Tennessee Legislature wraps up session in flurry of bills

Tennessee Legislature wraps up session in flurry of bills

May 2nd, 2012 by Andy Sher in News

The Tennessee Capitol in Nashville, Tenn.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee's 107th General Assembly wrapped up its annual session Tuesday after racing through dozens of bills and giving final approval to several controversial measures including suspicion-based drug testing for welfare applicants.

But two contentious bills failed to make the final cut.

One was a measure that would have allowed Tennessee to join an interstate compact challenging the federal health care law. It died on a 45-26 vote, failing to get the necessary 50 votes for passage.

Earlier, Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, the sponsor of controversial guns-in-parking-lots bills that have plagued the Republican-controlled legislature all session long, sought recognition.

He previously had refused to rule out trying to suspend House rules to bring the bill, which would have stripped employers from banning employees from storing weapons in company parking lots, directly to the House floor.

"I move to suspend the rules for the immediate calling up -- oh, wait, I've got the wrong paper," Bass joked.

Verification

One bill that did pass and now is headed to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam requires government agencies to verify that people applying for public benefits are legally in the United States. It includes numerous exemptions.

Another last-minute measure eliminates the state's gift tax on large grants by wealthy individuals to families or others.

Haslam, Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell later met with reporters.

The governor called it a "terrific session," citing passage of his civil service overhaul, lowering state sales taxes on food, the planned phase-out of the inheritance tax and the elimination of the gift tax.

Harwell cited the tax reduction measures and noted "we held the line on education reforms," as well.

Ramsey pointed to the state's $31.5 billion budget, which he said is smaller than this year's, and unemployment insurance measures he said benefit employers.