Bills Live and Die on Final Day of Legislative Session

SB2616 Kyle/HB2556 Fitzhugh, the “omnibus” bill. It’s a do-all, fixer upper that is part of the package of budget bills. It picked up an amendment in the House to create a new program to help minority- or female-headed companies qualify for state contracts.

The Senate balked, and finally the minority-business provision was rewritten late Wednesday night to put a new Office of Diversity Business Enterprise under the new “procurement commission” that is supposed to rewrite state purchasing policy and procedures.

At the same time the House spent an hour hanging personal favorite provisions on the omnibus bill, ranging from road-namings to a new definition of “warranty” as it applies to foundation inspection.

The amendments were measures that the House had passed but the Senate had ignored. The Senate continued to ignore them. After midnight the House went back and removed the offending “Christmas ornaments.”

SB3901 Kyle/ HB3787 Turner M., the “technical corrections” bill. A bill usually described by the administration as “closing loopholes,” the annual technical corrections bill has recently been used to add new taxes.

This time it has tax breaks for an airline to be named later, for an insurance company headquarters in Williamson County, for Gaylord (Opryland, flood damage) and for homeowners whose damage rated a FEMA certification. It makes it harder for a Real Estate Investment Trust to avoid paying franchise and excise taxes.

House Amendment 3 added a tax increment financing scheme to the area around a baseball field in Jackson. It hadn’t previously been heard in the Senate, which turned it down. It was the last bill of the year for the House, which removed the Jackson amendment.

SB3586 Ketron/ HB2875 Curtiss, stealth red light camera regulation. An example of a “caption bill,” it began life as a meaningless sentence allowing red plastic flags on over-length highway loads.

It morphed into a new bill, which redefined the term “auto club.” To see what AAA could do under that bill, see the Senate amendment.

But in the House, angry members wanted to regulate red-light and traffic control cameras. The Senate had refused to act on such a bill, so the House nailed on a score of amendments to rein in the unmanned traffic ticket machines. Those amendments were mostly wrapped up in this House amendment 22.

Senate Sponsor Bill Ketron moved the bill back to the Calendar Committee, thus giving up on the bill for the year.

HB 570 Dennis/SB 1141 Gresham, a bill to require a citizenship check of anyone arrested in the state.

After failing to pass the same language, the two houses finally agreed to a conference committee’s recommendation, 56-30 in the House and 24-7 in the Senate.
Here is the conference committee report – that is, the final version of the bill:

The compromise leaves it up to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST Commission) to set up a procedure for handling such a protocol, and gives a pass to counties which already participate in a federal alien identification program.

SB2882 Crowe/HB2872 Hill, vehicular homicide by negligence in a construction zone. Rep. Henry Fincher, Cookeville Democrat, has made a lawyerly argument that such an accident – even if it takes a life – is a civil matter, not a criminal matter, since it lacks intent. On the last day, the House and Senate agreed that vehicular homicide in a construction zone is a Class D felony.

After Sen. Mae Beavers, a member of the Republican Senate majority, was allowed to resurrect her “Health Freedom Act,” Sen. Andy Berke, a Chattanooga Democrat, tried to call up a bill which had been stranded in the Senate Environment committee. SB 1398 Jackson/HB 0455 McDonald, mountaintop removal, would bar the “blowing up” of ridgelines above the elevation of 3,535 feet. Coal companies fought against it earlier this year and left it, unvoted upon, in a Senate standing committee.

On Wednesday the Senate refused to bring the mountaintop removal bill to the floor for a vote. The vote to hear the bill was 12 ayes, 14 noes, 4 “present not voting.”

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