Legislature

O’Hara: 3 ways Tennessee lawmakers could honor McCain

Gov. Bill Haslam gives a copy of his final State of the State speech to Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) on Jan. 29, 2018 in Nashville. (Photo credit: Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

With The Tennessee Journal on break this week, former Tennessean political reporter Jim O’Hara offers some thoughts about how Tennessee might honor the legacy of the late U.S. Sen John McCain through some changes in the General Assembly:

Much was written last week about the best ways to honor the late Senator John McCain, from possibly re-naming the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., to general pleas for more civility and bi-partisanship in our politics.

Let me propose three ways for Tennessee to act, not just talk, about honoring the late senator.

When the 111th Tennessee General Assembly convenes in January, the speakers of the Senate and House should name three committee chairs from the other party. In the Senate that would still leave the majority party with nine chairmanships. In the House that would leave the majority party with 14 chairmanships.

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New effort underway for bottle deposits in Tennessee

A new effort is underway to require bottle deposits as a way to combat plastic waste in Tennessee. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the Tennessee Bottle Bill Project, which is also known as TennCan, would place a 5-cent deposit on plastic containers that could be recouped by dropping empties off at redemption centers.

Supporters say the program could boost the current recycling rate of about 10% all the way to 80% or more. Bottle bills were once perennial legislative proposals, but had faded in recent years.

“What we’re trying to do is make Tennessee more sustainable by recovering some of the most valuable commodities in recycling stream, which are the beverage containers,” TennCan coordinator Marge Davis told the Times Free Press. “We want to keep them from becoming litter and make sure they go back toward manufacturing at the highest level possible.”

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Hawk announces bid for speaker of TN House

Rep. David Hawk (R-Greenville) announces his bid for House speaker at a press conference in Nashville on Aug. 15, 2018 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville is running for speaker of the House.

Wednesday’s announcement makes Hawk the first second official candidate to succeed Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), who couldn’t run for the state House again because she decided to run for governor. Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) announced his bid in June.

Hawk stressed his role in coming up with an alternative road funding plan that would not have included the 6-cent tax increased on each gallon of gas. Hawk’s plan failed in the House though with 37 of 71 Republicans voting in favor, he said. The chamber ended up approving Gov. Bill Haslam’s Improve Act that also included cuts to the state’s tax on earnings from stocks and bonds, the sales tax on groceries, and taxes paid by manufacturers.

Hawk noted that he voted against the Improve Act, while his likely rivals for the speakership, Reps. Johnson and Glen Casada of Franklin,, voted in favor of version of the bill.

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Latest effort to legalize medical marijuana in TN: The TRUMP Act

Heartened by President Donald Trump’s recent comments about marijuana, two Tennessee lawmakers who are physicians plan to renew efforts next year to legalize medical cannabis and are naming the bill after the president, reports the Times Free Press.

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McCormick drops bid for re-election, says he’ll resign House seat effective Oct. 1

Republican state Rep. Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga says he will resign his House District 26 seat effective Oct. 1 and withdraw immediately as a candidate for re-election, reports the Times Free Press. The former House majority leader said he decided to leave the legislature after 14 years to take a new job based in Nashville.

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Folks reported ‘flocking’ to first TN hemp dispensary — offering ‘pain relief’ through ‘mother nature’

People are “flocking” to the first hemp dispensary in Tennessee, which recently opened in Murfreesboro, says WTVF TV in a report that seems almost an advertisement for cannabidiol oil (CBD) sales – legalized by the state legislature two years ago with little fanfare and previously peddled on a mostly incidental basis within the state. Such sales led to a big bust in Rutherford County earlier this year, but all charges were dismissed after law enforcement officials realized candy contained CBD derived from hemp, not its illegal cousin plant marijuana, is legal in Tennessee and TBI labs confirmed that was the stuff being sold.

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Lawsuit challenges TN law requiring barbers to have high school diploma

Press release from Beacon Center of Tennessee

NASHVILLE –  The Beacon Center recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of aspiring Memphis barber Elias Zarate based on the unconstitutional law that requires barbers to have a high school degree as a prerequisite to getting a barber’s license. The Beacon Center has filed suit against the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barbers Examiners and its members in order to eliminate this unfair regulation.

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TN Kratom confusion moves from legislature to law enforcement

A provision in Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislation dealing with opioid abuse caused considerable argument in the General Assembly over whether Kratom should be made illegal in Tennessee – and considerable confusion among law enforcement officers remains after the House and Senate finally reached a compromise in passing the measure, reports WSMV.

The Senate at one point voted for a total ban while the House voted to leave Kratom unrestricted under state law. Under the final version, Kratom remains legal to purchase and possess in its “natural form” for persons over the age of 21.

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Haslam signs compromise short-term rental bill

Legislation setting statewide rules for short-term rental of residential property has been signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam without public comment. Similar bills have been the subject over lobbying wars for years over how much regulatory authority should remain with local government and the final version passed by the legislature was something of a compromise, worked out in a House-Senate conference committee.

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Needle exchange programs getting underway in TN after recent legislative authorization bills

Health officials say a new needle exchange program in Johnson City will be only the second of its kind in Tennessee and will help limit infections spread by the increasing rate of intravenous drug use in the area, according to the Johnson City Press.

The report comes after the legislature has, without much media attention, moved to authorize more needle exchange programs statewide. The 110th General Assembly approved two bills on the subject – one in 2017 that allows private and nonprofit organizations to run needle exchange programs subject to Department of Health approval, and another this year that lets all local governments do the same, again subject to DOH approval.

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