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‘Racial Profile Prevention Act’ Protects Both Citizens and Cops: Kelsey

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; March 9, 2015:

NASHVILLE –The Tennessee Senate gave final approval on Monday to legislation sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), requiring Tennessee law enforcement agencies to implement policies against racial profiling. The “Racial Profiling Prevention Act” defines the discriminatory practice and calls for all law enforcement agencies in the state to adopt a written policy on the subject by January 1, 2016.

“Racial profiling has no place in law enforcement in our state,” stated Kelsey.  “This bill will protect officers by providing them clear guidelines for appropriate action. That will make us all safer.”

Senate Bill 6 defines racial profiling as the detention, or interdiction of an individual in traffic contacts, field contacts, or asset seizure and forfeiture efforts, or other disparate treatment of an individual solely on the basis of the individual’s actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, or national origin.  The bill would apply to any law enforcement agency responsible for preventing and detecting crime and enforcing laws or local ordinances if their employees are authorized to make arrests for crimes.  It would also apply to officers employed by colleges and universities.

The legislation is still pending action in the House of Representatives.

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Senate Judiciary Cmte Approves Resolution to Allow Voters to Pick TN AG

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; March 4, 2015:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), March 4, 2015  — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a resolution on Wednesday that would allow Tennessee voters to decide if they want to popularly elect the state’s attorney general (AG).  Senate Joint Resolution 63, sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), would begin the process of amending the State Constitution, which if approved, would go to voters in the 2018 general election.

“Tennessee is the only state in the nation in which the people have neither a direct nor indirect voice in the selection of their attorney general, and we are the only state that gives that power to our Supreme Court,” said Senator Beavers.

Beavers’ resolution calls for the AG to serve a six-year term, but would limit it to two consecutive terms.  The resolution requires approval by the 109th General Assembly currently in session, and the 110th which will take office in 2017, before going to voters in a statewide referendum.

Beavers said that when Tennessee’s Constitution was written, calling for nomination of the AG by the state’s Supreme Court justices, the court was popularly elected.  Forty-three states already select their attorney generals through popular election.  In six other states, the AG is selected by either the popularly elected governor or the popularly elected state legislature.

“Along with the overwhelming majority of Tennesseans and 96 percent of the rest of this nation, I feel that the citizens of this state ought to have a ‘say so’ in the highest legal office in Tennessee,” she concluded.

The bill now goes to the Senate floor where it will be heard on three readings before taking a final vote.  It will then travel to the House of Representatives for approval there.

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Kelsey’s Racial Profiling Prevention Act Passes Senate Judiciary Cmte

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; February 24, 2015:

NASHVILLE – Legislation sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), requiring Tennessee law enforcement agencies to implement policies against racial profiling was approved today by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kelsey is the chairman of the committee.  The “Racial Profiling Prevention Act” defines the discriminatory practice and calls for all law enforcement agencies in the state to adopt a written policy on the subject by January 1, 2016.

“Racial profiling has no place in law enforcement in our state,” stated Kelsey.  He continued, “This bill will protect officers by providing them clear guidelines for appropriate action. That will make us all safer.”

Senate Bill 6 defines racial profiling as the detention, interdiction, or other disparate treatment of an individual based solely on perceived race, color, ethnicity or national origin.  The bill would apply to any law enforcement agency responsible for preventing and detecting crime and enforcing laws or local ordinances if their employees are authorized to make arrests for crimes.  It would also apply to officers employed by colleges and universities.

The legislation, which is sponsored in the House of Representatives by Representative John DeBerry (D-Memphis), now goes to the Senate floor for final consideration.

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Norris: Haslam Budget Includes Funding for Additional TBI Forensic Scientists, Will ‘Expedite’ DNA Testing

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; February 12, 2015:

NASHVILLE –  Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) recognized the Haslam Administration for funding three new forensic scientists at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) in next year’s budget. The TBI processes forensic evidence at no charge to local law enforcement.

“These funds will expedite the processing of rape kits and other DNA testing by providing additional essential personnel. They will be trained in accessing and updating the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) which is part of the FBI’s network for tracking perpetrators of crime — a critical weapon in the fight against crime,” said Norris, who sponsors the budget in the Senate.

Norris enacted the law repealing the Tennessee statute of limitations in rape cases last year. He also led the effort to require all local law enforcement agencies to inventory back-logged inventories of rape kits across the state. Last September, the TBI reported 9,062 kits remained untested statewide.

“Progress is being made getting the old evidence tested, but this will help facilitate more timely testing of all DNA evidence,” said Norris.

The TBI has not received funding for new personnel for many years, even though the demand for more resources has increased dramatically.

According to City of Memphis officials, an initial backlog of 12,000 kits has now been reduced by nearly 5,000 kits since 2013 and has resulted in some 170 new investigations and 52 indictments including 19 rapists.

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Senate Education Cmte. Approves Kelsey’s Voucher Bill

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; February 11, 2015:

NASHVILLE – The Senate Education Committee today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) calling for Opportunity Scholarships for students eligible for free and reduced lunch within districts containing a school in the bottom five percent of academic achievement.   The “Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act” mirrors legislation proposed by Governor Bill Haslam last year that was passed by the Senate but stalled in the House.

“Equal Opportunity Scholarships provide impoverished children with hope for a better education and choice in the school they attend,” said Senator Brian Kelsey.  “Children should not be forced to attend a failing school just because they live in a certain neighborhood.”

Under Senate Bill 122, approximately $6,500 of the scholarships would be offered to low-income students to attend the school of their parents’ choice. The scholarship program would be capped at 5,000 students in year one, 7,500 in year two, 10,000 in year three, and 20,000 in year four and thereafter.   If those caps are not reached each year, scholarships would be offered to other low-income children in those counties in which a school in the bottom 5 percent of schools is located.

“This is an idea whose time has come,” added Kelsey, who first introduced the idea in the Tennessee legislature ten years ago.  “The parents of these children deserve more choices, and their children deserve more options to receive a quality education.”

The bill is sponsored by House Education Administration and Planning Committee Chairman Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville) in the House of Representatives.

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown.  He serves as a member of the Senate Education Committee and as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Kelsey Files Pair of Health Care Reform Bills

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; February 9, 2015:

NASHVILLE –  State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today announced the introduction of two healthcare reform bills in the Tennessee General Assembly.  One bill would expand the number of affordable health insurance options to Tennesseans by allowing for the purchase of health insurance across state lines, while the other would give TennCare recipients a personal health savings account (PHA) which is designed to give enrollees more choices and encourage them to make better healthcare decisions.  In addition, Kelsey has drafted a resolution asking Congress to give states the authority to design their own models of reform by providing block grants to the states for Medicaid.

“As far back as 2006 I have supported these reforms to make health insurance more accessible and more affordable,” said Kelsey. “And the time is long past due for the federal government to block grant Medicaid to the states.”

The senate bill would allow TennCare recipients to use a PHA to purchase a benefit coverage plan from an array of options approved by the Bureau of TennCare, ranging from the conventional safety net of limited benefits to full-service benefit plans.  The range of options must provide a broad continuum of consumer flexibility including, but not limited to, managed care organizations, self-directed plans, and medical home networks.  Plans offered as options would directly compete for the enrollee’s business.

A recipient could choose to use the full amount of the PHA to purchase comprehensive or partial coverage plans.  If the enrollee selects a plan with rates that are lower than the total amount of the PHA, then they could retain any balance of the PHA to spend on healthcare related items.  Unused balances would roll forward to the next quarter.  If the enrollee ceases to be eligible for medical assistance, a portion of the unused balance of the PHA could be used for health care expenses or to purchase health insurance.  Unused funds would revert to the state after 12 months or immediately upon the death of the enrollee.

“Personal Health Accounts encourage good health choices by consumers and gives them skin in the game,” added Kelsey.  “This approach would truly provide reform of our healthcare system in Tennessee.”

The senate bill would allow Tennesseans to purchase insurance in other states with reciprocal agreements, a practice that is currently prohibited by state law.  It would allow businesses with 2 to 50 employees to band together into pools to push for better rates.  The out-of–state companies must offer the same individual health benefit plans in its home state, and must comply with the Unfair Trade Practices Act and all other applicable health insurance provisions there.  Kelsey predicts the proposed law would increase the number of choices for Tennesseans from over one hundred to thousands of plans nationwide.

“This legislation increases competition and helps to drive the premium costs down so more Tennesseans will have access to affordable health care insurance.” Added Kelsey, “Expanding the availability of affordable healthcare plans and offering consumers more choices should be a key provision of any reform effort, at the state or federal level.”

The PHA legislation would require federal approval through TennCare’s waiver process.

“It’s time for state legislatures to stand against government-run health care, added Kelsey.  “States can be laboratories for reform if Washington will provide more flexibility. The end result will be more affordable and accessible healthcare.”

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown.  He is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Links to prior versions of bills to be filed are below:

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Gresham Reaffirms Support for Tennessee Establishing Its Own Academic Standards

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; January 23, 2015:

(NASHVILLE, TN), January 23, 2015 — “I reaffirm my commitment to higher academic standards through passage of Senate Bill 4 which sets our own Tennessee Standards Commission.  In order to do this, we must clear the way by severing our ties with the current Common Core Standards.”

“There is great misconception among some that when you speak of being in favor of higher standards that it only means the Common Core Standards.  I want to clear this up and assure you that this not the case.  Let there be no mistake about it, many of us who take issue with Common Core are very much in favor of having the highest standards for our students.  Upon announcing my proposal I stated, “First and foremost, this legislation is committed to the highest standards to keep our students moving forward.”

“My commitment has not changed and continues to be fostered by my conversations with teachers who tell me that having higher standards and strategies have set us on the right path.  I believe them.”

“My plan is to work with my colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Representatives to provide that any new standards developed by the Tennessee Standards Commission would meet these high goals.”

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Bell: Tennesseans Want AG to Join Legal Fight Against Obamacare

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; July 23, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennesseans should be vigorously represented in the nation’s highest court as two new federal appeals court decisions delivered yesterday point to a final legal battle on Obamacare says Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville). Bell said State Attorney General Bob Cooper chose not to join other states in challenging the illegal action of the IRS and the Obama administration to put into place a federally-run insurance exchange program in Tennessee. The federal exchange program also triggers unauthorized taxes against individuals and employers in Tennessee.

“This was a huge decision,” said Bell. “The federal appeals court ruled in Halbig v. Burwell that the IRS and Obama administration are imposing taxes and spending funds through federal exchanges in the 36 states which rejected state exchanges, without statutory authority. Tennesseans want their voices heard in fighting against federal overreach of power. We, again, urge General Cooper to join in the efforts to defend the rights of Tennesseans as this case appears to be headed for a final decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Unlike other states, Tennessee’s attorney general is selected by the State Supreme Court. Three court justices who face election this August and have received increased criticism for liberal actions involving cases in the state’s highest court, voted to appoint Cooper to the Attorney General position.

“This inaction by our state’s highest legal officer to represent the overwhelming desire of Tennesseans just underscores our skepticism about the court and their decisions,” added Bell. “The legislature and the governor have chosen not to establish state exchanges and to reject Obamacare. We need our views represented at this critical juncture as this and other cases challenging the federal overreach of power move to a final decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Several other similar cases are progressing elsewhere in the judicial system, including one in which the court ruled in favor of the federal government’s actions on Tuesday afternoon.

“We continue to see one decision after another by the Obama administration that ignores the law,” added Bell. “It’s time that Tennessee steps up and defends our citizens’ rights.”

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Crowe Announces Senate Subcommittee on TennCare, Long-term Care Oversight

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; December 10, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) today announced the formation of a Subcommittee on TennCare and Long-Term Care Oversight. The Subcommittee will be chaired by Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald).

“This subcommittee is charged with reviewing all aspects of TennCare and programs dealing with long-term care in Tennessee,” said Chairman Crowe. “The members of this panel are extremely experienced and knowledgeable. I am confident that these members will provide our committee with excellent insight into these programs as we move into the 2014 legislative session.”

Other members of the subcommittee are veteran lawmakers, Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) and Senator Doug Henry (D-Nashville). The first meeting has been set for December 19 when the panel will hear testimony regarding the state’s CHOICES program, as well as a new payment reform initiative proposed by TennCare. The Subcommittee is scheduled to hear from state health officials, Tennessee Hospital Association, Tennessee Health Care Association and Tennessee Medical Association at the meeting.

“It very important that we continue to monitor these programs, especially in light of changes coming from Washington” added Hensley, who is a physician. “We have a lot of work to do and I look forward to the challenge before us.

The meeting will take place on Thursday, December 19 at 10:00 am in Room 12 of the Legislative Plaza in Nashville.

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Norris Begins Term as Chair of Council of State Governments

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; December 10, 2013:

Outlines “State Pathways to Prosperity” initiative focusing on jobs and education

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) began his term as Chairman of the Council of State Governments (CSG) this week by outlining the Chairman’s 2014 initiative, “State Pathways to Prosperity.” The initiative focuses on helping states boost their workforce development and education efforts. Addressing the organization’s Eastern Regional meeting in Puerto Rico, Norris said during his term of office, CSG will also concentrate on four related areas which often overshadow employment needs: veterans’ affairs, hunger, children in poverty and criminal justice.

“It’s difficult for our guidance counselors and local workforce development professionals to do their jobs when the folks who need work have so many related issues that need addressing first,” said Chairman Norris. “Like a mother looking for work without the resources to provide care for her children while she’s away — or the veteran with plenty of experience but no certificate or degree — or someone with a criminal record for a non-violent offense that disqualifies them from employment. CSG can provide the expertise to help states with best practices designed to clear pathways for those anxious to join America’s workforce.”

“There is significant demand right now by companies looking for qualified workers, and states are finding it difficult to meet the demand. The jobs are there, but the skills are lacking,” said Norris, who was recently appointed by Governor Haslam to the Tennessee Workforce Development Board. Norris was the prime sponsor of Tennessee’s LEAP (Labor Education Alignment Program) signed into law in April. LEAP lays the foundation for the cooperative effort of government, higher education and businesses looking for skilled workers by providing on-the-job training.

CSG represents all three branches of state government and state chief executives are fundamental to CSG’s success. Norris succeeds Senator Gary Stevens of Alaska at CSG. Senator Carl Marcellino of New York is Chair-Elect. Serving as a President of CSG with Norris as Chairman will be West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. He succeeds Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

“As Chair, it will be my goal to keep CSG the place to be; the place to champion state government to advance the common good,” said Norris.

CSG has regional offices in New York, Chicago, Sacramento and Atlanta with headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky. Norris chaired the Southern Region in 2011 and has served on CSG’s Executive Committee since 2007.