NASHVILLE, March 13, 2017– The week ending March 10 was an unusual week, as, due to some conflict in the schedule, I was unable to film a weekly video. It was a very busy week, and we are getting into the meat of the session.
On Monday, six bills passed through the House. Of note was HB56 by Rep. Jason Zachary(R-Knoxville) which strengthens the laws on shoplifting. Prior to session Rep. Zachary had spoken about shoplifting and the costs to businesses, consumers, and the local economies. This bill is a positive step to addressing that issue.
On Tuesday, HB 315, a health related bill that I have been asked to carry for the Haslam Administration and the Department of Health, passed through the full Health Committee. It is essentially 5 bills in one and helps the Department of Health with licensure of providers, helps protect patients from providers who have their competence, ethics, and sobriety brought into question, and it protects the privacy of providers. The bill moves on to our Government Operations Committee.
Also, on Tuesday, HB 752 by Rep. Tilman Goins(R-Morristown) passed through full Civil Justice. I am co-sponsoring the bill. As introduced, it permits a person who is granted an order of protection and who is not otherwise prohibited from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm to carry a handgun for 60 days after the initial order of protection is issued. Constitutionally, this should already be allowed, but due to current Tennessee laws, this is a positive step in the right direction.
On Wednesday, HB 1189 by Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) passed the Health Subcommittee. It is the Tennessee Infant Protection Act, and I am a co-sponsor. The bill establishes the presumption that a 24 week gestational age unborn baby is viable. In addition, it requires that a physician determine that an unborn child isn’t viable prior to an abortion between weeks 20-24. Life of the mother is an exclusion. The bill mirrors a 2011 Ohio law that hasn’t been challenged and is constitutional. It is the only supposed pro-life bill supported by TN Right to Life, as the other bills are constitutionally suspect and place our laws that followed Amendment 1 at risk while they are in the courts.
Also, on Wednesday, the transportation bill known as the IMPROVE Act which has been amended to the Hawk Plan was rolled in committee due to a multitude of potential amendments that have been filed. The IMPROVE Act, as proposed, is a 395 million dollar tax increase on gas, diesel, and other auto related items. For our poor, middle class, elderly, and average Tennesseans, the IMPROVE Act only offers a 55 million dollar grocery tax cut. Since a fuel tax has the additional negative effects on one’s pocketbook by 1)increasing the cost of goods and services, and 2)increasing the amount of sales and grocery tax paid due to the increase in the cost of goods and services, the 55 million dollar grocery tax cut becomes negligible when taking into account the triple compounding negative financial effects to one’s pocketbook. Famed President Reagan economist, Art Laffer, referred to the proposed grocery tax cut as a pandering tax cut as it doesn’t offset the massive tax increase.
While the Hawk Plan uses 0.25% of 1% of our sales tax to supplement transportation, it has received some detractors due to it not necessarily being a “user fee” and it doesn’t specify the use of revenue from non-Tennesseans that use our roads. However, did you know that Tennessee collects around 1.6 billion dollars in sales tax from tourism? Additionally, were you aware that Tennessee collects around 900 million from auto sales tax? Not counting the millions Tennesseans spend in taxes on oil changes, tires, and auto parts, Tennessee collects well over 2.5 billion dollars in travel related taxes that are partly responsible for our BILLION dollar recurring surplus and do NOT help fund our roads.
Before our Tennessee General Assembly raises taxes that have a triple negative compounding effect on Tennessean pocketbooks, shouldn’t these potential revenue sources for transportation, at least, have a proper hearing?
Again, it is an honor and a privilege to be your state representative.
Dr. Bryan Terry