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Harwell’s End-of-Session Recap

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, Posted the Following Letter on Facebook, June 3, 2011:

The first session of the 107th General Assembly adjourned late Saturday night, May 21st, after we aggressively worked the last several days to finish our business. We have a long list of accomplishments to point to, proving that it does matter who governs.

Governor Bill Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and I were united in our belief that in order to make government sustainable, we had to transform the way we did business. We made significant progress this year reducing the size of government, paving the way for job creation, and reforming education.

In addition, we adjourned earlier than we have in the past couple of decades. Compared to last year, our early adjournment saved taxpayers nearly half a million dollars in legislative operational expenses. We have shown that we take the responsibility of governing very seriously, and we will stay true to our principles as we do so.

Our top priority was a balanced budget with no new taxes or tax increases. This year’s budget is $1.2 billion less than last year’s. This includes $82.2 million in specific recurring reductions. The budget also fully funds education, and tucks money away in the Rainy Day Fund for the first time in three years, raising it to $327.7 million.

We had many accomplishments this year, including but not limited to the following:

  • Tort reform – Republicans have also fought for years to see passage of comprehensive tort reform legislation, and this year we were successful in passing a bill that will pave the way for jobs in Tennessee. This legislation will create an environment of predictability and certainty for businesses as they look to expand.
  • Tenure Reform – Our goal is to make sure our teachers are equipped with the best tools possible to educate Tennessee students. We want an effective teacher in front of every classroom, and we want those who are excelling to be rewarded. This proposal is absolutely key to education reform.
  • Charter Schools – Charter schools have a proven track record in Tennessee, and I am delighted that we are giving this opportunity to even more students. Every student in the state of Tennessee deserves the very best we have to offer in education, and charter schools play a huge role in reaching that goal.
  • Collaborative Conferencing – The legislature also acted on a bill that repealed the Education Professional Negotiations Act and moved to a collaborative bargaining process that will open a direct line of communication between teachers, administrators and school boards.
  • Reduction of Meth Amphetamines – We are always trying to stay one step ahead of those who manufacture meth, which is destroying our communities. Utilizing this tracking system will curb the ability of criminals to obtain key ingredients for meth, while not increasing the burden to consumers who need pseudoephedrine.
  • Election Integrity – To ensure the integrity of our elections, the legislature passed a bill to require photo identification to vote. This measure will reduce voter fraud, and make every vote count.
  • SJR 127 – The constitutional amendment will restore the right of Tennesseans to repeal or enact laws governing abortions within federal limits through their elected representatives.
  • E-Verify – This bill helps to ensure that those working in Tennessee are here legally. Illegal immigration has a large financial impact on taxpayers, and this legislation will address this problem.
  • Elimination of a dozen subcommittees – The principles of a limited and more efficient government were a priority this year. To that end, I eliminated a dozen subcommittees that I felt were duplicitous, a reform that helped us to work more efficiently.
  • Elimination of redundant committees – In times of economic hardship, taxpayers demand and deserve state government to be streamlined. To that end, we eliminated 11 “oversight” committees that duplicated the work of standing committees, saving taxpayer dollars.

We started this year with a Republican governor, and strong majorities in both chambers–for the first time in the history of our state. We set forth ambitious proposals for job creation and better schools, and due to the hard work of each state representative, we have done that. This was a very successful year.

As always, I appreciate your support. It was an honor to serve as Speaker of the House, and experience that was both humbling and rewarding. Thank you for placing your trust in me, and let me know if I can ever do anything to assist you.

Sincerely,

Beth

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Press Releases

Senate Republicans Laud Passage of Latest Meth-Fighting Initiative

Press Release from the GOP Caucus of the Tennessee Senate, April 29, 2011:

Tennessee Legislators Work Together To Pass E-Tracking Legislation To Fight Meth Production

New system will prevent abuse of pseudoephedrine-containing medicines

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Senate yesterday passed SB 1265, which calls for the implementation of a statewide, real-time electronic tracking system, called NPLEx (National Precursor Log Exchange), to monitor and block illegal purchases of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE), an ingredient used in methamphetamine production. The bill also calls for felony charges for manufacturing meth in front of children and increases penalties for meth-related offenses. The legislation is a compromise brokered by Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and members of the legislature.

“I commend Safety Commissioner Gibbons and the Tennessee Senate for supporting a compromise that will prevent methamphetamine production in Tennessee while maintaining consumer access to important cold and allergy medications,” said state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, the bill’s sponsor. “E-tracking is the only solution that will stop illegal sales of pseudoephedrine products by providing a real-time, preventive system in every Tennessee pharmacy.”

There is currently no mechanism in place in Tennessee to block illegal PSE sales in real time, as many pharmacies rely on handwritten paper logbooks to track purchases. As a result, criminals have learned to circumvent the current system. SB 1265 and its companion bill in the House (HB 1051) will provide a secure, interconnected electronic logbook that advises pharmacists when to refuse a sale based on an individual’s purchase record elsewhere in the state and beyond its borders. In addition, the state’s comptroller will conduct a thorough study of Tennessee’s meth production, which will be released by January 1, 2013.

“Most importantly, electronic tracking preserves access to the trusted medicines that many Tennesseans rely on and trust for cold and allergy relief,” continued Sen. Beavers.

E-tracking, which has been adopted by 13 states nationwide, will give local law enforcement officials a powerful investigative tool to track meth production across state lines. E-tracking allows law enforcement to find previously undiscovered meth labs and helps them identify meth cooks without costing taxpayers one penny.

The provision stiffening penalties against making meth in the presence of a child would take place on July 1, 2011. The bill would make the crime aggravated child endangerment which is punishable as a Class A felony if the child is eight years old or younger and a Class B felony if the child is over the age of eight.

SB 1265/HB 1051 is supported by the Tennessee Pharmacists Association, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The NPLEx system would be fully integrated into Tennessee pharmacy systems by January 1, 2012.

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Press Releases

Rep. Wants to Ban Production, Sales of Ingredients to Make ‘Bath Salt’ Drug

Press Release from Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville; Feb. 9, 2011:

(NASHVILLE, February 8, 2010) – An increasing number of emergency room visits and deaths have been linked to the use of a drug that is a derivative of methamphetamine. Known as “bath salts,” the drug affects the central nervous system and can cause chest pain, heart attack, and stroke, as well as delusions and psychosis. It has been named a “drug of concern” by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

With 15 individuals sent to the hospital because of this drug, Representative Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) introduced legislation today that would make the use of six compounds tied to bath salts illegal and impose a hefty fine.

“This drug poses a growing and grave threat to our children and families. The more I have learned about it, the more I’m convinced we must ensure those who would market and sell this drug are punished. Time is of the essence with this drug and our children are on the front lines,” remarked Rep. Williams. “I will do all I can to ensure this drug is stopped before we hear about a teenager dying from it on the local news.”

Majority Caucus Chairman Representative Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) signed on as an original co-sponsor of Rep. Williams’ bill today and added, “This is another step in our State’s battle against the destructive effects of meth. I’m proud to add my name to Mr. Williams’ legislation and urge my colleagues in the General Assembly to do everything they can to get this to the Governor’s desk.”

Representative Williams’ bill (HB 457) will make it an offense to produce and distribute any of the six main compounds related to the bath salt drug. These include:

–          3,4-Methylenedioxymethcathinore (Methylone);

–          3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV);

–          4-Methylmethcathinone (Mephedrone)

–          4-Methoxymethcathinone (Methedrone)

–          4-Fluoromethcathinone (Flephedrone); or

–          3-Fluoromethcathinone (3-FMC)

Any violations of the proposed changes to the law would carry a $1,500 fine.