The Legend of Legislative Bigfoot

THE LEGEND OF LEGISLATIVE BIGFOOT:Does a Government That Works for Us Really Exist?

Short answer: No, not right now it doesn’t.

For those of you keeping score at home, below is a summary of the legislative priorities of the Republican majority in the state legislature.

In a nutshell, they are crafting and passing public policy that caters to large corporations and their 21st century robbers baron CEOs instead of writing rules that boost the well-being and productivity of hardworking middle and working class families. That’s not what we sent them to Nashville to do.

  • Republicans want to make it impossible for you to hold corporations accountable for the negligent and harmful acts of their employees. Another would allowattorneys who defend large corporations to be able to meet with and interview your doctor in secret (34 states prohibit this kind of secret one-way communication). If corporations know they can violate doctor-patient privilege at will and can’t be held responsible for the catastrophic actions of their employees, then they will be less likely to enforce conscientious hiring policies, provide appropriate training and education, and promote a culture of safety. Is this looking out for the people of Tennessee?
  • Tennessee families are working harder, getting paid less, and falling behind our parents’ generation, and yet they want to dismantle campaign finance reforms by allowing corporations to make secret cash campaign contributions in the critical 10 days before an election.

  • Corporations have shipped jobs overseas leaving breadwinners jobless and rural Tennessee communities decimated and yet they want to penalize honest, hardworking Tennesseans who are simply trying to feed their families by drug testing them if they receive benefits from the state. And to add insult to injury, requiring them to pay for the expensive test themselves.
  • And we’ll let Joseph Green of Springfiled tell you about how they are dismantling the current unemployment system. In a Tennessean article, Mr. Green “wonders if he has a target on his back” and sometimes feels as if he’s being labeled as a second-class citizen because he has been out of work for nearly two years.” He’s quoted as saying, I feel like it’s discrimination, especially against us folks who live out in the country where there aren’t that many jobs,”he said. Proponents , i.e. Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce, say that thechanges are needed to “improve accountability and crack down on fraud and abuse.” First, they’re one to talk about accountability (see all of the above) and next, show us the fraud and abuse?*
  • Under the leadership of Republican Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey they have made defending the estate tax a major priority, citing a recent Forbes Magazine article that states that Tennessee is “not a good place to die.” Again, we’ll leave it to a friend, Pith in the Wind writer Betsy Phillips, to point out the failure of leadership in this nugget: “I swear, I will never understand Republicans. It’s all “bootstraps, bootstraps, bootstraps” — until it comes to people getting money from their rich, dead parents. Then Ron Ramsey has to take to Twitter: ‘Forbespoints to Tennessee as a place ‘not to die.’ We simply have to remove this tax as soon as possible.’Oh, Heaven forfend!Forbesdoesn’t think Tennessee’s a good place to die! Well, obviouslyForbes’ research sucks, because Tennessee is a wonderful place to die. In fact, we make it very easy for folks to die here all the time – especially if they’re poor, black, women or children.”
  • Would you ever allow a deal to be made in your name without knowing all the details? What it if it affected you financially? Of course not! But that’s just what Governor Bill Haslam wants to do withSB 2207/HB 2345, part of his legislative package. If passed, this bill would allow the Governor tooffer cash incentives (read: tax dollars) to large corporations in secret and without any kind of accountability.

The rational for these bills is always the same. They say, “We have to cater to large corporations because they create jobs.” But where are those jobs? Look no further than last year’s fightfor Governor Haslam’s “Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011.” During that debate we were promised 577 jobs per week. Yet here it is almost a year later and where are the 30,000 jobs created by this legislation? Since 2003,Tennessee job growth is way up – 198,000 new jobs and 52 new corporate headquarters. So why not continue with the policies that have helped to create these jobs? Why notencourage businesses that innovate and take care of of their workersinstead of helping corporations avoid accountability for egregious acts and making it easier for them to give you money for your campaign?

*Or is this like the photo ID to vote law where all you have to do is say that fraud exists and we should believe you?


ALSO IN THIS UPDATE:

ACTION ALERT: Repeal Photo ID

OTHER ELECTION BILLS

A GOVERNMENT THAT WORKS FOR US (Transparency, Accountability & The Well-being of Tennessee Taxpayers)

HOLDING CORPORATIONS ACCOUNTABLE (Civil Justice)


ACTION ALERT!
REPEAL PHOTO ID TO VOTE

HB2176 / SB2139, the bill to repeal the photo ID to vote law, was voted down in theSenate State & Local Governmentcommittee on Tuesday, March 27. TheHouse State & Localcommittee will hear the bill tomorrow, Tuesday, April 3 at 1:30 pm.

During the Senate committee,the sponsor of the repeal bill, Sen. Lowe Finney, presented the bill by defending free and equal elections and voting rights for all Tennesseans. WATCH THE VIDEO.


OTHER ELECTION BILLS -UPDATE

Other bills related to the photo ID to vote law:

HB2730(sponsorRep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville) / SB2447 (sponsor Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson)which would student IDs from public universities in Tennessee to be used for voting will be heard in both the House State & Local Govt committee and Senate State & Local Govt committee on Tuesday, April 3. 10:30 am in the Senate and 1:30 pm in the House.

HB2586(sponsor: Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga) and SB2465 (sponsor Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga), which would require the Secretary of State to publicize the photo ID to vote requirement at least 30 days prior to early voting via Public Service Announcements on radio & TVwill be heard in both the House State & Local Govt committee and Senate State & Local Govt committee on Tuesday, April 3. 10:30 am in the Senate and 1:30 pm in the House.

HB3747(sponsorRep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory) and SB3728 (sponsor Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden)which would allow county election offices to take photo ID to vote if there isn’t Driver Service Center in that countywill be heard in both the House State & Local Govt committee and Senate State & Local Govt committee on Tuesday, April 3. 10:30 am in the Senate and 1:30 pm in the House.

HB2174(sponsorRep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville) and SB2128 (sponsor Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro) allows persons age 60 and older to vote absentee upon request, instead of age 65 and olderpassedthe full House and to be heard in Senate Finance, Ways & Means at some point.

HB3388 (sponsorRep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston) andSB3378 (sponsor: Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere) which wouldexempt someone with an honorable discharge from the military from the photo ID to vote law failed last week in House State & Local. Will be heard in Senate State & Local Govt committee on Tuesday, April 3.

HB2709 (sponsorRep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory) andSB2692 (sponsor Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville)would allow any registered voter in Tennessee to vote by absentee ballot failed in the Senate State & Local Government committee. Will be heard in the House State & Local on Tuesday, April 3 at 1:30 pm.


A GOVERNMENT THAT WORKS FOR US (TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY & THE WELL-BEING OF TENNESSEE TAXPAYERS)

SB2580 / HB2725

SPONSORS:Sen. Stacey Campfield(R-Knoxville), Rep. Julia Hurley (R-Lenoir City)
SUMMARY:Requires applicants for TANF benefits to undergo a drug test before receiving such benefits

People who are unemployed are not criminals. Let’s just start there. So when Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, supporter of a bill that would require anyone getting any kind of government assistance to be drug testedsays,”I’m in favor of drug testing for people that are on any kind of benefits. Whether it’s unemployment compensation, workers compensation or whatever it is, because I don’t think that we need to be supporting that kind of lifestyle,”we have to wonder, why does the Lt. Governor of our state think so little of the people he has sworn to serve?

Here’s an idea, instead of this monumental waste of time what if our legislators worked just as hard to figure out how to provide meaningful employment and reemployment tools to those who are out of work? Crazy, we know.

UPDATE: Passed the Senate Finance Ways & Means Committee; To be heard in House Health Subcommittee for Wednesday, 4/4, at 10:30 in Room 29. See the committee members and watch the live videohere.

SB 2207/HB 2345
SPONSORS:Sen. MarkNorris (R-Collierville), Rep. Gerald McCormick(R-Chattanooga)
SUMMARY:Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to offer cash incentives to large corporations in secret and without any kind of accountability.

UPDATE:On hold in Senate Commerce, Labor & Agriculture Committee. See the committee members and watch the live video here.

HB 3281 / SB 3645
SPONSORS:Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville); Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson), Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), Sen. Bill Ketron(R-Murfreesboro)

SUMMARY:Removes the prohibition on insurance companies to make campaign contributions, along with removing PAC aggregate limitation on candidates and deleting the requirement on certain large contributions made within 10 days of election.

This bill is about moresecrecy and more prioritization of the corporate campaign contributing 1% against the 99%. Doesn’t look like”Is it good for the people of the state?”to us. It is, in fact, extraordinarily self-serving legislation.

UPDATE: This bill passed the full Senate. It will be heard in theHouse State & Local Governmnent Committee on Wednesday, 4/3 at 1:30 PM in Room 16. See members of the committee and watch the hearing live here.


SB 2247 / HB 2385
SPONSORS:Sen. MarkNorris (R-Collierville), Rep. Gerald McCormick(R-Chattanooga)

SUMMARY: Politicizes the appointment of the executive director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority,which oversees everything from natural gas companies to suburban sewer systems and phone calls by telemarketers, by allowing the Governor to make the appointment.

UPDATE: Passed our of Senate Government Operations Committee on 3/28/12 and referred to Senate Finance, Ways & Means. To be heard in theHouseState & Local Government Committee on 4/3 at 1:30 PM in Room 16.See members of the committee and watch the meeting livehere.


SB 2249 / HB 2387
SPONSORS:Sen. MarkNorris (R-Collierville), Rep. Gerald McCormick(R-Chattanooga)
SUMMARY:Would take away the authority of the boards to appoint the executive directors of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, and give it to the governor.

UPDATE: To be heard in Senate Finance Ways & Means on Tuesday at 8:30 am in room 12 and House Finance, Ways & Means on Wednesday, 4/3 at 3pm in room 16. Watch the video here.


CIVIL JUSTICE
(aka holding corporations accountable)

You want your day in court? Too bad, ’cause they’re too busy protecting corporations and their campaign contributing CEOs.

HB3125 / SB2637
SPONSORS:Rep. Vance Dennis (R-Savannah)/Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown)
SUMMARY:Corporations are people…except when you want to hold them accountable for the bad behavior of the people they are responsible for hiring.

When corporations know they can be held responsible for the acts of theiremployees they are more likely to enforce stricter hiring policies, promotesafety within their organization and provide the proper job training. Why should corporations get a free pass from being responsible members of our society? Why are we giving them any reason to cut corners and make our state less safe?

UPDATE: To be heard in the House Judiciary on Wednesday, 4/4, at 12 Noon in room 31.See list of legislators on the committee and watch the meeting livehere.


HB2979 / SB2789
SPONSORS: Rep. Vance Dennis (R-Savannah) /Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown)
SUMMARY: Corporations are people…rummaging through your medical records.If this bill becomes law, it would allow health insurance corporations and their lawyers to see ALL your medical, mental health, and drug abuse record from ALL your doctors in defense of a lawsuit.

See, large corporate hospitals and nursing homes don’t care that 1985 was 27 years ago. If you file suit against one of them today, they want to be able to go back and read all about that bout of severe depression you had when you didn’t make your college baseball team.

  • Would allow them to obtain ALL your medical records from ALL your doctors.
  • Would authorize the attorney of the health insurance company to get any of your mental health and drug and alcohol abuse treatment records.
  • Would also allow the attorney for the health insurance company to interview ANY of your doctors without your lawyer being present.

UPDATE: To be heard in the House Judiciary on Wednesday, 4/4, at 12 Noon in room 31.See list of legislators on the committee and watch the meeting livehere.


HB3124 / SB2638

SPONSORS: Rep. Vance Dennis (R-Savannah),Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin)
SUMMARY: Motions to dismiss aka “Loser Pays.”

This bill would like to do the un-American thing and get rid of the “American Rule,” the rule that says that each party in a lawsuit pays their own lawyer’s fees. The effect? Deep-pocketed corporations and insurance companies that can afford the risk would drag out lawsuits brought by injured Tennesseans. Andworking-class Tennesseans and small businesses owners might be too scared to file a lawsuit because they could get stuck paying the litigation fees of a company with an unlimited funds.

UPDATE: To be heard in the House Judiciary on Wednesday, 4/4, at 12 Noon in room 31.See list of legislators on the committee and watch the meeting livehere.

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2 Responses to “The Legend of Legislative Bigfoot”
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  1. […] surprising, really, as we’ve already discussed at length the many ways in the which the Tennessee General Assembly is crafting and passing public policy […]



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