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.

Great Work, City Auditor

As a voter, I was skeptical about having an independent city auditor’s office. This office was created by referendum of the voters. The public wanted third party oversight of city government, for good cause.  I will be the first to admit I was wrong.  A primary problem was the auditor being hired and fired by the mayor’s office, who could also set the auditors operating ... (click for more)

Commissioner Mackey Asks All to Support Football Mocs

The moment that many of us have been waiting for six months is upon us---it is football time in Tennessee.  If you live within the greater Chattanooga area I am asking you to join me in looking upon the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as being our hometown football team.  And it is an exciting team that we can be proud of.    The Chattanooga Mocs will ... (click for more)

Plan Revived For 5-Story Boutique Hotel Next To The Walnut Street Bridge

Plans have been revived for a five-story boutique hotel next to the Walnut Street Bridge. Vision Hospitality Group said the yet-to-be named hotel will provide 90 rooms featuring high-end amenities and exemplary service in the city's art district. Plans for a similar hotel were announced in 2012, but the proposal was later withdrawn. The hotel is slated for 102 Walnut ... (click for more)

Grand Jury Says County Needs To Start "Immediately" On Funding A New County Jail

Members of the Hamilton County Grand Jury said in a final report that the county needs to start "immediately" on funding a replacement for the Hamilton County Jail. The report, read by Foreman Robert Smith, says, "The Jail is near and/or over capacity and understaffed!  Hard-working corrections officers are in constant danger.  Being responsible for 80-100 inmates per ... (click for more)

Orr In On Four Touchdowns, Irish Defeat Pioneers, 34-20

Notre Dame’s Kareem Orr, one of the area’s top college prospects, showed his versatility Friday night while leading the Fighting Irish to a 34-20 non-district football victory over East Ridge at Raymond James Field. Orr caught three touchdown passes, threw for one and had 121 yards of offense as the Irish leveled their 2014 record at 1-1. The Irish play at Chattanooga Christian ... (click for more)

Baylor Comeback Swamps Webb, 34-7

Baylor lost a fumble on the third play of the game and the visiting Webb Spartans scored five plays later, but the Red Raiders came storming back to win their second-straight game, 34-7, over the D-II, Class A two-time defending state champions. Quarterback Nick Tiano, who has already committed to Mississippi State, hurled two touchdown passes and scored a third on a sneak from ... (click for more)