Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver’s Newsroom

The Loop – April 16

April 16, 2021

Republicans welcome Sen. Lamar Alexander, Candace Owens

Republicans on Monday welcomed former Governor and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander along with conservative commentator Candace Owens to Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville.

The General Assembly gathered in a joint session to present a resolution to Alexander, recognizing and honoring the senator for his lifetime of service to Tennessee. He also shared a few words with the legislators about his time in public service and congratulated the lawmakers on the direction they are taking Tennessee.

Alexander served as governor of Tennessee from 1979-87 and in the United States Senate from 2003-21, leaving office in January. He has retired to his home in East Tennessee, where he resides with his wife Honey and dog Rufus. The senator built a legacy in public service that is second to none and will be remembered by Tennesseans as a

  Photo op with Candace Owens!

true statesman.

Owens, a new resident of the Volunteer State, joined Republicans on the House floor to accept a resolution welcoming her to Tennessee. She spoke with members of the House Republican Caucus prior to session to express her appreciation for the warm welcome. She discussed her motivation for moving to Tennessee.

Owens is a highly popular American conservative author, political commentator, and activist. She has hosted a weekly podcast, “The Candace Owens Show,” since 2019 and recently joined The Daily Wire to host “Candace,” a late-night political talk show. Owens resides in Middle Tennessee with her husband, George Farmer, and her newborn son.

 

 

Gov. Lee’s budget amendment includes tax holidays, investments in mental health, education and economic development

The state budget is the central focus in the last remaining weeks of the first session of the 112th General Assembly as committees begin to complete their business for year. Gov. Bill Lee this week announced his amendment to the proposed 2021-22 fiscal year budget which includes $580 million in available funds. These funds will be invested in strategic long-term projects that focus on a return to pre-pandemic priorities and deliver critical services while not growing government. The budget amendment also includes nearly $100 million for a two-week sales tax holiday on all grocery sales, purchases at restaurants, and all prepared food.

This amendment reflects Republican priorities and includes record investments in broadband, economic development, safety and law enforcement, increasing reserves, and education.

A key provision of the budget amendment is a $250 million investment in a Mental Health Trust Fund to assist K-12 families who are facing significant mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19. This proposal creates strong mental health services for school-aged students through a systemwide, evidence-based approach.

Gov. Lee’s budget amendment includes:

Tax Cuts 

  • $25M for a two-week sales tax holiday for groceries
  • $75M for a two-week sales tax holiday for restaurants and all prepared food
  • $16M to reduce the professional privilege tax by 25 percent

K-12 Education and Mental Health 

  • $250M trust fund to assist K-12 families facing significant mental health issues in the wake of Covid-19
  • $18.5M to transportation to students for summer learning
  • $2M to provide an additional grade aligned books and resources over the summer for 88,000 rising first graders

Higher Education 

  • $79M to eliminate current TCAT waitlists statewide, currently at 11,400 students
  • $25M to Tennessee Promise to permit increases in the Hope Scholarship
  • $4M to increase Agriculture Extension Agents at University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University

Rural & Agriculture  

  • $50K to support the state fair (in addition to the $250,000 recurring in originally proposed budget)
  • $3M to provide additional funding for rural projects as part of the Rural Economic Opportunity Fund (in addition to $21M in originally proposed budget for total of $24M)

Safety 

  • $500K to provide gun safety programming for children
  • $17M to replace radios for state troopers
  • $18M to improve the statewide disaster communications system
  • $680K to add 4 new Homeland Security Agents

Economic Development 

  • $5M to provide grants to restore and preserve historic downtowns across the state
  • $3M to increase employment in Tennessee through the Small Business Innovation program

Transportation 

$3M recurring and an additional $10M nonrecurring to provide additional direct funding to airports across Tennessee through the Transportation Equity Fund (total $50M investment in air infrastructure)

To view the full budget amendment, click here.

 

House passes legislation strengthening TANF program to help Tennessee families thrive

The House chamber on Thursday unanimously passed legislation strengthening and improving the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

House Bill 142 was recommended by a group appointed to study possible changes to the program, which currently has $710 million in reserves. The funds, which come from a federal block grant, provide important support to working families such as child care assistance, temporary cash assistance, transportation, job training, employment activities and other support services offered through the state’s Families First Program.

This legislation creates a two-year pilot program which provides enhanced cash assistance to individuals who are actively pursuing educational opportunities. The bill also distributes $180 million through a new Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Program, which will create large-scale programs benefiting TANF recipients. The legislation also increases the TANF allotment.  For example, it increases the monthly amount a family of three receive from $277 to $387.

House Bill 142 will create the Families First Community Grants to infuse $50 million in TANF reserves funds into the community through grants to organizations providing services to low-income families. It includes the Two-Generation program, which focuses on intergenerational poverty through a “whole family” approach by combining parent and child interventions to break the cycle of poverty and create a pathway to economic security.

The bill requires that $191 million will be reserved to ensure the program’s stability during an economic downturn.  However, once those reserves are in place, it provides that funding not spent from the department’s previous year will be used for community grants that will be spread statewide to build stronger families and a thriving Tennessee. ​

Finally, the bill creates The TANF Advisory Board consisting of up to 21 people to approve grantees and provide important input regarding the effectiveness of existing Families First and Two-Generation Program policies and grant programs.  The board will also be responsible for selecting recipients for Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Program grants, community grants and selecting research partners to evaluate the successes of grant programs awarded through TANF.

 

House passes Textbook Transparency Act

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported legislation this week that ensures all textbooks in the hands of Tennessee students are accessible to the public to view. House Bill 1513 creates the Textbook Transparency Act which increases transparency in public school educational material.

The Textbook Transparency Act makes available online textbooks that are adopted by the state of Tennessee and used by public schools. Compared to the 90-day timeframe textbooks are currently required to be available to the public, this bill requires publishers to make these materials available so long as they are actively being used in the classroom.

The bill now awaits passage in the Senate.

 

Republicans expand scholarship eligibility to homeschoolers

More Tennessee students could soon be eligible for state scholarships under Republican legislation. House Bill 646 will expand the eligibility for home school students to receive the HOPE and Tennessee Promise scholarships.

The legislation revises current state statutes by implementing certain criteria for home school students to meet in order to take advantage of the lottery scholarships. House Bill 646 allows the students to qualify for the scholarship based on a GPA, whereas currently home school students have had to rely solely on their ACT scores to establish eligibility for the HOPE scholarship. Students will now be able to qualify for the scholarship by successfully completing two dual enrollment courses with a minimum GPA of 3.0. It also removes the requirement for a student to maintain “home school status” for a minimum of one full calendar year prior to graduation.

House Bill 646 will be heard for consideration in the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee on Tuesday, April 20.

 

House increases transparency of foreign influence on campuses

The House chamber unanimously passed legislation requiring greater transparency for foreign investments on college campuses in Tennessee. It prohibits the establishment of Confucius Institutes which have ties to communist regimes.

As amended, House Bill 1238 requires state institutions to disclose gifts received from and contracts initiated with a foreign source in excess of $10,000. The bill requires the institution to submit a disclosure report to the Comptroller of the Treasury and Department of Safety for review. House Bill 1238 provides Tennessee taxpayers greater transparency in foreign influences and preserves the integrity of the state’s higher education institutes.

This legislation provides taxpayers with greater transparency of foreign influences and preserve the integrity of Tennessee’s higher education institutions.  The bill now awaits passage in the Senate.

Statewide Silver Alert legislation advances

I was proud to be joined by our new District Attorney on the House Floor on Thursday

Legislation creating a statewide Silver Alert program advanced in the House this week, passing the Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee on Wednesday. House Bill 119 implements a Silver Alert program under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to assist in the locating of missing and vulnerable citizens in Tennessee.

The Silver Alert program will benefit persons who are 60 years of age or older, suffer from a documented case of dementia, or are eighteen years of age or older with an intellectual, developmental, or physical disability whose whereabouts are unknown or are believed to be in danger or unable to return to safety without assistance.

Local police or sheriff departments are currently the gatekeepers for Silver Alert in Tennessee, left to make a judgement on when or if a Silver Alert is warranted. Should House Bill 119 become law, the TBI would be required to alert law enforcement agencies and designated media outlets across the state upon receiving notice of a missing citizen fitting the guidelines.

The bill moves on to the full Finance, Ways and Means Committee, where it will be heard for consideration on Tuesday, April 20.

 

House increases public safety on roadways

The House chamber this week passed legislation aimed at increasing public safety by making it a Class C misdemeanor offense for a person to solicit from the roadway, shoulder, berm, or the right-of-way of a controlled-access highway as well as entrances or exits of a highway.

House Bill 978 makes camping on the shoulder of a state highway or under a bridge or overpass punishable by warning citation on the first offence and $50 fine and 20-40 hours of community service on subsequent offenses.  The Equal Access to Public Property Act of 2012 generally makes it a Class E felony offense for a person to camp on property owned by the state knowing that the area on which the camping occurs is not specifically designated for use as a camping area. House Bill 978 makes the Equal Access to Public Property Act of 2012 applicable to all public property rather than only state-owned property. This bill also extends to local governments and their employees the provisions of the Act concerning impoundment and disposal of camping equipment that is used in violation of the act.

House Bill 978 awaits passage by the Senate.

 

Republicans protect religious freedom in Tennessee

Republicans on Monday passed legislation further protecting Tennesseans’ First Amendment right to hold religious services during a state of emergency.

House Bill 1137 prohibits the state or a public official from restricting church services during a state of emergency such as a pandemic or natural disaster. This legislation also prohibits county health officers from closing or limiting the operations of a church or religious organization.

The First Amendment guarantees the right of all citizens to freely practice their religion and to peacefully assemble at their chosen house of worship. Though Tennessee has not imposed any restrictions on religious services since the pandemic began, other states have.  House Bill 1137 ensures the government will not infringe on those rights.

 

House honors centennial celebration of 105th Attack Squadron of the Tennessee Air National Guard

The House on Monday unanimously passed a resolution honoring the 105th Attack Squadron of the Tennessee Air National Guard on its 100th anniversary serving the Volunteer State.

The roots of the 105th Attack Squadron reach back to World War I, when the Aero Squadron of the American Expeditionary Force was formed at Kelly Field, Texas in 1917.  Veterans of the 105th Aero Squadron living in Nashville in 1919 gathered to organize an air element of the Tennessee National Guard.

The unit received federal recognition on Dec. 4, 1921 and was assigned to the U.S. Army’s 30th ‘Old Hickory’ Division. The squadron’s insignia still includes a figure of President Andrew Jackson ‘Old Hickory’ on horseback.  The 105th was called to active duty in 1940 and became a ready source of trained personnel and seasoned pilots when our nation entered World War II. The 105th supported the Berlin and Cuban missile crises, national and state civil disturbances, the Vietnam War, and Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Volant Oak, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

The full House Joint Resolution can be found here.

 

Tennessee State Library and Archives hosts grand opening

The Tennessee State Library and Archives hosted a grand opening ceremony Monday, April 12, to celebrate the opening of a new state-of-the-art building.

Founded in 1854, the State Library was created to collect, preserve and provide access to Tennessee’s historical records and resources in accessible formats. In 1919, the State Archives program was added, creating the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

The new facility provides much-needed space to properly house the Library and Archives’ extensive collections, improved climate controls and increased handicapped access. The larger 165,000 square foot building along with the latest technology will improve efficiency and increase capacity by nearly 40 percent from 542,700 to 759,500 items.

Located at the intersection of Rep. John Lewis Way N. and Jefferson St. in Nashville, the new building has classroom, meeting and research space for students, historians, librarians, archivists, genealogists, lawyers and groups of up to 300.

The new Library and Archives building has many accessibility improvements for Tennesseans with disabilities.  It also offers more than 240,000 book and magazine titles found in a traditional public library in audio, braille, or large print format through these programs.

Today, the Library and Archives is Tennessee’s premier historical research facility and actively promotes the development of local libraries and archives across the state. More information is available at www.sos.tn.gov.

The Loop – April 9

April 9, 2021

House Republicans make Covid relief tax deductible for business

Tennessee businesses will be eligible to receive more pandemic assistance through a bill that will exempt relief funds from state taxes.

Republican leaders on Monday night successfully guided unanimous passage of House Bill 776 which exempts Covid-19 relief payments received between March 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021 from the state’s excise taxes.

This legislation provides an excise tax deduction for Tennessee business and entities that have received or will receive such relief payments in 2020 and 2021.

Businesses that received funds from the following programs are eligible for the deduction: Tennessee Business Relief Program; Tennessee Supplemental Employer Recovery Grant Program; Coronavirus Agricultural and Forestry Business Fund; Hospital Staffing Assistance Program; Emergency Medical Services Ambulance Assistance Program; Tennessee Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants Program; and payments issued by Tennessee from the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant.

Covid relief payments must be deducted from the tax year in which they were awarded.  Once House Bill 776 becomes law, taxpayers who have already filed a franchise and excise tax return for the 2020 tax year will be able to amend the return to take the deduction for eligible relief payments received in 2020.  The companion bill awaits passage in the Senate Chamber.

 

Legislation prevents vaccine passports in Tennessee

Legislation that aims to ensure Covid-19 vaccines remain voluntary advanced through House committees this week.  House Bill 575 will ensure that medical information reflecting the status of a person’s vaccination cannot be required by any state entities in Tennessee.   The legislation prohibits a state or local governmental official, entity, department or agency from mandating a private business to require “vaccine passports” or proof of a Covid-19 vaccine as a condition for entering their premises or utilizing their services.

House Bill 575 also removes authority from county boards of health to enforce and adopt rules and regulations regarding Covid-19, preserving their role as an advisory body to the elected county mayor.  The bill defines quarantine in Tennessee law as the limitation of a person’s freedom of movement, isolation, or preventing or restricting access to premises upon which the person, cause or source of a disease may be found for a period of time as may be necessary to confirm or establish a diagnosis, determine the cause or source of a disease or prevent the spread of a disease.

 

House Republicans ensure wine is sold safely in Tennessee

House Republican leaders passed legislation ensuring alcohol is sold safely in a way that supports Tennessee businesses. House Bill 742 keeps out-of-state vendors from violating Tennessee’s existing state laws by not paying appropriate state taxes.  As amended, House Bill 742 creates a license for wine fulfillment houses with a $300 application fee, $300 annual renewal fee and a $50 annual fee for each additional location.

Fulfillment house licensees now may only provide services related to the shipment of wine into or within Tennessee and only for wineries or direct shippers licensed in the state. They must use a common carrier for shipping and obtain the signature of a person 21-years or older upon delivery. Fulfillment house licensees must verify, maintain and submit data to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) on a quarterly basis. Fulfillment houses will be subject to punishment by fine, suspension, or revocation of licensure if they fail to verify, maintain and submit these records. The companion bill awaits passage in the Senate chamber.

  

Republicans expand telehealth options for behavioral services

House Republicans this week passed legislation that will expand telehealth options for behavioral health services.

Present Tennessee telehealth statute does not recognize audio-only telehealth services as eligible for reimbursement under certain circumstances. House Bill 620 amends the current statute on provider-based telemedicine and allows for the use of HIPPA-compliant audio-only technology for behavioral health services if other means are unavailable.

The ability to provide therapy services over the telephone was proven to be beneficial throughout the coronavirus pandemic for patients and providers alike. This legislation ensures that this option will continue to be available for those seeking behavioral health help and treatment.

 

Major criminal justice reform bills advance through House

Two major criminal justice reform bills advanced through House committees this week in Nashville.  Both are proposals from Gov. Bill Lee’s legislative package and are part of his efforts to reform criminal justice in Tennessee. The bills reflect changes recommended by the Tennessee Criminal Justice Reinvestment Task Force.

The task force’s key findings showed more than half of Tennessee’s prisoners released from custody are back in jail within three years. Tennessee’s high incarceration rates are fueled by non-violent drug and property offenses which have increased the state’s custody population growth by more than 50 percent since 2009.  House Bill 784 provides by alternatives to incarceration expanding Tennessee’s successful Recovery Court System, which includes Veterans Courts, Mental Health Courts and Drug Courts for those charged with misdemeanor assaults.

The Alternatives to Incarceration bill establishes criteria for revoking community supervision status, updates the permitted amount of time that an individual can be sentenced to probation and limits the ability to revoke supervision for non-criminal violations of conditions, also known as technical violations. This bill also proposes a redesign of the Community Corrections program.

These courts have an excellent track record for individuals who require specialized and highly accountable treatment.  House Bill 784 gives judges the discretion to provide treatment for individuals who need it when the facts of their case indicate that a recovery court is the best correction option available.

The bill also puts a limit on the amount of time an individual can be sentenced to probation, with the ability for this time to be extended each year for specific case-by-case situations.  The legislation brings the cap for probation down from 10 years to a maximum of eight years, except for defendants who receive multiple convictions.

The proposal will standardize parole revocation practices for technical violations.   Approximately 40 percent of prisoners rearrested land back in prison because they violated their parole on technical violations and not for new crimes. House Bill 784 is scheduled for consideration in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee on April 13.

The Reentry Success Act of 2021 is a multi-pronged approach to help improve public safety and promote positive outcomes for those leaving incarceration. House Bill 785 establishes mandatory supervision, so all individuals exiting state custody will have a minimum of one-year supervised reentry integration.

House Bill 785 seeks better returns on public safety investments by focusing on community supervision, parole processes, and ensuring oversight for those leaving jail and prison. The bill aims to help facilitate better outcomes once someone returns to their community after incarceration.  Currently, 37 percent of the felony population are returning to their communities without oversight.

The mandatory supervision does not create parole eligibility for those who are not eligible, including those convicted to life without parole or to the death penalty.

The legislation establishes a presumption of parole release at a person’s release eligibility date or upon a subsequent parole hearing, unless good cause is shown.  Eligible inmates are those who are serving a nonviolent felony offense or a sentence for a Class E or Class D felony offense.  The inmate must have no disciplinary record, be designated low risk for community supervision and must have completed or be enrolled in recommended programing to help ensure successful reentry into society.  When the Tennessee Board of Parole declines parole, the time period for the next hearing would be set at six years, instead of 10 as provided under current law, unless an inmate is serving a sentence for multiple first-degree murder or facilitation of first-degree murder.

The bill also establishes a jail reimbursement program for local jails that house state offenders.

Other key provisions in the bill include:

  • waiving the restricted driver license fee, which research has shown is a barrier to successful reentry
  • removing the parole board’s ability to deny parole to a person who has not attempted to improve their education or vocational skills due to long wait lists for these programs
  • requiring the Tennessee Department of Correction to pay an accreditation stipend to eligible counties to encourage implementation of evidenced-based reentry programs
  • authorizing and encouraging community colleges and Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs) to partner with local governments to provide education workforce development programs for people held in local correction facilities
  • granting limited employer liability to businesses who hire a parolee convicted of a non-violent criminal offense

House Bill 785 is scheduled for consideration in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee on April 13.

 

General Assembly passes bill to curb catalytic converter thefts

The General Assembly this week unanimously passed legislation that aims to curb thefts of catalytic converters in Tennessee.  In partnership with local and state law enforcement agencies, House Bill 1155 targets those who steal catalytic converters from cars. The bill requires any entity engaged in buying these unattached parts to notify law enforcement of these purchases. This will support the creation of a registry which will help suppress criminal activity in Tennessee.  House Bill 1155 heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

 

Firearm Information Privacy Protection Act advances

Legislation that seeks to protect the anonymity of citizens related to firearm ownership is moving through the House committee system.

Similar to the protections guaranteed by the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), House Bill 1171, also known as the Firearm Information Privacy Protection Act (FIPPA), will protect Tennesseans who are exercising their right to own and purchase firearms.

This legislation will create a Class A misdemeanor for any public personnel that intentionally discloses information about an owner of a firearm, for the purpose of compiling a federal firearms registry or confiscation of firearms. The bill will create a cause of action for a gun owner to pursue civil action against an individual that releases information about gun ownership in order to facilitate any federal government effort to confiscate or register firearms.

The Firearm Information Privacy Protection Act will act as buffer between Tennessee and the federal government’s unconstitutional and invasive attempts to prohibit citizens from protecting one’s life, liberty and family. House Republicans stand committed to protecting the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding Tennesseans.

House Bill 1171 is expected to be heard for consideration on the House chamber in the coming weeks.

 

Republicans advance the Unborn Child Dignity Act

Republicans this week advanced legislation that advocates for the dignity of the unborn through proper burial or cremation. House Bill 1181 requires the same protections, respect and dignity to a deceased surgically aborted child as granted to any other deceased human being. It would be the responsibility of the mother of the aborted child or the abortion facility to provide at their expense a burial or cremation. This legislation does not limit or restrict an abortion or access to an abortion. It only attempts to guarantee an acceptable level of respect for an aborted child. A violation of this law would be a Class A misdemeanor. House Bill 1181 is expected to be heard for consideration in the House Government Operations Committee on April 12.

Textbook Transparency Act requires educational materials to be published online

House Republicans are continuing to advance legislation that increases transparency in public school educational material.

House Bill 1513 creates the Textbook Transparency Act, which makes available online textbooks that are adopted by the state of Tennessee and used by public schools. Compared to the 90-day timeframe textbooks are currently required to be available to the public, this bill requires publishers to make these materials available so long as they are actively being used in the classroom.

The Textbook Transparency Act ensures that all textbooks that are in the hands of Tennessee students are accessible to the public to view.

House Bill 1513 will be heard in the House chamber on Wednesday, April 14.

 

House of Representatives honor Dolly Parton

The House of Representatives honored beloved Tennessean and cultural icon Dolly Parton with two pieces of legislation this week.

House Bill 938 adopts “Amazing Grace” as sung by Dolly Parton as an official state song. If passed by the Senate, Parton’s rendition of the hymn will join songs like “My Homeland, Tennessee,” “Rocky Top,” and “Tennessee Waltz” on the list of Tennessee’s official state songs.

House Joint Resolution 358 recognizes Dolly Parton for her devoted and compassionate service to her fellow Tennesseans and millions around the world through her cultural contributions and philanthropy. The resolution celebrates her dedication to promoting children’s literacy and education worldwide through the Imagination Library, a program that provides new, age-appropriate books monthly to preschool children from birth to their 5th birthday. The program has gifted more than 152 million books to young readers throughout the world.

 

Tennesseans urged to register as organ donors

The House of Representatives passed a resolution this week urging Tennesseans to register as organ and tissue donors.

House Joint Resolution 103 encourages all residents of Tennessee to step forward and register to become an organ and tissue donor so that the lives of others can be saved. 110,000 Americans are currently on the organ donation waiting list, while only 41 percent of Tennesseans are registered to become donors.

For more information on how to register to become an organ and tissue donor, click here.

The Loop – April 2

April 1, 2021

The General Assembly approves constitutional carry

House Republicans this week passed historic legislation restoring Tennesseans’ constitutional right to self-defense. House Bill 786 removes encroachments on law-abiding citizens who wish to exercise their Second Amendment right to carry a handgun while increasing penalties for criminals who steal guns or possess them illegally.

Tennesseans who are at least 21-years-old, or are honorably discharged or active in the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves, will be able to carry a handgun without a permit in places where they are lawfully allowed. This legislation does not change any law concerning the purchase of a handgun.

Those who carry without a permit must have no felony convictions, orders of protection in effect, pending charges or convictions for domestic violence or stalking, or have been adjudicated as a mental defective.  In addition, individuals convicted of two DUI offenses within the last ten years or one in the last five years would not be eligible, as well as federal prohibitions which include illegal aliens and fugitives from justice.

The legislation also increases penalties for firearm-related crime to promote public safety including:

  • Increasing the penalty for theft of a firearm to a Class E felony;
  • Providing a sentencing enhancement for theft of a firearm in a car;
  • Increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 days to 180 days; and
  • Increasing the sentences for unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or allowing a juvenile to possess a handgun.

House Bill 786 is similar to laws passed in 19 states, while 31 states recognize the right to carry openly.  The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for final approval. House Bill 786 is expected to become law on July 1.

 

Republicans protect rape victims

Republicans passed legislation protecting victims of aggravated statutory rape and statutory rape by an authority figure in the House on Thursday.

House Bill 326 adds aggravated statutory rape and statutory rape by an authority figure to the list of offenses for which an offender will be prohibited from having custody or inheritance rights with regard to a child born as a result of the offense and for which any visitation will be conditioned on the other parent’s request.

Present law removes parental rights from a rapist who is convicted of a crime. This legislation removes parental rights from a rapist who is convicted of or pleads guilty or no contest to a lesser offense.

House Bill 326 protects a child from a questionable outcome in a civil custody battle by giving power to the victim of a rape and child of a rape to decide if and when a child will be around the father. House Bill 326 heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.

General Assembly makes sex trafficking a predatory offense

The House chamber this week unanimously passed legislation expanding the definition of predatory offenses to include commercial sex trafficking.

House Bill 1180 adds the offense of trafficking a person for a commercial sex act to the meaning of predatory offenses for the purposes of sentencing a person as a child sexual predator.

Current law requires a convicted child sexual predator, aggravated rapist, multiple rapist, or child rapist to serve the entire sentence imposed by the court. Neither the governor nor the board of parole may release such an offender in an effort to reduce prison overcrowding before completion of the full sentence

House Bill 1180 adds those convicted of sex trafficking to the category of sex predators who are ineligible for early parole or release before completion of their full sentence.

House Bill 1180 was previously passed in the Senate chamber and it now heads to the governor’s desk for approval.

 

STRONG Act expands opportunities for Tennessee Guardsmen

The House chamber this week unanimously approved legislation that will expand eligibility for tuition reimbursement for Tennessee National Guardsmen under Tennessee’s Support, Training, and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen (STRONG) Act.  The STRONG Act provides eligible service members in the Tennessee National Guard with tuition reimbursement for coursework completed as a full-time student in pursuit of their bachelor’s degree.

Republican leaders are sponsoring House Bill 83 which expands eligibility to service members for a master’s degree and certificate-producing programs. It provides tuition reimbursement for up to 120 hours for a bachelor’s degree, 40 hours for a master’s degree and 24 hours for a vocational or technical program.  The legislation also provides reimbursement for up to 30 additional hours for any service member enrolled in ROTC or other officer-producing programs while pursuing a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.  Students enrolled in officer-producing programs are required to take certain courses which can be outside the requirements of their chosen degree. This could lead to ROTC students hitting the credit hour cap before obtaining their degree and losing their eligibility for additional reimbursement.  Finally, the bill extends the program for four more years until June 30, 2025.

The STRONG Act has boosted recruitment of service members in the National Guard since its enactment in 2017.  This legislation aims to retain and renew more service members by offering additional education benefits.  The Senate version of the bill is expected to be considered for passage in the coming weeks.

 

Legislation addressing teacher shortage passes in the House

Legislation that addresses Tennessee’s teacher shortage passed the House on Monday. House Bill 533 simplifies the process for teachers who are moving to Tennessee to receive an appropriate teaching license, helping qualified teachers get into classrooms quicker.

The bill allows out-of-state educators who possess the equivalent of a Tennessee professional teacher’s license in their current state to receive a Tennessee professional-level license without being required to take an assessment or receive certain evaluation scores.  The Tennessee State Board of Education will have the authority to promulgate rules regarding the reciprocal licenses.

House Bill 533 now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.

 

Republicans give patients more control over their prescriptions

Legislation to make certain reforms to how Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) operate in Tennessee is advancing through House committees. House Bill 1398 ensures patients can use the pharmacies they choose and trust rather than being forced by their insurance companies to use specialty pharmacies that often don’t meet patients’ needs. This is particularly important for patients with chronic, complex or rare diseases.

PBMs are companies that manage prescription drug benefits on behalf of health insurers, Medicare Part D drug plans, large employers and others. They are owned by insurance companies and often own pharmacies as well. As a big industry in the U.S., the top three PBMs in America service 230 million patients. House Bill 1398 puts patients first by giving them greater access, choice and transparency. The bill would ensure price reductions negotiated by the PBMs pass through the pharmacy directly to the consumer and that pharmacies are not paid below their acquisition cost.

In addition, the bill seeks to prohibit PBMs from discriminating against 340B facilities, which are health care safety net providers that serve the state’s most vulnerable populations. Currently, PBMs can amend a 340B entity’s contract and reimburse at a lower rate than negotiated, essentially withholding money from indigent care facilities. This can be detrimental to these entities which are working hard to stay open and provide care to those who need it most.

Finally, the bill improves transparency for patients by stating that a PBM has a responsibility to report any entitlement benefit percentage to both the plan and covered person. It will also remove opaqueness within the PBM system by freeing up data to provide accurate information to patients at the point of care, empowering discussions and decisions about medicine a patient can afford and what it is going to cost.

The bill now moves to the Insurance Committee for consideration on April 6.

 

Houses passes legislation to curb cell phones usage in prisons

The House chamber unanimously passed legislation addressing ongoing security and public safety concerns in Tennessee prisons. Dangerous inmates are getting access to cell phones and using them to direct criminal activity despite the fact that they are confined within penitentiary facilities.  They have been used in the planning of escapes, drug dealing, money extortions, witness/victim intimidation, and violent crimes such as murder.

House Bill 1343 aims to curb the practice by making the possession of a telecommunications device in a penal institution a Class E felony, punishable by a fine of up to $3,000 on second offense.

Current law makes it a felony offense to introduce a telecommunications device into a prison, but possession by an inmate is not a crime.  This has hampered the ability of prison officials to place cell phones found in possession of an inmate in the stolen phone database or to get a subpoena to uncover evidence of criminal activity recorded on the device.  It also prevents them from prohibiting future access to the phone number because possession by the inmate is not a crime under current Tennessee law.  House Bill 1343 helps law enforcement get over that hurdle by making it a felony offense.

 

Business Fairness Act protects businesses in state of emergency

Legislation that seeks to protect small businesses during a state of emergency passed unanimously in the House Chamber on Monday.

The Covid-19 pandemic presented many challenges for small businesses across the state. Those that were not deemed essential suffered while their bigger competitors were allowed to remain open, ultimately giving government the authority to pick winners and losers in business.

House Bill 855, also known as the “Business Fairness Act,” provides businesses with the assurance that they cannot be forced to close while larger competitors stay open, and also gives businesses the choice to follow any set of guidelines, state or local, that allows them to operate at the capacity that works best for the business to protect their customers and employees. House Bill 855 now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

 

Legislation targets thefts of catalytic converters

Legislation that aims to decrease thefts of catalytic converters in Tennessee will be up for consideration in the House chamber on April 8.  In partnership with local and state law enforcement agencies, House Bill 1155 targets those who steal catalytic converters from cars. The bill requires any entity engaged in buying these unattached parts to notify law enforcement of these purchases. This will support the creation of a registry which will help suppress criminal activity in Tennessee.

The Loop – March 26

March 26, 2021

Legislation strengthens state’s TANF program to assist families in achieving self-sufficiency and build a thriving Tennessee

House Bill 142, legislation strengthening and improving the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, advanced through the Government Operations Committee on Monday.

The bill was recommended by a group appointed to study possible changes to the program, which currently has $710 million in reserves. The funds, which come from a federal block grant, provide important support to struggling families such as child care assistance, temporary cash assistance, transportation, job training, employment activities and other support services offered through the state’s Families First Program.

This legislation creates a two-year pilot program which provides enhanced cash assistance to individuals who are actively pursuing educational opportunities. The bill also increases the TANF allotment and distributes $180 million through a new Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Program, which will create large-scale programs benefiting TANF recipients.

House Bill 142 will create the Families First Community Grants to infuse $50 million in TANF reserves funds into the community through grants to organizations providing services to low-income families. It includes the Two-Generation program, which focuses on intergenerational poverty through a “whole family” approach by combining parent and child interventions to break the cycle of poverty and create a pathway to economic security. The TANF Advisory Board would be created to approve grantees and provide important input regarding the effectiveness of existing Families First and Two-Generation Program policies and grant programs.

In addition, the bill provides that $191 million will be reserved to ensure the program’s stability during an economic downturn.  However, once those reserves are in place, it provides that funding not spent from the department’s previous year will be used for community grants that will be spread statewide to build stronger families and a thriving Tennessee. ​

 

House unanimously votes to protect first responders

The General Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved legislation ensuring someone who murders a first responder with targeted intent for the job they do will be charged and punished as a terrorist for their crime. House Bill 511 adds new language under the current definition of terrorism that creates new protections for law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters, correctional officers, department of corrections employees, and other emergency medical rescue workers.  If convicted, the perpetrator would receive life without parole or the death penalty.

Once signed into law, House Bill 511 would among the nation’s strongest legislation protecting first responders.

 

Business Fairness Act protects businesses in state of emergency

Legislation that seeks to protect small business during a state of emergency passed the Commerce Committee this week. The Covid-19 pandemic presented many challenges for small businesses across the state. Those that were not deemed essential suffered while their bigger competitors were allowed to remain open, ultimately giving government the authority to pick winners and losers in business.

House Bill 855, also known as the “Business Fairness Act,” provides businesses with the assurance that they cannot be forced to close while larger competitors stay open, and also gives businesses the choice to follow any set of guidelines, state or local, that allows them to operate at the capacity that works best for the business to protect their customers and employees.

House Bill 855 will be heard for consideration on the House floor on Monday, March 29.

 

General Assembly bans human traffickers from getting commercial driver’s licenses

Both House and Senate chambers on Monday gave unanimous approval to legislation further strengthening Tennessee’s human trafficking laws. House Bill 116 bars anyone convicted of human trafficking from getting a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Tennessee for life. The bill mirrors the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act of 2018 signed by President Donald Trump but is stronger because it does not only apply to perpetrators who commit human trafficking crimes while using a commercial vehicle.

House Bill 116 strongly supports a national effort to eradicate the appalling and heinous crime of human and sex trafficking by imposing tough penalties on those who exploit others.  More than 11,500 reports of human trafficking cases were reported in 2019, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Unreported cases are believed to be significantly higher.  House Bill 116 heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

 

Evelyn Boswell’s Law approved by the General Assembly

House Bill 384, known as “Evelyn Boswell’s Law” passed unanimously in in both chambers of the General Assembly this week.

The legislation honors a missing Sullivan County toddler reported missing in February 2020. The law will require a parent or guardian who believes a child 12 years of age or younger is missing to report it to a law enforcement agency or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation within 24 hours. Failure to report or delaying a report would result in a Class A misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Evelynn Boswell was 15-months-old when she was last seen in December 2019. She wasn’t reported missing until February 2020. Her remains were found weeks later on a family member’s property.

The child’s mother, Megan Boswell, never reported her daughter missing. She currently faces 19 felony charges, including felony murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect.

Once signed by the governor, Evelyn Boswell’s Law will go into effect July 1.

 

General Assembly protects women’s sports

Both chambers of the General Assembly gave final approval to legislation protecting the competitive balance of women’s sports this week.

House Bill 3 ensures female athletes are not discriminated against by clarifying that participation in public middle and high school interscholastic sports must correspond with a student’s biological gender at birth. Women’s sports were created to give girls a fair chance at competition. That includes fair victories and fair defeats.

Local school districts have a legitimate interest and obligation to ensure they are not creating opportunities for undue injury to children who participate in interscholastic activities and sports. The bill ensures boys are not able to displace girls in competitive events which could deny female athletes’ victories, opportunities or scholarships.

 

Republicans enhance protections for aging and vulnerable citizens

An important piece of legislation advancing through the House is the “Safe Seniors Act of 2021,” House Bill 718.  This bill
enhances protections for Tennessee’s aging and vulnerable citizens.

House Bill 718 places elder abuse alongside child abuse as a crime that requires a magistrate to make specific findings before setting bail for suspects arrested on suspicion of abusing older citizens. It also makes it easier for prosecutors to take depositions to preserve testimony of aging and vulnerable people.  The legislation modifies current law to recognize that many older and vulnerable people are unable to sufficiently communicate to testify that a specific act was painful.  The bill makes accommodations to satisfy the definition of ‘physical harm’ to include acts that would cause a reasonable person pain.

House Bill 718 allows the vulnerability of a victim of abuse a factor that can be considered in cases of rape and aggravated rape. It also allows multiple counts of sexual abuse to be a factor that judges can weigh when deciding whether to impose consecutive sentencing.  The Safe Seniors Act of 2021 will assist law enforcement and prosecutors by taking dangerous individuals who abuse aging and vulnerable citizens off the streets. Judges will have the ability to ensure sentences for these terrible acts reflect the severity of the crimes.

House Bill 718 is scheduled for consideration in the Rules and Calendar Committee on April 1.

 

Legislation gives Tennessee’s governor authority to require all schools to offer in-person learning

The General Assembly on Thursday gave final approval for legislation giving Tennessee’s governor the authority to issue an executive order requiring all schools across the state to offer in-person learning.

House Bill 225 gives the governor this authority in the instance of an emergency, which is defined as an “occurrence or threat, whether natural, technological, or manmade, that results or may result in substantial injury or harm to the population, including disease outbreaks and epidemics, or substantial damage to or loss of property.”

In addition to giving the governor the ability to issue the statewide order, the bill also grants school boards more independence regarding whether their schools should be open or closed to in-person learning during a public emergency. School boards can delegate the authority to the director of schools under an amendment added to the legislation.

House Bill 225 heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.

 

The General Assembly celebrates agriculture in Tennessee

The General Assembly celebrated “Ag Day” on Tuesday, recognizing the critical role that farmers and foresters play in providing a dependable food supply and premium lumber products.  Ag Day events were held statewide to help cultivate the next generation of farmers and foresters, with universities and K-12 schools promoting the vast opportunities ag-related careers offer students.  Due to the pandemic, the annual event was celebrated virtually this year.  The National Ag Day theme is Food Brings Everyone to the Table. Whether families get their food from the farm, farmers market or grocery store, meals are the perfect time to reflect on where quality food comes from and how purchases support local communities.

The Loop – March 19

March 19, 2021

House Republicans propose to protect consumer privacy

Republican leaders this week announced a proposal that protects Tennesseans’ right to privacy and returns control of personal information back to consumers.

The Tennessee Information Protection Act requires large technology companies to fully disclose to consumers what information is being collected about them through their online activities.

When consumers interact on websites, social media, or apps they leave behind personal information that is sold for profit to groups that use it to market their products, ideas or beliefs with targeted ads without our knowledge.

The legislation requires online platforms to disclose up-front exactly what personal information will be collected and how they intend to use it. Tennesseans will have the ability to “opt-out” of the selling of their personal information to third parties without discrimination.

The proposal includes protections for biometric data that measures physical characteristics like voice recordings, fingerprints, retinal scans or face recognition.

Companies will be held accountable when they misuse a consumer’s information.  The bill gives the state attorney general authority to impose civil penalties when big tech companies fail to safeguard private data or violate consumer protections.

The proposal applies to companies with a global gross annual revenue of more than $25 million. It includes companies that buy, receive or sell information of more than 50,000 customers, households, devices or anyone that collects more than 50 percent of their global annual revenue from selling customers’ personal information.

 

General Assembly passes bill creating lifetime orders of protection for victims of violent crimes

Legislation creating lifetime orders of protection for victims of violent crimes passed both chambers unanimously and now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature. House Bill 434 creates a lifetime order of protection to strictly prohibit communication between an offender and their victim.

Republican Leaders partnered with Nikki Goeser, a victim of stalking, to create this legislation. She was present in the House chamber for the unanimous vote on Monday.  Goeser’s stalker shot and killed her husband, Ben, in front of her in a crowded restaurant in 2009. Her stalker has been behind bars serving time for second-degree murder, but has continued to try to contact Goeser, sending her letters from prison.

Offenders that violate the order could receive up to a Class A misdemeanor, ensuring that these penalties will tack significant time onto ongoing sentences. The legislation is retroactive, so persons who have previously been victimized can receive lifelong orders of protection. This bill also permits service of ex parte orders of protection for up to one year from issuance.

 

Republican leaders continue to advance Constitutional Carry

Constitutional Carry legislation is continuing to move through the House, passing the Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee on Wednesday.

House Bill 786 allows Tennesseans to exercise their constitutional right to defend themselves and their families while cracking down on criminals who steal guns or possess them illegally. The bill also includes sentencing enhancements and increases minimum sentences for gun-related crimes, and increases sentences on felons illegally carrying firearms or unlawfully providing a minor with a firearm.

House Bill 786 now moves to the full Finance, Ways, and Means Committee for consideration on Tuesday, March 23.

 

House Bill 141 creates more opportunities for animation and film in Tennessee

Both chambers of the General Assembly this week passed legislation that will allow more incentives for qualified animation or film productions to do business in Tennessee. This legislation creates an additional resource to attract multimedia productions and projects that are in the best interest of the state. Specifically, this bill creates a point of purchase sales and use tax exemption on the purchase of tangible personal property and taxable services used in qualified productions, and a franchise and excise tax credit based on labor and talent spend. It will add more opportunities for high-profile productions to be made in Tennessee and will help to create and retain future jobs for students earning degrees in film and animation in Tennessee.

The bill will further help and create future jobs for students earning degrees in film and animation in Tennessee.  The Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission has incentivized 68 productions, recruiting 7,300 new full-time jobs totaling $655 million in economic output in the Volunteer State since 2007.   House Bill 141 now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature. Go here for more about House Bill 141.

 

Defense Doctrine allows sexual assault victims to use deadly force

Legislation authorizing the use of deadly force for sexual assault victims was approved unanimously in the House chamber this week.

House Bill 50, known as the 2021 Defense Doctrine, allows victims that have a reasonable belief they are imminent danger of serious sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape to utilize deadly force as a method of self-defense to avoid serious bodily injury and escape dangerous threats to their personal safety.

Recent data from the Tennessee Department of Health reveals that sexual violence is a major public health crisis resulting in long-term societal and economic costs. Approximately 6,177 people were assaulted in Tennessee in 2017, according to the department. House Bill 50 now awaits final passage from the Senate Chamber.

 

2021 Precious Cargo Act passes both chambers

The 2021 Precious Cargo Act passed unanimously in the House on Monday. House Bill 40 updates the Tennessee Vehicle Title and Registration System (VTRS) to account for individuals who may need assistance expressing themselves or exiting the vehicle when approached by law enforcement or first responders. This registration will assist officers and responders when interacting with persons with physical, verbal, or cognitive impairments. The bill passed in the Senate chamber earlier this month and now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

 

The SAFE Act passes in the House

The House this week unanimously approved legislation designed to improve the quality of care for Tennesseans battling addiction.

House Bill 215 continues ongoing efforts by House Republicans to fight Tennessee’s opioid and drug crisis by creating additional safeguards for patients of sober-living homes.

The bill expands on the Stopping Addiction & Fostering Excellence (SAFE) Act of 2018 by promoting best practices and making sure patients who utilize recovery homes receive the highest quality of care to succeed in their sobriety.

House Bill 215 encourages sober-living homes to be nationally accredited to ensure the home’s management abides by a strict code of ethics and provides a safe and healthy living environment for patients in recovery. Recovery facilities not adhering to national accreditation standards would risk losing licensure and could face penalties.  This legislation balances creating the best possible environment for recovery while making sure our communities are safe from the dangers of poorly managed facilities with no accountability.   The Senate companion bill will be considered in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on March 24.

 

STRONG Act increases opportunities for Tennessee Guardsmen

House Republican leaders continued to advance important legislation this week including a proposal to expand eligibility for tuition reimbursement for Tennessee National Guardsmen under the state’s Support, Training, and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen (STRONG) Act.  The STRONG Act provides eligible service members in the Tennessee National Guard with tuition reimbursement for coursework completed as a full-time student in pursuit of their bachelor’s degree.

Republican leaders are sponsoring House Bill 83 which expands eligibility to service members for a master’s degree and certificate-producing programs. It provides tuition reimbursement for up to 120 hours for a bachelor’s degree, 40 hours for a master’s degree and 24 hours for a vocational or technical program.  The legislation also provides reimbursement for up to 30 additional hours for any service member enrolled in ROTC or other officer-producing programs while pursuing a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.  Students enrolled in officer-producing programs are required to take certain courses which can be outside the requirements of their chosen degree. This could lead to ROTC students hitting the credit hour cap before obtaining their degree and losing their eligibility for additional reimbursement.  Finally, the bill extends the program for four more years until June 30, 2025.

The STRONG Act has boosted recruitment of service members in the National Guard since its enactment in 2017.  This legislation aims to retain and renew more service members by offering additional education benefits. House Bill 83 will be considered by the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee on March 23.

 

Republicans advance Right to Work resolution in the House

House Joint Resolution 72, the “Right to Work” resolution, passed the House Commerce Committee this week. The resolution will add the state’s Right to Work law to the Tennessee Constitution.

Tennessee’s Right to Work statute has been state law since 1947. It protects all workers from discrimination based on their membership in or affiliation with any labor union or employee organization, giving workers the right to choose not to join a union.

The resolution overwhelmingly passed in the 111th General Assembly, which is the first step in enshrining the law to the state’s constitution. The measure is also required to be passed in the 112th General Assembly before it can be sent to voters on the ballot.

Twenty-seven other states have Right to Work laws, and nine of those have passed constitutional amendments. As neighboring states and the Biden administration are considering repealing Right to Work statutes, a constitutional amendment would offer greater protection for Tennessee workers against such repeal efforts.

HJR 72 is set to be heard in the Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee on Wednesday, March 24.

 

David Crockett to be honored with statue on Capitol grounds

Legislation honoring Tennessee legend David Crockett with a statue on the Capitol grounds passed the House on Monday.

The General Assembly created the David Crockett Commission in 2012, tasking them with the responsibility of finding a home for a statue of David Crockett on the grounds of the Capitol. House Bill 220 designates the desired location for the statue, requiring it to be placed on a pedestal above the entrance to the Motlow Tunnel on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

The Tennessee native is revered across America as a folk hero. Crockett served in the Tennessee House of Representatives, where he represented Lawrence, Hickman and Carroll Counties, and served in Congress as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is known for his service to the state in the Tennessee militia during the War of 1812 and the Battle of the Alamo.  House Bill 220 now awaits consideration in the Senate.

The Loop – March 12

March 12, 2021

Republicans introduce bills protecting first responders

Republican leaders this week advanced legislation aimed at further protecting first responders through the Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday. House Bill 511 was amended to add new language under the current definition of terrorism that creates new protections for law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters, correctional officers, department of corrections employees, and other emergency medical rescue workers.  The bill raises the offense of murdering an on-duty first responder for their profession to an act of terrorism. If convicted, the perpetrator would receive life without parole or the death penalty.  Once signed into law, House Bill 511 would be among the nation’s strongest legislation protecting first responders. House Bill 511 now heads to the Calendar and Rules Committee.

The First Responder Safety Act, House Bill 585, aims to protect first responders by enhancing penalties against those who harass, threaten, or intimidate first responders.  Currently, those who take negative action against a first responder can be charged with either harassment or with terrorism.  The bill would enhance the harassment charge since negative action against a first responder impacts the ability to recruit and retain first responders. House Bill 585 will be considered in the Criminal Justice Committee on March 17.

 

Legislation benefits Tennessee’s Volunteer Firefighters

Volunteer Firefighters would benefit by several proposals under consideration in the General Assembly this year.  House Bill 612 proposes to incentivize volunteer firefighter recruitment by establishing a retirement system called a Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP).  The legislation authorizes the State Treasurer to inquire with local governments and the volunteer fire departments about establishing a LOSAP plan for volunteers providing firefighting and prevention services, emergency medical services, and ambulance services.

The majority of Tennessee’s firefighters are volunteers.  The State Fire Marshal’s Office reported 22,065 active firefighters in Tennessee in 2020. Of that, 14,218 (64 percent) are volunteers and 7,847 (35.6 percent) are career firefighters.

LOSAPs may be defined contribution plans, similar to 401k, or defined benefit plans, like a pension.  Such a program is funded by contributions from the local government or nonprofit entities that utilize the services of eligible volunteers. To be eligible to receive benefits from the LOSAP, an individual must be a bona fide volunteer who receives no compensation for the services and instead receives only reimbursement for reasonable expenses or benefits and nominal fees customarily paid to them.  House Bill 612  is scheduled for consideration in the Local Government Committee on March 16.

 

Constitutional Carry advances to Finance, Ways & Means

House Republicans continued to advance House Bill 786, also known as the Constitutional Carry bill, through committees this week and on to Finance Ways and Means Subcommittee for consideration on March 17.

House Bill 786 ensures honest, law-abiding citizens who are legally eligible may utilize their Second-Amendment right to self-defense without asking for government permission. Alongside of that, the bill strengthens penalties for anyone who steals a firearm, felons in possession of a firearm, and dangerous stalkers. House Bill 786 makes Tennessee communities safer and corrects current law that leaves law-abiding citizens defenseless in violation of their constitutional rights.

Currently, concealed carry permit holders have the right to carry a handgun, except in restricted areas. House Bill 786 would extend the same constitutional right to carry a handgun without a permit to all law-abiding citizens 21 and older or 18 and older for active members of the military.

 

Legislation creates statewide Silver Alert program

Legislation creating a statewide Silver Alert program passed the Criminal Justice Subcommittee meeting this week. House Bill 119 requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to implement the Silver Alert program to assist in the locating of missing and vulnerable citizens.

The Silver Alert program will benefit persons who are 60 years of age or older, suffer from a documented case of dementia, or are 18 years of age or older with an intellectual, developmental, or physical disability whose whereabouts are unknown or are believed to be in danger or unable to return to safety without assistance.

Currently in Tennessee, local police or sheriff departments are the gatekeepers for Silver Alert, left to make a judgement on when or if a Silver Alert is warranted. House Bill 119 moves this responsibility to the TBI, who will then be required to alert law enforcement agencies and designated media outlets across the state upon receiving notice of a missing citizen fitting the description above.

The bill moves on to the Criminal Justice Committee, where it will be heard for consideration on Wednesday, March 17.

 

Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act advances through House committees

House Bill 1233, the “Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act” will be considered by the House Education Administration Committee on March 17.  The bill guarantees reasonable accommodations for all children in Tennessee’s public schools while also protecting every child’s right to privacy.  It removes the uncertainty about making accommodations for all children from our teachers, administrators, parents and students. The goal of House Bill 1233 is to be inclusive and respectful of all children in our public schools.

 

House Republicans scale back health board autonomy

House Republicans passed House Bill 7 on the House floor this week, legislation that scales back the power of Tennessee’s independent metropolitan health boards to advisory boards. These independent health boards currently exist in 6 counties: Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby, and Sullivan Counties. The Covid-19 pandemic revealed the boards’ unchecked power to adopt rules and regulations as unelected bureaucrats in these counties. This legislation restores proper balance of government in a county by removing an unelected health board’s ability to overrule an elected county executive on final decisions pertaining to health matters. House Bill 7 awaits consideration in the Senate.

 

Teacher Discipline Act passes General Assembly

A bill giving Tennessee teachers more control in the classroom successfully passed in both chambers of the General Assembly this week.   House Bill 16, also known as the “Teacher Discipline Act,” establishes a process for local school districts to enable teachers to remove a student who causes repeated disruptions.

Once the disruptive student is disciplined, principals could use their discretion to send them back into the classroom or permanently remove the child. The bill allows teachers to file an appeal with a schools’ director or local superintendent if they disagree with that decision.  The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

 

 

 

 

Weaver introduces resolution affirming Tennessee’s sovereignty

January 30, 2020

State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, this week introduced a joint resolution reaffirming Tennessee’s Constitutional status as a sovereign state and the General Assembly’s authority as a separate and independent branch of state government.

Weaver’s resolution comes on the heels of the governor’s announcement in December declaring he would allow refugees to resettle in Tennessee. That decision follows an executive order by President Donald Trump to allow states and local governments to opt-in on whether they would resettle refugees.

When Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, they authorized a 100 percent reimbursement to states for the cost of providing Medicaid for three full years.

However, shortly after the law passed Congress began decreasing its own appropriations for refugee assistance.  Even though the number of refugees being resettled was not decreasing the authorized reimbursement to states was eliminated in 1991.  The involuntary shifting of federal costs to the states has caused an institutional injury to the general assembly with regard to its constitutional duty to appropriate public money.

House Joint Resolution 741 reaffirms the constitutional duty and exclusive authority and power of the Tennessee General Assembly to appropriate taxpayer dollars and balance the state budget.

“Our constitution does not allow the federal government to force the Tennessee General Assembly to implement federal programs,” Weaver said. “This is an involuntary transfer of federal costs that creates a coerced expenditure of state dollars without approval of the General Assembly.”

Tennessee in 2017 became one of the first states in the nation to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement citing a violation of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which reserves states’ rights.

“Our Founding Fathers understood the danger of allowing the federal government to amass broad powers. This joint resolution simply reaffirms our state’s rights guaranteed in our Constitution,” Weaver concluded.

For more information about HJR 741, please click here

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver Encourages Residents To Utilize Annual Sales Tax Holiday

July 24, 2018

(NASHVILLE) — With the beginning of a new school year right around the corner, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) is encouraging the families who live in House District 40 to utilize the state’s annual sales tax holiday to save on items such as clothing, school and art supplies, as well as computer purchases.

The state’s annual Tax Free Weekend is set for July 27-July 29. It begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 27 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, July 29. This holiday was established by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2006 and has been held every year since; tax-free purchases include clothing valued at $100 or less, school or art supplies costing $100 or less, and computers priced at $1,500 or less.

“Our annual sales tax holiday is another way we are helping the citizens of our community  meet their family’s growing needs while also saving Tennesseans more of their hard-earned money,” said Representative Weaver. “This event also supports our local businesses and sparks the economy right here in District 40.”

Since 2011, House Republicans have cut more than $800 million in taxes in an effort to put more money back into the pockets of hardworking citizens. These include completely phasing out the inheritance tax, eliminating the gift tax, raising the exemption level on the Hall tax and scheduling its complete phase out over the next 2.5 years, reducing the sales tax on groceries by almost 30 percent, reducing taxes on Tennessee’s manufacturers in order to recruit new industry to our state, and lowering the amount of property tax owed by veterans, the disabled, and the elderly.

“The cost of school supplies can truly restrict a family’s budget,” Representative Weaver continued. “It is my hope that this opportunity will give our families a little more financial flexibility moving forward.”

For more information about the state’s annual Tax Free Weekend, please visit: https://www.tn.gov/revenue/taxes/sales-and-use-tax/sales-tax-holiday.html

Terri Lynn Weaver serves as Chairwoman of the House Transportation Subcommittee. She is also a member of the House Transportation Committee, as well as the House Education Administration & Planning Committee. Weaver lives in Lancaster and represents House District 40, which includes Smith, Trousdale and parts of DeKalb and Sumner Counties. She can be reached by email at: Rep.Terri.Lynn.Weaver@capitol.tn.gov or by calling (615) 741-2192.

Sumner County Delegation Applauds Passage Of Bill Moving State Away From Mandatory Vehicle Emissions Testing

April 25, 2018

HB 1782 receives broad support in House

(NASHVILLE) – Members of the Sumner County Legislative Delegation, including State Representative William Lamberth (R-Cottontown), State Representative Courtney Rogers (R-Goodlettsville), and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) enabling counties to take all necessary steps to end mandatory vehicle emissions testing in Tennessee has passed in the House chamber.

House Bill 1782 — approved by a 96-0 vote tally by House members this week — would apply to citizens of Sumner County where vehicle emissions testing is still required prior to vehicle registration or renewal.

The 1990 Federal Clean Air Act required the state to develop more restrictive regulations to control air pollution from mobile sources in counties which were not meeting the Federal Standards for air quality.

Currently, testing is done on vehicles with a model year of 1975 and newer if they are powered by a gasoline or diesel engine and weigh up to 10,500 lbs.  Over 1.5 million vehicles went through emissions testing in Tennessee last year in the six counties where it is required.

The idea for House Bill 1782 came following a report from the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) released last August revealing that all 95 Tennessee counties met federal air quality health standards; after this report was issued, it became clear to the Sumner County Legislative Delegation that mandatory testing was no longer needed.

“Vehicle emissions testing is a costly process that places unnecessary burdens on our working families,” said Representative Lamberth. “It is an honor to support legislation that will enable them to save more of their hard-earned money while also preserving total air quality.”

“There is absolutely no reason for us to have to choose between clean air and this outdated form of testing,” said Representative Rogers. “House Bill 1782 moves Tennessee away from mandatory vehicle emissions testing; this will have a life-changing impact on our working families.”

“Vehicle owners in Sumner County should not be punished as air quality standards have been met,” said Representative Weaver.  “Emission testing is not only time-consuming, but it has costs attached; these costs are especially hard for our working families. House Bill 1782 makes managing their finances a little easier.”

For more information about House Bill 1782, click here.

State Rep. Weaver’s Capitol Hill Review: 2/22/18

February 23, 2018