May 23, 2008
2008 Legislative Session sees many accomplishments says
Senate Republican Leaders
(NASHVILLE, TN), May 23, 2008 – Senate Republican leaders said today they are proud of many accomplishments made during the 2008 legislative session which ended Wednesday. Some of the accomplishments included passage of significant health and long term care reform, competitive cable legislation, expanded college scholarship opportunities for more students, reform of the Veterans Nursing Homes, and measures to open government, including access to public records. The comments came at the close of the two-year 105th General Assembly, which marked the first time in 140 years the Senate elected a Republican Speaker.
“We are proud of our accomplishments during the 105th General Assembly,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). “We had a positive impact on the future of this state. By protecting small business, toughening sanctions against criminals, overhauling education funding, providing more college scholarship opportunities, providing choices for Tennessee consumers, and demanding accountability in state departments and agencies, we demonstrated that it truly matters who governs.”
“Republican initiatives provided greater opportunities to more Tennesseans without new taxes. We blocked a number of bad bills promoted by Democrats. Their lottery reforms, for example, initially reached far fewer Tennesseans than the final package insisted upon by Senate Republicans,” Norris added.
“Besides working to accomplish legislation that will be beneficial for Tennesseans, Republican leadership in the Senate also worked to streamline our legislative process to finish our session on time, we continued to stand up for our second amendment rights, and resisted efforts to add burdens on our small business community in a time of economic downturn,” added Senate Republican Chairman Diane Black (R-Gallatin).
Some of the bills sited by Republicans are:
- Consumers / Competitive Cable / SB 1933 / by Ketron — The legislation will chart a positive course for the future of cable, video and broadband communication services in Tennessee
- Education / Lottery Scholarships / SB 611 / by Woodson — Among key bills approved during the final day of the 2008 legislative session was a plan to distribute excess lottery dollars to Tennessee students. The legislation will provide college scholarship opportunities to 12,000 more students.
- Health Care / Long Term Care / Three bills were passed this year that would give elderly and disabled Tennesseans more long term care options. Among them was a comprehensive measure that simplifies access to home and community-based services and increases the number of people able to stay at home for long-term care needs through the state’s TennCare program. (SB 4181 / by Finney L, Black). Also, the General Assembly passed a pilot “self-directed care program” where individual patients get the opportunity to choose services they think they need and who provides them. (SB 1157 / by Black). Another long term care bill broadened the definition of assisted living to include hospice services to make it clear that any assisted-care living facility resident who qualifies for hospice care under Medicare can continue those services and also receive reimbursement for assisted living services. ( SB 2614 / by Black).
- Health Care / Medical Malpractice Reform / SB 2001 / Norris — One of the most significant bills passed this year in the General Assembly was tort reform legislation aimed at weeding out meritless medical malpractice lawsuits. Medical malpractice costs have been a factor in pushing up the cost of health care nationwide.
- Health Care / Small Businesses / SB 4014 / by Southerland — The General Assembly passed legislation this year to let more small business owners join together to
negotiate lower health insurance rates. The bill is designed to encourage more small employers to purchase health insurance, and give them predictability and
stability in health-insurance rates.
- Open Government / SB 3280 / by McNally — In action on open government, the General Assembly voted to approve major legislation opening records in
- Veterans / SB 3919 / by Norris — Another key bill passed this year was legislation to reform the Tennessee Veterans Nursing Homes. The nursing homes
have come under increasing state and federal scrutiny following recent allegations of abuse.
- Crime / SB 2866 / by Burchett– State legislators have approved a bill that changes present law by making it a Class E felony for a person who has a felony conviction to possess a handgun.
Child endangerment / SB 2973 / by Norris, Black, Bunch, Crowe – The legislature approved a measure that would increase the punishment for vehicular assault and vehicular homicide if a child is injured or killed as a result of a DUI.
The two Republican leaders said there is still much work to be done in the next General Assembly. “The 2008 session was disappointing regarding efforts to combat drunk driving in Tennessee,” added Black. “Proposed measures that did not pass included bills that would have implemented an automatic license revocation program, a bill to crack down on multiple offenders, a measure to lower the extreme drunk driving level, a proposal to require mandatory interlock for certain offenders, a ban on open containers, and legislation that would have established a Drunk Driver Registry, similar to Tennessee’s Sex Offender Registry.”
In addition, they said continued improvement needs to be made on illegal immigration reform. The Senate passed legislation for English in the workplace, to prevent sanctuary cities for illegal aliens, cracking down on fake identification, and strengthening laws against the hiring of illegal immigrants. Last year the Senate passed legislation requiring that driver’s license exams be administered in English and a measure requiring proof of citizenship before registering to vote. Those bills also failed to gain the approval in the House of Representatives.
“Although we are pleased with the progress we made during the 2008 legislative session, we still have much work to do in the next General Assembly,” Norris continued. “Republicans are very much in touch the values of the great majority of Tennesseans, and we will continue to push reforms this fall and in the 2009 legislative session.”