April 17, 2011
Ryan Haynes Reports on State Legislature

by Martha Rose Woodward


Ryan Haynes, State Rep. from the 14th District says the Tennessee Legislature has been busy lately.

Tort Reforms Move Along in Judiciary Committee

The House Judiciary Subcommittee moved forward with legislation to cap damages stemming from lawsuits in Tennessee. The tort reforms will provide stability in the legal system and ensure lawsuit abuse does not become a reality in Tennessee.

The bill has been a major cornerstone of the Governor’s legislative package, with the Administration stressing the need for the proposal in order to create a job-friendly environment in Tennessee.

Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker Unveil Career Coach Vehicles for Tennessee

The Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker today unveiled three vehicles designed to improve outcomes for those looking for work. Three “Career Coaches” were customized with 10 computer workstations with Internet access, printers, fax machines and flat screen TV’s with SMART Board overlays to facilitate classroom instruction. The intent of these roving offices is to bring job matching and training to rural communities that have limited access to a Tennessee Career Center.

The vehicles will be based in Huntingdon, Nashville and Knoxville in order to cover all areas of the state. Each mobile unit will be staffed with three Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development employees who are trained in career counseling and unemployment benefits.

House Enacts Major Initiatives for Election Reform

On Thursday, the General Assembly passed major legislative initiatives meant to reform how elections are conducted and administered in the Volunteer State.

Taken together, the bills clarify the Tennessee Code to make it consistent with legal precedence that has governed election commissions. The bills also define the responsibilities of administrators of elections and provide greater local oversight over how elections are conducted. These bills ensure there is a concrete route for dealing with concerns raised by election observers.

A central tenet of the Majority’s platform is local control.

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Named

On Tuesday, the Governor swore in Kevin Huffman to guide Tennessee’s Department of Education. Huffman is tasked with guiding and implementing the much-needed reforms that are at the heart of the education initiatives moving through the General Assembly. Following the swearing in ceremony, key leaders of the House of Representatives released statements applauding the Commissioner’s appointment.

Commissioner Huffman is the former executive vice president of Teach for America, a nationwide organization that recruits educators. Mr. Huffman is an attorney who taught in the classroom and has a decade of experience as an administrator.

House Passes Tough Sex Offender Registry Legislation

House Members overwhelmingly passed a reform to the criminal code that closes a loophole that allows sexual offenders to find refuge. The bill requires all sexual offenders who are incarcerated, but who have not yet registered as a sexual offender or violent sexual offender, to be registered in the institution in which they are incarcerated by no later than August 1, 2011.

Effectively, the bill increases public safety as it will catalogue and publicize the sexual offenders around the State. It ensures those who have been convicted of a sexual offense have to sign a TBI registration form. The TBI then takes the person’s information and places it into the sexual offender database.

The General Assembly is committed to preventing further victimization of Tennesseans by the worst kind of criminals.

Tennessee Says Goodbye to Former Governor Ned McWherter

Members of the General Assembly were saddened to hear the news of the passing of former Governor of Tennessee, Ned McWherter. Many veteran Members of the Chamber served with McWherter, including many Republicans.

Governor McWherter was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1968. After a few terms, he was elected to be Speaker of the House. He would go on to serve Tennessee as Governor for two terms in 1986.

After learning of his passing, the Speaker stated, “Tennessee lost a true statesman with the passing of Governor McWherter. He understood the role of the legislative body, and he carried it out to the fullest. He will be missed, and my heart goes out to his family during this difficult time.”

Unclaimed Property Website for Tennesseans Announced

Representatives urged citizens throughout Tennessee to visit an updated State website that features hundreds of listings for unclaimed property.

In terms of property, Tennessee does not hold to a law of escheat, meaning that unclaimed property after a certain time period “returns to the crown.” The State—through the Treasury Department—holds unclaimed property until it is reclaimed by the rightful owner or by the owner’s heirs (if the owner is deceased). Anyone can search for unclaimed properties by name at this website: http://treasury.tn.gov/unclaim/FindUnclaimed.html.

One Member stated, “I would hope every Tennessean visits this site to check for any property that may rightfully be theirs. Far too many citizens are unaware of this fact and I hope this site helps correct that.”