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‘Repealer’ Legislation in Limbo

A General Assembly effort to create a specific government post responsible for detecting and trimming unnecessary or redundant government functions and regulations is bogged down and may be headed to a legislative conference committee.

Early in the day Wednesday Senate Bill 595 sponsor Sen. Jack Johnson made a motion to non-concur with an amendment that rewrote House Bill 500. The motion passed on a voice vote.

Later, Rep. Glen Casada’s made a motion in the House to “refuse to recede from our action,” sending the bill back to the Senate on Thursday. No vote was taken; it was simply accepted by Speaker of the House Beth Harwell.

The so-called “Repealer” would be to go through Tennessee code and make recommendations to the Legislature on laws, rules and regulations that need to be scrubbed or modified because they are no longer relevant, overly burdensome or outdated.

The conflict between the two versions occurred when the Senate passed the original bill drafted by Casada, a Republican from Franklin, in March. That legislation that would have placed the Office of the Repealer in the Secretary of State’s office and for a period of only four years.

Meanwhile, over on the House side, Casada drafted an amendment that changed the bill, making it a permanent position in the Office of Legal Services, with Director Joe Barnes overseeing 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 also explained that Johnson, also a Republican from Franklin, had moved the bill through the Senate before he had a chance to talk to him about the changes.

Following Wednesday’s sessions, Casada told TNReport.com that the next step is for House Bill 500, as amended, to go back to the Senate. If the upper chamber votes to non-concur again, the bill will return to the House where Casada will ask for a conference committee to be formed in an attempt to try and work out the differences between the two bodies.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at amhipps@downhomepolitics.com, on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics or at 615-442-8667.

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NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Officer of Repealer, Revised Version, Passes House

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.)

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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.”

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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.)

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at amhipps@downhomepolitics.com, on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics or at 615-442-8667.

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Environment and Natural Resources NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Senate Approves ‘Repealer’ to Root Out Bad Laws, Regs

Legislation to create a state Office of the Repealer passed the Senate 30-1-1 Thursday, while the House version still has a couple of committee hurdles to clear next week.

The Repealer’s 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.

Democratic Sen. Jim Kyle of Memphis cast the only no vote and was the only one to speak out against the legislation. Fellow Democrat, Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville, abstained.

“Simply to explain my vote, it is somewhat ironic that we’re creating an office to try to find duplicitous government agencies and rules when its creation duplicates the work of the Government Operations Committee,” Kyle said.

“To create another branch of government to do exactly what we’re already doing is doubling up and spending money that doesn’t need to be spent,” he continued.

According to Sen. Jack Johnson, sponsor of SB595, there is no fiscal note attached to the legislation, as the position will fill an existing vacant position within the Secretary of State’s office.

Responding to Kyle’s argument, the Franklin Republican said,“There is no single individual in all of state government whose sole responsibility is to try and shrink the green books.” Johnson was referring to the bound issues of the Tennessee Code Annotated.

Johnson said he thinks it “entirely reasonable that we dedicate a single position to meet with our business owners, to meet with citizens across the state, who have to interact with state government day in and day out, and identify things that we don’t need anymore.”

Answering to the Secretary of State, 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. 

The bill sets up the post for four years, “at which time such position will cease to exist.”

Sen. Mike Bell, a Republican from Riceville who chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee, offered a single amendment that passed on a voice vote. The amendment adds both chambers’ government operations committees to the list of those receiving recommendations from the Repealer, as well as quarterly updates of his or her actions.

HB 500 is on the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee’s calendar for Wed., April 3.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at amhipps@capitolnewstn.com, on Twitter @CapitolNews_TN or at 615-442-8667.

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Press Releases

GOP Lawmakers Propose New Gov’t Office Charged with Shrinking Gov’t

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; February 5, 2013:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) – Representative Glen Casada (R-Franklin) and Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) today unveiled a new measure aimed at cutting the size of Tennessee government. The initiative, referred to as the Office of the Repealer, follows through on a Republican promise to streamline state government, save taxpayer dollars, and make the legislative process more transparent to the general public.

The Office of the Repealer will be a one-time, four-year position with the sole responsibility of making recommendations to the legislature in areas of government waste, duplication, and out-of-date regulations that should be removed from the law books.

In addition, the Office of the Repealer will take recommendations directly from the public, basing its decisions on input received from business-owners, educators, activists, and concerned citizens from across the state.

“While Washington is out of control, Tennessee is getting it right. We understand that the less laws we have on the books that regulate the lives of Tennesseans, the better,” said Rep. Casada. “While others around the country have simply talked about cutting the size of government, this program is guaranteed to achieve that goal.”

The Office of the Repealer will be housed under the Secretary of State and will be implemented using funding previously approved for a now obsolete staff position, thus costing no additional money to Tennessee taxpayers.

“Reducing the size of government is the cornerstone of the Republican Party platform and I am excited to see this program come to life,” continued Senator Johnson. “As promised, Republicans in our state are committed to cutting government waste, increasing legislative transparency, and putting more hard-earned money back in the pockets of all Tennesseans.”

Glen Casada serves as Chairman of the Tennessee House Republican Caucus. Jack Johnson serves as Chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Both legislators represent Williamson County in the Tennessee General Assembly.