Tennessee General Assembly Passes Bill Effectively Blocking Nashville Metro Council’s Construction Regulation Efforts

State Senator Jeff Yarbro and Jack Johnson.

An amended bill would effectively block Metro Nashville City Council’s ongoing efforts to impose stricter regulations on the construction industry. The legislation limited local government from enforcing oversight measures like obtaining employee data, enforcing safety and health standards beyond federal and state requirements, gaining entry to worksites, and obtaining the information of suppliers for labor or materials.

The Senate last passed an amended version of the bill, 27 to 6. The amendments widened the bill’s scope to include remote in addition to prime contractors, and to include bids, proposals, and agreements within what governments couldn’t enforce as oversight tactics.

Read More

Bill to Exempt Houses of Worship from Emergency Closures Delayed

Final voting on a bill addressing government control over worship services during public emergencies, already heavily altered, will be delayed by one week for further potential changes. The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Rusty Grills (R-Newbern), indicated Monday that he would review the bill further to consider the concerns of Democratic State Representatives London Lamar (D-Memphis) and Harold Love, Jr. (D-Nashville). Lamar and Love raised concerns that governments couldn’t do enough to curb church activity during pandemics under the bill; Lamar argued that religious institutions would be fine if they were ordered to meet virtually.

The adopted amendment has already altered the bill entirely. The original provisions prohibited closures and limitations of churches or religious organizations, including their religious services or activities. In the amended version, the bill would only prohibit state and local governments and agencies from closing churches or religious organizations. It wouldn’t protect houses of worship from any governmental restrictions or limitations.

Read More

Constitutional Carry Bill Passes in House, Now Heads to Governor’s Desk

The Tennessee House passed the bill allowing permitless open or concealed carry, dubbed the “constitutional carry bill.” It will head to Governor Bill Lee’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed.

Under the bill, anyone 21 and older could lawfully carry without a permit, for both open and concealed carry. These provisions would only apply to handguns. A slew of House amendments proposed to the bill were withdrawn.

Read More

Bill Proposes Sweeping Reforms on Incarceration Alternatives and Probation Stipulations

The General Assembly is considering sweeping criminal justice reforms, namely concerning incarceration alternatives and probation. The proposed legislative changes, filed on the same day by State Representative William Lamberth (R-Portland) and State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), are lengthy. 

In part, the bill would expand those who qualify for community-based incarceration alternatives addressing substance abuse or mental health rehabilitation. It would also provide new avenues for individuals who break probation to have their probation reinstated (2 years at most), receive incarceration alternatives, or be shielded from extensive sentencing. It also caps probation sentencing to 8 years for felony offenses.

Read More

House Passes Bill Mandating Death or Life Imprisonment Without Parole for First Degree Murder of Law Enforcement, First Responders

The Tennessee House passed a bill mandating death or life imprisonment without parole for the first degree murder of law enforcement and first responders. The bill would elevate the intentional targeting and murdering of first responders to an act of terrorism. It passed without opposition, 88 to 0. 

Two amendments moved to strengthen the language of the bill. One amendment noted that defendants who receive life sentence can’t be eligible for parole consideration until they’ve served 51 years. The other amendment added to the definitions of terrorism to offer further protections to law enforcement and first responders. Both amendments were adopted.

Read More

Evelyn Boswell’s Law on Its Way to Passage by General Assembly

Parents must report children in their charge missing within 24 hours, according to legislation being considered by the General Assembly. The newly-proposed bill, “Evelyn Boswell’s Law,” was compelled by the local murder case of Evelyn Boswell. The 15-month-old girl was never reported missing by her mother.

The case gained national attention in mid-February last year, days after Boswell’s grandfather first reported her missing, which led to a massive search for Boswell. The last confirmed sighting of Boswell had been in December, nearly two months earlier. In early March, just weeks after reporting her missing, Boswell’s grandfather discovered her remains on a family property in Blountville, Tennessee.

Read More

Tennessee House to Vote on Bills Giving Death Sentence for Murder or Life Without Parole for Attempted Murder Against Law Enforcement, First Responders

Those who murder or attempt to murder law enforcement or first responders may be sentenced to death or life without parole, respectively. The Tennessee House will vote on two bills outlining these proposed sentencing changes next Thursday. Specifically, these bills would apply to police, correctional officers, department of correction employees, probation and parole officers, emergency medical or rescue workers, EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters.

HB0511 handles murder charges, whereas HB0512 handles attempted murder charges. The former bill would give the jury two options for those who murder law enforcement or first responders: death, or life without parole. The latter bill would add onto the current sentencing options for attempted murder to allow life without parole as a punishment. It would also prohibit relief eligibility for those who received life without parole for aggravated rape, murder, or attempted murder of a child. Current law only limits relief eligibility for aggravated raped or murder of a child – this proposal would expand that to attempted murder.

Read More

Tennessee House Postpones Decision on Transgender Sports Bill – Sponsor Awaiting Supporters to Return for Vote

State Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) requested Thursday that the final vote on the bill be delayed to next Monday’s calendar. Cepicky cited that numerous representatives wanted to vote on the bill but couldn’t on Thursday. This bill would require youths to participate in sports according to their biological sex at birth.

The general assembly has moved along steadily on this legislation: the Senate passed the bill on the first of this month easily along party lines. The only members to vote against the bill were Democratic State Senators Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville), Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville), Sara Kyle (D-Memphis), Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis), and Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville).

Read More

Tennessee House Moves on Gender Transition Bill: Prepubescent Minors Prohibited, Postpubescent Minors Granted with Three Physician Recommendations

Tennessee legislators are moving to ban prepubescent gender transitions, and limit postpubescent minors’ eligibility for gender transitions. The Tennessee House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted to recommend the bill for passage on Wednesday. State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) introduced the bill.

In addition to prohibiting all gender transitions for prepubescent minors, the bill would allow gender transitions for postpubescent minors only with the consent of their parents and recommendation of three doctors, the third doctor being a child psychiatrist. Exceptions for gender transition treatments would be made for those with any confirmed diagnosis of abnormal genitalia, genetic anomalies, physical disease with life-threatening consequences in the absence of intervention, and an accident irreparably mutilating genitalia. 

Read More

State House Subcommittee Rejects Bill Lowering Signature Requirement to Recognize Minor Political Parties in Tennessee

The House Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee rejected a bill lowering signature requirements for candidates to run under a minor political party. The law requires 2.5 percent of total votes cast in the last governor’s race – or, over 56,000 signatures currently – for an individual who wants to run as a minor party. HB0609 would lower the signature requirement to .5 percent. 

Additionally, the bill would only require individuals to obtain 1 percent of the popular vote rather than 5 percent, in order to not have to collect those 56,000 signatures in any future races as a minor party. It also would ensure that a mandatory primary would only occur if the minor party candidate received 25 percent of the vote, rather than 5 percent.

Read More

General Assembly Considers Bill Requiring Schools to Accommodate Students Who Don’t Want to Share Bathrooms, Sleeping Quarters with Peers of Same Sex

Public schools may be required to provide accommodations for students who want to use bathrooms opposite the ones designated for their sex at birth. According to the “Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act,” such alternative accommodations would extend to restrooms, changing rooms such as locker or shower rooms, and sleeping quarters while attending a school-sponsored activity. The act would also enable the student who requested alternative accommodations to take up a private right of action against the school if denied.

State Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) and State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) introduced the bill about a month ago. Since then, it has been recommended for passage by the House K-12 Subcommittee and referred to the Education Committee several weeks ago.

Read More

Senate Passes Constitutional Amendment to Change Attorney General Selection Process

The Tennessee Senate passed a resolution to allow the General Assembly a say in the selection process for the Attorney General and Reporter for the state. If adopted, the amendment would transfer final decision-making on these two positions from the Supreme Court to the General Assembly. Under the amendment, the Supreme Court would nominate an Attorney General and Reporter. The legislature would have 60 days to vote on the nominees. If the vote doesn’t occur within 60 days, then the nominees are confirmed by default. The amendment would require a majority vote to confirm the nominees.

Additionally, the amendment would reduce the term length for both positions from eight years to six years. It also outlines that both individuals must be at least 30 years old, a citizen of the United States, an attorney licensed in the State, and a resident for at least five years preceding nomination.

Read More

General Assembly to Vote on ‘Teacher’s Discipline Act’ Empowering Teachers to Handle Problematic Students

The Tennessee General Assembly will consider whether teachers have greater disciplinary authority over troublesome students. Specifically, the bill would allow teachers to request the removal of students whose behavior violates the policies or codes of conduct of either the district or the school. It would also enable teachers to use “reasonable or justifiable force” to relocate students if necessary. 

If passed, the bill would also require boards of education and public charter school governing bodies to include provisions that would allow teachers to enforce student discipline and accountability. This would extend to teachers’ abilities to intervene in physical altercations between students, or between students and an employee. This bill would apply to both public and charter schools in the state. 

Read More

Bill Seeks to Grant Immunity to Drivers Who Hit Protestors from Charges and Heighten Charges for Protestors Blocking Roadways, Throwing Objects

Drivers who unintentionally hit protestors blocking roads illegally may receive immunity, and protestors may face more severe charges for violent and obstructive behavior. State Representative Ron Gant (R-Rossville) discussed this “anti-riot” legislation on Wednesday in a press release. 

The bill would raise the penalty level for obstructing roads to a Class E felony, with a mandatory fine of $3,000 and the loss of voting powers. Those that unintentionally kill or injure protestors or rioters blocking roads would be immune from criminal charges. Additionally, those who throw objects at others or intentionally intimidates or harasses others may receive nearly a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If someone throws an object and injures another, they may receive up to six years’ prison time. 

Read More

Tennessee Senate Passes Bill Protecting Girls in Sports

The Senate passed a bill requiring proof of biological sex at birth for participation in interscholastic youth sports. This would, effectively, prohibit transgender individuals from joining sports teams of the opposite sex. This companion bill by State Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) passed 27-6.

The bill was introduced initially by State Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) several days after the general election. If passed, it will pose a direct challenge to President Joe Biden. Biden had declared that gender identity was a protected class under discrimination laws in one of his initial executive orders.
The bill, introduced by State Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) several days after the general election, poses a challenge to one of President Joe Biden’s first executive orders. Biden had declared that gender identity was a protected class under discrimination laws.

Read More

Tennessee Firearms Association: 2nd Amendment Sanctuary Act Needs More Teeth

The recently-introduced Second Amendment Sanctuary Act isn’t all that novel, and may need different enforcement mechanisms if it’s to succeed. This, according to Tennessee Firearms Association Executive Director John Harris. In interviews with The Tennessee Star, Harris and State Representative Scotty Campbell (R-Mountain City) discussed the merits and shortcomings of Campbell’s latest gun rights bill.

Harris predicted that this legislation would fail to fix the original problem presented in a nearly-identical bill signed into law in 2015. He added that another similar bill, the Firearms Freedom Act – made law in 2009 in response to President Barack Obama taking office – affords a similar defense against federal government actions, though he noted that enforcement of those two laws hasn’t occurred.

Read More

Bill Proposes Easing Licensing Burden on Tennessee Professionals

One legislator wants to alleviate the burdens for individuals to obtain any licenses required by their profession or occupation. The bill, called the “Licensing Independence for Future Tennesseans Act,” or “LIFT Act,” would allow licensing authorities to issue licenses to those licensed previously. The act would create addendums within Title 62 and Title 63 of the Tennessee Code. 

Specifically, the LIFT Act would require licensing authorities to issue licenses to an individual if they already have a similar license in another state for at least one year, haven’t had their license revoked or surrendered, don’t have unresolved disciplinary issues or pending investigations with other licensing authorities, and don’t have any disqualifying criminal history.  
Specifically, the act would require licensing authorities to issue licenses to an individual if they already have a similar license in another state for at least one year, haven’t had their license revoked or surrendered, don’t have unresolved disciplinary issues or pending investigations with other licensing authorities, and don’t have any disqualifying criminal history.  
Specifically, the act would require licensing authorities to issue licenses to an individual if they already have a similar license in another state for at least one year, haven’t had their license revoked or surrendered, don’t have unresolved disciplinary issues or pending investigations with other licensing authorities, and don’t have any disqualifying criminal history.  

Read More

Tennessee Legislators Introduce Second Amendment Sanctuary Act to Oppose Potential Biden Executive Orders on Gun Rights

In response to President Joe Biden’s promises to further limit gun ownership, Tennessee legislators introduced the Second Amendment Sanctuary Act.

The bill summarizes its premise in just under a page – prohibiting enforcement of any federal government laws, treaties, executive orders, rules, or regulations that violate the Second Amendment. The summary explained that passage would render pressures on Second Amendment rights as “null, void, and unenforceable.” Additionally, the bill would limit state or local governments from using public funds, personnel, or property to enforce them.

Read More

Pro-Life ‘Rule of Law Life Act’ Banning Abortion Moves Through Tennessee General Assembly

A new pro-life bill claims that constitutionally-protected life begins at conception, banning all abortions except in life-threatening emergencies. Dubbed the “Rule of Law Life Act,” the bill stated that the Fourteenth Amendment extends the right to life to the unborn, the legal precedents in existence allowing abortion derogate the Constitution,

The bill expands upon the previous heartbeat bill, signed into law last year and is currently being debated in the courts. It asserts that established and accepted science supports the notion of human life beginning at conception. Additionally, the bill explicitly prohibits punishing mothers for abortions committed. Only physicians who violate the proposed laws would be subject to punishments awarded for Class C felonies or Class A misdemeanors, as well as the suspension or revocation of their healthcare license.

Read More

Tennessee General Assembly Moves on Bill Protecting Girls in Sports, Challenging Biden’s Executive Order

Once again, Tennessee’s General Assembly has taken up a bill ensuring biological sex is a factor in youth sports. Although the bill would apply to both genders, its preamble identified girls as the motivator for drafting the legislation. It referenced the general biological differences between the genders in competition, as well as noted the impact on female athletes when it comes to college recruiting and scholarship opportunities.

“[I]t is unfortunate for some girls that those dreams, goals, and opportunities for participation, recruitment, and scholarships can be directly and negatively affected by new school policies permitting boys who are male in every biological respect to compete in girls’ athletic competitions if they claim a female gender identity,” stated the bill. 

Read More

State Representative Proposes State Oversight Committee for African American History in Public Schools

State Representative Jesse Chism’s (D-Memphis) latest bill would create a committee overseeing African American history in public education. House Bill 0429 aims to ensure that the curriculum would become more “accurate and consistently applied.”

Currently, Tennessee’s social studies standards outline that curriculums specifically pertaining to African American history are reserved for high school grades 9-12. Eighth grade students also engage briefly in African American history through the 19th century, such how African Americans were involved in the Civil War and impacted by certain domestic policies.

Read More

State Rep. Ryan Williams Talks Special Session, Literacy, and the Legacy of Responsibility

Wednesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed State Representative (R) Ryan Williams to the newsmakers line to discuss the General Assembly’s special session as it focuses on literacy and reinstalling phonics into public school curriculum.

Read More

Tennessee State Rep. Jason Zachary Discusses Upcoming Special and Legislative Sessions Focus on Education and Medicaid Block Grant

Thursday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed TN State Representative Jason Zachary to the program to weigh in on the objectives of the upcoming special and legislative sessions.

Read More

Lt. Gov. McNally Announces Committee Appointments for the 112th Tennessee General Assembly

Lt. Gov. and Speaker of the Senate Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) announced Wednesday the state Senate committee assignments for the 112th General Assembly.

McNally praised his fellow Senate members in announcing the assignments.

Read More

Tennessee Legislature Re-Elects Randy McNally, Cameron Sexton as Speakers of Senate, House

Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) on Tuesday was re-elected for his third term as Speaker of the Senate, while State Representative Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) returned as House Speaker.

The Tennessee House Republican Caucus tweeted, “The 112th General Assembly convened today in Nashville! Congratulations to our re-elected Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton, newly elected Speaker Pro Tem Pat Marsh, and all our members as they were sworn into office. @CSexton25 @marsh4tn”.

Read More

Proposed Legislation Gives School Boards Decision-Making Authority Over School Closures During Public Emergencies

A bill filed Monday will give Tennessee school boards the ultimate decision-making authority about whether their schools should be open or closed during a public emergency. 

The filing of the legislation was accompanied by an announcement from the bill’s sponsors, Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Representative Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville).

Read More

Vast Majority of Tennessee General Assembly Candidates Will Face No Opposition in 2020 Elections

In a list released last week from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office of the candidates for the Tennessee General Assembly, the vast majority will have no opponent in their party primary, the general election or both in 2020.

The list includes candidates who filed their nominating petitions as of the qualifying deadline of last Thursday, April 2 at 12 noon.

Candidates have one week, or until Thursday, April 9 at 12 noon, to withdraw.

Read More