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Lawmakers cite accomplishments of General Assembly

Carole Robinson

Reps. Jeremy Durham, Glen Casada and Charles Sargent, Sen. Jack Johnson,
Dave Crouch and County Mayor Rogers Anderson

The General Assembly adjourned last Friday, marking the earliest adjournment since 1990, and “the people of Tennessee are now safe and we can get back to making a living,” said Sen. Jack Johnson April 22 during the April Legislative Round Table sponsored by the Williamson County Chamber. Chamber member Dave Crouch hosted the event.

The most important job of the General Assembly and its only Constitutional responsibility is to pass a budget, Johnson said. The legislators reported the fi scal highlights of the session. The $34.6 billion budget for 2013-2014 added $100 million to the state’s rainy-day fund (now $456 million), maintained the $239 million TennCare reserve fund for the 46,000 additional people expected to be added to TennCare when the Obamacare goes into full effect, fully funded the Better Education Program, added $33 million for school security and gave state employees a 1.5 percent raise. Legislators again also lowered sales tax on food to five percent, increased investments subjected to the Halls Tax from $37,000 to $59,000 for people over age 65 and raised the Inheritance Tax to $2 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015 moving Tax Free Day in Tennessee to March 31 – the earliest of any state.

“We are trying to reduce some taxes every year, as long as the economy cooperates,” said Rep. Charles Sargent, chairman of the House Finance Ways and Means Committee.

The Williamson County contingent developed and passed a bill allowing higher achieving school systems to opt out of some state education regulations, they said. Williamson County is included in the 19 of 135 systems affected by the bill. Legislators also changed the way school systems receive their state share of teacher pay. This year it will be distributed in a pool of money rather than a state line item, leaving districts to determine how it is distributed, they said.

A controversial bill requested by a group of county commissioners to change the Sunshine Law and allow commissioners to operate under the same rules as the General Assembly didn’t go anywhere because “the group couldn’t come up with something we could pass,” said Rep. Glen Casada.

The car emissions bill exempting newer cars to be exempt from emissions testing was ready to pass, but put on hold to ensure there were no unintended consequences like putting “in jeopardy federal money that affect our roads,” Johnson said.

A 12-month moratorium on urban annexation in Tennessee will allow legislators to continue working on a bill to prevent cities from taking actions that some might describe as abusing their power of annexation. Williamson was one of 18 counties that qualified to opt out of the moratorium regarding commercial annexation because “Williamson has developed a plan and it has worked well,” Sargent said.

The controversial animal abuse bill that attracted the ire of animal groups, requires persons with evidence regarding animal abuse to contact law enforcement within 48-hours of attaining the evidence.

“They don’t have to turn over their only copy and they may continue to collect evidence,” Johnson said, adding an animal rights group recently held onto evidence regarding the severe abuse of a horse for four months before alerting authorities – “to build their case.”

The next Legislative Round table will be Tuesday, May 28 at 7:30 a.m. in the auditorium of the Administrative Complex.

Posted on: 4/25/2013


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