By Pat Marsh, State Representative
“Always continue the climb. It is possible for you to do whatever you choose, if you first get to know who you are and are willing to work with a power that is greater than ourselves to do it.” ~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox
It has been a good week here in the legislature this week. Things are still very busy, but there seems to be more order to the madness. It may be because we are starting to get use to the busyness and fast pace. I passed 3 of my bills through the full committees this week, and they will be hitting the house floor next week.
I want to give you some information and history about what we do here during Session.
The Tennessee General Assembly is a bicameral legislative entity that has two distinct bodies: the Senate and the House of Representatives. This structure has existed since the Tennessee General Assembly met for the first time in 1796. The Tennessee Constitution mandates that there are 99 members in the House of Representatives and that the members of the Senate do not exceed one-third the number of Representatives. Thus, today there are 99 members in the House of Representatives and 33 members in the Senate.
In order to be elected to the Senate one must be thirty years or older, a U.S. citizen, a state resident for at least three years, and a resident of the district in which elected for at least one year. The requirements to serve in the House of Representatives is identical to those for becoming a senator with the sole exception that one must only by twenty-one years of age instead of thirty. Each Senate district is composed of roughly 192,000 Tennessee citizens while the each House district is composed of roughly 64,000 Tennessee citizens. Each Senator and Representative is elected by the citizens within his or her district and represents those citizens in the General Assembly.
The General Assembly’s function is to create laws and secure financing for the operation of the state government. All of this is accomplished within the legislative plaza and the state Capitol in Nashville. The legislative plaza acts as a forum in which informative debates can take place with the ultimate goal of improving the great state of Tennessee. Much of the proposed improvements take the shape of bills which eventually become laws.
The breakdown of the House is 70 Republicans, 28 Democrats and 1 Independent and in the Senate there are 26 Republicans and 7 Democrats. Each chamber is overseen by its Speaker. The Speaker of the Senate is also the Lt. Governor, and this is Ron Ramsey. The Speaker of the House is Beth Harwell. These speakers are very powerful because they assign members to their committees and also choose the Chairmen of the committees. They also assign the bills to the committees to be debated. Further, they get to pick many members of boards and commissions all across the state.
This week in the State Senate, a bill passed through committee that would allow cities and counties to hold a referendum to authorize selling wine in retail food stores. If this passes on the house and senate floor and is signed into law, each city and county will have the opportunity to individually hold a referendum for the citizens to decide whether or not they want wine to be sold in grocery stores in their city and county. This bill will be heard in the House Local Government subcommittee next week.
Another big bill from this week is House Bill 118 which is known as the “guns in parking lots” bill. This bill allows people with a valid handgun carry permit to transport and store a firearm in their privately-owned vehicle in public or private areas under certain conditions. This bill passed on the House floor on Thursday and is the same legislation that passed in the Senate.
This week I got to eat breakfast with Summer Leverett, Andrew Robertson and Danny Robbins with the Bedford County Election commission at their annual day at the legislature. Also Don Schoenrock and Mrs. Schoenrock came by my office to talk about the Lincoln County Election Commission. Both groups were proud to report that they have no problems and that the members of the commission get along very well together. We are all so lucky that this is the case, because so many counties have nothing but problems with their election commissions.
We also had the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association here in the Plaza and I got to visit with Margie Carter and Deloris Gains from Lincoln County and learn more about their Association. Also, Fayetteville Mayor John Ed Underwood and Carolyn Denton from the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Chamber were here walking the halls handing out tickets to the 25th annual Hamburger Day on the Hill which will be on Wednesday, March 6th. The staff and legislators look forward to this event every year.
I got to meet and visit with David Bunch, the new CEO of Heritage Medical Center, our local hospital in Shelbyville. David has moved here from Jefferson County in East Tennessee. I told him that he was going to love being in Bedford County because we have some of the best folks in the state and we love our hospital. David is already working hard walking the halls of the Legislature meeting the folks that can help with the hospitals all over the state.
I will be going to the Farm Bureau annual breakfast this Saturday morning in Fayetteville with Jim Tracy. This is usually a great breakfast where we get to hear the ideas and concerns of the farming communities in the counties.
I took the handgun permit class last weekend with Rick Gann as my instructor. We had 25 in our class and I learned a lot about guns and how to handle one safely. I don’t plan on carrying a gun, but I want to be legal if I should ever change my mind. It is a very worthwhile class!
Please feel free to stop by my office or give me a call if you have any questions or concerns. You can reach me at (615) 741-6824 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am honored to represent the people of the 62nd district!