Among the many key pieces of legislation considered during the recently completed 108th General Assembly of the Tennessee Legislature, a few that caught the public’s eye — as well as our legislators — were an Anti-Income Tax bill, annexation, reducing the size of state government and the reform of Workers’ Compensation.
I’ll address these today.
A constitutional amendment spearheaded by House Republicans to clarify that Tennessee’s Constitution prohibits a statewide income tax was approved by lawmakers this year.
The amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 1, specifies that the Legislature as well as counties and cities across the state shall be prohibited from passing an income tax on the people of Tennessee.
Now that it has been approved by the Legislature, the amendment will be placed on the 2014 statewide ballot for a referendum vote by the people of Tennessee. If passed by referendum, the Tennessee Constitution will then be amended to officially ban a state income tax from ever being implemented in Tennessee.
House Republicans argued the resolution is needed after Democratic lawmakers made multiple attempts in recent years to implement a state income tax.
In total, eight Democratic legislators voted “No” on banning a state income tax via Senate Joint Resolution 1. In addition, three Democrats also decided not to take a stand on the bill at all, even though they were in attendance for the vote.
legislation wins approval
Landmark legislation designed to reform Tennessee’s outdated annexation laws passed the Tennessee House of Representatives in the closing days of the legislative session with a 59-32 vote. The bill was spearheaded by pro-property rights legislators from across the state.
As passed, the bill places a one-year moratorium on the annexation of any residential property or farmland across the state. In addition, the bill directs TACIR, the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Affairs, to conduct a comprehensive study of the issue and make recommendations to the General Assembly on how to better improve the process statewide.
For years, legislators have been trying to change Tennessee’s abusive and antiquated annexation laws. With the passage of this legislation, this year's Republicans become the first group of lawmakers in decades to achieve substantial annexation reform for Tennessee.
spearhead effort to cut
size of state government
Republican legislators passed a new measure this year aimed at cutting the size of Tennessee government. The initiative, referred to as the Office of the Repealer, follows through on a Republican promise to streamline state government, save taxpayer dollars and make the legislative process more transparent to the general public.
The Office of the Repealer will be a one-time, four-year position with the sole responsibility of making recommendations to the Legislature of areas of government waste, duplication and out-of-date regulations that should be removed from the law books. The Repealer will take recommendations directly from the public, basing its decisions on input received from business owners, educators, activists and concerned citizens from across the state.
In addition to this measure, three bills that will eliminate dozens of unnecessary Tennessee laws were approved by the Tennessee General Assembly in the closing days of session this year. The bills are a result of a summer project that saw House research analysts and legal staff examine portions of the Tennessee Code Annotated relative to their expertise and draft proposals to eliminate laws that were determined to be antiquated or unnecessary.
“One thing we hear from our constituents consistently is that there are too many laws on the books,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. “I directed our staff to review our laws with the purpose of identifying archaic, unnecessary and outdated language in an effort to ‘clean up the code.’ I sincerely appreciate the hard work of our House research team and legal staff. They spent several months poring over our laws and these three bills were the result.”
House Bills 325, 396 and 890 eliminate dozens of laws relating to transportation, finance and commerce. In several cases, the bills also clarify certain language or delete repetitive or conflicting laws. Statutes pertaining to programs that have since been abolished by the federal government, reports that were assigned to come from entities that no longer exist and several instances of repetitive language are examples of laws slated to be eliminated.
After years of writing and rewriting laws, many simply become redundant while others are severely outdated. This effort, Republicans agree, will streamline state laws and make them easier to interpret for all interested parties.