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.

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

Okay … here we go. A number of readers have complained that I haven’t shared any jokes that my friends send to my email address so on a weekend when our Volunteers and Mocs are idle, let’s laugh a little:   I was sitting in a bar one afternoon with an old friend knocking back a few beers when he said, "You know, if we're not careful we'll end up like those two old drunks ... (click for more)

You’re Right With Lamar

One of Tennessee’s favorite sons, Davy Crockett, coined an oft-used phrase:  “Be always sure you’re right, then go ahead.” Being sure is quite important, but may be difficult in this election cycle. The Democratic nominee campaigning against Lamar Alexander is a man whose radio ads call for “change,” “fair” taxes and more jobs.  Sounds good, huh?   ... (click for more)

3 People Shot On Wilson Street; One Victim Has "Life-Threatening" Wounds

Three people were shot on Wilson Street on Sunday night, including one who was critically injured. At approximately 8:22 p.m., Chattanooga Police responded to 2300 Wilson St. for shots fired in the area. O fficers located two black males suffering from apparent gunshot wounds. O ne victim was transported by HCEMS to a local hospital for non-life threatening injuries. ... (click for more)

Jumoke Johnson Jr. To Plead Guilty On Selling Crack Cocaine

A youth who was in the news earlier as a teen who had been the first in his family to graduate from Brainerd High School and who found a patron willing to pay for his college education is set to plead guilty on Tuesday to a charge of selling crack cocaine. Jumoke Johnson Jr., who turned 21 on Saturday, dropped out of Miles College in Alabama after one semester and has been ... (click for more)

McCallie Beats Baylor In Tennessee Classic Silver Division

NASHVILLE – Reed Oscar was the overall winner in 16 minutes, 49 seconds and teammate Dylan Carmack finished fifth overall in 17 minutes, 13 seconds to lead the McCallie Blue Tornado cross country team to a first-place finish in the Silver division of the Tennessee Classic, which was held here at Percy Warner Park Saturday morning. Teammates Connor Smith and Kevin Wagoner finished ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Golf Team Second At Wolf Run Intercollegiate

The Chattanooga Mocs men’s golf team is tied for second after 18 holes at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate. The Mocs and Florida Gators each shot 295 over the opening 18 to trail Illinois by 11 at 285 at Wolf Run Golf Club. The day’s docket had a scheduled 36 holes. Afternoon storms sent teams from the course prior to finishing. The remaining holes will be completed starting at 9:30 ... (click for more)