FranklinIs Connected

May Newsletter 2008

May Newsletter 2008


Once again I am sending you the "happenings" from Capital Hill. I think we will wrap up the 105th General Assembly in less than three weeks. It has been a good year, and I hope that my newsletters have not only kept you updated, but given you a look behind the scenes on your state government in action.

Legislative Committees Closing Down
I think this will be the last week for full committees except for Finance ways and means. Budget sub., is the only subcommittee still operating, this is a sure sign that we are less than a month away from adjourning for the year. We still have many important issues to address and I have outlined them below. Please call me with any questions or concerns you may have on these important issues that the legislature will be addressing soon.

Department of Revenue Circulates Preliminary Draft of Technical Corrections
On April 18th, Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr released a preliminary draft of a Technical Corrections Bill. This bill is introduced every year to "correct" any tax loopholes or archaic language in our tax code. I have a history of voting against this bill as it is often used to raise taxes. This year it looks like the loop hole to be closed is from passive income on limited liability rental property, specifically sales taxes and franchise and excise taxes from these venture. I will watch this very carefully and will vote against any tax increase.

Budget Shortfall

On Wednesday, Governor Bredesen noted that revenue collections continue to worsen for the State. Tennessee could be facing a $500 million shortfall on projected revenue collections which would result in substantial cuts to projected spending to the 2008-09 State Budget. I think it is important to note that the State will collect more than what it did last year, thus the "cuts" we hear about are cuts on projected growth. Their may be some actual cuts in some departmental spending, but this will be due to increased spending in other departments.

Judicial Selection Review
Their may be a dramatic change in how Tennessee selects our judges. Currently a committee called the Judicial Selection commission picks a slate of three candidates and submits this list to the Governor. The Governor then selects a judge from this list. If he rejects this list then the commission will send him one more list of three names that he must choose from. The Judicial Selection Commission is scheduled to sunset this year unless the legislature allows it to continue.

In my opinion, it is time to correct a system that has become a clandestine special interest nightmare and damages the integrity of our judicial system. By law, the Commission must be appointed with attorneys representing the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the District Attorneys General Conference and the Bar Association. By the time the Commission is filled with attorneys representing the required special interests, there is room for only three non-attorneys on the board.

The result is a judiciary that is heavily weighted to the plaintiff attorneys and is not representative of the broad interests of Tennesseans. The Governor and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey are working to allow this commission to "go a way" and will then set up a new commission that is much broader in who can serve on this commission. Speaker Nafieh from the House is fighting the sun setting of this commission. I support the Governor and will work to open up the selections of judges in Tennessee.

A T & T Cable Bill

Legislation which will give AT & T a state wide franchise should be on the House floor next week. This legislation will also allow cable providers to obtain a statewide 10-year franchise certificate and require them to pay local government franchise fees of 5 percent. It has key credits to encourage and support expansion of broadband services to rural and underserved areas. I think the net effect will be more T.V. cable and high speed internet access along with competition which should keep our cable prices low and increase customer service. I will be voting for this legislation.

Constitutional amendment to allow for elected Lt. Governor granted approval by committee

Senate Joint Resolution 687 was granted approval by the State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday with little fanfare. The committee voted to send the amendment to the Budget Subcommittee of Finance, Ways and Means. Having already passed the Senate, the amendment must now snake its way through several more committees before making it to the floor where it must be read three times prior to a vote by the House members.

SJR 687 is a constitutional amendment that would allow voters to elect their Lieutenant Governor. The resolution would also solve a succession problem that was realized in 2006 when the Governor became ill due to a tick bite. It was determined then that there was no one to temporarily succeed the Governor should he become incapacitated.

Currently, if the Governor becomes incapacitated, the next in the line of succession would be the Lieutenant Governor, who also serves as Speaker of the Senate. The Attorney General recently opined that if the Lieutenant Governor were to assume the position of Governor, even if only temporarily, the Lt. Governor would have to vacate his or her senate seat. If the Lt. Governor or the Speaker of the House (who follows the Lt. Governor in the line of succession) were to refuse, the unelected Secretary of State would then assume the position of Governor.

Should SJR 687 become a law, after the gubernatorial primary, the candidate for each party would select a running mate that would serve as their Lieutenant Governor and would run on the same ticket as the Governor. The sponsor pointed out that we would not be creating a new position or adding a new salary, because the Lieutenant Governor would essentially replace the position of Deputy to the Governor, which is currently unelected.

Proponents of the legislation argue that there would be several advantages to restructuring the system via Senate Joint Resolution 687. The constitutional amendment would not only solve the succession problem, but it would also provide an opportunity for more diversity in the Executive Branch.

It could be on the ballot, letting voters decide whether or not they want to amend the constitution, as early as 2010. For that to happen, the resolution must pass the 105th General Assembly (2007-2008) by a simple majority and the 106th General Assembly (2009-2010) by a supermajority. The referendum would then have to receive 50 percent plus one of those voting for Governor in 2010. I support this resolution and think that we also need to elect other important state wide offices such as Attorney General. I welcome your thoughts on this issue.

Immigration provision killed on House floor

House Republicans attempted to add a commonsense immigration provision to a bill before the House on Thursday. The Republican-sponsored amendment would have clarified that employers are able to require that their employees speak English on the job. The move sparked outrage on the other side of aisle, and the amendment was killed, with a 51 to 46 vote with only two Democrats voting with the Republicans.

Earlier this year, Republicans introduced legislation that would have enacted the "Protecting English in the Tennessee Workplace Act." The bill, similar to that of Senator Lamar Alexander’s legislation on the federal level, specified that it is not an unlawful practice to require an employee to speak, or an applicant for employment to agree to speak, English while engaged in work. The sponsor argued that it was not unreasonable to protect businesses by clarifying that they are allowed to set their own policies, and that requiring that English be spoke on the job often boils down to a safety precaution. I think businesses where employees are continuously handling toxic products or food containers, or in factories, where critical safety information is displayed in English.

Please feel free to contact me on these issues I have listed above or any others of importance to you. I am almost always free to meet on Friday afternoons as well. I look forward to hearing from you and your opinions on those issues facing Tennessee. Please call Carol Simpson, my legislative assistant to reserve time.


Glen Casada
63rd district State Representative