NASHVILLE, April 24, 2017– The week ending April 21 contained a lot of action at the Capitol as several issues came to the House floor including the controversial IMPROVE Act, otherwise known as the gas tax hike. In addition, committees are closing down, as we are seeing the final bills make it through the process including budget amendments.
Monday evening, I passed HB 590 which would clarify that Osteopathic physicians who are trained in pain management are indeed pain specialists for the purposes of our pain clinic laws. Currently, pain clinics must have a pain specialist as a medical director. The rationale is that, with our opioid crisis, physicians who have extra training as pain specialists would prescribe less medications and if they are trained to provide pain relief modalities other than narcotics, then there will be other options than opioids to treat pain. The bill passed unanimously.
Two other bills that I co-sponsored passed Monday evening, as well. HB 556 (Howell) addressed the problem of outside business entities, in effect, rewriting Tennessee licensure and guides to practice laws. Currently, if an entity like the American Board of Medical Specialties, or any other board changed their rules or standards, then Tennessee automatically adopted those changes. The bill simply states that Tennessee will evaluate those changes before adopting them if we decide to adopt the changes. It is our 10th Amendment right to do so, and many other states already have this process.
I, also, co-sponsored HB 689(Van Huss) which would allow veterans or members of the military who have undergone small arms or combat weapons training as part of their service to forego the firing range requirement for a carry permit. These individuals have much more extensive training in handling and firing a handgun than the firing range requirements for our permitting system. We shouldn’t be charging these individuals for unnecessary training.
On Thursday, HB 707 (Whitson), which I co-sponsored, passed the House. The bill removed a regulatory burden on military surgeons to allow them to receive training at Tennessee hospitals, as long as it is part of their military service or training. For example, these surgeons will be able to receive trauma surgery training at Vanderbilt. By doing so, they will help Tennesseans by providing a service, but additionally, they will be able to learn new skills to help our military when they operate on them. This bill was a win-win for Tennesseans and our military.
Obviously, the most notable bill that passed this week was the gas tax hike known as the IMPROVE Act. I voted “no” on the bill, but did vote in favor of other transportation funding amendments. Additionally, I filed alternative options. However, once the first vote was taken, it was apparent that the votes for the gas tax hike had been procured. To quote Julius Caesar, “Alea iacta est”. The die was cast and all further attempts to improve or amend the bill failed.
On the House floor, one supporter of the bill admitted that there are those that will come out on the losing end of the bill. When one raises inelastic taxes that have a net effect of a 300 million dollar increase on the pocketbook, but only offset with a 110 million dollar inelastic tax cut on the average pocketbook, then one can see where a lot of taxpayers will pay more in taxes. All was not lost, though, as the original IMPROVE Act had even higher taxes with less offsets and we were able to stop that plan.
The DNJ asked me for a comment on my vote to which I responded, “Whether through surveys or in person, a majority of constituents in District 48 consistently voiced opposition to the gas tax increase. Having thoroughly studied the issue and the plan, I agreed with the need for tax cuts and increasing transportation funding. However, the plan placed an unnecessary increased burden on our working families and small businesses and was in direct opposition to the opinion of the majority of my constituents.” I stand by that quote.
President Calvin Coolidge once stated, “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” One of my favorite elected officials, Senator Tom Coburn, MD, earned the label of Dr. No for consistently voting against bad bills and pork. Our oath states that we shall not assent to any legislation that has a tendency to lessen or abridge the rights and privileges of the people. Whether we have had more bad bills, more pork, or less liberty, I have found myself voting “no” with a lot more frequency. I will continue to stand with #WeThePeople.
Rep. Bryan Terry, MD