NASHVILLE – Bills concerning healthcare, the economy and taxes were among the major pieces of legislation that advanced in the State Senate this week. In addition, budget hearings occurred in all of the Senate Committees, as budget reductions and economic proposals continue to be debated.
Tennessee Senate approves Health Freedom Act to protect rights of citizens to choose whether or not to participate in any future federally mandated health care program
The Tennessee Senate approved legislation this week by a vote of 26-1-5 to protect the freedom of Tennessee patients to make their own health care choices, regardless of any future federal action. The bill, called the Tennessee Health Freedom Act is sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers.
“Never in our history has the U.S. government required its citizens, as a condition of residency, to purchase a particular product from a private company or government entity,” said Senator Beavers. “This act seeks to protect the rights of Tennesseans to choose what type and quantity of health insurance to purchase.”
Beavers said the legislation, Senate Bill 3498, would protect a citizen’s right to participate, or not participate, in any healthcare system, and would prohibit the federal government from imposing fines or penalties on that person’s decision. She said it does not seek to “nullify” any federal law, as it would still allow individuals the option to participate in a federal program. However, the bill acknowledges the right of Tennesseans to refuse to participate in a government-run health insurance program. It also calls on the state’s Attorney General to take action in the defense or prosecution of rights protected under the legislation.
“The mandate to buy health insurance does not regulate the health care insurance markets – it regulates the doing of nothing,” added Beavers. “If Congress really had the power to regulate such an activity, there would be no limits to its power. They could mandate the purchase of anything, yet the Supreme Court recently made it clear it will strike down federal statutes based on such an unlimited assertion of power. It is not inconceivable if they can do this, they could mandate that each of us buy a Chevrolet every year so we can help pay off the loans that were made to that industry.”
Action on the bill will now move to the House of Representatives, where it is sponsored by Representative Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R- Lancaster).
Constitutional amendment prohibiting income tax and payroll tax advances
A resolution advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee this week calling for a constitutional amendment to clarify prohibition of an income tax and a payroll tax in Tennessee. The amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 763, specifies that the legislature shall be prohibited from passing either an income tax or a payroll tax, which is a tax on employers that is measured by the wages they pay their workers.
There have been several cases before the Tennessee Supreme Court throughout the state’s history that have upheld that the income tax is unconstitutional. The most recent case was decided in 1964, and this case has never been overturned. However, elected officials in Tennessee have proposed both an income tax and a payroll tax in recent years.
“We must ensure that Tennessee remains a state where businesses and people want to locate,” said resolution co-sponsor Mae Beavers. “I worked hard in the 1990s and 2000s to make sure an income tax was defeated in the legislature, and this amendment hopes to put this issue to rest once and for all.”
Issues in Brief
Music and Pornography File Sharing – The Senate approved legislation this week co-sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers aimed at preventing child pornography by adding that any unauthorized “covered file-sharing program” to the list of unfair or deceptive acts under Tennessee’s Consumer Protection Act. The practice, also known as Peer to Peer File Sharing (P2P) can be used for legitimate purposes, but is predominately used to illegally copy millions of copyrighted works and has served as a massive distribution system for pornography, including child pornography.
Last year, Congress passed legislation to require P2P programs to provide consumers with notice as to which of their files will be shared publicly and requiring the user to activate the function that would share their files. However, it is the state’s responsibility to protect its consumers. This legislation, Senate Bill 3407, amends Tennessee’s deceptive trade practices law so that the state will have the authority to take action to inform and protect citizens. It would also alert the developers and distributors of file sharing programs that if they want to do business in Tennessee, consumers must be informed first.
Second Amendment Rights – The full Senate has approved a bill that allows individuals to transport an unloaded rifle or shotgun in a privately-owned motor vehicle. The bill, Senate Bill 2390, would apply as long as the rifle or shotgun does not have ammunition in the chamber or cylinder, and no clip or magazine containing ammunition is inserted in the rifle or shotgun or is in close proximity to the weapon. Currently, it is illegal to carry your weapon in your vehicle even without ammunition in the chamber, a law many hunters are not aware of.