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Capitol Hill Review: 02/20-02/24

February 23 Marks 147th Anniversary Of Tennessee’s Third, Current Constitution

On the second Monday in January 1870, the third Constitutional Convention of the State of Tennessee convened in Nashville. On February 23, 1870, the Convention ordained and established the new Constitution of the State, which is still in effect to this day.

That Constitution was approved by the qualified voters of the state and ratified by a vote of 98,128 in favor of the new Constitution and 33,872 in favor of the old Constitution — the Constitution of 1834. On May 5, 1870, Governor Dewitt Clinton Senter declared the ratification of the new Constitution, and Tennessee gained its third and current Constitution.

The 75 delegates in attendance for the Constitutional Convention convened on January 10, 1870, and elected John C. Brown — delegate from the counties of Lincoln, Marshall and Giles Counties — as President of the Convention, and adjourned sine die on February 23, 1870, with the establishment of the new Constitution. In between those two dates, committees debated, discussed, and ultimately approved every word of the new Constitution. Sixty-seven of the 75 delegates signed the new Constitution; eight failed to sign the document.

During the debates, Delegate A. O. P. Nicholson, a future Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, famously declared, “Let us be careful; let us do no more than is absolutely necessary. In ten years from now all this must be done again.”

One of the more interesting parts of that Constitution is Article I, Section 31, which sets the boundaries of the State:

“That the limits and boundaries of this State be ascertained, it is declared they are as hereafter mentioned, that is to say: Beginning on the extreme height of the Stone mountain, at the place where the line of Virginia intersects it, in latitude thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north; running thence along the extreme height of the said mountain, to the place where Watauga river breaks through it; thence a direct course to the top of the Yellow Mountain, where Bright’s road crosses the same; thence along the ridge of said mountain, between the waters of Doe river and the waters of Rock creek, to the place where the road crosses the Iron Mountain; from thence along the extreme height of said mountain, to the place where Nolichucky river runs through the same; thence to the top of the Bald Mountain; thence along the extreme height of said mountain to the Painted Rock, on French Broad river; thence along the highest ridge of said mountain, to the place where it is called the Great Iron or Smoky Mountain; thence along the extreme height of said mountain to the place where it is called Unicoi or Unaka Mountain, between the Indian towns of Cowee and Old Chota; thence along the main ridge of the said mountain to the southern boundary of this State.”

This language remains unchanged in our Tennessee Constitution to this day.

General Assembly Moves Forward With Property Tax Relief Bill For East Tennessee Fire Victims

Property owners could receive prorated 2016 property tax assessments

This week in Nashville, House members moved forward with legislation to provide additional support to East Tennessee families that had property damaged by wildfires that swept through Sevier County and surrounding areas last November.

The bill calls for prorating the 2016 tax assessment for a homeowner’s real property or a business owner’s personal property, if it sustained damaged from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) certified disaster area last year. House Bill 52 is modeled after similar legislation that granted tax relief to victims of the 2010 floods in Nashville.

The legislation would not become effective until it is approved by a two-thirds vote of the local governing body of the county or city in which the property is located. The new legislation would also require fire victims to provide a listing of the destroyed, demolished, or substantially damaged personal property for which the tax relief is sought.

If the tax computed for the 2016 tax year has already been paid by the property owner prior to proration, he or she would receive a refund under the new law.

The legislation will next be heard by members of the House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee before moving on to the full committee.

House Republicans Demonstrate Continued Support for Military Veterans

New legislation designed to help veterans and military families secure employment

Earlier this week, Republican lawmakers continued to demonstrate their support for military veterans by advancing legislation designed to help veterans and military families secure employment.

The bill authorizes private employers to give hiring preference to honorably discharged veterans, spouses of a veteran with a service-connected disability, unremarried widows or widowers of veterans who died of service-connected disability, and unremarried widows or widowers of a member of the military who died in the line of duty.

The bill is the latest in a series of legislative initiatives that demonstrate support for and honor Tennessee military veterans and their families. In 2016, five soldiers killed in the Chattanooga terrorist attack were awarded the “Tennessee Fallen Heroes Medal” by Governor Bill Haslam for their heroic efforts on Tennessee soil.

Recently, lawmakers also passed the National Guard Force Protection Act, which enhances protection at Tennessee National Guard facilities and military installations. Additionally, legislation passed the full House last year to strengthen and make the Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) program available to private, non-profit institutions of higher education throughout the state. The highly successful VETS program encourages colleges and universities to prioritize outreach to veterans and deliver the services necessary to create a supportive environment where student veterans can prosper while pursuing their education.

New House Resolution Designates April 2017 as Child Abuse Prevention Month

Earlier this week, House leaders presented a resolution that designated April 2017 as “Child Abuse Prevention Month” in Tennessee.

The resolution is aimed at raising awareness of child abuse and neglect, as well as establishing prevention and support for children and parents in order to stop the cycle of abuse that destroys the lives of all affected. According to the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Tennessee, a child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds in the United States; more than 3 million children are also subjects of at least one child abuse case each year.

The designation of April 2017 as “Child Abuse Prevention Month” is also intended to encourage communities to create partnerships with social service agencies, schools, religious organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the business community in order to help parents raise their children in safe, nurturing environments.

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