House Republicans Back Historic Increase in Teacher Pay; Introduce Legislation to Reward Hard Work And Dedication Of Tennessee Teachers
Last week, Governor Bill Haslam delivered his annual State of the State Address to a joint convention of the legislature, unveiling his budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year with major proposed investments in both K-12 and higher education.
Since Republicans became the majority party in 2011, the state’s education system has experienced dramatic improvements — student test scores now lead the nation in growth, Tennessee has the fastest growing graduation rate of any state, students have experienced consistent gains on TCAP every year, and the ACT statewide average has increased to 19.4.
Along with $261 million in new spending proposed for K-12 investments — including $104.6 million for increasing teacher pay — additional bills include allowing every full-time certified public school teacher in Tennessee to receive a 25 percent discount on tuition to any state-operated institution of higher education, and legislation awarding teachers across the state with a $5,000 bonus if they receive performance evaluations reflecting “above expectations” or “significantly above expectations” in at least four years during any five year period.
Major investments to aid the Drive to 55 initiative, the state’s effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary credential to 55 percent by 2025. These investments include $50 million for the Complete College funding formula for higher education, $20 million for the Drive to 55 Capacity Fund to help community and technical colleges meet the growing demand for degrees and certificates, and $10 million for the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) helping communities align degree and course offerings with the needs of the local workforce.
The 2016-2017 budget also invests $581.6 million to build new buildings and fix existing higher education facilities. This includes the top recommended capital projects for both the University of Tennessee (UT) system and the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR):
- $85.5 million for a new Tennessee Tech University laboratory science building;
- $39 million for a new dentistry building at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis;
- $38.8 million for Tennessee State University’s new health science building; and
- $36 million for renovations to UT-Chattanooga academic buildings.
Because of unpredictable weather this time of year, early voting often becomes an important option for many. Six other southern states will join Tennessee to help decide who will become the next president of the United States.
Whether voting early or on Election Day remember to bring valid photo identification such as a driver’s license or photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security as well as photo IDs issued by Tennessee state government or the federal government are acceptable even if they are expired. College student ID cards are not accepted.
Vote Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturdays, 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Early voting closes on Feb. 23 in four locations in Wilson County.
Wilson County Election Commission office at 203 E. Main St. in Lebanon.
Mt. Juliet Community Center at 1075 Charlie Daniels Pkwy. in Mt. Juliet.
Watertown Community Center at 8630 Sparta Pike in Watertown.
Gladeville Community Center at 95 McCreary Road in Gladeville.
People often ask me from where does legislation derive – the truth is it can originate from any number of places; the Governor, a legislator’s own idea, a public policy organization or a lobbyist but I feel the best legislation is born from the people in the district I represent.
The Charitable Vehicle Prep Tag bill is an act to help ministries that refurbish donated vehicles in order to give them away to people in need. Under current law, a ministry accepts a donated vehicle and must purchase a license plate in order to drive it on the public roads to take it for repair and to test drive the vehicle. Most often the ministry only has the car for a few weeks so the purchase of the license plate for each vehicle they refurbish can add up to quite an expense.
Enter the Charitable Vehicle Prep Tag – much like a prep tag for an auto dealer which allows the dealer to use the tag on any vehicle in inventory – this tag will allow ministries to use a single tag for any vehicle they are refurbishing for donation to a needy individual. This bill will save ministries a great deal of money.
The best part of this bill is the story behind how it came about. About six weeks ago, just two days before the bill filing deadline, I met Butch O’Neal at Courtney’s Restaurant in Mt. Juliet– he was having dinner with the other members of Gladeville Baptist Church’s vehicle ministry. I almost didn’t make it to the meeting that night because of a meeting I was in at the legislature which ran later than I’d expected. I hurried back to Mt. Juliet in order to attend the Mt. Juliet Republican Woman’s meeting at Courtney’s. The ladies’ once a month meeting usually meets in the smaller room on the side but due to the extremely cold weather that night – management asked the ladies if they wouldn’t be more comfortable in the larger meeting room. They accepted, so that happened to place the ladies in the same room as the Gladeville ministry’s dinner. Norma Otto introduced me to the group and that is when I learned of this expense and we discussed creating a prep tag much like auto dealers use. Just imagine all of the events that had to coincide for Butch and I to meet that night for this bill to be possible. However, what is truly amazing is that this was an annual dinner for the ministry - they only meet for this dinner once a year.
That really gives me a thrill!
HJR 529 is a Resolution that I originally wrote in 2009 to assert and defend Tennessee’s state sovereignty to the Federal government. I was very proud that it passed the House by a vote of 91 to 1.
This vote truly reflected the sentiment that no matter the party – we state legislators are all very frustrated by the Federal government’s over reach – affecting the freedoms of citizens and the sovereignty of state legislatures.
This Resolution is as relevant today as it was in 2009 - we need our constituents to understand how deeply frustrated we are as state legislators with the federal government.
Please click to see votes for HJR108 (106 General Assembly). Click here to see my original blog post for HJR108.
I hope to receive the same number of votes or better this year.
The General Assembly is speaking up to support the Williamson County lawsuit filed by former state Senator David Flower of the Family Action Counsel of Tennessee through the resolution I filed called HJR529.
David’s lawsuit will hopefully end same sex marriage in Tennessee. The legislature does not have standing to sue to our resolution in support of this lawsuit is also a great effort to defend separation of powers and the doctrine of severability.
When the SCOTUS stated that Tennessee's marriage law was invalid they next also declared that same sex couples can now marry. But this action in reality violates separation of powers; the SCOTUS cannot make law by decree - that power is reserved for legislatures. Under the doctrine of severability, if the court is going to strike part of a law it cannot change the meaning of the law into something that the legislature had never actually voted to enact.
However, that is exactly what the Court did in this case, and exactly why we, as lawmakers, need to support this lawsuit. Imagine the implications for the future if we let this action go unchallenged and unsupported; we as legislators would be giving into the court and allowing them to make law. The language of the amendment that re-writes the resolution is below.
Resolution Commending Certain Tennessee Citizens for their defense of the Constitution
Whereas, on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court, by a five to four decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (No. 14-556, 2015 WL 2473451 (June 26, 2015)), said “state laws … are … held invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples”,
Whereas, the express statutory requirement in TENN. CODE ANN. § 36-3-104(a) that the applicants for a marriage license be a “male and female” and that there be a valid license “before” a marriage can be solemnized would appear to “exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples”,
Whereas, as to the constitutional appropriateness of simply deleting the words “male and female” from TENN. CODE ANN. 36-3-104(a), the Tennessee Supreme Court, in State of Tennessee v. Crank, No. E2012-01189-SC-R11-CD, filed February 13, 2015, said even the “legislative endorsement of elision ‘does not automatically make it applicable to every situation; however, when a conclusion can be reached that the legislature would have enacted the act in question with the unconstitutional portion omitted, then elision of the unconstitutional portion is appropriate.’ (internal citations omitted),”
Whereas, given the history of the marriage laws of Tennessee, this General Assembly, some members of which voted for TENN CODE ANN. § 36-3-104(a), believe that TENN. CODE ANN. 36-3-104(a) would never have been enacted had the words “male and female” been deleted so as to allow two people of the same sex to marry,
Whereas, the majority in Obergefell ordered the state to issue marriage licenses notwithstanding its holding that state marriage license laws that “exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage” are “invalid,
Whereas, this particular aspect of its ruling raises the broader and even more important constitutional issue of which branch of government in our constitutional republic can enact or amend state laws,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED NINTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that this body expresses its strong disagreement with the constitutional overreach in Obergefell v. Hodges that, in violation of the constitutional and judicially recognized principles of federalism and separation of powers, allows federal courts to order or direct a state legislative body to affirmatively amend or replace a state statute
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, this body concurs in the opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts, who in his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, said, “the Court’s accumulation of power does not occur in a vacuum. It comes at the expense of the people. And they know it,” and acknowledges the reminder of Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissenting opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges that “With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them—with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.
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