Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs Report for July 2019
Gov. Bill Lee announced he's calling a special legislative session in late August to allow the GOP-controlled House to replace the state's House speaker, who has promised to resign after a series of scandals.
"It is in the best interest of our state to select a new speaker of the House, and so I am calling a special session of the General Assembly for August 23 to accomplish that purpose," Lee said in a statement.
The special session — anticipated to take just one day — will follow a House GOP caucus meeting where Republican members will nominate a speaker in advance on July 24. Bylaws require the House Republicans to support their caucus' nominee during the formal August 23 vote.
In May, House Republicans voted 45-24 declaring members no longer had confidence in Casada's ability to lead. However, it remained unclear whether lawmakers had the ability to remove a speaker. The Tennessee Constitution is silent on that and legal scholars warned that while the Legislature can expel members, it's unknown if they have the power to elect a new speaker before the end of their two-year terms.
Looming in the background of the anticipation of the special session are talks of possibly using the event to expel Rep. David Byrd, a Republican who has been accused by three women of sexual misconduct decades ago.
The Trump administration has confirmed plans to nominate Mark Esper as the next secretary of defense to succeed acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. David Norquist will be nominated for a deputy secretary of defense post, and Ryan McCarthy will receive the administration's nomination for Secretary of the Army.
Senator Marsha Blackburn secured funding for projects that will have a direct effect on military communities in Tennessee and on the mission of the Armed Forces in the Senate version of the FY 2020 NDAA. Her focus includes but is not limited to: • Implements military spouse professional licensure reciprocity across the Nation to make it easier for spouses to continue working when moved across state lines for their service. • Requires DOD to track how much time members of the National Guard are deployed, as extended periods away can cause undue stress on their civilian jobs. This comes as a result of discussions Senator Blackburn had with members of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Poland and Ukraine, including several guardsmen and women from Knoxville and the surrounding area who described this as being one of the biggest hurdles in their service. • Provides full funding for research, development and procurement of mission-essential aircraft, including 9 CH-47 Chinook helicopters and 15 MQ-9 Reapers. • Increases infrastructure and operations budget for our national nuclear security enterprise, which includes the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. This bill will properly fund facilities that have been neglected since after the Cold War. • Supports the strong and unwavering partnership between the U.S. military and the Kurds in Syria. The largest Kurdish diaspora in the U.S. is in Nashville. • Fully funds research and development for multiple naval systems whose radar technology is made in Tennessee. • Requires DOD to track active duty military personnel and veterans’ exposed to toxic health hazards in the line of duty, ensuring they get the necessary medical care and benefits they need. • Supports military funded in-state university research, including at the University of Tennessee.
LTC, US Army Retired
Board Member & Legislative Affairs Liaison
Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs Report for June 2019
Gov. Bill Lee has honored 10 deceased U.S. military service members as part of Memorial Day services. Among those Lee honored during a service Friday was Army National Guard Pvt. 1st Class Tara Turnage, of Memphis who died in a vehicle training accident at the National Training Center in California in May 2018. Marine Corporal William Ross, of Hendersonville, who was killed in an accident that involved two aircraft off Japan in December, was also memorialized. As was Marine Capt. Travis Brannon, of Nashville who died in a helicopter crash in Arizona in March. Lee also honored Marine Lance Corporal Andrew Carpenter, of Columbia. He was killed in action in February 2011 in Afghanistan. Five World War II service members and one from the Vietnam War also were honored.
Two bills of significance include:
HB 1187/SB 0844 Veterans - As enacted, eliminates the fee for interment of an eligible veteran's most recent spouse in a state veterans' cemetery. - Amends TCA Title 46, Chapter 6. Transmitted to Governor for signature.
HB 1004/SB 1119 Veterans- As enacted, extends a 50 percent discount on camping fees at state parks to veterans who have a 100-percent permanent total service-connected disability. - Amends TCA Title 11. Public Chapter 389.
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a case challenging the Feres doctrine, which bars service members from filing medical malpractice suits against DOD medical personnel. "Unfortunate repercussions -- denial of relief to military personnel and distortions of other areas of law to compensate -- will continue to ripple through our jurisprudence as long as the Court refuses to reconsider (this issue)," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in his dissent.
Some troops with permanent injuries or conditions that limit their ability to participate fully in the new Army Combat Fitness Test may be able to take an alternate assessment, said Michael McGurk of the Center for Initial Military Training. "For example, those permanent profile soldiers who are incapable of running long distances, they could be allowed to complete an alternate aerobic event," he said.
The Army and Air Force are offering up to $500 to spouses of active-duty, National Guard or Reserve troops to reimburse them for professional relicensing fees associated with relocating to a new station, according to policies issued this month. The Navy plans to issue its policy on reimbursements next month.
For the second time in less than a year, the House unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would extend benefits to Vietnam War sailors who have fought for years to prove they were exposed to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange. The House voted 410-0 to advance the bill to the Senate, following a vote last year of 382-0. The Senate still has to vote on it.
US troops will remain at the US-Mexico border until it is secure, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan in a recent visit to the border town of McAllen, Texas. Shanahan said he had directed Army Gen. Ricky Waddell to devise a plan to strengthen the border so Homeland Security can take full charge before active-duty and National Guard troops are withdrawn. This comes as the National Guard struggles to find funding to offset the training funds which have been utilized to pay for these deployments.
The VA's Mission Act launched on 6 June, giving veterans more health care options in the private sector, but officials warned there might be a few glitches. The Mission system replaces the Choice program, which was the focus of many complaints by both veterans and private health care professionals.
LTC, US Army Retired
Board Member & Legislative Affairs Liaison
Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs Report for April 2019
Update on Federal Legislation:
As an initial positive note, both TN Senators have cosponsored S.622, and all nine TN Representatives have cosponsored H.R.553. This Bill and Resolution are intended to resolve the SBP/DIC offset. The two bills do not mirror each other, so there will have to be more work done on the legislation if passed.
Update on State legislation of interest:
The suicide prevention training-HB0787/SB 0673- for TDVS employees who interact with veterans was placed behind the budget in the House Finance Committee. This means extra funding will have to be available. More than likely this will kill this bill for this year.
"Veterans Property Tax Relief Act of 2019"HB1465/SB 1485- requiring that market value cap for real property eligible for disabled veteran property tax relief be adjusted every two years to reflect percentage change in consumer price index. This was taken off notice for calendar in Senate Committee Property & Planning Subcommittee of Local Committee. This means unless it is put back on notice no further action will happen.
HB 2005/SB 0242- As introduced, requires public postsecondary institutions to classify the spouse or dependent child of an active member of the United States armed forces transferred out of state on military orders as an in-state student for tuition purposes. Transmitted to Governor for action.
As enacted, HB 1187/SB0844- eliminates the fee for interment of an eligible veteran's spouse in a state veterans' cemetery. Placed on House and Senate Committee calendars for 4/2/2019.
As introduced, HB 0035/SB 0001- creates the Green Alert system within the TBI to assist in the identification and location of a missing veteran at risk. Action deferred in Senate Judiciary Committee to 4/9/2019.
As introduced, HB 0200/SB 0245- reduces, from 25 to 23, the age required for a person to receive an initial school bus endorsement if the person is an honorably discharged veteran of the United States armed forces, a member of the national guard or reserves, or a licensed teacher employed by an LEA. Signed by the Governor.
These are just a few of the more interesting bills being followed. The Legislature most likely has only the month of April left before adjournment though it could go into the first or second week of May. Several of the House and Senate committees have already adjourned for the year.
LTC, US Army Retired
Board Member & Legislative Affairs Liaison
The TVET “Storming the Hill” took place on 6 February 2019 at the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville. Members from the MOAA Chapters in Chattanooga, Ft. Campbell, Memphis and Middle TN were present to meet with Legislators. Our Chapter was represented by (shown left to right in picture) Doug Minton, Mike Patenaude, Karon Uzzell-Baggett, John Furgess and Kent Crossley. Thad Vann was also in attendance, but failed to make the picture, and of course Representative Sam Whitson was present. The process of submitting /sponsoring bills was compressed by the Inauguration of Governor Bill Lee this year, so there will be a lot of follow-up required going forward as all of the Veteran related Legislation continues to take shape.
Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs Report for March 2019
Below are some significant State Legislative Actions regarding Veteran’s.
There are multiple Veteran Bills this is a sample of some of the more important ones. Remember bills introduced in one branch of the Legislature must be introduced in the other. These have been introduced in both Houses of the Legislature but may be in different stages.
HB0200 by Cepicky /SB0245 by Hensley-- As introduced, reduces, from 25 to 23, the age required for a person to receive an initial school bus endorsement if the person is an honorably discharged veteran of the United States armed forces, a member of the national guard or reserves, or a licensed teacher employed by an LEA. Placed on House Regular Calendar for 3/7/2019.
HB1187 by Chism /SB0844 by Gilmore-- As enacted, eliminates the fee for interment of an eligible veteran's spouse in a state veterans' cemetery. Placed on Departments & Agencies Subcommittee for 3/6/2019.
HB1465 by Windle/SB1485 by Bailey-- As introduced, enacts the "Veterans Property Tax Relief Act of 2019"; requires that market value cap for real property eligible for disabled veteran property tax relief be adjusted every two years to reflect percentage change in consumer price index. Placed on Property & Planning Subcommittee for 3/6/2019.
HB0205 by Hodges/SB0242 by Kurita-- As introduced, requires public postsecondary institutions to classify the spouse or dependent child of an active member of the United States armed forces transferred out of state on military orders as an in-state student for tuition purposes. Rec. for pass; ref to Calendar & Rules Committee.
HB0822 by Johnson C /SB0678 by Lundberg-- As introduced, authorizes the Tennessee state veterans' homes board to name, subject to the governor's approval, the campus, buildings, facilities, and grounds of any state veterans' home; authorizes the administrator of each veterans' home to name any portion of the state veterans' home. Taken off notice for cal. in Naming, Designating, & Private Acts Committee.
More troops are heading to the US border with Mexico, Pentagon officials said on 22 FEB. That brings the number deployed from the current 5,000 to about 6,000, even as the Pentagon considers transferring close to $4 billion to support the Border Patrol and build infrastructure. About 2,100 of the troops deployed currently are National Guard, the other 3,000 or so active-duty regulars. While the troops will be on the move, it will still be “months” before the Pentagon can begin spending any of that money, even without the entanglements of multiple lawsuits already working their way through the court system.
President Donald Trump on 19 FEB signed SPD-4, a directive to establish a new branch of the military dedicated to space but instead of being a fully independent department it will remain part of the Air Force to assuage concerns in Congress. The U.S. Space Force would be the first new military branch since the U.S. Air Force was established out of the Army Air Corps in 1947 — and it will be structured similarly to how the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy.
MOAA is concerned regarding any issue associated with the safety of medications. Our awareness was heightened several months ago when the blood pressure medication valsartan was recalled off the market by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While there are many macro forces impacting our national industrial base, the risks to the pharmaceutical sector should come under closer examination.
We Are Not Privatizing Says VHA’s Executive In Charge. “The accusation that we are privatizing – if I was privatizing, why would we be spending over $10 billion to put into electronic medical records? Why would we be hiring more than 11,000 more employees than we had a year ago at this time? Why would we be working so hard to ensure your trust? If this is a model of privatization, we’re doing a pretty bad job of it. We think the future of this health-care system is strong, and is a model for all of American health care for access in most places.”
VA’s new programs made possible by the current version of the GI Bill, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act include:
The Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC), which is designed to give veterans an edge in the high-tech job market, and
Additional benefits for STEM education, including up to nine extra months of benefits (not to exceed $30,000) for veterans who meet the criteria
On the subject of legislation that would provide disability benefits to those Blue Water Navy veterans who claim to have suffered toxic exposure to Agent Orange during their service in the Vietnam War, a divide still remains.
Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs Report for February 2019
The Federal House-Senate conference committee tasked with ironing out differences in separate versions of the defense authorization bill has rejected Senate-passed provisions that would have sharply increased TRICARE fees, deductibles and co-pays for a million retirees under age 65.
Congressional lawmakers who in recent weeks shaped a final $716 billion John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (HR 5515) also voted to allow disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients and caregivers of veterans severely injured in war to shop on military bases, paying slightly more at checkout than current patrons. They also will be able use base recreational facilities.
The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service issued an interim report last week hinting that major changes could be coming to the Selective Service System, such as requiring women to register or, conversely, abandoning the registration system altogether. The panel is still gathering information, with a final report due in 2020.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has set up a "coordination cell" within the Pentagon to finalize the Defense Department's Space Force proposal. "We are preparing for the rollout of the proposal, finalizing our messaging and coordinating actions," Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino says.
The VA can't deny disability benefits to so-called "blue water" Navy veterans who say they were exposed to toxic chemicals while patrolling the coastline during the Vietnam War, according to a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The VA has 90 days to decide if it wants to take its appeal to the Supreme Court.
The number of military members diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease increased sharply from 2000 to 2017, according to the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report from the Defense Health Agency. The Air Force had the highest rate, and more men than women were diagnosed with the disease.
Veterans who were notified last year that they may qualify for federal tax refunds related to disability severance pay must file an amended return by July to get the funds, says Lt. Col. David Dulaney of the Armed Forces Tax Council. Veterans who had taxes withheld from disability severance pay as far back as January 1991 have a year from when they received the notice to amend their returns.
LTC (Ret) Doug Gilbert, USA
MTC Legislative Affairs
Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs Report for January 2019
Governor-elect Bill Lee will be sworn in on January 19 as the next Governor of the State of Tennessee. Marsha Blackburn has been sworn in as Senator Blackburn taking the seat formerly occupied by Bob Corker.
The Speaker of the State of Tennessee Senate is the current Speaker—Randy McNally and he will also be the Lieutenant Governor. The New Speaker of the State of Tennessee House of Representatives is Glenn Casada from Williamson County.
Governor-elect Lee has named numerous cabinet appointments with interest for MOAA being Stuart McWhorter, Commissioner of the Department of Finance and Administration and Courtney Rogers, Commissioner of the Department of Veteran Services. Rogers was a formerly a State Representative.
The State Legislature will convene in an organizational session January 8-10, 2019. They will then recess. Then reconvene on January 18 for one day. The Governor will be sworn in on Saturday January 19, Legislative Plaza at 11 AM. There are multiple inaugural weekend events with many be free. The legislature will then reconvene on January 22, 2019.
TVET Veterans on the Hill Event will be February 6, 2019. Please register if you plan to participate.
LTC Doug Gilbert, USA Retired
Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs
Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs Report for December 2018
The TN State Legislature will reconvene on January 8 with 3 organizational days and then adjourn until January 18 for another organizational day. Governor elect-Bill Lee will be sworn in on Saturday, January 19 and the Legislature will meet after the swearing in. Then the regular session will start on Tuesday, January 22.
Governor-elect Lee’s Cabinet:
Governor elect- Bill Lee is keeping four existing Commissioners:
Danielle Barnes, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services;
Greg Gonzales, Commissioner of the Department of Financial Institutions;
Julie McPeak, Commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Insurance;
Marie Williams, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
He has named the following individuals to full cabinet posts:
Mark Ezell has been named as the Commissioner of Tourist Development. Ezell was a brand development executive with Purity Dairies, and was the last family member to lead the dairy, he also served on a coalition of business leaders who supported Lee’s campaign.;
Charlie Hatcher has been named as the Commissioner for the Department of Agriculture. He currently serves as Tennessee's current state veterinarian and is a well-known Middle Tennessee dairy farmer;
Jeff Long has been named as the Commissioner for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Long previously worked as an assistant district attorney with the 21st Judicial District, a special agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, arson investigator with the state fire marshal's office and is currently serving as the Williamson County Sheriff;
Stuart McWhorter has been named as the Commissioner of the Department of Finance and Administration. This position traditionally serves as the Governor’s Chief Cabinet officer. Mr. McWhorter currently serves as Chairman and President of Clayton and Associates, founded in 1996, and investment management company primarily focused on the early stage investment Cycle in the healthcare and technology industries.
The Chief of staff will be Blake Harris, his campaign consultant. Transition team chairman Butch Eley will be the COO. Chief Counsel will be Lang Wiseman who was Lee’s campaign counsel. Tony Nikneja will be the policy director and Chris Walker will be the communications director. Laine Arnold will be the press secretary.
Tennessee General Assembly:
The Speaker of the State Senate is the Honorable Randy McNally. The Speaker automatically becomes the Lieutenant Governor of the State. The newly elected Speaker of the State House of Representatives is the previous Majority Whip, Representative Glen Casada of Franklin. The Speaker of the House is second in line to succession to the governorship after the Speaker of the Tennessee Senate. The State Senate is comprised of (33) members. The current makeup is (28) Republicans, (5) Democrats and (1) vacant seat. The State House of Representatives is comprised of (99) members. The current makeup is (73) Republicans and (26) Democrats.
LTC Doug Gilbert, USA Retired
Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs
Middle TN Chapter Legislative Affairs Report for February 2018
"2018 Veterans Legislative Day On Tennessee’s Capitol Hill February 7, 2018"
The TN state government considers and passes laws each year affecting Active Duty, Guard, Reserve and Retired Service Members and their families. For the past two years TN, organized Veteran Service Organizations have voiced their concerns with legislators and at times have been successful, at times, having Veteran friendly bills passed such as last years FULL restoration of the property tax exemption for 100% P&T veterans and passage of veteran-hiring preference legislation for private business. Special interest groups and regular citizens work to support/reject laws that impact them.
Six of your MTCMOAA Board and at large members attended this event. Mike Patenaude, Doug Minton, Kent Crossley, Jaimie Hernandez, John Furgess, and Thad Vann represented the MTC MOAA. And of course MTC Member Representative/COL Sam Whitson was already on the premises!
In addition there were a large number of MOAA members present representing other TN MOAA Chapters.
The five bills proposed include:
1. Title: Property Tax Relief For Disabled Veterans During Temporary Relocations. The proposed change to the property tax exemption law will state that if the veteran "intends" to return home from a care facility when sufficiently able, the property tax exemption remains in effect during the stay in the outside healthcare facility.
Bill Number(s) and Sponsors: SB-1675/HB-1496 – Sen. Green & Rep. Pitts
2. Title: Stolen Valor. The proposed law is similar in legal code that applies to impersonating a law enforcement officer. Those caught conducting themselves in this manner can be cited for “Criminal Impersonation” and fined as a misdemeanor. The fines collected would be transferred to support state veterans homes.
Bill Number(s) and Sponsors: SB-1829/HB-1779 – Sen. Southerland & Rep Goins
3. Title: Procedures for Naming State Veteran Homes and Associated Buildings and Grounds.
The proposed law criteria states :
“In general, individuals and groups for whom veteran homes and facilities are to be named must be recognized for their actions as veterans, performing or contributing to veteran services or for actions, while in uniform, performed in the service of the U.S. military.”
Bill Number(s) and Sponsors: SB-2004/HB-2657 – Sen. Tate & Rep. Camper
4. Title: Appointment of a veteran member to the statewide planning and policy council for the department of mental health and substance abuse services. The purpose of the council is to assist in planning a comprehensive array of high quality prevention, early intervention, treatment, and habilitation services and supports and to advise the department on policy, budget requests, and developing and evaluating services and supports.
Bill Number(s) and Sponsors: SB-1927/HB-1956 – Sen. Briggs & Rep. Rogers
5. Title: Selecting veterans to serve on State University and Community College Board of Regents. Thousands of active duty military, their dependents, and the over 500,000 veterans attain their desired degrees and certifications through the university and community college systems in Tennessee. It would be of benefit to have past military experience and representation among the members of the Board of Regents and state university boards to provide the military perspective and input, as and where needed.
Bill Number(s) and Sponsors: SB-2036/HB-2682 – Sen. Gresham & Rep. Weaver
Hill Day activities:
Participants were smoothly transported from no cost parking at Nissan Stadium by OSDTN vans to the Cordell Hull Building, the new permanent site for representatives of the state legislature. Veterans and supporters were assigned group meetings with their state senators and representatives to discuss the need to pass these five bills. Throughout the day Veterans were able to meet individually with their representatives. In each group meeting, the legislator was very supportive of Veteran issues and stressed the need to have all veterans in TN, ranging from about 500,000 to provide input to them. It was reported during today’s discussion written letters to state legislators have the impact of 100 emails. There will be several thousand bills proposed during this legislative session and the ones most represented will get the most consideration.
Participants enjoyed a wonderful no cost lunch provided by the Mission BBQ and had the opportunity to tour the Capital and state Museum. Veterans received a warm and receptive greeting and respect throughout the day. This event may be held again next year depending on the ongoing success of the TVET initiative and will benefit from continued support of Veterans.
Many thanks to OSDTN, Mission Barbecue, and the Volunteers from the Clarksville area (most of whom are MOAA Ft. Campbell Chapter Members for the countless hours and effort put in to make this event a success!
Message from your Board:
The Middle TN Chapter Board and Membership has a mandate to always remain politically nonpartisan as an affiliate organization of MOAA National. As such, we do not support or oppose any candidate for political office. We will periodically provide notice that a member is continuing to serve by running for office; however this is not to be construed as an endorsement of his or her political views.
Normally during this time frame each year we would organize visits to our elected officials when they are home during Congressional break and when the TN State Legislature is out of session. However, this being an election year we are unable to accomplish these tasks without being drawn into the election fray.
So, while the Chapter cannot become actively involved in supporting a candidate, we whole heartedly support the individual involvement of our members on a personal basis. An informed and active electorate is important to the success of our state and nation, so it is up to each of us to become informed on the issues and to vote and encourage all that you know to do so as well.