State Senator Mae Beavers’ Legislative update


Senator Mae Beavers

Senator Mae Beavers

Budget hearings begin as more grim news on state revenues is delivered to lawmakers

NASHVILLE-Budget talks continued to dominate discussions on Capitol Hill this week as committees in the State Senate began hearings on the spending proposals of various departments and agencies of state government.  Financing a budget with decreasing revenues remains the biggest challenges facing the General Assembly this year, as lawmakers also look at how federal stimulus funds will impact the ongoing expenses of state government after the money is spent.

“We need to be sure to thoroughly question each department and agency during these budget hearings,” urged Senator Mae Beavers.  “We must be sure the taxpayer’s money is being used wisely during these tough economic times.”

Bills approved by State Senators this week honor those in military service and their families

Three bills were approved by State Senators this week which honor those who protect and defend Tennesseans in armed service or aim to help their families.  The first bill, which was approved by the full State Senate, would honor soldiers who die in the line of duty.  The legislation requires that, if members of the Tennessee National Guard die in the line of duty, the Governor shall proclaim a day or mourning in their honor and the names of the deceased members shall be recorded in the journal of the Senate and House of Representatives.  The legislation, SB 1647, also requires that the flag be flown at half-mast to honor these soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice for their state and country.

Department of Military Adjutant General Gus Hargett told members of the State and Local Government Committee, who were reviewing his budget, that Tennessee has the 6th largest National Guard in the U.S, with a 72 percent re-enlistment rate.  

The second bill, SB 1997, would help children of military personnel transition from school to school when moving out-of-state.  The legislation, which was approved by the Senate Education Committee, calls for Tennessee to join the Interstate Compact on Education Opportunity for Military Children which was implemented by the Council of State Governments (CSG) in partnership with the Department of Defense. 

A third bill, SB 1420, honoring the service of those in the military makes it easier for those overseas to access and return the necessary documents to vote absentee.   In the last election, many Tennesseans in military serving overseas requested that they be allowed to send their scanned document by email because they did not have access to a fax in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The bill would allow Tennesseans serving in the military overseas to scan an absentee request or change of address form and attach the document to an email to be sent to the their county election office to make it easier for them to vote.  Currently, only a fax is allowed. The local election office would still compare the signature of the voter before mailing the ballot. 

Second Amendment rights bills advance

Several bills aimed at protecting citizens’ second amendment rights advanced on the Senate floor and in committees this week. 

SB 554 received full Senate approval this week.  The legislation would delete the current requirement for a gun buyer to provide a thumbprint as part of the background check process.  Tennessee is the only state in the nation that requires a thumbprint from gun permit applicants.  Since the 1998 enactment of Tennessee’s conceal and carry law, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has only asked for one thumbprint due to a challenge from a person who was denied the right to purchase a firearm and that print was smudged and unusable. 

The full Senate also approved a measure to clarify that neither the state nor an instructor or employee of a department-approved handgun safety course is authorized to require an applicant for a handgun carry permit to furnish or reveal private identifying information.  This includes information regarding any handgun the applicant owns, possesses, or uses during the safety course, or the serial number of the weapon.  The bill, SB 32, was filed in response to an incident late last year, when the Department of Safety sent letters to all firearms instructors requiring them to complete and return a roster of students and to provide information on each student including the name of the firearm owner, the name of the student using the firearm, and the make, model, and serial number of firearms used. 

Issues in Brief

English only driver’s test — The full Senate has given final approval to legislation, SB 11, requiring drivers’ license exams be given in English.  The measure, which seeks to make sure that immigrants know how to read the road signs, was approved by the State Senate in the last General Assembly but did not win House approval.  The bill has an amendment to allow for the test to be administered in Spanish, Japanese, Korean and German to accommodate those nationalities with manufacturing facilities in Tennessee. 

Credit card practices — The Senate Commerce Committee this week approved legislation, SB 2084, that would protect credit card customers from being charged a late fee if they have mailed their payment on time.  The bill requires a credit card company to credit a payment made to a consumer’s account on the date the payment was postmarked if sent via the U.S. Postal Service.  Violation of the proposed law would constitute an unfair and deceptive act or practice under the Consumer Protections Act.  This means, if convicted, the credit card issuer may be subject to injunctions, civil penalties and civil damages, including treble damages.

Electric coops – The full Senate passed legislation this week to allow municipal and rural electric companies to join together to provide electric generating capacity to consumers.  Currently they can only provide those services separately.  The measure, SB 1089, gives the localities the flexibility to form a cooperative so they can provide wholesale electric power and energy services to customers.