I am very pleased to play a role in this effort as Senate sponsor of legislation proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam to recognize efficiencies in numerous boards and commissions. This move will not only make these boards more effective, but will also save taxpayers approximately $250,000 per year.
As we work to complete the legislative session, we also have major public safety legislation pending to help fight Tennessee’s “war on drug abuse.” There has been a proliferation of methamphetamines, synthetic or “designer” drugs and prescription drug abuse in our state. Recently, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn told me and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the state is drowning in our war on drugs. There are several bills coming before us in the next few weeks that will help significantly in curbing drug abuse in our state and I look forward to supporting their passage.
These major bills eclipse many of the other issues before our Legislature this year which tend to get a disproportionate share of publicity like motorcycle helmets, the posting of the Ten Commandments or handgun-carrying measures. It is important that you hear about the many dynamic bills that do not make the front page, rather than just the sensational issues that too often receive the “lion’s share” of publicity.
For example, my own list of legislative priorities includes a bill which passed our state Senate this week to allow nursing homes to directly hire a doctor. This is a monumental change in the way medical care is delivered to nursing home patients under current law. Senate Bill 3263 is modeled after the corporate practice bill that was passed in 1996 to allow hospitals to directly hire doctors. It should lead to better care for our nursing home patients and shorter, less frequent trips to hospitals.
I also sponsored Senate Bill 3178 which makes charter schools subject to the same transparency laws as other public schools. It is important that the use of taxpayer dollars is transparent, whether the school is a traditional school or a public charter school. In addition, I am sponsoring Senate Bill 2644 which helps put retailers on an equal footing with competing states; Senate Bill 3179 which addresses liability limits for whitewater rafters; and Senate Bill 3123 which abolishes a health advisory committee that was not needed, but nevertheless remained part of Tennessee law.
As chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, I have won approval of 28 sunset bills that have removed undue influence by special interest groups to control who serves on public boards and commissions. Some of these include the Board of Pharmacy, the Air Pollution Board, the Board for Licensing Contractors, and the Board of Architectural and Engineering Examiners, which are very important to many citizens in our state. The changes made through these bills should help remove some of the politics from Tennessee’s boards so they can operate more effectively for thousands of Tennessee citizens who are licensed or governed by their provisions.
Please remember you can access our proceedings on public television or can view them live via video streaming at www.capitol.tn.gov. You can also view a copy of all legislation, summaries and actions on the matters before us on the General Assembly’s website.
As we complete the remaining weeks, we will hopefully see more reported about the major issues before us that have a direct impact on the citizens of this county and this state.
Until that time, I invite citizens to write or call me regarding your views and opinions on the issues we face. It is an honor to serve you as your senator in Nashville and I look forward to hearing from you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, address is 6 A Legislative Plaza, Nashville, TN 37243, phone 1-800-449-TENN, Ext. 11946.
I look forward to hearing from you!