April 29, 2016– The 109th Tennessee General Assembly has adjourned “Sine Die” which means that the TGA does not have any specific day for future meetings. It has been an honor and a humbling experience to represent District 48. As I have not been able to record a video summary these past two weeks, I wanted to summarize some of the events. I look to have a complete session summary out soon, as well.
First and foremost, I have been working for the District. This session, I worked on a bill to improve community access to the inspections of the Middlepoint Landfill. I worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, as well as with representatives from Republic on this matter. In the end, TDEC will notify me of impending inspections of the landfill. I will be able to attend inspections randomly. TDEC will provide me with the results of the inspections, and I will be able to get the information out to the community probably via a new Facebook page designed for our district. This should begin in May. It should be noted that Republic and TDEC worked to improve the situation surrounding the landfill and I appreciate them listening to our concerns. And I appreciate those in the community for stepping up!
Secondly, on behalf of the Rutherford County Commission and the Rutherford County Election Commission, I was honored to be able to carry HB 2125. This bill has now been signed into law by Governor Haslam and will allow Rutherford County to participate in the state’s first ever Voter Convenience Center Pilot Program. Many in Rutherford County know that we have 7 convenience centers during early voting. Rutherford County will have 30 convenience centers on Election Day. This program will save Rutherford County over $25,000 per election and hopefully increase voter turnout. This bill earned praise by many members of the General Assembly, and I would like to thank Alan Farley for his help on the bill.
Over the passed two weeks, I passed four other pieces of legislation, HB 2126, HB 1909, HB 1856, and HB 1654. HB 2126 dealt with medical office dispensaries. Many patients enjoy the convenience of a one stop shop when it comes to their medical care. This bill cleaned up language in our code to improve the regulatory system surrounding these dispensaries. It received widespread bipartisan support.
HB 1909 was a clean up bill for a law we passed last year. Unintended consequences from last year’s law were discovered as it relates to Tennessee’s medical spa registry. The registry is designed to track owners of medical spas to protect patients in the event of harm or malpractice. Unfortunately, as it had been designed, some physicians and their groups were inadvertently being required to register. The bill corrected the unintended consequences, and created a level playing field in the industry.
Hb 1856 will help patients with Binge Eating Disorder. Last year, the FDA approved Lisdexamphetamine to be used in the treatment of BED. Unfortunately, our code and the current regulations did not recognize the use of this medication for that medical condition. Physicians who were seeing these patients were unsure of their prescriptive authority. The bill gave physicians the authority to prescribe this medication for its FDA approved use and overwhelmingly passed.
Lastly, I passed HB 1654 which dealt with abortion clinics and fetal tissue as it relates to research, experiments, and photography. Last year, following the national uproar surrounding Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics concerning the selling of fetal tissue, I began to look into the issue, especially Tennessee law. I found that our code required prior knowledge and consent of the mother if research, experiments, or photography occurred. Anyone in the medical profession understands that a consent can include implied consent, general consent, or even a phone consent. The law did not specify that the consent be written. Additionally, in the event that an employee or other person took photographs with the belief that an abortion clinic was violating state or federal laws with respect to fetal tissue, the law potentially would have required the woman’s consent.
I worked with TN Right to Life, the Administration, and even Planned Parenthood on this bill and issue. In the end, the bill would require a paper trail in the event that any research or experiments occurred, as well as clarify immunity for any person taking photographs with the belief that a state or federal law was being violated with respect to fetal tissue. It is my understanding that HB 1654 may be unprecedented in that it is the only bill surrounding abortion laws in Tennessee that passed not only unanimously, but never even received a “no” vote even in the committee process. This is proof that one can take a controversial topic, open dialogue with all sides of an issue, and pass bipartisan legislation.
I am, also, told that I did something else unprecedented in the Tennessee General Assembly. Last year when we passed HB 1035 to set up new education Standards Recommendation Committees, I brought forth an amendment that required legislative confirmation of the committee appointments. In the off season, I had some people look into the appointments, some of which we found were previously Common Core coaches. The confirmation process did not occur as I had been told, and as I looked into it further, I determined that the process was completely inadequate. As such, I spearheaded an external confirmation process that resulted in the delaying of all the confirmations until certain questions could be answered.
I was informed that something like this had never occurred before, and truth be told, I was a bit taken aback when I heard this. I was sent to the Capitol to represent District 48, ask questions, and take action which I did. I work with, but do not represent the Governor, the Speaker, the Lt. Governor, the TNGOP, nor others. However, I did receive support for my actions and it set forth discussions about improving our confirmation processes in the future.
Ultimately, the confirmation process proceeded, but I did not confirm all the appointments. In the end, I am not sure what the education standards will look like, but time and time again, the committee members told me that the standards would be unique to Tennessee. One member told me that they looked at the standards as an evolving process that we in the General Assembly will need to review on an ongoing basis. I expressed this on the House floor and I am looking forward to bringing forth legislation that will set up a long term review and evaluation process of these new standards.
As always, I am honored and humbled to represent District 48. It is my hope that you find these write ups informative and useful. Knowledge is power, and power is with the people.
Rep. Bryan Terry