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Tennessee House Republican Leader Gerald McCormick

NASHVILLE -- God rested on the seventh day, but state House members won't be resting this evening as they race to finish their annual legislative session on Monday.

The House is meeting in a rare Sunday session to advance a proposed amendment to the Tennessee Constitution. It adds veterans' groups to the list of nonprofits able to conduct raffles.

Under the state's constitutional amendment process, Senate Joint Resolution 222 has to be read three times on the floor and then receive majority approval after the third reading.

Only then can it advance to the next 108th General Assembly meeting in 2013-14 where lawmakers will have to decide by a two-thirds majority to put it on the 2014 ballot for voters to consider.

The resolution, which already has passed the Senate, was only read for the first time on the floor Friday.

"I think we wanted to get three days of readings in on that," said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga. "In order to do that, we need to meet Sunday night and Monday. Then we would not have to come in Tuesday."

He said the House and Senate are "hoping to get finished Monday night" and go home for the year.

The House had considered staying in town Saturday to deal with the amendment, but a rush on hotel rooms as a result of the Music City Marathon made finding places to stay difficult.

Lawmakers, especially the House, still have plenty to do Monday, but their job got easier Friday night after a House and Senate conference committee agreed on minor differences over earmarks in the estimated $31 billion budget for 2012-13.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said with that squared away, the Senate's path looks pretty smooth.

"We're basically done," Ramsey said. "I think we've got about five bills. We'll get the conference committee report back, and we'll be out early afternoon on Monday."

McCormick said in the House, there are many bills to consider, including 20 to 30 measures placed "behind the budget." Many are now funded and should be able to pass, he said.

Other bills include:

• One of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield's two proposed anti-gang bills. It would include criminal street gangs under the definition of the state's anti-rackeetering statute.

Its estimated cost is $109,000 annually. But while fiscal analysts project it will apply to relatively few people, Littlefield says it will give prosecutors a hammer to use on what he calls the "worst of the worst" gang members.

McCormick said he expects the bill will pass.

• A change to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority Act. It would add Erlanger's medical chief of staff to the board of trustees. Local lawmakers originally had planned to add two new members to the board with prospective nominees recommended by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.

But Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, a former Erlanger board member, raised concerns about nonstaff physicians being on the board.

In 2005, Erlanger had to pay $40 million to the U.S. Department of Justice amid allegations that hospital officials violated anti-kickback statutes by overpaying physicians and offering them improper incentives in exchange for hospital referrals. In its agreement, Erlanger denied the government's allegations.

• Another local bill is aimed at enabling Chattanooga to facilitate the sale of the Chattanooga Lookouts Class AA baseball team should it become necessary to do so.

The legislation would let the city keep an estimated $250,000 annually in sales tax revenues from ticket and concession sales to help fund bonds to purchase the Lookouts' AT&T Field if necessary.

It could be used should a buyer of the Lookouts have no interest in purchasing the stadium from current owners, including Frank Burke.

• House members could be forced at the last minute to consider suspending House rules and bringing controversial legislation stripping private employers as well as colleges and K-12 schools of their ability to ban loaded guns stored in locked vehicles out of sight on their property.

The measures, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, were shuttled off for summer study earlier this month, effectively killing them.

But the National Rifle Association has been pressing for a suspension of House floor rules to bring the legislation directly to the House floor.

Bass has said he is considering doing that. It would require two-thirds of lawmakers to approve suspending the rules.

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