Senate Dems’ Week in Review: April 15

Press Release from Senate Democratic Caucus: April 15, 2011:

Legislative Update Week of April 10- 14

Continued Calls for a Jobs Plan

Following another month of stagnant unemployment figures in Tennessee, Democrats in a press conference Monday again asked for answers on promised job-creation strategies from the administration and the Republican majority in the legislature. While national unemployment rates continue to drop, unemployment in Tennessee remains steady at 9.5 percent after rising in February. Meanwhile, Governor Bill Haslam gave nearly $250,000 in taxpayer money in raises to his commissioners, even though they were already making six-figure salaries.

Democrats again asked Republicans to consider their jobs creation bills and work together to help 300,000 Tennesseans find work. Democrats pointed out that since achieving a majority in both chambers and the governorship, Republicans have spent time debating whether dogs should wear seat belts, rewriting science books and talking about creating Tennessee’s own currency. The only jobs effort has come in the form of three RVs with flatscreen TVs to help Tennesseans create résumés. The vehicles cost more than $500,000 in federal stimulus money.

The next day, the Republican-controlled Senate Tax Subcommittee gave negative recommendations to job creation bills by Senator Eric Stewart and Senator Andy Berke, meaning that the bills are unlikely to proceed out of the Finance, Ways & Means Committee.

Berke passes bicyclist safety bill

Thursday the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1171 by Sen. Berke, which would strengthen the requirement that drivers exercise “due care” when driving to specifically include operating safely around bicycles and pedestrians. The bill would make failing to yield to pedestrians or pass a bicyclist safely a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $50 fine and/or up to 30 days in jail. The punishment would increase if the incident resulted in injury or death.

AG: Voter photo ID requirement unconstitutional

Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. opined Wednesday that Senate Bill 16, which would require Tennesseans to present a photo identification card in order to vote, would be equivalent to a poll tax and would violate both the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions. The opinion stated that legislation to provide the ID cards free-of-charge would remedy those problems. Senator Lowe Finney has a bill that would do just that; the House version of the bill is scheduled to be heard in the Transportation Committee on Tuesday.