical education, in consultation with the state board of education.

“I am honored to receive this appointment,” said Senator Southerland. “It is important to have an education system that provides resources to effectively prepare Tennessee youth and adults for a career in the workforce with CTE, and I look forward to working with the Council in this capacity.”

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RESOLUTION WOULD LET VOTERS DECIDE IF THEY WANT THE ELECTED GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO CHOOSE THEIR STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), January 23, 2018  -- A resolution that would allow Tennessee voters to decide if they want their elected representatives to select the state’s attorney general (AG), rather than the current system of allowing five appointed Supreme Court justices to make that choice, was approved 7 to 2 today by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Senate Joint Resolution 88, sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston), begins the process of amending the State Constitution, which if approved by voters, calls for the AG to be selected by lawmakers beginning March 2023.

Unlike any other state, Tennessee’s AG is appointed by justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court for a term of eight years.  Tennessee’s Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor and stand for a retention vote.

“The reason for this legislation is two-fold,” said Sen. Yager.  “It will provide for a more transparent process as our rules require legislative deliberations be made in public.  The second is that the appointing authority will be more broad-based and accountable.”

Supreme Court justices are not required to have open meetings during their selection process.

“Currently, the attorney general is twice removed from those he or she is supposed to represent – the people of Tennessee.  This means you have appointees appointing the AG which is too far removed,” he continued.

The resolution calls for the AG to be elected to a four-year term.  It also provides that the AG be 30 years of age or older, a citizen of the United States, an attorney duly licensed in Tennessee and a resident of the state for at least seven years preceding the election.  Under the measure, appointment would be made by joint vote of both houses of the General Assembly.

The amendment process requires a simple majority by the 110th General Assembly currently in session, and a two-thirds majority in the 111th General Assembly which is elected in 2018, before going to voters in a statewide referendum in 2022.  In order to be adopted, a proposed constitutional amendment must receive one more vote than half the number of votes cast in the gubernatorial election.

“This resolution moves this antiquated process from the 19th to the 21st century,” Yager concluded.

The bill now moves to the Senate floor for final consideration.

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Senator Janice Bowling appointed as Deputy Speaker of the Tennessee Senate, first woman to hold position

(NASHVILLE)State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) was appointed to a key leadership role in the Tennessee Senate by Lt. Governor Randy McNally. She will be the first woman to hold the position of Deputy Speaker of the Senate. The announcement was made yesterday on the floor of the Senate.

"Janice Bowling is a strong, valuable member of our caucus," said Lt. Gov. McNally. "She is an excellent legislator who works tirelessly on behalf of her constituents. I am looking forward to her advice and counsel in this new role. She will be an outstanding Deputy Speaker."

Preceding Senator Bowling, the position of Deputy Speaker was held by Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), who is now Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate.

The position of Deputy Speaker was created in 1987 by the Speaker of the Senate, Lt. Governor John Shelton Wilder.

The Deputy Speaker is appointed to a two-year term and serves at the pleasure of the Speaker of the Senate. Principle duties of the position include assisting the Speaker in regard to committee appointments and the assignment of bills to standing committees. The deputy speaker helps schedule and guide the flow of legislation on the floor and assists the speaker in the administrative decision-making of the Senate, and also serves as a liaison with regional and national legislative bodies. The Deputy Speaker often presides over the Senate and assists the Speaker on special projects.

“I am honored to serve as Deputy Speaker of the Senate,” said Senator Bowling. “I am thrilled to work with the Lt. Governor and Speaker Pro Tem. as we focus on passing fiscally responsible legislation that results in economic prosperity for individuals and businesses in rural and urban Tennessee.”

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Senator Ferrell Haile Appointed Speaker Pro Tempore

(NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) announced the appointment of Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate. The announcement was made yesterday on the Senate floor. Senator Haile replaces Jim Tracy, who resigned late last year to accept a presidential appointment.

"Ferrell has served the Senate well as Deputy Speaker and his performance as Vice Chair of the Health and Welfare Committee has been nothing short of exemplary. His talents and skills are a natural fit for this position. I am proud to appoint him."

Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) will replace Senator Haile in the position of Deputy Speaker.

"Ferrell Haile is the epitome of a servant leader. An extremely effective legislator, Senator Haile never seeks credit for his accomplishments and is quick to praise others," stated Lt.

Gov. McNally. "He is focused, organized and driven for the purpose of doing good for his constituents, the Senate and the state of Tennessee.

The Speaker Pro Tempore is a key leadership role in the General Assembly, in terms of both operations and policy. Most notably, the Speaker Pro Tempore presides over the state Senate in the absence of the Speaker of the Senate.

About Ferrell Haile

Born and raised in Sumner County, Haile has been a small business owner, pharmacist, and farmer in the county for over 40 years. Haile was first elected to the Senate in 2012. Prior to his election, he served briefly as an interim appointee. Haile was recently named "Legislator of the Year" by the Tennessee CASA for his efforts on behalf of abused and neglected children.

Haile currently serves a 1st Vice Chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. He also serves as a member of the Finance Ways Means Committee, the Education Committee and the Committee on Rules.

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