The Tennessee General Assembly wrapped up its session last week. There were some major state laws passed this year: an overhaul to the workers’ compensation program, a law that allows people to store guns in their cars while at work, and a nearly $33 billion budget. But many high-profile proposals ended up in the waste-bin as a result of intra-party squabbling.
One of the last remaining skirmishes in the Tennessee General Assembly this year pits the interests of agriculture against animal rights activists. The proposal before the state Legislature requires people go to the police immediately if they take photos or video of animal abuse.
“Investigations and documentation—if that’s what was required—needs to be done by law enforcement, not by vigilantes,” State Senator Dolores Gresham, a Republican from Somerville, said on the Legislature floor Thursday.
The Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act left Governor Bill Haslam with a big decision—expand Medicaid to include more low-income Tennesseans, or don’t. The governor is not exactly saying “yes” to expanding the state’s Medicaid program, known as TennCare. But he is not saying “no” either.
Haslam made his announcement last week to a joint assembly of the state Legislature, telling lawmakers he’s been working toward a “third option.”
The debate over who can sell alcohol and where dates back to liquor laws hashed out at the end of prohibition, but the latest controversy in the state Legislature is over expanding wine sales to grocery stores. Tennessee is in the minority on this issue. Thirty-six states allow wine in food stores. Polls show consumers favor the convenience of picking up a bottle of wine and the ingredients for dinner all in one stop, and this year grocery store companies have swarmed the state Capitol to lobby for a bill that would allow them to do just that.
Republican-controlled legislatures in several states are finding it difficult to stick to one of their mantras: the government closest to the people governs best. In Tennessee, where the GOP now holds a supermajority, the state is attempting to wrest control from cities and towns on a variety of issues ranging from charter schools to property rights.