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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, March 13, 2016

Weekly Wrap - March 6, 2016

Presidential Preference Primary
Republican Percentages Remains Strong in Wilson County!

The Republican Party is the party of overwhelming choice for voters in Wilson County a trend that has continued since 2002.  Democrats have specualate that the growth in the county would weaken the Republican Party's strength but so far the percentage of voters choosing a Republican ballot over a Democrat ballot remains just as strong has ever.

Ballots CastTotal VotesPercent of Voters

National Popular Vote Legislation Moves through the General Assembly
Are you familiar with the National Popular Vote Project? I would like to know how you feel about it.
Tennessee has 11 electorial votes all of which go to the winner of Tennessee's popular vote.  A move is on natially to award each states electorial votes to the winner of the national popular vote rather than the state's popular vote.  For example, since 2000, Tennessee has voted Republican in the Presidential Election.  However, nationally since that time Democrats have won the popular vote in several elections.  That would mean that Tennessee's electors would have gone to the Democrat candidate rather than the Republican candidate.

There is a lot to consider with this plan.  Supporters claim to have good reasons.  This website will provide some background http://www.nationalpopularvote.com. 
I am not sure what to think but I do know this, the electoral college has never functioned the way the founders envisioned but I am not sure that Tennessee would benefit from this plan.

Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce Vistis State Capitol

Remarkably, legislators got it and understood why voting for HJR528 was a meaningful act in order to reaffirm to the court that Tennessee still supports marriage as being between one man and one woman.  The Resolution State House to express Tennessee's support of two lawsuits that present a challenge to the 2015 Obergefell decision on same sex marriage.

House Joint Resolution 529 supports the legal arguments being made in Williamson and Bradley Counties that seek to defend federalism, separation of powers, and the doctrine of severability which the plaintiffs feel were disregarded in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision.

The lawsuits claim that the Obergefell decision invalidated all of Tennessee's marriage law, and further that the court's decree stating that states must now marry same sex couples is a violation of separation of powers and the doctrine of severability.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court declared that marriage laws across the nation are invalid to the extent that they exclude same sex couples, and then further decreed that states must immediately allow same-sex couples to marry, despite the fact that only four states were part of the decision.

The plaintiffs point out that Tennessee's marriage law was held invalid by the court because it does exclude same sex couples — therefore there is no marriage law in Tennessee. With no law, they are unable to lawfully marry anyone.

They further contend that when the court decreed that states must immediately marry same sex couples the court unconstitutionally breached the separation of powers. The plaintiffs protest that the court has no power to make law or amend current law by any ruling especially after the same court declared the law invalid. Making law is the role of the legislative branch of government.
Others claim that the court did not make law, but merely severed the part of Tennessee law that makes marriage applicable to one male and one female. However, the plaintiffs contend that even that argument is lawfully impossible because it violates the doctrine of severability by making Tennessee's marriage law into something neither the people nor the legislature ever would have passed.

It is very clear that in 1996 the state legislature voted to ensure that marriage was only applicable to male and female applicants. This was reaffirmed by the legislature in 2004 and 2005 when the legislature passed resolutions to amend the Tennessee Constitution with the same language. The very next year the voters too affirmed this policy by approving the Constitutional Amendment by 81.3% of the vote. Therefore, according to the plaintiffs, the court is unable to lawfully use the doctrine of severability to make the existing marriage law apply to same sex couples because it is clear that neither th​e people nor the legislature would have intended for the law to mean same sex couples can marry; meaning that the only options available to the court is to do nothing or to strike the entire law.

"The resolution passed today by a vote of 73 to 18. I wrote this Resolution because the legislature is without standing to sue the court over their decree that purported to make new law in Tennessee. Our vote on this Resolution affirms our state sovereignty, and our guaranteed Constitutional right of separation of powers and the doctrine of severability,” stated Lynn.

A vote on the restroom bill had to be delayed a week due to a concurrent issue.  The restroom bill is a bill to ensure that boys use the boys room and that girls use the girls room facilities.  The bill was due to run last week in the Education Committee but my vote was needed in Full Finance Ways and Means Committee so I was unable to leave Finance.  The Education Committee was ready to conclude their business for the week so the committee rolled the Restroom Bill to the next committee meeting.  Please click here to see my talking points on the bill.  Support for the bill remains strong however the DOE is not totally sold on the bill.  

(Excerpt from recent DOE email) TNReady will be administered via paper and pencil this year. The department has worked with our test vendor, Measurement Incorporated, to ship nearly 1 million tests across the state in the last two weeks. So far, 120 districts have already received their materials and about 60 districts have already started and finished testing.
Closely following the transition to paper testing on Feb. 8, we notified districts that test materials would be shipped on a rolling basis, and we shared when districts could expect their shipments.
Click here to keep reading

Legislature Approves Appointment of Roger Amos Page To Tennessee Supreme Court
Page replaces former Justice Gary R. Wade

Last week during a joint convention of the House and Senate, the appointment of Roger Amos Page was officially confirmed by the legislature to fill the spot of Justice Gary R. Wade, who retired from the Tennessee Supreme Court in September.

The confirmation is the first of its kind in Tennessee, brought about by a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that granted the legislature confirmation powers for all appellate court appointees. After being confirmed, Justice Page was sworn in by fellow Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Bivins.

Page has been a judge on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals since his appointment by Governor Bill Haslam in December of 2011. During his time there, he has written more than 330 appellate opinions. Prior to that, Page served as a judge for the 26th Judicial District, which includes Chester, Henderson, and Madison Counties.

Before to his tenure on the bench, Page was assistant attorney general in Jackson from 1991 - 1998, was in private practice, and served as a law clerk for former U.S. District Court Judge Julia Smith Gibbons from 1984 - 1985.

Page received his law degree with honors in 1984 from the University of Memphis, where he ranked 4th in his class.

House Republicans Move Forward with Critical Legislation To Combat Welfare Fraud

This week, Republican lawmakers brought House Bill 1545 to the full floor and secured passage with a near unanimous vote. House Bill 1545 is a key part of Governor Haslam’s legislative agenda and seeks to increase the penalty for TennCare fraud.

As passed, the legislation alters the penalty for TennCare fraud from a Class E felony to a Class D felony, increasing the term of imprisonment from 1 - 6 years to 2 - 12 years. Furthermore, the legislation creates tiered mandatory fines in addition to required restitution.

Supporters agree this legislation is a vital step in insuring that TennCare services are fully available to those who require it most, as fraud hinders the state’s ability to serve the interests of those Tennesseans that need it most.

Additionally, House Republicans have also introduced the HOPE Act, legislation designed to further enhance the efficiencies of Tennessee’s welfare program by reducing fraud and abuse.

Currently, Tennessee spends more on welfare in proportion to its budget than any other state in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The purpose of the HOPE Act is to remove fraudsters from the welfare rolls that are stealing money not only from taxpayers, but also from those the programs are actually intended to help — individuals that have fallen on tough times and need temporary government assistance to get back on their feet.
The HOPE Act has three key parts:

·       Asset verification — A third party vendor will be assigned to examine state databases that already exist to ensure those receiving benefits are not purchasing luxury vehicles, own multiple homes, or making excessive personal purchases.

·       Enrollee monitoring — Once individuals are enrolled in a state welfare program, regular reviews of their status will be conducted to ensure eligibility is retained. If someone goes to prison, wins the lottery, or is deceased, they no longer need the welfare assistance they were once eligible for.

·       Taking action against fraudsters — Suspected fraud causes will be referred to state prosecutors for investigation and possible criminal prosecution or recovery of improper payments to help deter future fraud.

The HOPE Act does not change who is eligible for Tennessee welfare programs or create additional hoops for those receiving benefits to jump through.

Additionally, the cost of the program is based on how much the state saves — the third party group that will execute the enrollee verification and monitoring system will not be paid unless fraud is found in system. Because of this, there is no incentive to falsely report fraud simply to get paid as the outside vendor will not decide what is fraud and what is not. Instead, they will turn their findings over to the state and the state will decide which cases involve suspicious behavior and further investigation.

Other states implementing similar programs have already saved hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing fraud. Estimates show Tennessee stands to save around $123 million each year with this legislation in place.

Pro-Grandparent Visitation Legislation Receives Unanimous Support In House
Bill will expand the courts authority to order grandparent visitation when the children are no longer in the custody of the parents

Legislation to aid grandparents caught in a visitation loophole inadvertently created within state law several years back received unanimous support this week on the House floor in Nashville.

As introduced, House Bill 1476 corrects a problem brought by those that have been caught within this law loophole that restricts a judge from granting visitation to a child’s grandparents, when the child has been removed from the custody of the parents.

Currently, if the parents of a child are out of the picture and the judge has awarded custody of that child to one set of grandparents, a judge may only make a recommendation, not a binding ruling, that the other set of grandparents should also be granted visitation. By passing this legislation, a judge will now have the option and ability to grant visitation to both sets of grandparents, if they all meet the burden of proof and the judge deems both sides worthy of such custody and visitation.
This issue was brought to the attention of lawmakers by a constituent who had the time with his granddaughter significantly reduced once a judge awarded custody to the other set of grandparents.

Even though the judge believed the other set of grandparents were worthy of visitation, he could only make a recommendation that they receive visitation instead of being able to rule in that manner.

By passing this legislation, legislators are ensuring such situations do not happen again in the future, and that those children who are no longer under the care of their parents are able to have both sets of grandparents love and care for them throughout their lives. The bill is about the well-being of the child and ensures that the child is not forced into losing another loving relationship after losing his or her parents.

Once passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, this legislation will become law. The full text of the bill can be found by visiting http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/109/Bill/HB1476.pdf.

Past Issues of the Wrap
Weekly Wrap - January 24, 2016
Weekly Wrap - January 31, 2016
Weekly Wrap - February 7, 2016
Weekly Wrap - February 15, 2016
Weekly Wrap - February 21, 2016
Weekly Wrap - February 28, 2016

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