By Jim Tracy, State Senator
Chaos is in full swing this week at the Capitol as the Senate of the 108th Assembly met the final bill submission deadline on Thursday, closing the opportunity for further legislation to be introduced this year. Meeting in session three times this week, the Senate took advantage of many opportunities to approve and discuss bills.
In Monday session, we adopted a new etiquette for beginning session. The change in procedure was formally introduced at the beginning of Thursday session as, following the Pledge of Allegiance, the Senate turned to face the Tennessee state flag and recited the Tennessee pledge which goes, “Three white stars on a field of blue, God keep them strong and ever true. It is with pride and love that we Salute the Flag of Tennessee.” This is intended to act to us all as a constant reminder of our purpose, to protect the state’s rights and the rights of Tennesseans.
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 142 during Monday session. This bill would allow Tennesseans with a handgun permit to commute to and from work with the security of their handgun under the condition that the handgun is safely locked and stored inside of their vehicle during work hours.
During Thursday session, the Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 1 which would alter the Tennessee State Constitution to prohibit any state income or payroll taxation. Among many other bills, we also passed SB 131. This bill requires all vehicles, with the exception of antiques, to have their license plates illuminated when the vehicle’s headlights are on. The creation of this bill is by request of Tennessee police officers.
This week Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey announced that Tennessee will begin judicial redistricting for the first time in 30 years. This is important because the population of many counties has altered greatly and many face different issues today than they did 30 years ago. SB 780 proposes that judicial districts be reassessed every 10 years to prevent this from reoccurring in the future.
More legislation entered committees this week. In the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee, we approved SB 10 which will abbreviate the steps necessary for a military veteran to obtain a commercial driver license if they were properly trained for that type of license while active in the military. This bill was created in hopes of opening job opportunities to skilled military veterans. This will also be helpful within the state as there is currently a demand for commercial drivers in the state of Tennessee.
We also approved SB 65 which I sponsored to increase the amount of weight that may be carried by a freight motor vehicle with idle-reduction technology or other emissions-reduction technology installed. As technology advances, vehicles are able to carry more weight without causing harm, and it’s important that Tennessee laws stay up to date.
Also this week, the Senate Finance Committee approved the resolution that I sponsored, Senate Joint Resolution 38, urging U.S. Congress to adopt a balanced budget.
One of my Lincoln County constituents, Todd Monks, has proven what hard work and communication with his Senator and House Representative can accomplish. Over a year ago, he began a campaign to have a traffic signal put into his county at a busy intersection. The intersection of Lincoln Road and U.S. Highway 231/431 is the scene of many fatal car accidents. Now the intersection has entered the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s draft audit phase. If the audit is completed, the developing process will begin. Although it has been a long process, Mr. Monks’ determination and communication have helped to make great strides towards his cause to promote traffic safety in his community.