State legislative round-up 3.22.12
Posted: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 3:28 pm
AG: state can’t drug test welfare recipients
Nashville (AP) — A Tennessee attorney general’s opinion says the state can’t broadly drug test people as a condition of receiving welfare.
The opinion, which was issued this week by Robert Coopers’ office, is a response to several bills pending in the state legislature that seek to drug test welfare recipients.
The opinion says the requirement would violate federal laws regulating Social Security, the federal food stamp program and the state Medicaid plan.
In addition, the opinion says it would violate the constitutional rights of welfare recipients who have a right not be drug tested unless there is suspicion that they are taking illicit drugs.
Sponsor of guns in
parking lots bill to amend
Nashville (AP) — The Republican sponsor of a proposal that would let workers store firearms in vehicles parked on their employers’ lots said Tuesday that he has listened to GOP leaders and plans to amend the legislation so that it’s not so broad.
Sen. Mike Faulk of Kingsport decided to delay the measure a week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in a House subcommittee.
Currently, the measure would apply to any legally owned firearm regardless of whether the owner had a state-issued handgun carry permit.
It also would apply to any private or public parking lot, meaning guns could be stored at schools or colleges.
Representatives from the state attorney general’s office told the panel on Tuesday that the current proposal is “constitutionally defensible.”
Faulk said the new proposal will apply only to people with handgun carry permits and also will contain exceptions suggested by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and the GOP legislative leadership.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville has said he wants the measure to apply only to permit holders, and he and fellow Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville have called for incorporating several exceptions included in a 2008 Georgia law, such as secure parking areas and visitors’ parking spots.
Georgia also allows employers to ban workers from bringing weapons onto company property if they have been subject to disciplinary action.
Bill ending ID requirement for early voting fails
Nashville (AP) — A proposal to allow people to cast early votes without a photo ID has failed in the House.
The measure sponsored by Democratic House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley would set up a system for photographing voters at the polling place instead of requiring them to provide government-issued photo identification.
The measure received seven votes in favor, but eight votes against in the House State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday.
A separate measure seeking to do away with the state’s new photo ID law altogether was delayed for a week.
Senate to vote on closing teacher evaluation data
Nashville (AP) — A bill to close public access to teacher evaluation data is headed for a full Senate vote.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 7-0 on Tuesday to advance the bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville.
Access to the data should be limited to school officials and not available to the general public, Tracy said.
“Evaluations are supposed to be used as a tool to help teachers, it’s not going to be used for anything other than that,” Tracy said.
Under recent changes to state law, half of teachers’ assessments must derive from testing data, while the rest comes from classroom observations.
Kent Flanagan, the executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, said he was caught off guard by the measure because the original bill did not include any reference to education records.
Ten Commandments bill approved in House
Nashville (AP) — The House has voted to allow public buildings to display such “historically significant documents” as the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence.
The chamber voted 93-0 in favor of the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Matthew Hill of Jonesborough on Monday with minimal debate.
The measure would allow the documents to be displayed in the form of statues, monuments, memorials, tablets or in any other way that in the words of the legislation “respects the dignity and solemnity of such documents.”
The companion bill was scheduled to be heard in the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday.
evolution bill 24-8
Nashville (AP) — A proposal that would protect teachers who allow students to critique scientific theories has passed the Senate.
The measure was approved 24-8 in the Senate on Monday evening. A similar version passed the House 70-23 last year.
The legislation says neither the Tennessee Board of Education nor local education officials will prohibit public school teachers from “helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”
Republican Senate sponsor Bo Watson of Hixson says the legislation is necessary to help teachers know how to respond to students’ questions about scientific theories.
However, some scientists have said the measure would unfairly target evolution and possibly open the door for religious teachings.