Health Care Liberty and Justice News

Fight to Finish Over Federal Health Care Reform

The state-level war over the national health-care package is going down to the wire in the 2010 Tennessee Legislature.

The House on Tuesday passed the “Health Care Freedom Act” — not to be confused with the “Health Freedom Act” the Senate approved earlier this session. However, there’s talk the two might in some way be merged or their language reconciled with one another before the Legislature adjourns for the year.

Both pieces of legislation state generally that government can’t require citizens to purchase health insurance. But the Senate’s version is broader in scope — for example, directing the state attorney general to defend Tennesseans who choose to ignore the federal mandate.

The Senate is scheduled to take up the acts and issues surrounding them again today, on what leaders in both chambers have said is likely to be the last day of the session.

“We’re going to have discussion on the bill in the Senate on the floor, and we’ll just have to see what comes out of that,” said Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, whose SB2560 is the companion bill to HB2622 passed by the House.

Last week the Senate voted to pull SB2560 out of a closed committee to ready it for floor action, including possible alteration and amendment. That move was precipitated by the House killing the original “Health Freedom Act” in the Budget Subcommittee, which is controlled by Democrats and House Speaker Kent Williams.

Further complicating the issue is that Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper has stated that the “Health Freedom Act” is unconstitutional. On the other hand, the “Health Care Freedom Act,” wrote Cooper, probably does not run afoul of  either the United States or Tennessee constitutions.

The “Health Care Freedom Act,” sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, states: “The people of Tennessee have a right to enter into private contracts with health care providers for health care services and to purchase private health care coverage. The legislature shall not require any person to participate in any health care system or plan, nor shall it impose a penalty or fine, of any type, for choosing to obtain or decline health care coverage or for participation in any particular health care system or plan.”

Black wouldn’t say what she anticipates happening or exactly what she’ll be proposing as far as amendment or adoption of SB2560. Adding to the uncertainty is the ongoing political feud in the GOP between Rep. Susan Lynn and Sen. Mae Beavers, two Mt. Juliet Republicans who are running for the same Senate seat this year. Beavers was the sponsor of the “Health Freedom Act,” Lynn of the language passed by the House Tuesday.

“The only thing that I can say is the Senate will be the Senate, and they will give the bill debate just like they do on any other bill,” Black said.

Debate in the House on Tuesday over Lynn’s bill was mostly a rehashing of well-worn positions staked out by conservatives and progressives in the Legislature. The measure ultimately passed, 53-32.

Republicans generally argued the federal government has no legitimate power to demand that individuals purchase health insurance or any other product. Democrats maintain that the states have no constitutional authority to resist the demands of the federal government.

Andrea Zelinski contributed video interviews for this story.

Liberty and Justice News Tax and Budget

House Moves to Rescind Con-Con Call

The state House of Representatives took steps today to try and make sure Tennessee doesn’t accidentally help instigate a wholesale rewrite of the U.S. Constitution.

But one House lawmaker says she’s convinced the state could and should call for a limited constitutional convention to focus on a single issue — chiefly, making it easier for the states to amend the federal government’s guiding document.

“There has to be the political will to do that, and I don’t know that we’re at (that) point,” said state Rep. Susan Lynn, a Mt. Juliet Republican and self-styled state sovereignty enthusiast.

The Tennessee House of Representatives voted 65-23 Thursday to rescind any past expressions of legislative desire that a constitutional convention be convened. Tennessee lawmakers most recently called for a constitutional convention in 1977, with the idea in mind of forcing the federal government to live within its fiscal means.

One lawmaker who voted against rescinding the 1977 resolution argued that the issues that gave rise to the call to convene a convention 33 years ago are still serious problems today.

“The threat of a constitutional convention can serve as leverage to encourage constitutional change and fiscal responsibility,” said Jim Coley, R-Bartlett.. “I believe we should honor the collective wisdom of these assemblies and vote not to rescind.”

A constitutional convention is still warranted to address “the unchecked growth of the federal government over the 1970, 1980s, 1990s and now the 21st century,” Coley said.

Thirty-four states would need to officially request a constitutional convention. Twenty-one states, including Tennessee, are currently on record as desiring one.

That’s a risky proposition to be supporting, said Rep. Matthew Hill, a Jonesborough Republican and sponsor of the bill to repeal the request. Hill worries an open-ended effort to amend the constitution would range far afield from what most Tennesseans would regard as proper, necessary or wise.

“Once you open up the box, they can do whatever they want,” he said of the constitutional-convention amendment process.

If the Tennessee Legislature wants to rally for a rewritten U.S. Constitution, lawmakers should take the time to examine the issues now and renew their call rather than relying upon the 1977 legislature speak for the today’s General Assembly, Hill argued.

“We do not need to trigger a constitutional convention with resolutions that are over 30 years old,” said Hill.

Lynn today joined the Tennessee House majority voting to rescind the call for a convention. But she said she’ll also soon be joining other state lawmakers from across the country pushing to revise the U.S. Constitution to require the federal government to pass a balanced budget each year.

Lynn voiced support for a constitutional convention at a Tea Party rally earlier this month, saying “we have to keep going, we have to keep pushing until we push this monster of a federal government back to where they belong.”

The measure must now be taken up in the Senate to officially remove the previous calls for a constitutional convention.

Andrea Zelinski can be reached at

Business and Economy News Tax and Budget Transparency and Elections

Republicans Rally at Capitol Tax Day Protest

Tennessee GOP lawmakers leapt at the opportunity provided by Thursday’s Legislative Plaza tea party rally to cast themselves as champions of discontented taxpayers and defenders against fiscal irresponsibility and other abuses of government power.

Prominent Republican state representatives and senators mustered around a podium before 300 or so tax-day demonstrators and lashed out in general at government-expanding policies they claim are predominately favored by their political opponents at both the state and federal level.

Gov. Phil Bredesen’s recent proposal to lift the state’s sales tax cap on big-ticket items came in for particular condemnation.

“Just yesterday, Governor Bredesen proposed an $85 million tax increase here in the state of Tennessee on you all, on small businesses,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told the tea party ralliers. “Let me assure you the state Senate under my leadership is going to push back on this tax increase.”

Bredesen this week floated the idea of lifting the sales tax cap as a way to avoid a 5-percent salary cut for all state workers. Currently, the state limits sales taxes to the first $3,200 on purchases. His idea would reportedly raise that limit, although the limit would still apply to purchases of vehicles, boats and manufactured homes.

Republican legislators quickly denounced Bredesen’s suggestion.

“We’ve got a fight ahead of us,” declared state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet.

Other state legislators on hand for the rally included Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville; Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin; Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin; Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet; Rep. Debra Young Maggart, R-Hendersonville; and Terry Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster.

Lynn got people’s attention when she suggested a constitutional convention might be an answer to some of the federal authority being used in Washington.

“I don’t want to scare anybody, but another thing we’re working on, if it gets worse and we have to, we’re working out how we would have a constitutional convention,” Lynn told the crowd. “We’re working on the details.”

Lynn said after her remarks that the hope is not to have to turn to a constitutional convention, but that even if it were to happen it would need to be crafted carefully to make sure delegates remained responsible to the legislature that sent them there, by putting “firewalls” in place. But she emphasized that at this time there is no intention of calling for a constitutional convention.

Tea party protest events are becoming something of the norm on April 15, the last day to file federal tax returns. Nashville had other downtown gatherings at both the Municipal Auditorium and Legislative Plaza.

The life of the tea party is always, of course, the citizens who gather to protest the government.

Kelly Campbell of Mt. Juliet, whose son is in the military, originally planned to be in Washington with her family on Thursday, but when her father was unable to attend she joined a friend at Municipal Auditorium. She criticized the actions of the federal government.

“I don’t believe any of the things they are doing are constitutional,” Campbell said. “My son is serving his country, and I feel like this is one of the greatest betrayals of former, present and future service people there could ever be, and I’m not willing to hand over my freedoms to somebody without a really good reason.

“They don’t need to know if I have insurance or not. They don’t need to know how I teach my children. They don’t need to know if I go to church. Those are mine. It’s not theirs.”

Dick Geyer, from Old Hickory, said his congressman, Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat, is an “absolute disgrace. He is not a Blue Dog. He’s a Yellow Dog. He follows blindly whatever Nancy Pelosi does.”

Geyer said he is also going to contribute to candidates elsewhere.

“The current administration and Congress are trampling on all our rights and freedoms,” Geyer said. “They’re turning over what this country has been about for over 200 years, and we’ve got to put a stop to it. We’ve got to get them out in November and we’ve got to get them out in 2012.”

When asked what the response to government should be, Geyer said, “We band together as individuals. We reach out and start calling friends and neighbors that we have probably passively talked to in the past. We get them actively involved and make sure they show up and vote in November.”

Melissa Vaughn, from Nashville, believes people aren’t being held responsible for their actions.

“It feels like we’ve lost our way, that our society no longer holds anybody accountable for anything — government, personal, private,” she said. “It just feels like we’ve lost our way, and we’re trying to get back on track.”

One of the speakers at the Legislative Plaza event was Lonnie Spivak, who is running as a Republican against Cooper, but Spivak’s role at the rally was to announce that a group, Citizens of Faith, will file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new federal health care law.

Spivak said the Constitution prevents the federal government from enacting laws that give religious preference to one group over another. And since the health care law allows bureaucrats to decide certain religious groups can opt out, that violates religious freedom, he said.

Ben Cunningham of Tennessee Tax Revolt handled MC duties for both the event at Municipal Auditorium and Legislative Plaza.

“This is just a continuation of the tea party momentum. It started very spontaneously and organically last year with Rick Santelli’s rant,” Cunningham said. “People just want to get involved.

“People try to define the tea party movement. It’s just motivated people who are concerned about trillion-dollar deficits, about Social Security being broke, Medicare being broke and all these other government institutions that we put our trust in. And Congress has financially run them in the ground. Now, they want to take over health care and make those very personal, intimate decisions to a great extent in Washington. And people are saying stop.”

The event at the Municipal Auditorium included speakers that included Cunningham, radio talk show hosts Phil Valentine, Steve Gill and Mike Slater as well as Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain.

The Tennessee Tea Party had been planning the event for months.

Stacie Burke of Franklin, president and co-founder of the Tennessee Tea Party, said the event involved a lot of work but was a team effort.

“We’re just hoping to get people more involved,” Burke said. “I think people are pretty awake, but we need people to stay involved all year long.”

When asked what she would like to see government do, Burke replied. “Get smaller. Leave us alone. Let us live our lives and stop interfering.”

Business and Economy Health Care Liberty and Justice News

‘Health Freedom’ Bill Held Up In Committee

Tea Party protesters who converged on the Tennessee State Capitol to pour out some outrage against the federal health care package signed into law this week got an unwanted douse of legislative reality today.

A bill to direct the Tennessee Attorney General to defend state citizens against federal efforts to punish or prosecute them for failing to purchase or enroll in health insurance programs as mandated by the federal government was tabled for a week in a House subcommittee.

The “Tennessee Health Freedom Act,” which passed in the Senate last month on a 26-1 vote, is designed to protect Tennesseans from, in the words of Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, a “massive (federal) power grab that will reduce individual liberty and strangle state government finances.”

Rep. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, the chief sponsor of the House version of the act, told members of the Industrial Impact subcommittee Tuesday that the bill’s “intention is to be a tool to protect Tennesseans who do not want to participate in the new federal program.”

“This is an unprecedented move by the federal government to mandate that individuals purchase a product,” said Bell. “We’re not talking about another Medicare program, where people pay a dedicated tax to support a program. But what the federal bill does is mandate the purchase of a product.”

“This has never been done in the history of our country,” he said.

Anti-ObamaCare protesters who packed the hearing room and the hallway outside greeted Bell’s introduction of the bill in the subcommittee with jubilant cheers.

Their mood soured when a short time later Bell announced he was attaching a “severability clause” amendment to the bill — declaring that if any or all the parts of the act are declared unconstitutional by a court, then that part would be automatically removed from law.

Bell said he decided to offer the amendment after earlier talks “with several members of the committee who were concerned about the possible constitutionality” of the act. That amendment quickly passed without opposition.

However, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, subsequently declared that in keeping with traditional practices of the Industrial Impact subcommittee, he would delay a vote on the actual proposal.

“This is not a rule that we just started,” explained Curtiss. “Because, historically, we deal with so much insurance legislation and everything, when we amend a bill of any significance…we roll it for one week. It’s just a formality, and we’re going to roll this bill and it will layover for one week, and then we’ll be voting on it next week.”

Upon that announcement, the protesters’ excitement turned to groans of impatience and disappointment.

Many of the 75 or so demonstrators said they’d taken time off work or traveled considerable distances across the state to express themselves and witness a definitive, defiant first response from lawmakers in the wake of adoption of the federal health care legislation.

Bell and other bill supporters on the committee assured them the move was altogether proper and normal.

In fact, the amendment, as suggested by Bell, may help ensure the act’s ultimate passage in the House, predicted Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, who is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

The subcommittee is made up of six Democrats and six Republicans with a Democrat in the chairman seat, so it likely needs bipartisan support to move, which the amendment will help ensure, he said.

A separate bill sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, Mt. Juliet (pdf), seeks to amend the Tennessee Constitution to prohibit government from compelling “directly or indirectly, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system.”

That bill was also tabled Tuesday and is awaiting an attorney general’s opinion.

Mark Todd Engler can be reached at Andrea Zelinski contributed to this story. She can be reached at

Health Care Liberty and Justice News

Legislature Prepares For Votes On Abortion ‘Coercion’ Signage

Abortion providers might have to post signs stating that it’s illegal to coerce women into having an abortion, according to legislation passed out of House and Senate committees this week.

But an amendment to make it illegal to force a woman out of an abortion failed in a House Health and Human Resources Committee Tuesday.

The committee ended up approving HB3301 but dropped the amendment proposed by Rep. Sherry Jones, a Democrat from Nashville.

“If we honestly want to protect women and we want to be fair to women and we want to do what’s best for women…the sign should read you can’t be coerced either way, period,” she said. “And that’s the right thing, the fair thing, the logical thing to do. Be sure (women) know the law is on both sides, not only one side.”

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, who is sponsoring the bill, said Jones’ amendment was unnecessary.

“If your wording was on the sign…I don’t know that they would ever see the sign because they might not show up at the abortion clinic” because they wouldn’t get the abortion, she said.

“I don’t know that it would serve any effect at all,” Lynn continued. “But we know that women who are coerced (into getting an abortion) do show up at an abortion clinic.”

Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, said the amendment could have unintended consequences.

“As a parent, giving loving, parental advice to my child to not have an abortion, could I be prosecuted (under this amendment)?” he asked. “At what point does it become coercive rather than a loving parent?”

Jones countered with some questions of her own, asking if she would be charged with a crime if she “lovingly talked to my daughter and told her that this was not the time to have a child and she should have an abortion.”

The committee’s attorney said the answer to both representatives’ questions would depend on how a court would interpret the language “knowingly coerced, compelled or exercised duress.”

In the Senate Judiciary Committee, which also passed the measure Tuesday, Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, challenged Sen. Jack Johnson, the bill’s sponsor who is a Franklin Republican, on whether abortion is the only medical procedure he is concerned with protecting people from being coerced into.

“I think anyone being coerced into any medical procedure…is not looked upon with any favor,” said Johnson.

“Considering the vulnerable state that most women are in, in that unfortunate situation…whether it’s boyfriends, or husbands, or rape, or employers, or parents that coerce a young lady into maybe making a decision that will have long-term ramifications on her life and perhaps having that procedure done against her will,” he continued, “I think it’s perfectly reasonable that we would post this in a facility where those procedures are performed.”

Clinics covered by the legislation, if found in violation, would be subject to a separate fine for each day that the sign is not posted.

The measure now advances to the House and Senate chambers for a floor vote. If approved, the measure would need to be OK’d by the governor before it could become law.

Press Releases

Beavers: ‘My Work Here Is Not Done’

Press Release from Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, March 11, 2010:

NASHVILLE, TN – Senator Mae Beavers, surrounded by her Senate colleagues, announced today that she is running for another term for the State Senate seat representing Wilson, Cannon, Clay, DeKalb, Macon, Smith, Sumner, and Trousdale counties. The decision came after much deliberation and prayerful consideration. There had been discussion that Senator Beavers could possibly be running for the Wilson County Mayor position; however, at the insistence of many colleagues and a multitude of constituents, Beavers has declared her desire to continue her work in serving the people of the 17th District.

“This decision is based upon my desire to serve the state,” Beavers stated. “I’m proud of what we have been able to accomplish in the state legislature in the past eight years, and I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish in the next four years, especially if we have a Republican Governor and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. My work here is not done.”

Senator Beavers has a Bachelor of Science degree from Trevecca Nazarene University. She has worked as a court reporter and paralegal before being elected to the county commission, and more recently worked as a financial advisor. In the Tennessee Legislature she was a leader in the fight to stop the passage of a state income tax. Since being elected to State Senate, she has taken a leadership role, serving the past two sessions as the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Beavers began her public service as a Wilson County Commissioner from 1990-1994 and represented West Wilson County in the Tennessee State House of Representatives from 1994-2002. She was elected to the Tennessee State Senate in 2002 and re-elected in 2006.


Beavers Wants to Retain Senate Seat

Sen. Mae Beavers announced Thursday that she was dropping out of the Wilson County mayor’s race and would run for reelection to her senate seat — a spot her hometown rival, Rep. Susan Lynn, has already been campaigning for.

Beavers and Lynn have a lot in common. The two are both Republicans from Mt. Juliet, share similar views on state sovereignty and word around the Capitol is that the two aren’t particularly fond of one other.

Beavers said she decided to run for reelection because she was “pumped up” about the possibility that Republicans could control the legislature and the governor’s office. She added that she felt that her work in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee wasn’t finished.

Lynn began campaigning for the Senate seat nine months ago, shortly after Beavers said she was pursuing the the job of Wilson County mayor. Lynn said she would have run for reelection to her own House seat if Beavers had said in the beginning she wanted to stay in the senate.

Lynn wouldn’t confirm whether she would stay in the race or drop out, only saying “I filed to run” for the seat.

Lynn, and any other candidate contemplating a run for office, have until the April 1 filing deadline.

Andrea Zelinski can be reached at

Press Releases

Reps. Maggart and Lynn Ask State AG to Intervene in Federal Health Care Legislation

Tennessee House of Representatives press release, Dec. 21, 2009:

On Monday, State Representatives Susan Lynn (R-Lebanon) and Debra Young Maggart (R-Hendersonville) asked Tennessee State Attorney General Robert Cooper to prepare to take the appropriate legal action against the federal government in the event HR 3200, the controversial federal healthcare reform legislation, passes into law.

The legislators requested this action in order to grant Tennessee relief from the unfunded mandate contained in the bill that Tennessee complies with the expansion of the federal Medicaid program.

The letter notes that under the bill Tennessee would be forced to expand the state’s Medicaid program potentially costing the citizens of the state $1.4 billion dollars in additional state taxpayer funds annually.

“Such an increase would place a great burden on the citizens of this state. It is clear by the wording of the legislation itself that not every state would face a similar and equal burden,” stated Rep. Debra Maggart.

Lynn explained that, “We see this as a violation of equal protection of the law, an affront to our sovereignty, and as a breach of the U.S. Constitution.”

Lynn and Maggart noted that the passage of this bill is imminent so it is important that the AG prepare now to take immediate action, and they referenced Governor Bredesen’s recent comment that “we can’t print money.” The great issue for the states is that states are not allowed to borrow money for operations expenses. “Obviously, this is something that many in Washington just don’t understand,” stated Lynn.