Legislation calling for online voter registration advances
Capitol Hill Week from Senator Ken Yager
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), February 5, 2016 — Legislation I am sponsoring providing for the establishment of an online voter registration system for Tennesseans was unanimously approved by members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week. Under Senate Bill 1626, voters with an unexpired driver’s license or personal identification card issued by the Department of Safety will be able to go to an official state website where they will be able to register to vote online.
In an electronic age, it makes sense to provide electronic registration if we have proper safeguards and validation steps. This legislation provides those assurances to make voter registration more convenient for Tennesseans and hopefully encourages more citizens to participate in the election process.
The voter registration application would be reviewed electronically. If the request is confirmed to be valid, the new registration would be added to the state’s voter registration list after being reviewed by the respective county election commission office. The validation step is done by comparing the information on the online registration form against the information provided by the same individual when he or she received a driver’s license or state-issued identification card.
The signature already on record with the state would become the signature on record for voting. If the information does not match, applicants would be directed to print and complete the application and mail it to the county election commission office in their county of residence to be processed.
Twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia offer online registration, and another two states have passed legislation to create online voter registration system, but have not yet implemented them.
In other news this week, Governor Bill Haslam delivered his proposal to fund state government for the 2016-2017 fiscal year in his annual State of the State Address this week, unveiling a balanced $34.8 billion proposal that makes the largest investment in K-12 education without a tax increase in Tennessee’s history. The governor’s Fiscal Year 2016-2017 budget proposes 261 million in new dollars for Tennessee public education, including $104.6 million for teacher salaries. It also builds up state reserves, puts Tennessee on the path to catch up on long-deferred maintenance of buildings, reinvests in the state workforce and focuses one-time dollars on reducing the state’s ongoing costs.
In his speech, Gov. Haslam highlighted the collaborative effort with the General Assembly to grow Tennessee’s economy, reduce ongoing costs, provide high quality service to taxpayers and maintain fiscal discipline that has positioned Tennessee to invest in its priorities. The governor said that the budget proposal takes advantage of a strengthening economy combined with the hard work and discipline of departments of state government and the conservative fiscal strategy employed by the General Assembly, the state’s constitutional officers and his administration.
The governor’s proposal puts $100 million into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, bringing it to an estimated $668 million on June 30, 2017; $60 million for salary increases for state employees; and, another $36 million for market rate adjustments for state employees making less than $50,000 annually.
Other notable budget investments are:
- $130 million from the General Fund to repay the Highway Fund;
- $24 million in state funds for the Employment and Community First (ECF) CHOICES program to allow the state to serve more people currently on the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ waiting list and others eligible for services;
- $12.8 million for facilities and homeland security upgrades for the Military Department;
- $10 million for the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Rural Development Initiative; and,
- $1.27 million to increase the number of drug recovery courts from 41 to 50 and for two additional veterans courts.
Finally, the Senate Health Committee approved legislation designed to reduce the rampant overprescribing of pain killers across the state by enhancing oversight of pain management clinics. Senate Bill 1466, which I am co-sponsoring reflects negotiations with stakeholders that empower the state to accomplish this task without overburdening those physicians whom are providing quality care to their patients. Tennessee is still a close second behind Alabama as the worst state in the nation for the use of opioids per capita despite improvements made as a result of the General Assembly’s efforts to attack the problem. The bill now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee for approval.