Rep. Floyd: Capitol Hill Review

Thursday, February 21, 2013 - by Rep. Richard Floyd
15 bill limit drastically reduces legislation filed
Number of bills lowest since 1987

Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell announced this week that the number of bills filed for this legislative year have been drastically reduced due to the 15 bill limit approved by lawmakers in January. With the bill filing deadline having passed late last week, records show only 1,339 House bills were filed. The first session of the 107th General Assembly saw 2,124 bills filed. 

“This is excellent news, and proof that the House rule change of a 15 bill limit is working—this is definitely a success,” said Speaker Harwell.
“Our goal was to reduce the amount of bills filed to save taxpayer money, and to have members focus on prioritizing their issues so we can properly vet the legislation before us. This reduction in legislation bodes well for Tennessee taxpayers, and I appreciate the body’s willingness to give this a try.”

Bill filings this year are at the lowest in nearly 30 years. In 1987, there were 1,186 pieces of legislation filed by the deadline. The bill filing deadline is on the 10th legislative day according to House rules, usually falling in mid-February. 

“Each time legislation is filed, there is an enormous amount of work done by staff behind the scenes. The bill must be researched and written by legal staff, sometimes going through multiple drafts. Our House Clerks then work to put the bill into the system, and all of this cost taxpayers time and money,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga). “This bill limit ensures a more efficient, effective and accessible government that will give us more time for thoughtful, deliberate analysis on each piece of legislation—something taxpayers expect and deserve.”

The bill limit was part of a larger proposal announced by Speaker Beth Harwell in December to streamline government operations and make the legislative process more efficient and effective. 

Constitutional Officers Tout Tennessee Financial Success

This week, State Treasurer David Lillard and Comptroller of the Treasury Justin P. Wilson discussed the positive financial position of Tennessee state government.

Both Constitutional Officers credit the financial success the state has experienced over the last two years to conservative fiscal policies implemented by Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly.

Despite a poor economy nationwide, both Lillard and Wilson believe Tennessee is on a clear path towards economic recovery, especially when compared to other states across the country.

"There have been numerous media reports over the last few years about serious financial problems experienced by governments elsewhere in our country and around the world. Tennessee stands in sharp contrast to those governments. Here, despite a fragile economy, our state government is managing its expenses and meeting its obligations quite well," stated Comptroller Justin P. Wilson.

Indeed, despite the failure of some states to adequately manage their expenditures in a fiscally responsible way, Tennessee leads the nation in several key economic areas, including being named by Barron’s Magazine as the 3rd best-managed state in the country.

"Tennessee is in good financial shape - and that isn't just our assessment of our own situation. The bond rating agencies and other organizations that monitor government finances have given Tennessee strong marks for its financial practices. Tennessee's ability to control spending, manage debt, and adequately forecast revenues have all contributed to the state's strong financial condition," Treasurer Lillard continued.

Going forward, Lillard and Wilson agreed, Tennessee must continue its focus on providing essential services while still leaving room to cut unneeded expenses and keep debt costs low. 

"I have confidence that Governor Haslam and the members of the Tennessee General Assembly will take the appropriate steps over the coming weeks and months to keep Tennessee moving on the trajectory of long-term financial success," Wilson concluded.  

Disaster Recovery Request Approved By Small Business Administration

Following up on an inquiry by Governor Bill Haslam for disaster assistance after severe storms passed through several Tennessee counties in late January, the Small Business Administration formally approved the request earlier this week. 
This disaster declaration by the SBA provides access to low-interest loans for homeowners, businesses, and non-profit organizations affected by the January storms.

For homeowner loans, if an applicant cannot obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 1.688 percent.  If an applicant can obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed 3.375 percent.
 
Business applicants with credit elsewhere will have an interest rate of 6 percent and business applicants without credit will have an interest rate of 4 percent. Non-profit organization applicants will have an interest rate of 2.875 percent, regardless of whether or not they have credit elsewhere.

Henderson, Carroll, Chester, Decatur, Hardin and Madison Counties are included in the SBA disaster declaration.

And in case you missed it…

Governor Rejects State Insurance Exchanges – Governor Bill Haslam sent another letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in response to a February 14 deadline for establishing a state-federal partnership to operate a Health Care Exchange system under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. As of February 15, twenty-six states will be run by a federal exchange, while only 17 states and the District of Columbia have submitted a state-based exchange plan. The remaining 7 states will establish a state-federal partnership to operate an exchange system. 

Anti-Income Tax Resolution Moves Through Committee – House Joint Resolution 35 sailed through committee this week as Republican lawmakers continue the push to ban a state income tax from ever being implemented in Tennessee. Voters across the state will have the opportunity to weigh in on this issue as the question of whether to prohibit an income tax will be placed on the 2014 ballot. If approved, the state Constitution will be amended to explicitly prohibit lawmakers from ever levying a state income tax on the citizens of Tennessee.

Tennessee Ranks 3rd In Nation For Road Quality – Tennessee ranks third in the nation for quality of roads according to Tennessee Commissioner of Transportation John Schroer, who appeared before lawmakers this week. Tennessee has achieved high marks for road quality, despite spending less money per capita than a majority of states with a gasoline tax. Schroer said these statistics show the Department of Transportation is working as efficiently and effectively as possible to maximize the impact of state road money in maintaining and improving Tennessee roads.

Rep. Holt: Republicans And Democrats Join Forces To Outlaw Traffic Cameras

Newly elected Senator Lee Harris (D-Memphis) and I would seem like total polar opposites politically. He's from the big city of Memphis; I'm from a small town in rural Tennessee; He's a Democrat, I'm a Republican; He's black, I'm white; He's in the Senate, I'm in the House. Unfortunately, many would draw a seemingly logical conclusion that we don't like each other-- that we would ... (click for more)

It Matters Who Leads

When I was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 2008 a constant and repeated refrain from Republican Leadership was; “it matters who leads.” In particular it was Senator Ron Ramsey who would often say “it matters who leads” as part of his stump speech as he traveled the state getting Republicans elected. Tennesseans believed him, and rewarded Republicans with not only majorities ... (click for more)

FCC Votes 3-2 To Approve EPB's Request To Expand Its Broadband Offerings

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 on Thursday to allow EPB to expand its broadband offerings to neighboring communities. Chairman Tom Wheeler and two other Democrats were in favor, while the two Republican members said the agency was acting illegally in overriding state law. EPB's phone, Internet and TV offerings have been far more successful than expected and ... (click for more)

Hamilton County Schools, UTC To Close Friday; Other Closings Announced

Due to remaining snow on some of the roadways and the potential for black ice overnight and into the morning, Hamilton County Schools will be closed on  Friday . School Age Child Care will also be closed. Employees who accrue vacation will report by  10 a.m.  and maintenance employees will report on regular schedule.  All classes are being ... (click for more)

Baylor Girls Lose In State Basketball Semifinals, 69-61

NASHVILLE -- The third time wasn't the charm for the Baylor Lady Red Raiders. Facing the Brentwood Academy Lady Eagles in the semifinals of the D-II Class AA girls state basketball tournament at Lipscomb University, Baylor came up short for the third time this season against the Lady Eagles by a 69-61 final score. It was a see-saw affair with seven ties and 13 lead changes, ... (click for more)

Region 3-AAA To Play Friday With Earlier Start Times

The Region 3-AAA basketball tournament, despite schools being closed, will resume on Friday at Ooltewah High School with four semifinal games on the schedule. While the matchups remain the same, start time for the games have been moved up to 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Ooltewah athletic director Jesse Nayadley said. While schools will be closed on Friday, Nayadley ... (click for more)