Lawmakers face lingering issues, Honor Rep Lois DeBerry

Lawmakers face lingering issues, Honor Rep Lois DeBerry (Image 1)

The 2014 session of the 108th General Assembly began at Noon Tuesday on Tennessee's Capitol Hill with state lawmakers facing most of the same key issues that they have faces in the last few years.

Most in the conservative, Republican dominated legislature look at passing an estimated $33 billion budget as their top priority, but tough decisions must be made as revenue to pay for the spending plan is coming in less than projections made last year.

Year-to-date collections for the first five months of the 2013-14 fiscal year are $171 million less than budget estimates.

Almost the same amount, $172 million, is the increase in state healthcare costs projected from July 2014 to July 2015.

Many analysts believe those health care costs could eat up about two-thirds of any new state spending.

Directly related is whether or not Governor Bill Haslam will be successful in efforts for what he calls the “Tennessee Plan.”

It would help people purchase health insurance without adding them to the state's Medicaid program TennCare.

Haslam wants a waiver from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to use Medicaid expansion money available under Obamacare to help low-income Tennesseans buy the health insurance.

While health care costs will always be an issue since it's nearly a quarter of the state budget, several education issues will generate much debate as well.

Increasing teacher pay has been a goal of Governor Haslam, while many conservatives in the legislature are questioning the recent implementation of the Common Core education standards.

Other issues that will grab headlines are the continuing debates over allowing wine in grocery stories, balancing Second Amendment rights with property rights and revisiting if laws curbing the state's meth use are working.

The House session began with a memorial to the late Rep. Lois DeBerry who had one of nation's longest stints as a legislative leader in her role as Speaker Pro Tem.

The Memphis Democrat who served four decades in the General Assembly died of pancreatic cancer this past July.

For nearly a half an hour, members of both parties paid tribute to the pioneering lawmaker as pictures of her career played on the legislative screen normally reserved for identifying bills and recording votes.

“She touched thousands of lives from the White House to the poor house,” said Rep. Jo Ann Favors.

She, like every lawmaker was wearing something purple, DeBerry's favorite color, in memory of their colleague.

At the end of the memorial, Rep. DeBerry's words rang out once again in an audio recording.

One line seemed to remind lawmakers of the task they continually face, “Politicians do what is expedient and live for the moment, statesmen do what's right as their work speaks forever.”

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