Lawmakers begin 2014 legislative session Tuesday

Lawmakers begin 2014 legislative session Tuesday (Image 1)

State lawmakers head back to work this week, and the spring session is expected to be busy, with several familiar items on the agenda.

The 108th General Assembly convenes at Noon Tuesday.

The budget is expected to be the biggest issue, with state revenue falling behind projected numbers.

Education will also be at the forefront, as lawmakers tackle the issue of vouchers and common core standards, both hot button issues among parents and educators.

Look to hear more about pseudoephedrine in the coming weeks and months.  There is a strong push to make the over-the-counter cold medicine accessible by prescription only.

Law enforcement agencies statewide are behind the move in an effort to curb the production of methamphetamine.

The so-called “guns in trunks” bill is expected get a second look.  The bill passed last year, allowing carry permit holders to store handguns in their vehicles without legal recourse.

However, those permit holders can still be fired from employers who do not allow guns on their property. An effort is being made to expand protection for gun owners in those cases.

Perhaps the most familiar topic to resurface is another bill that would allow wine to be sold in grocery stores.  Many believe this could be the session that finally gets approval for the wine bill, after many years of failed attempts.

Last year, the bill died in committee, but a compromise was already underway in December according to House Speaker Beth Harwell.

Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey support any such bills, but there are many details to iron out.  A point of contention continues to be what liquor stores will get out of the deal, including possible cigarette, mixer, and Sunday sales.

There is also large debate about whether the public should be allowed to vote on the issue.

Kroger stores across the state continue their support of wine in grocery stores with the Red, White and Food campaign.  Promotional materials, which encourage voters to contact legislators, are posted in the chain.

Another grassroots group plans to rally for medical marijuana, an issue poised for debate.

Hours before the legislative session was scheduled to start, the small group out of Columbia gathered on the steps of the state capital.

Representative Sherry Jones of Nashville is sponsoring House Bill 1385, which would legalize marijuana for medical use for specific patients.

With 20 states already allowing legal marijuana use, many feel now is the time for Tennessee to step up.

“You have people getting lung cancer from cigarettes, but they have that legalized. You have alcohol poisoning. You have liver disease from alcohol. You have people who are alcoholics, addicted to it, but they have not outlawed that,” said organizer Caleb Banks.

He continued, “Everything that's bad for you is not outlawed, but everything that is good for your body and makes sure you're not suffering and not having any pain is illegal. And it makes no sense to me.”

Banks and other supporters plan to rally every two weeks until HB1385 moves through both chambers.

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