By State Rep. Matthew Hill
House members were successful in moving forward with the Health Freedom Act last week, as the bill moved out of the House Commerce Committee by a 19 to 11 vote. The panel approved the measure in a bipartisan manner, 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.
The bill, which has been debated at length throughout the committee process, hit a snag Thursday morning in the House Calendar and Rules Committee. The committee is responsible for setting the House floor calendars and scheduling legislation for consideration on the House floor. On Thursday morning, opponents attempted to stall the legislation once again, using parliamentary tactics to hold the legislation in the committee indefinitely. Eventually, the bill was referred back to the Finance, Ways and Means Committee despite having an insignificant price tag. The legislation will appear in the Budget Subcommittee this week.
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.
Concerned that expanding government programs are rarely effective solutions to complex issues, proponents of the Health Freedom Act have argued the federal government takeover of health care will only prove to balloon the cost of health care services to the states.
The bill has been debated at length by both the Industrial Impact Subcommittee and the full House Commerce Committee. Because there is no price tag of significance on the legislation, it is expected to make one more stop in the House Calendar and Rules Committee before a vote on the House floor.
A related measure also achieved passage this week. House Bill 2681, which I am the sponsor of, aims to keep tax dollars from funding abortions, and was passed by the State House Monday night after a contentious debate by a vote of 70 to 23. The legislation will now move through the State Senate.
The specific language in the legislation states that, No health care plan required to be established in this state through an exchange pursuant to federal health care reform legislation enacted by the 111th Congress shall offer coverage for abortion services.
I argued the measure was necessary to clarify this point because tax dollars are sometimes used to indirectly pay for abortions. The final vote was a bi-partisan one. The same night, the House considered and passed a resolution that expresses opposition to the federal takeover of health care with a vote of 66-29.
After nearly two hours of contentious debate, House Joint Resolution 704 also won bipartisan approval. The joint resolution must now make its way through the Senate for approval.
The Transportation Committee moved forward a proposal that places tough restrictions on the controversial traffic surveillance cameras utilized by cities across the state. House Bill 3024 will, among other things, require a law enforcement officer review the video evidence and prohibits the company operating the cameras from sending notices of violations.
The bill also requires cities to determine the crash rate based on the last three years of crash history, to review signal timing, and to calculate the violation rate for motor vehicles running intersection red lights. Certain standards in addition to those listed above must be met in order for a city to either keep or install the traffic cameras. The legislation will be heard in the Budget Subcommittee this week.
Numerous bills were filed this year to either ban or lessen the impact of traffic cameras in Tennessee, after public outcry from across the State reached a fever pitch. Cities and counties in Tennessee have increasingly turned to the automated systems for surveillance of intersections and roadways. The Tennessee General Assembly has studied the use of traffic cameras over the summer and fall.
Lawmakers echoed criticisms from constituents that in addition to a violation of rights, the motivation behind the cameras is money, not safety. Proponents of the cameras argue that safety is the priority in using the cameras. The committee determined if safety is the primary concern, the restrictions in House Bill 3024 are reasonable.
House Bill 2349 would require any member of the General Assembly convicted of a felony related to public office to forfeit their state health benefits. The measure would allow family members who may be covered under the plan to continue utilizing it provided they continue paying the premiums. The bill advanced from the Finance, Ways and Means this week and will next face a vote by the full House.
Because of a low return rate, Tennesseans are being given a second chance to return their 2010 U.S. Census surveys. Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau mailed a second form to one of every three households, and even more in certain areas where the return rate was especially low. The U.S. Census Bureau asks that if a household receives a second survey but has already completed the first, to destroy the copy.
By State Rep. Matthew Hill