Legislation creating the Office of the Repealer passed the House 79-12 Monday, but must now be reconciled with the bill that passed the Senate 30-1 in March.
Thirteen Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the Repealer, whose job would be to go through Tennessee code and make recommendations to the Legislature on laws, rules and regulations that need to be repealed or modified because they are no longer relevant, overly burdensome or outdated.. (See chart below.)
However, while initially the position was to have been in the Secretary of State’s office and for a period of only four years, an amendment makes the position permanent and moves it to the Office of Legal Services.
According to House Bill 500 sponsor Rep. Glen Casada, Joe Barnes, director of the Office of Legal Services, will oversee the work using existing staff in the summer and fall when the General Assembly is not in session.
“In speaking to the Speaker of the House and seeking the opinion of several in the House, the House just wanted to keep it totally under legislative purview,” said the representative from Franklin following Monday’s session.
Casada said he’s talked to Senate Bill 595 sponsor Sen. Jack Johnson about the changes, and “He is intrigued. To his credit, he took it and moved it on through the Senate before I had a chance to talk to him.”
In addition to searching for laws, rules and regulations that may need to be repealed, the Office of the Repealer would be required to set up an online system to receive recommendations from the public, which he or she would be required to take into consideration.
Given that, Rep. Craig Fitzhugh brought an amendment that would have required the Repealer to publish quarterly on the General Assembly website “any meetings with lobbyists, trade associations, special interest groups and anyone else who seeks to seek the repeal of a law.”
“All this amendment does is add transparency to this newly created office,” said the Minority Leader from Ripley. “If any special interest groups of any type are going to the Office of the Repealer and asking that laws be taken off the books or our code changes in some way, then our citizens have a right to know who they are.”
Casada moved to table the amendment, saying, “Lobbyists can not interface with our legal department, so it’s just an amendment that not’s applicable.”
Fitzhugh said while he has “great regard for our legal department, I’m not so sure that in their capacity as repealer they would be under the same constraints as they are with us.”
The vote to table the amendment was 60-34, with seven Republicans joining with Democrats to vote against the tabling motion. (See table at the right.)