Friday, April 13, 2012
- by Rep. Eric Watson
A bill that I proposed in 2009 finally passed the House of Representatives this week overwhelmingly. This was the food tax cut and it is a landmark moment for Tennesseans. I believe, when government revenues are higher, that money doesn’t belong to the State but to taxpayers and should be returned to them immediately. Our Majority was placed here to balance the budget, cut wasteful spending, and lower taxes. Today we carried through on that promise.
Another bill was the death tax repeal. We looked at the numbers, rolled our sleeves up, and worked with the Governor to come up with two bills that will really benefit all Tennesseans. The repeal of the death tax is especially noteworthy because it will help convince the job creators in our State to remain here and help grow our economy. This doesn’t benefit one group; it benefits any Tennessean who is concerned about job growth.
House Bill 3760, the death tax repeal, phases out the death tax over the next four years, to a complete repeal by 2016. House Bill 3761, the food tax cut, lowers the sales tax rate on food from the current 5.5% to 5.25%, the steepest reduction in many years. This was a move to help every Tennessean and it’s something we all can be proud of. I believe limited government is best. You do that by cutting taxes and ensuring Tennesseans keep more of the money they earn. In turn they will invest that money, the economy will grow, and new career opportunities will emerge.
A recent study shows a repeal of the death tax ten years ago would have grown our economy an additional 14%. While the previous generation of leadership failed to take action, this generation of leadership is committed to charting a new path that creates jobs and limits government. The bills are now sent to the Senate for action which is expected to come in the next week. To see the summary of the death tax repeal, click here<http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB3760
>. To see the summary of the food tax cut, click here<http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB3761
On Thursday, the House passed major legislation that will reform how the more than 200 boards and commissions operate within State government. HB 2387, carried by the Majority Leader, is the Legislature’s response to the Governor’s review of state boards and commissions. The review determined what duplications and inefficiencies exist within the board and commission structure and sought to determine ways to increase accountability. This bill is consistent with the findings of the review. It includes structural changes to 22 boards and commissions with a focus on performance, accountability, and effectiveness.
The legislation merges six boards into three for increased efficiency, eliminates 138 board positions for increased effectiveness, gives a Cabinet level commissioner oversight over five boards for increased accountability, and gives the Governor hiring authority for four executive directors for increased accountability. We are literally downsizing government while, at the same time, increasing efficiency and effectiveness on behalf of taxpayers. That is a win for Tennessee and yet another promise kept by this Majority. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 66-26 and now moves onto the Senate for action in that Chamber. The summary of the bill may be accessed by clicking here<http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/default.aspx?BillNumber=HB2387
In a major reform move, the House on Wednesday approved plans to completely overhaul guidelines for Tennessee government’s hiring processes and agency rules. The legislation, House Bill 2384<http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB2384&ga=107
> known as the TEAM Act, establishes a system that will attract, select, retain, and promote the best applicants and employees based on performance and equal opportunities. The bill ensures these practices are free from coercive political influences and mandates employees to render impartial service to the public at all times. Additionally, the bill would give agencies greater flexibility in personnel management and increase customer-focused effectiveness and efficiency of state government within a best practice environment.
The bill passed on a 74-19 bipartisan vote after a thorough debate regarding the merits of the legislation. Supported by the Governor, the bill also allows merit raises for high-performing workers and greater flexibility for poor performance. This bill is a much-needed update to our outdated employment system. Tennesseans will see an increased range of service and efficiency from State workers because, now, we will be able to identify and promote the best workers.
House Bill 2645 adds over twenty additional synthetic derivatives or analogues of meth to the current Tennessee Code. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in bipartisan fashion, 95-0. The legislation continues the Legislature’s fight to crack down on meth production that is derived from the use of ingredients found in bath salts or Molly’s Plant Food. A wave of illicit drug production and illegal use has swept through parts of Tennessee, especially Putnam County, where many residents have been rushed to the hospital from the adverse effects of the drug. Various news outlets have even reported on deaths directly linked to the rise in drug use associated with bath salts and Molly’s Plant Food.
I’m proud my colleagues stand with me against this growing threat to our communities. Families across Tennessee are being torn apart because of drug abuse. This legislation helps us keep pace with the drug creators and dealers, but we must continue updating our laws and supporting our law enforcement personnel so we can get ahead of these drugs.”
The summary of the legislation can be accessed here<http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/billinfo/BillSummaryArchive.aspx?BillNumber=HB2645&ga=107
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed tough new legislation to combat drunk driving in Tennessee. The legislation, House Bill 2749, is also known as the “ignition interlock” bill. Under the bill, an ignition interlock, which is a machine similar to a breathalyzer, may be installed at the order of a judge inside a vehicle. Before the vehicle's engine can be started, the driver first must exhale into the device. If the breath-alcohol concentration analyzed by the machine is greater than the allowable State limit the device will prevent the engine from being started.
We have been vigilant about helping law enforcement personnel combat drunk driving in Tennessee. This is a solid bill that I believe will save lives in Tennessee, Drunk drivers have hurt too many families and this bill sends a clear message: If a person violates the drunk driving law and they want to use their vehicle, that individual will must always be sober.
To view the summary of the bill, click here<http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/billinfo/BillSummaryArchive.aspx?BillNumber=HB2749&ga=107
House Begins Moving FY2012-13 Budget Next Week—After hearing from many experts, economists, and members of the Haslam Administration, the Chairman of the House Finance Committee indicated his Committee would take up all the proposed budget amendments next week and will start moving Tennessee’s funding blueprint. The legislation is expected to move over the next two weeks.
Bill to Fight Illegal Bath Salts Coming to House Floor—With numerous recent news reports, synthetic drugs have accounted for a number of emergency room visits and deaths across Tennessee. In a move to combat these drugs, the House Calendar and Rules Committee send House Bill 3175 to the Floor. The bill targets these drugs, also known as “bath salts” by updating Tennessee laws and implementing new law enforcement procedures to fight both drug manufacturers and users.
Tough Legislation Cracking Down on Domestic Abusers Advances in House— House Bill 2389 specifies that any person convicted of a second or more conviction of domestic assault must face mandatory jail time. For third time offenders, that rises to potentially 11 months in jail and fines possibly up to $5,000.