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Press Releases

ACLU: Proposed Beavers, Womick Abortion Legislation ‘Tries to Coerce, Shame Women’

Press release from the Tennessee Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union; January 9, 2015:

NASHVILLE –This week state legislators introduced a second bill to regulate abortion in Tennessee.  SB 13, introduced by Senator Mae Beavers this week, mandates what physicians must tell patients who are considering an abortion.

HB 2, filed by Rick Womick in November, would mandate an ultrasound for a woman seeking an abortion, and require her to either view the ultrasound or listen to a verbal description of it, to listen to a fetal heartbeat, and to wait at least twenty-four hours after the ultrasound before having an abortion.

Legislators have indicated that they plan to file a number of other bills regulating abortion this session.

The following can be attributed to Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee:

“No matter what you call them, the abortion bills introduced so far are not about providing evenhanded information to patients so that they can make the best decisions for themselves possible.  These bills amount to nothing more than political interference intended to bias a woman’s personal health care decisions.  A woman needs to be informed about the risks involved with any medical procedure, but the information should not be provided in a way intended to coerce, shame or make her change her mind.  Doctors, not politicians, should decide what is said to a patient, based on a woman’s unique circumstances. ACLU is committed to protecting Tennessee women’s ability to make personal, private health care decisions without government interference.”

Information about the ACLU of Tennessee is available at: www.aclu-tn.org.

Categories
Education NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Womick Redoubles Haslam Criticisms

Rick Womick isn’t backing down from provocative comments he made in a letter sent to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration a week ago.

The Rockvale Republican state representative told the Associated Press this week he’s sticking by his letter. In fact, he’s upped the rhetorical heat a bit, calling the reelection-seeking governor a “traitor to the party.”

“You had the head of our party targeting individual members because we don’t agree with him 100 percent of the time, that’s treason,” the former Air Force fighter pilot told the AP.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press first reported that, according to campaign finance reports, Advance Tennessee PAC, with connections to supporters of Haslam and Republican Speaker of the Tennessee House, Beth Harwell, was launched in July and spent $137,725 in five primary races against incumbent legislators who’ve opposed the administration.

Successfully fending off attacks from moderate challengers in the GOP primary were state Reps. Courtney Rogers of Goodlettsville, Mike Sparks of Smyrna, and  Micah Van Huss of Jonesborough.  Kingsport Rep. Tony Shipley, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee chairman, and Stacey Campfield, the notoriously controversial state senator from Knoxville, were both unseated.

Haslam laughed-off Womick’s warlike words. And he defended efforts to purge hostile Republicans from the General Assembly.

“I don’t know why my supporters should be precluded from doing what everybody else is doing, in terms of being engaged and trying to make certain good people are elected,” Haslam told reporters. He added that there are plenty of groups, such as teachers unions, who want to “engage in primaries,” and he doesn’t see his supporters actions as being any different.

Womick was one of 15 state legislators to sign a letter in late June that called for the resignation of Kevin Huffman, Tennessee’s embattled education commissioner, on the grounds that he allegedly manipulated the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results when the department delayed their release by four days.

After the release of that letter, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper issued an opinion — requested by state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet — that affirmed Huffman’s delay of the release of TCAP scores as acceptable under state and federal law.

Womick’s most recent letter to the administration accused the AG and Huffman of collusion on the opinion, and referred to it as “an orchestrated cover-up” and “Clintonesque.” Womick’s letter added that while many other legislators were unhappy with Haslam, to prevent further retaliation, he would not name them.

He also told the AP that in the future he expects a stronger legislative stance against Haslam, who is “making a lot of enemies very quickly.”

But Haslam said he plans to continue business as usual.

“For any governor, the job is to propose an idea and then to get at least 50 members of the House and 17 members of the Senate to vote in favor of it,” Haslam said. “I don’t think that’s changed.”

Categories
Featured NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Dems Push Back, But Per Diem Downsize Passes House

Even if a reduction in expense payments to lawmakers sails through the Senate like it did in the House Monday night, lawmakers will still make more than the average worker in Tennessee.

Five Democrats joined all but three Republicans in voting, 72-15-3, to eliminate the $107 payment for lodging received by lawmakers who live within 50 miles of the Capitol. House sponsor Rick Womick said HB80 is the right thing to do.

“Right now, we receive $107 a day for hotel plus $66 a day for food,” the Rutherford County Republican said. “It’s hard to look at my constituents in the eye when they ask me, ‘Why are we paying you $107 a day for a hotel that you don’t use?’”

In place of the per diem, lawmakers would receive mileage reimbursement, at 46 cents a mile, for each legislative day in Nashville or any day, except Friday, that the lawmaker participates in any other activity in Nashville. The bill would limit the payment to one round trip per day.

Legislators would still receive $66 a day for meals and incidentals.

According to Womick, both per diem amounts are taxed by the federal government under a law that requires anyone who lives within 50 miles of where he conducts business to pay taxes on all per diems he receives.

“We’re taking taxpayers’ money, and 38 to 48 percent of it is shipped straight to Washington, D.C.,” Womick said. “I’d rather keep that money right here in Tennessee and let Tennessee and this state government use that money, and in return, be reimbursed for my mileage.”

Lawmakers receive an annual salary of $20,203, plus $12,000 a year for an office at home – whether they set it up or not. These two figures alone are almost $8,000 more than the $24,197 per-capita income of Tennesseans in 2011.

Add to that the per diems, health insurance and 401(k) retirement benefits, and the total take-home gets close to $60,000, according to the City Paper.

Although only three Democrats spoke out against the bill, two of them would not be impacted if the legislation passes the Senate. Senate Bill 107 is supposed to be heard Tuesday in the State and Local Government Committee, but is not listed on its calendar.

Democratic House Caucus Chair Mike Turner, of Old Hickory, questioned the equity of the legislation.

“It’s always hard when you’re figuring per diem. The only way to really do it is do it kinda across the board,” the 12-year veteran of the House said. “I think what you’re doing makes the system totally inequitable, and I’m going to vote against it for that reason.”

Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, said he values himself and the people he represents more than the per diem amount legislators receive.

“I live 200 miles out, but if I didn’t live but 10 miles from here, for the time that I spend away from my family, having to be here and not being able to work for myself, I think it’s a little off-kilter for us to take that sixty whatever dollars that is from those persons who could give it to their families,” Shaw said.

While she lives in Memphis, Rep. Johnnie Turner agreed with Shaw that a price cannot be put on the time lawmakers spend away from their families. She also said that those who live in the immediate area have it harder because they are “always confronted” by people in their district who want to talk issues.

The three-term Democrat expressed fear that if this reduction is approved, “we’re going to come up with another law to reduce the per diem or mileage for those who live beyond 50 miles.”

According to an article by the City Paper, senators took home more than $14,600 on average in per diem in 2012, while state representatives averaged more than $13,800 each.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, HB80 would save the state $253,616, based on figures from in 2012, when 33 legislators lived within a 50-mile radius of the Capitol.

If the bill becomes law, the change will not impact sitting legislators, just those elected in 2014 forward.

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

Categories
Press Releases

Tracy, Womick Postpone Ultrasound Bill in Favor of ‘Pro-Life’ Constitutional Amendment Initiative

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; March 6, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Representative Rick Womick (R-Rockvale) announced today they will not seek passage of a bill this year to require abortion providers show or describe an ultrasound image to a woman before the procedure can be performed. The lawmakers said they will focus on passage of Senator Joint Resolution (SJR) 127, a pivotal constitutional amendment initiative which will come before voters in 2014 that would allow the legislature to put abortion laws into place within the bounds of “Roe v. Wade.”

“This constitutional resolution is the cornerstone of future legislation to protect life in Tennessee,” said Senator Tracy. “We will be focusing all of our efforts on promoting its passage on the 2014 ballot.”

Tracy was a co-prime sponsor of SJR 127, which was passed by the General Assembly in the 106th and 107th General Assemblies. It addresses a State Supreme Court decision in 2000 that struck down provisions in Tennessee law allowing women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and to wait 48 hours before they receive an abortion. The state’s high court also ruled against a state requirement that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital. That ruling made Tennessee more liberal than the U.S. Supreme Court required in “Roe v. Wade” and made the right to an abortion a “fundamental right” in Tennessee. SJR 127, if adopted, provides that the right to an abortion is only protected under the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brian Harris, President of Tennessee Right to Life said, “Pro-life Tennesseans are especially grateful for Senator Tracy’s resolve to ensure that the focus is not distracted from what remains the single most important pro-life objective: public approval of SJR 127 by voters in 2014.”

“We are very blessed in Tennessee to have legislators who are firmly and unequivocally committed to life,” said Bobbie Patray, President of Tennessee’s chapter of Eagle Forum. “Tennessee Eagle Forum commends Senator Jim Tracy and Rep. Rick Womick for recognizing the foundational impact of SJR 127. They clearly understand the educational challenge before us, and we are grateful that they will be focusing their time and energy on the passage of this proposed amendment the State Constitution. Tennessee is an overwhelmingly pro-life state, and they are setting an example that we hope the voters will follow as we approach the vote in November of 2014!”

“As the original sponsor of SJR 127, I’ve always had the strong support of Senator Tracy and Rep. Womick, who I didn’t get to serve with, is cut from the same cloth, added David Fowler, President of FACT (Family Action Council of Tennessee). “I applaud their desire that all pro-life efforts for the next year be focused on the most important pro-life issue in Tennessee history, the passage of SJR 127. I appreciate their leadership in making sure that nothing distracts from that overarching objective upon which all pro-life legislation in the future depends.”

“Given the fact that most abortion clinics in Tennessee already administer an ultrasound before performing an abortion, it only makes sense that we as legislators should be allowed to ensure that the pregnant mother is given the opportunity to see the video and hear the heartbeat,” added Representative Womick. “Actively seeking adoption of SJR 127 to our State Constitution will afford lawmakers that opportunity.”