This Week’s Tennessee And National Legislative Wrap-Up-June 12, 2009

State Representative Susan Lynn
The Tennessee General Assembly
House of Representatives


A weekly wrap-up of legislative news
June 8th – June 12th, 2009

House mandates energy efficiency

The House of Representatives considered this week legislation that requires energy conservation standards to apply to new home construction.
In addition, the bill requires international building codes be met for new home construction. The legislation would not affect every county in the state, as some counties already have more stringent requirements than what is stipulated in the bill.
In addition to traditional building codes, the legislation also includes Lawmakers debated the bill at length on the House floor, where they shared concerns ranging from increasing the cost of new homes to taking away from the autonomy of local governments. Proponents of the measure said the legislation would make homes safer and more energy efficient, which ultimately result in cost savings.
However, some stated that the traditional police powers of government are health, safety, welfare and morals. That means that the state might see fit to intercede through laws by limiting activity if there is an unseen danger in what you do that could have a significant effect on another individual; thus jeopardizing that individual’s right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness in a tangible way.

For instance; health inspections have increased cleanliness, cutting down on diseases that could severely impact your health. Safety inspections ensure that unseen dangers, like in electrical wiring or gas hook-ups, are minimized. Welfare typically refers to some sort of fraud – it is why we inspect bank records. Morals normally refer to activity, perhaps that concerning drugs or alcohol.

It is one thing for the state to take precautions because something may seriously jeopardize your health, or safety, or all that you have worked to earn, or to keep you from being a danger to others when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but to police energy efficiency?

People already have an incentive to build energy efficient homes or to purchase energy efficient appliances – it’s called a utility bill.

After several hours of debate, the legislation was amended to allow for local governments to opt out of the requirements. Each time a new county commission is installed the body will have to pass a resolution by two-thirds in order to opt out. The final version of Senate Bill 2300 passed with an 82 to 12 vote.
House to consider constitutional amendment giving Tennesseans the right to hunt and fish
House Joint Resolution 149 was read for the second time this week in the House, meaning it will be up for final consideration by the House next week. If passed by a 2/3 majority of the General Assembly, the constitutional amendment will appear on the ballot in a 2010 voter referendum. The constitutional amendment gives Tennesseans the right to hunt and fish.
The resolution states that, “hunting and fishing are a vital part of this state’s heritage and economy and should be preserved and protected.” The sponsor has said that Tennessee has always enjoyed hunting and fishing as a leisure activity, and the amendment was necessary to clarify that Tennesseans have a constitutional right to pursue wild game that cannot be infringed upon the legislature, courts, or local authorities.
House, Senate pass menu labeling pre-emption
A bill that would bar some local entities from requiring nutritional labeling on menus has passed both the House and Senate. The legislation comes as other states, municipalities and cities are passing or considering laws that mandate chain restaurants put calories and other nutritional information on menus.
Lawmakers arguing in favor of the bill said that mandating chain restaurants to put certain nutritional information on menus places an unnecessary burden on restaurant owners in an already struggling economy and creates an atmosphere that is unfriendly to business owners. They also said that often, the laws are selective, targeting only large restaurant chains.
The legislation was amended to prohibit non-elected bodies from making the decision to require nutritional information on menus. It also specifies that if the federal government passes legislation requiring menu labeling and the federal action specifically authorizes state departments to enforce such action, then the Tennessee Department of Health will be the department that is primarily responsible for the implementation and supervision of the new requirements.
In case you missed it…
· Two new nominees to the State Election Commission were confirmed on Wednesday in a joint legislative session of the General Assembly. The move to place the two members, Kent Younce of LaFollette and Judy Blackburn of Morristown, on the Commission honors a long-standing state law to give the majority party in the Tennessee General Assembly a one vote edge on the State Election Commission.
· House Bill 250 passed the House this week, and creates an offense for any owner, occupant, or other person having a lawful right to the exclusive use of property to knowingly allow an underage adult to consume alcoholic beverages, wine or beer on such property.
· House Bill 804 seeks to allow a parent that has been granted court-ordered visitation with their minor child or children who has been called to active duty military service, to petition the court for the temporary assignment of that parent’s visitation rights to a legal or biological relative or relatives. The petition must state the relative that the parent is requesting to maintain contact with the child during the parent’s absence and shall include a proposed visitation schedule with such relative. The bill, having now passed both the Senate and the House, is now on its way to the Governor for his signature.
· State House leaders continued discussions this week on the Governor’s proposed budget, trying to reach a consensus as state government prepares to make more reductions and cuts. Lawmakers also received and began addressing the technical corrections legislation, which originates in the Department of Revenue and provides revenue through specific changes to the Tennessee Code.
As the Senate prepares to remain in session on Friday, June 12 to take up budgetary matters, the House Budget Subcommittee will meet Monday afternoon to begin their discussions. Although lawmakers are hopeful session will adjourn for the year next week, both the Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that with an unprecedented budget shortfall wrapping up session next week may not be possible.
The Week Ahead…

*All meetings will be held in Legislative Plaza Room 16 unless otherwise noted*
Monday, June 15, 2009:
· Budget Subcommittee, 1:00 p.m.
· Finance, Ways and Means, 2:00 p.m.
· Calendar and Rules, 3:00

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
· House Session, House Chambers, 9:00 a.m.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
· House Session, House Chambers, 9:00 a.m.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

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