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Business, Free Enterprise and Constitutional Issues; Pro-Life and Pro Second Amendment. Susan Lynn is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. She serves as Chairman of the Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee, a member of the Finance Ways and Means Committee and the Ethics Committee. She holds a BS in economics and a minor in history.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Focus On College and University Success Act Passes House With Bipartisan Support
Legislation will aid state in meeting Drive to 55 challenge

Education moved front and center this week as the Focus on College and University Success (FOCUS) Act passed on the full House floor with bipartisan support.

As passed, the legislation better aligns the state’s colleges and universities to meet the Drive to 55 challenge: the goal of getting 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025 to meet the demands of the 21st Century job market.

The FOCUS Act places Tennessee on a direct path to meeting the Drive to 55 by providing a sharpened focus on the governance of community colleges and colleges of applied technology, while also granting four-year state universities additional autonomy to make local decisions.

Currently, the Tennessee Board of Regents oversees 46 institutions — six public state universities, 13 community colleges, and 27 colleges of applied technology. The University of Tennessee system oversees three public state universities as well as three institutes and a health science center.

Because of new initiatives put into place through the Drive to 55 program — such as the Tennessee Promise — there has been a shift in the higher education landscape that raises questions as to whether the existing higher education structure, established in 1972, is organized appropriately for today’s needs. Last fall alone, Tennessee saw a 10 percent increase in overall first-time freshman enrollment at Tennessee universities and a nearly 25 percent increase in first-time freshman enrollment at state community colleges. With 46 institutions under its belt to look after, proponents agree it is difficult for the Board of Regents to meet all of the diverse challenges of today’s educational system.

With the FOCUS Act, the massive 46 institution conglomerate under the Board of Regents will be shifted and given their own local governing boards, allowing community colleges the ability to focus at a system level, while giving the state’s four-year universities the benefit of greater overall autonomy and decision-making.

A vote to recall the restroom bill from study committee will take place this week.

It is amazing to me how the left either does not understand this bill or simply deceives people.  It is hard to recall a time when I have seen worse journalism.  While many articles have been written – I have not once been called for a quote or discussion.

The revised amendment will do the following;
Protect the right to privacy of all students in public school restrooms.  Boys will use the boys room, girls will use the girls room, and schools may make reasonable accommodations for students who are displeased with that arrangement. This should curb complaints of bullying and be respectful to all.

The amendment also takes into consideration the very rare condition of being intersex (hermaphrodite; a person born with 3 sex chromosomes xxy…).  A sex is always declared on such individuals’ birth certificate but with the onset of puberty one sex usually becomes predominant – in this case the student may use the restroom of their predominant sex.

The bill does not apply to persons entering a restroom or locker room designated for use by a particular sex:

For custodial purposes,
For maintenance or inspection purposes,
To render medical assistance,
To accompany a person needing assistance, or
That has been temporarily designated for use by that person's biological sex.

I have met with the Governor three (3) times on this bill and I will meet with his staff again tomorrow.  He is not against the bill – he is just concerned about the possibility of lawsuits which may push this issue up to the Supreme Court (at this time in history) so I do concede that he has a legitimate concern.

However, if we don’t act, our school districts who are already making decisions regarding student use of the restroom based on sex will be sued by the ACLU one by one or by parents whose child’s privacy was violated in the restroom due to a student of the opposite sex entering at will.  We know from experience that school districts generally do not defend suites from the ACLU – they sign consent decrees.

A very humble thank you to our local governments' economic development association for this award…
TDDA Honors
NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 1, 2016 – Representative Susan Lynn of Mt. Juliet has received the “Legislator of the Year” Award from the Tennessee Development District Association (TDDA) (an aid to our local governments). The awards were made on March 24, 2016 at the TDDA annual meeting and Breakfast in Nashville. This is Lynn’s second time to receive this honor…to read more click here

Pro-Veteran Bill Approved by House of Representatives
On the veteran front, House Bill 1491 was approved this week which will make it easier for veterans across the state to obtain a handgun carry permit.

Under the legislation, a carry permit applicant would not be required to comply with the mandatory classroom and firing range hours if the applicant is an active, honorably discharged or retired veteran of the Unites States Armed Forces.

The person would have to present a certified copy of their certificate of release or discharge from active duty, a Department of Defense form 214 (DD 214), that documents a date of discharge or retirement that is within five years from the date of application for the permit.

The legislation will eliminate an unnecessary burden on the state’s veterans in the permitting process and is part of the legislative package sponsored by House Republicans aimed at helping veterans and their families across the state.

Jai Templeton Named New Tennessee Commissioner Of Agriculture
Sixth generation farmer, current deputy commissioner to lead department

Governor Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of Jai Templeton, a sixth generation Tennessee farmer, as commissioner of the Department of Agriculture effective May 1. Templeton will replace Julius Johnson who last week announced his retirement.

Templeton, 44, currently serves as the department’s deputy commissioner, leading the day-to-day operations and directing programs and services that range from food safety to animal and plant health to agricultural development.

Prior to joining the department in 2011, Templeton served as mayor of McNairy County. He and his family have farmed in McNairy and Hardin counties for decades, producing grain, cotton, hay, timber, and cattle.

From 1995 to 2003, Templeton served as field representative for former U.S. Representative Ed Bryant. He is a former McNairy County commissioner and former president of the McNairy County Chamber of Commerce, where he helped form the McNairy County Regional Alliance to focus on economic development in the area.

A native of McNairy County, Templeton has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Union University in Jackson. He is also a graduate of the University of Tennessee Certified Public Administrator program.

In Tennessee, agriculture and forestry have a profound impact on the state’s economy, with more than 67,000 farms representing 10.9 million acres in production. More than half of the state, 14 million acres, is in mostly privately owned hardwood forests. Tennessee’s top agricultural commodities include cattle, soybeans, corn, poultry, cotton, timber, greenhouse and nursery products, dairy products, wheat, tobacco, and hay. The industry has a $75 billion a year impact on the state’s economy and supports nearly 350,000 jobs.

Legislation Strengthening Asset Forfeiture Laws, Further Protecting Tennesseans Receives Unanimous Support

This week, the House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation that strengthens state asset forfeiture laws and further protects Tennesseans from unfair seizures of property.

As passed, House Bill 1772 prohibits a general sessions judge from authorizing a magistrate or judicial commissioner that is not licensed to practice law in Tennessee from issuing a civil forfeiture warrant. The legislation requires all appointed magistrates to either be licensed attorneys or judges to help prevent unwarranted seizing of assets.

Civil forfeiture is a legal process in which assets are taken from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing. A magistrate, once authorized by a judge, can issue a warrant if they deem probable cause exists.

Over the years, this practice has caused concern and raised questions as to whether forfeiture warrants issued by those magistrates who are not licensed attorneys or judges have the necessary qualifications under Tennessee law to make such forfeiture determinations.

Proponents of the legislation agree the bill is a strong step forward in strengthening asset forfeitures laws and working to further protect the people of Tennessee from unfair seizures.

In the Recycle Bin

Two proposals did not make it and we are all better for it.
  1. One proposal would have allowed a charge to be applied to any public records request – over the cost of copies and time.
  2. Another proposal would have allowed police body camera footage to be sealed and not accessible.  
The first proposal was taken off notice and will not advance this session.  The second item was killed in a committee room this week.

Committees Close!

Nearly all of the committees have closed over the last two weeks.  Now most of the action will move to the House Floor where all of the bills that have been worked on the last few months are heard by the full House.

HB1650 to be Heard in the Finance Committee this Week

Prohibits local governments from using their gasoline tax revenue for the construction, improvement, or maintenance of pedestrian and bicycle trails and paths, parks, greenways, and similar facilities open to the use of the public for non-vehicular travel, and for public roads with a posted speed limit greater than 35 miles per hour. Such prohibition does not apply to the construction, improvement, or maintenance of sidewalks. For new or reconstructed roads with a proposed posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less, prohibits such revenue from being used for the construction of a new dedicated bicycle lane unless the work is part of the larger highway improvement project and the bicycle lane serves a transportation purpose supported by an engineering analysis.

These funds are the local government’s share of the gas tax so I am not inclined to tell them what to do with it.  I don’t see our local governments being irresponsible with their share of the gas tax – they are struggling to keep up with all they have to do.

Education House Floor Votes

HB1419:  This is a bill in response to the great difficulties with the TNReady online testing this year.  As a result, teachers can choose to include, or not include, the scores of students they teach from the paper versions of TNReady in their evaluations for this year only.

HB1644:  This bill allows private schools to develop their own rules regarding guns on campus.  Under the old law, private schools were not permitted to allow guns on campus.  Unlike public higher ed schools, the state provides no financial resources to supplement security officers.  Several private schools requested this bill.  It is also worth noting, that this is a permissive bill.  If a school does not set a policy, the current ban for guns on campus remains in place.  If a school, however, chooses to allow guns on campus, that is their right as private property owners in this state.

HB1931:  This bill strengthens our state's bullying laws.  Under this bill, all principals are required to initiate an investigation within 24 hours once they receive a complaint of bullying.  If the investigation cannot be completed within 10 calendar days, an interim report must be given to the parents, school administrators and the Department of Education.

Voting on the Budget

The one responsibility that we are constitutionally required to complete is to balance the state budget.  Typically, the Governor submits the primary budget during the "State of the State" in early February; many of the bills contained therein are heard through the committee process.  Then, toward the end of session, after revised revenue numbers come out, the Governor will submit an "amended" budget.  This may contain additional priorities with new revenue money, and sometimes, reductions in plans due to lack of revenue.

After we vote and pass the budget, we will begin taking up bills that are "Behind the budget."  These are bills that were not specifically funded in the Governor's budget, but that the Legislature deems necessary or appropriate.  Again, this is where "Flow Motion" will come into effect as bills will leave Finance and need to be referred to another committee prior to the House Floor.


Bills still currently working through the committee process:

HB 1484:  As introduced, broadens the scope of offense regarding a school bus driver using certain electronic devices while operating a bus with a child on board and increases the penalty for the offense to a Class A Misdemeanor.  
  • This bill is currently "behind the budget."  This means that once the budget is voted on and passed, we will take up all legislation approved and waiting for the budget to be completed.  This should happen during the last few days of session.
HB 1480:  Small Business Tax incentive bill:  This bill seeks to give any new small business that starts in our state a tax incentive to start.  We know that the first two years for any new startup business are the most challenging and helping those individuals who are looking to start businesses brings much needed jobs to our community.  This bill has a few restrictions:
  • 25 employees or less OR $1.5million in sales or less pays no Franchise and Excise tax during year 1.  50% of their tax during year 2.  They will be at full F&E taxes by year 3.
  • 50 employees or less or $2.5 million in sales or less pays 50% of their F&E taxes during the first year and will pay full F&E taxes in year 2.
HB 1415:  Repayment of funds to TDOT in the amount $261 million.  Years ago funds were diverted from TDOT for another purpose. Currently the Governor has allocated $130 million in the state budget for this fiscal year to repay those funds and reallocate the funds used for the bond payment to TDOT.  This bill will pay the debt off completely and all funds used for the bond payment will go back to TDOT.

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