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Tennessee news briefs

Tennessee news briefs

Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 8:00 pm

Lawmakers adjourn session without
gun showdown
NASHVILLE (AP) — The 107th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned Tuesday without a final showdown over a contentious gun issue and the governor said he will decide in the next couple of days whether to veto a bill targeting Vanderbilt University’s policies on religious student groups.
Democratic Rep. Eddie Bass of Prospect refused to say until the end whether he would try to pull the measure backed by the National Rifle Association directly to the floor.
In the waning moments of the session he took to the microphone and began making the motion, but then joked that he was reading the wrong paper. A relieved House broke into applause.
The bill seeking to overrule businesses’ objections to allowing employees to store weapons in vehicles parked on company lots was opposed by Gov. Bill Haslam and the Republican speakers of the House and Senate.
Lawmakers passed a more than $31 billion spending plan that begins phasing out Tennessee’s inheritance tax, eliminates the state’s gift tax and makes a 0.25 percentage point reduction in the state’s sales tax on groceries.
The final major piece of Haslam’s remaining legislative agenda — an overhaul of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority — was sent to his desk early in the day.
Health care compact falls short in Tenn. House
NASHVILLE (AP) — A proposal that would allow Tennessee to join an interstate compact challenging the federal health care law failed in the House on Tuesday after about 28 members were either absent or abstained on the vote.
The chamber voted 45-26 along partisan lines to approve the bill, which was sponsored by Republican Rep. Mark Pody of Lebanon. That was five votes short of the majority needed to pass measures in the 99-member chamber.
The legislation would have provided a waiver for each participating state to create its own health care system. Sponsors said the proposal was intended to give Tennesseans more choices concerning health care if the compact were approved by Congress.
The House had earlier approved a change to make Tennessee’s participation in the compact optional. That provision was taken out in the Senate.
Senate sponsor Mae Beavers said she was “very disappointed” that the measure failed and criticized the members who left. Sixteen Republicans didn’t vote and three were listed as absent.
“I think it’s a shame that some House members couldn’t stay long enough to finish their business and caused a bill to fail that could have benefited the citizens of Tennessee should national health care actually be enacted,” said the Mt. Juliet Republican.
 House sends welfare
drug testing bill
to governor
NASHVILLE (AP) — The House on Tuesday passed a bill to implement a suspicion-based drug testing program for welfare recipients in Tennessee.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Julia Hurley, of Lenoir City, passed on a 73-17 vote. The Senate previously passed its version 24-9, meaning the bill now heads for the governor’s consideration.
Rep. Johnnie Turner of Memphis was among the Democrats raising concerns about the bill.
“It is degrading, it is demeaning, it is dehumanizing,” she said. “It impacts on a group of people who are at their lowest ebb.”
The legislation would require new welfare applicants to undergo a special screening process. If suspicion is raised after the screening, the applicant would be drug tested.
The final version retreated from the original proposal that would have required blanket testing to qualify for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program. The state’s attorney general opined that that approach would have been unconstitutional.
 Roll-your-own cigarette bill headed to governor
NASHVILLE (AP) — A proposal that would require roll-your-own cigarette retailers to pay a licensing fee and tax and adhere to certain restrictions is headed to the governor for his consideration.
The measure was sent to Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday after the Senate voted 24-2 to agree with changes made by the House.
Pipe tobacco, a popular product of roll-your-own retailers, is not listed on the state attorney general’s directory of tobaccos. The proposal would require tobacco the retailers use in their machines to come from the directory.
It would also require the retailers to pay a cigarette tax and an annual $500 licensing fee for each roll-your-own machine used.
One issue that needed to be worked out was how long businesses would have to meet the requirements. Lawmakers agreed on Oct. 1, 2013.

Published in The Messenger 5.02.12

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