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Wilson County Legislators Scoff at Supreme Court Health Care Ruling

Statement from Senator Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet; Rep. Linda Elam, R-Mt. Juliet; and Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon; June 28, 2012: 

( WILSON COUNTY, TN) June 28, 2012 – Three Tennessee lawmakers who have fought tirelessly over the past two years to thwart the implementation of “Obamacare” in the state of Tennessee were disappointed by the United States Supreme Court’s decision today which declared the massive and unprecedented law passed by Congress in 2010 as constitutional.

“I am disappointed in the Court’s ruling today,” said Sen. Mae Beavers, Chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee and sponsor of the Tennessee Health Freedom Act (SB 79) which became law in 2011. “I still believe that punishing a Tennessean for failing to purchase a particular product that the federal government believes they must purchase simply for being a citizen is an action that would make our forefathers turn over in their graves. Thankfully, the Court seemed to agree with me and Rep. Elam and Rep. Pody on the Commerce Clause issue, which should prove helpful in future policy debates, even if they found the health care act constitutional on tax grounds.”

Rep. Linda Elam expressed similar concerns this past year, and sponsored and passed HJR 614, a resolution calling for a return to the original meaning of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Rep. Elam also fought tirelessly against bills which sought to expand federal power and limit the freedoms of Tennesseans.

“As an attorney and a defender of the Constitution, I am disappointed that the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, but am grateful that they seemed to interpret the Commerce Clause to more accurately reflect the true intent of our Constitution,” said Rep. Elam. “It was an honor to work on such an important piece of legislation last year; now I hope that Congress will overturn Obamacare, and I look forward to working to lower health care costs in a constitutional and appropriate way for Tennesseans, increasing choice and keeping the quality of our medical care the best in the world.”

Fellow Wilson County lawmaker and and House sponsor of the Health Care Compact (HB 369), Rep. Mark Pody, also expressed disappointment over the Court’s decision, but expressed optimism that the ruling would pave the way for states to work together in offering more affordable health care choices to its citizens, in particular their ruling regarding the Medicaid provision of the act.

“I hope that today’s important ruling lets the federal government know that they still do not have free reign when it comes to their power, and that our great country will not see its health care system fall the way of Europe and other counties who have witnessed the horrors associated with socialist systems,” said Rep. Pody.

Sen. Beavers, who was the Senate sponsor of the Commerce Clause resolution and Health Care Compact bill, which sought to allow member states to work together to lower the costs of health care, expressed appreciation for all of the various states who joined the lawsuit, as well as those legislators who voiced opposition to “Obamacare.”

“I hope we can pass the Health Care Compact next year in Tennessee, and I look forward to working with Rep. Elam, Rep. Pody and other conservative lawmakers who hope to lower health care costs and raise quality in an efficient and constitutional manner,” said Sen. Beavers.

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Judges, Lawmakers Strike Deal on Ethics Board

Lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed Tuesday to compromise legislation that would revamp the Court of the Judiciary, an ethical watchdog panel charged with probing and punishing judges accused of improper or unprofessional behavior.

Members of the committee found common ground on a list of provisions that will rename and reconstitute the makeup of the body with the intent of emboldening it to more aggressively investigate complaints against judges. The new board would also be required to report on its official inquiries to top House and Senate leaders.

“Nobody is completely happy, and nobody is completely miserable, and I hope that’s the situation we’ve arrived at,” Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, said just prior to the 8-0 judiciary committee vote on Senate Bill 2671.

The key change requires that the board hand the two General Assembly speakers a rundown of statistics on each judge reprimanded more than once. Information on “public reprimands” is already available, but “private reprimands” would be available only to the speakers.

“We’re very satisfied with that,” said Criminal Appeals Judge Jeff Bivins, who worked with the Legislature to broker the deal.

“We think that’s a fair balance because the Legislature has an obligation under their impeachment power to have notice of what’s going on,” he said.

Concern that the Court of the Judiciary lacks independence, transparency and resolve has existed for some time. In September Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Mae Beavers hosted a series of hearings examining purported flaws within the Court of the Judiciary. The key phrase lawmakers like Beavers have used to sum up what they see as the core dysfunction within the Court of the Judiciary is “judges judging judges.”

The Mt. Juliet Republican, who has been the driving force behind judicial ethics reform, offered little in the way of comment to the committee as the sponsor gave her credit for pushing the issue, saying only, “I think you can say I’ve been a lightening rod, and I feel it.”

Senate Bill 2671 would set up a new panel to review ethics complaints against judges, called the Board of Judicial Conduct. It would still be controlled by judges.

Ten current or former judges, appointed by various councils of judges, would sit on the panel. In addition, the governor and chamber speakers would each pick an attorney and a layperson to join the board, for a total of six non-judges.

The bill also requires a subcommittee within the panel to decide whether to trash a complaint or use it to launch an investigation. That group would be required to have at least one non-judge. Currently, the board’s disciplinary counsel decides whether a complaint has merit, not its members.

The last time bill sponsor Sen. Mike Faulk ran a similar measure in the committee, it stalled on a 3-3-3 tie.

Judges and reformers in the Legislature have argued over the bill. The latest reincarnation results from a compromise by the judges. Prior to adding the component sending information to the speakers, the measure faced criticism in the House where some lawmakers argued the new board still lacks public accountability and gives judges too much power to police their own. The House Judiciary Committee still approved the bill, advancing it to another committee.

If the plan passes, it would dissolve the current Court of the Judiciary on June 30 and launch the Board of Judicial Conduct July 1.

Faulk, R-Church Hill, said he expects the full Senate to consider the bill Monday. The House measure faces a vote in the Government Operations Committee Wednesday before it can proceed to the full chamber.