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Welfare reform bill advances

Posted on Monday, March 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Sen. Jim Tracy

Sen. Jim Tracy

By Jim Tracy, State Senator

This week flew by at the Capitol as more heated legislation came into committees and session. My welfare reform bill, Senate Bill 244, passed through the Senate during Monday session. This bill would put restrictions the businesses in which public assistance EBT cards may be used by prohibiting individuals from using them in liquor stores, adult cabarets, tobacco shops, and tattoo parlors.

The bill also outlines the consequences of any business or EBT recipient who chooses to overlook the restrictions. The House companion bill, House Bill 119, is scheduled to go through the House Health Subcommittee this Tuesday, March 5th.

My bill concerning concussions among youth athletes, Senate Bill 882, also passed through the Senate during Thursday session. This bill would require coaches to take any athletes, who display signs of a concussion, out of the game to be evaluated by a healthcare professional who must then provide written permission for the athlete to return to the sport. The House companion bill, House Bill 867, is scheduled to go through the House Education Subcommittee this Tuesday.

Another bill that is drawing a lot of attention across Tennessee is Senator Ketron’s bill, Senate Bill 837, which would call for a referendum among the citizens of Tennessee in 2014 to decide whether or not wine should be sold in their city’s and county’s grocery stores. This bill passed through the Senate State and Local Government committee on Tuesday. However, the vote was very close as 5 Senate members voted in favor of the bill and 4 voted against it. The bill was then placed on the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee calendar for this Tuesday. The House companion bill, House Bill 610, is scheduled to go through the House Local Government Subcommittee this Wednesday, March 6th.

The Senate Finance Committee was briefed this week on the effect that the federal sequestration plan would have on Tennessee’s budget. This came after the Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 38 on Monday which urges the U.S. Congress to adopt a balanced budget.

With the federal sequestration plan comes an estimated $100 million dollars worth of cuts within Tennessee’s budget this year. Much of what will be cut will come from Title 1 and Special Education funds. Tennesseans take pride in the state’s balanced budget and financial responsibility. Therefore the threat of these cuts continues to cause widespread concern.

Senate Bill 142 passed through the Senate on February 11th and its companion bill, House Bill 118, passed through the House of Representatives during session on Thursday. The bill is now awaiting the Governor’s signature in order to become a law. SB 142 allows Tennesseans to transport and store firearms in their vehicle in public and private parking lots.

I met this week with the Commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to discuss how state government can streamline the licensing process of Early Intervention Resource Agencies (EIRA). Currently, there are two state agencies involved, the Department of Education and the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. These departments oversee these EIRA programs which serve children with developmental delays. I realize that this as a duplication of effort and cost to the state government. Therefore I am working towards creating a uniform process to help EIRA agencies and the families that they serve.