With six weeks until lawmakers flood back into the Capitol, a handful of bills have already been filed for introduction in the 2011 legislative session, mostly thanks to Sen. Mark Norris.
The Senate Republican leader from Collierville filed five bills this month, all but one dealing with redistricting, a process that requires lawmakers to redraw legislative districts every decade after the U.S. Census numbers are in.
His grouping of bills generally “(clarify) provisions concerning districts, terms and vacancies prior to November 2012 elections,” according to bill summaries.
New lines must be approved before the 2012 election, although Norris says he could see lawmakers begin the redistricting process in late spring.
Norris’ fifth bill ties the income limit to qualify for a property tax freeze to the the average income level for elderly people as calculated in the new census numbers.
Sen. Douglas Henry, a Nashville Democrat, popped in a few bills of his own extending sales tax rebates to flood victims. House Democrat Leader Gary Odom of Nashville and Rep. Gary Moore, D-Joelton, are listed as co-sponsors. House Democrat Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, D-Nashville, introduced his own version of that bill, too.
During the last two-year legislative session, the House and Senate churned out nearly 4,000 bills each, although many pieces of legislation were taken up by both chambers. About 1,200 of them became law.
Presumed House Speaker-to-be Beth Harwell indicated in a press conference earlier this month that she’s not opposed to the idea of limiting the number of bills lawmakers can file. In keeping with the spirit of her smaller-is-better philosophy of state governance, Harwell indicated she’s opposed to bills that further burden or restrict the private behavior of citizens and businesses.
“Certainly if we’ve heard anything from the public, it’s that they don’t want a lot of more regulations and mandates on their lives,” said Harwell. “So I think that would serve our caucus well to look at not introducing a lot of legislation this session.”
“For the most part, what I’ve seen of Republican legislators is that they are conservative on that anyway,” she added. “Again, this is not the party of more government regulations, this is the party of less government regulations. So, I think you will see some restraint on the part of Republican leaders.”