(NASHVILLE, TN), April 21, 2011 – Senate Committees worked at “full steam” this week as they wrapped up budget hearings for various agencies and departments of state government and moved a number of important bills to the Senate floor for final action. Two Senate committees, the Transportation Committee, and the Senate Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee, have closed for the year. The remaining committees are preparing to conclude their business within the next two to three weeks, as the General Assembly is working to adjourn the 2011 legislative session before Memorial Day.
Jobs plan announced -- Jobs, education and finding government efficiencies continue to be the focus on Capitol Hill, both in the legislature and the governor’s office, as Governor Bill Haslam announced his Jobs4TN Plan this week. The plan was developed over a 45-day period and involved interviews with more than 300 stakeholders, community leaders, and national experts as well as through seven roundtables across the state.
The Jobs4TN plan focuses on prioritizing the strategic recruitment of target industries; assisting existing Tennessee businesses in expansions and remaining competitive; supporting regional and rural economic development strategies; as well as investing in innovation and reducing business regulation. The plan regionalizes job creation strategies by focusing on industry clusters where Tennessee already has a competitive advantage.
Tennessee will concentrate its recruitment efforts on six target clusters in which the state has a clear competitive advantage: automotive; chemicals and plastics; transportation, logistics and distribution services; business services; healthcare; advanced manufacturing; and, energy technologies. In addition, the Department of Economic and Community Development will fundamentally restructure its field staff to recognize efficiencies and maximize its resources. The plan includes establishing a “jobs base camp” in each of nine regions across the state. Each base camp will work with local partners to develop and/or revise a regional economic develop plan.
The goal is to make Tennessee the number one location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs by creating the right business climate. Legislation considered in the Senate this week focusing on education, tort reform and lessening burdensome regulations on businesses are an important part of that effort.
Senate approves resolution giving voters the right to restore their voice regarding what state law should be regarding abortions
The State Senate voted 24 to 8 to give Tennesseans the opportunity to restore their voice in determining what state law should be regarding abortions. The supermajority is two votes more than needed by the Senate to put the constitutional resolution on the ballot.
The measure, Senate Joint Resolution 127 which I am sponsoring, addresses a State Supreme Court decision in 2000 that struck down provisions in Tennessee law calling for women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and wait 48 hours before they receive an abortion. The court also ruled against a state requirement that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital. That ruling made Tennessee more liberal than the U.S. Supreme Court required in Roe v. Wade and made the right to abortion a “fundamental right” in Tennessee.
The resolution would allow citizens to amend Tennessee's Constitution to say that the right to an abortion is only protected under the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. It would give the people the right, through their elected state representatives and senators, to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape, incest or life of the mother. The practical effect of the resolution would be to bring Tennessee back into a position of neutrality so the people’s elected representatives can decide within the bounds of federal decisions what protections can be put into place.
If approved by a super majority in the House of Representatives, citizens could expect to see the resolution on the ballot in November 2014.
Molly’s Plant Food / Bath Salts -- The Senate approved and sent to the governor a bill a bill that I am co-sponsoring to prohibit possession and sale of methcathinone. The drug, which is commonly referred to as "bath salts" or "Molly plant food," is currently being sold legally in Tennessee. Senate Bill 396 would make the sale of the drug a misdemeanor.
Government efficiency -- A bill aiming to streamline the legislative process and save taxpayer dollars has cleared the Senate Finance Committee. Senate Bill 725 avoids duplication in state government by eliminating 11 joint oversight committees and shifting their responsibilities to the standing committees of each house of the General Assembly, saving the state $851,800.