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From the Hill: House attempts this week to pass ‘Tennessee Health Freedom Act’

By State Rep. Matthew Hill
The House Industrial Impact Subcommittee passed the ‘Tennessee Health Freedom Act’ last week, which is aimed at protecting the right of an individual to purchase — and the right of doctors to provide — lawful medical services without penalty. The bill would also require the state Attorney General to take the necessary steps to defend these rights.
House Bill 3433 was presented as a crowd lined the aisles and the hallway outside of the committee room in support of the bill. Other states have passed similar legislation, and many are already in the process of filing a lawsuit against the federal government regarding the health care overhaul. Having passed the subcommittee, the bill will be presented to the full House Commerce Committee Tuesday morning.
Another measure that achieved passage by the Industrial Impact Subcommittee would put into Tennessee’s Constitution language that prohibits laws that would compel a person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system. Similar to the bill in context, House Joint Resolution 745 has now cleared one hurdle, but faces Tennessee’s lengthy constitutional amendment approval process, which can take up to four years.
A constitutional amendment must be approved by one General Assembly by a majority, and a subsequent General Assembly by a two-thirds vote. Following its passage by the legislature, the amendment goes on the ballot in the next gubernatorial election, and must receive approval from a majority of those voting in the gubernatorial race.
The House Commerce Committee also approved two measures this week that lawmakers hope will send Washington a message. House Bill 2681, of which I am the main sponsor, would prohibit using tax dollars for abortions. The legislature’s Fiscal Review Office has said the bill does not put the state in jeopardy of losing any federal funds. Due to its passage out of Commerce last week, the bill could be scheduled for a floor vote as early as this week.
Finally, the House Commerce Committee also approved a resolution that expresses opposition to the government takeover of health care. House Joint Resolution 704 will be heard in the House Calendar and Rules Committee which will schedule the resolution for a floor vote should it pass.
The United States Department of Education announced last Monday that Tennessee has been chosen to receive millions of dollars from the federal government’s “Race to the Top” program. Only two of 16 finalists — Tennessee and Delaware — were ultimately selected. Tennessee hoped to receive $500 million, and early reports indicate the state stands to receive approximately that amount. The Tennessee General Assembly met for two weeks in early January for an Extraordinary Session to pass a bi-partisan, comprehensive education reform plan.
The Transportation Committee approved the “English Only” legislation this week, which would require driver’s license exams to be given only in English. The sponsor argued that House Bill 262 is needed so that drivers can read road signs and other critical information. Supporters also say drivers need to be able to communicate with police and other emergency personnel in case of an emergency.
In the same vein, the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee approved House Bill 270, which would require voter registration forms to carry a disclaimer that clarifies giving false information to register to vote carries a criminal penalty, and also requires that the applicant affirm that they are lawfully in the United States. The bill will now move to the House Calendar and Rules Committee.
House members also passed House Bill 2685. The “Protecting English in the Workplace” proposal experienced no resistance on the House floor and passed by an overwhelming majority.
The legislation clarifies that employers can require that English be spoken on the job, but does allow for some exceptions such as lunch hours or other designated breaks. The bill would protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits that can emerge when private policies are set perfectly within their rights. Requiring English is often a safety precaution. Businesses where employees are continuously handling toxic products or food containers have a need to require English.
House Bill 3576 places restrictions on the amount of reimbursement legislators can receive for in-state flights. This legislation would limit the reimbursement to simply mileage or the cost of the airline ticket, whichever is less. The bill passed out of the House State Government Subcommittee and will next be heard in the full State and Local Government Committee.
House Bill 3301 passed on the House floor, and would enact the “Freedom from Coercion Act.” If a pregnant female is a minor, the attending physician or health care professional must inform the minor that no one can force her to have an abortion and the procedure cannot be done unless she provides her freely given, voluntary and informed consent. The legislation has already passed the Senate.