Tennessee Legislative Update, March 2, 2020

Tennessee General Assembly information, click HERE.

For information on State Senators, including phone numbers and email addresses, click HERE; for House members, click HERE. For information on legislation, click HERE.

Don’t forget that you can now watch the Senate committee meetings and floor sessions online by going HERE; House committee meetings and floor sessions online HERE.

Phone calls can go to the legislative Switchboard at 615-741-3011 or to the Toll Free number 1-800-449-8366+1 last four digits of office phone number (available online).

“The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone, it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.”

Patrick Henry speech to the Virginia Convention March 23, 1775


Sometimes, I think we forget, with all the responsibilities and power these men and woman have, that first of all, they are people just like us and have serious issues to deal with just like many other families. One of our legislators has been out for a couple of weeks with some health problems and another has a son with a very serious illness. Please. please remember these two families in a special way.


Yesterday my husband, Ron, and I marked our 61st Anniversary. I really can’t believe that that many years have gone by.  Most of you know that Ron nearly died in Sep when he was in Vanderbilt for 10 days, then skilled nursing care for 80 days. Many of you prayed for him and us and we are grateful.  He has some significant limitations now, but he is stable and we are blessed!


This past Tuesday, I had the pleasure of witnessing the resolution about the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution (States Rights) go through committee. The State Committee, chaired by Kelly Keisling, was obligated to push it to this week’s agenda due to a shortage of time last week. As a result, HJR 741 was on the top of the docket with only one piece of legislation going before it. Rep. Weaver presented the resolution to the members of the committee, and answered the many questions graciously. There was a tendency to get off track during the discussion, and it was very interesting to observe how the members and chair dealt with it. The committee even went out of session for some testimony on the resolution. This was very fascinating to view. This past Tuesday was full of great learning experiences I will not soon forget.

This week at the capitol: in addition to our usual lobbyist group of Mrs. Bobbie Patray, Mrs. Joanne Bregman, and me, we welcomed Mrs. Toni Stockton and her son, Elijah. They were there lobbying for a bill backed by her organization, Rise Up 4 the Children and generally trying to learn what a day of lobbying at the capitol looks like. As a group, we all went to a few meetings to lobby for the Refugee bill and resolution as well as a few for Mrs. Stockton. As a part of our day, we made a visit to Rep. John Ragan’s office again where the Stocktons were put through the same Tennessee trivia game I played a few weeks ago…it was quite a bit of fun to watch as I wanted to pop in with some hints. Overall, it was a good day and I am looking forward to next week.


HJR 741  by *Weaver , Doggett, Todd, Hill T, Cepicky, Ragan, Gant, Reedy, Leatherwood, Van Huss, Moody, Hill M, Crawford, Moon, Rudd, Grills, Garrett, Wright, Byrd, Hawk, Casada, Hulsey, Carr, Williams, Eldridge, Marsh, Halford, Smith, Rudder, Keisling, Sexton J, Hicks, Terry, Griffey, Howell, Sexton C, Boyd, Lynn, Bricken, Littleton, Baum, Carter, Whitson, Powers, Haston, Kumar, Sparks, Helton, Lamberth, White, Calfee, Lafferty, Zachary, Daniel, Russell, Hall, Cochran, Sherrell

•  this resolution is strictly about Tennessee’s Constitutional status as a sovereign state, AND, the status of the Tennessee General Assembly as a separate and independent branch of the state government as established by the state Constitution
•  to affirm that neither the federal government nor any other branch of the Tennessee State government have the authority to bypass the General Assembly when the expenditure of public money and the state budget is involved.
•  to affirm that the Tennessee General Assembly continues to object to the coerced expenditure of state funds by the federal government for its refugee resettlement program as evidenced by the history of federal funding for refugee assistance and federal reports which confirm that due to reductions in federal program spending, certain of those federal costs have been transferred to the state in violation of the Tenth Amendment and Supreme Court precedent


Well, to say we had an exciting week, is a REAL understatement.  HJR741 was in the House State Committee on Tuesday. Catholic Charities (CC) and TN Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) were there and ready, as we anticipated but, thankfully, our legislators were prepared. They tried to misdirect the committee on the content of the resolution and impact it would have.  Rep. Chris Todd was outstanding in keeping the focus of the resolution on track, at one point, commenting:  “…….(refugee) value to the community is not being debated here.  What is being debated here is how state funds are expended.  We are not going to take an order, an executive order, from the executive branch of either the state or federal governments to spend state funds. It will go through this General Assembly.”  EXACTLY!!

Other legislators were helpful including Chairman Kelly Keisling. HJR741  was voted out of committee on a strong voice vote and sent to the Calendar and Rules Committee on Thursday morning at 8:00am.  It was first on the calendar and without any discussion, was immediately voted out and placed on the House Floor Calendar for Monday evening!!!


We KNOW that CC and TIRRC will have legislative opponents well prepared to again totally misrepresent the purpose and application of the resolution. Please contact YOUR house member.  If he/she is a sponsor (see list above), thank him/her, if not politely ask them to vote YES!


SB 2354 by *Gresham (HB 2616) by *Coley , HOLT, HILL T, REEDY
Child Custody and Support – As introduced, removes custody, visitation, or inheritance rights for a parent who has been convicted of statutory rape, aggravated statutory rape, statutory rape by an authority figure, or lesser included offenses of rape, from which crime the child was conceived.

This legislation would remove parental rights from a rapist who is convicted of or pleads guilty or no contest to lesser offense. The victim of a rape, and a child conceived of such an act, should be protected from the perpetrator of the criminal act.

ACTION:  HB2616 is in Children & Families Subcommittee  on Wednesday.  PLEASE PLEASE click on the committee link and contact the members of this committee to urge them to vote to protect these mothers and babies.


SB 2852 by *Bailey HB 2294 by *Van Huss , Griffey
Consumer Protection – As introduced, enacts the “Safer Internet for Minors Act.
Among other things, this bill requires that online parental control include a category specific to pornographic content and block access to any pornographic website or digital content. The full text of this bill specifies additional features that online parental controls may include.

ACTION:  HB2294 is in Consumer Subcommittee on Wednesday.  Please click on the Committee link and urge the members to support this important opportunity for parents to have some control over the material that they children can review.


SB 2896 by *Bailey (HB 2721) by *Holt
Libraries – As introduced, enacts the “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act.”
This bill requires any library that receives state or local funds under present law concerning county and municipal libraries and provides access to age-inappropriate sexual material (a “public library”) to establish a parental library review board. This bill defines “age-inappropriate sexual material” to mean any description or representation, in any form, of nudity, sexuality, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse, etc.

ACTION:  The opposition to this commonsense legislation is STIFF. SB2896 is in Senate Government Operations Committee calendar on Wednesday. HB2721 is back in Cities & Counties Subcommittee again on Wednesday. Would you PLEASE contact the members of the respective committees and urge them to support this proposal? Listening to the discussion made me wonder if the legislators are acquainted with some of the things going on in our libraries or materials that are available to children today.


It Absolutely Could Inspire Another Great Awakening’: Awaken Tennessee Reports Revival Across the State .
Governor Bill Lee Announces ‘Constitutional Carry’ Legislation .
Tennessee Lawmakers Propose Constitutional Amendment to Support Victims of Crime .
Gov. Bill Lee’s paid family leave plan would cost $15 million a year to put in place, fiscal analysis shows .
Leahy and Roberts Discuss Governor Bill Lee’s Pattern of Non-Consultation from Legislative Branch .

SO GLAD TO SEE THIS: Republican Lawmakers Introduce Evelyn’s Law

Republican lawmakers also filed an amendment to existing legislation this week that will increase penalties against parents or guardians who fail to expediently report a missing child to a law enforcement officer or appropriate agency.

Known as Evelyn’s Law in honor of 15-month-old missing Sullivan County toddler Evelyn Boswell, the proposal will require parents or guardians to verbally report a child in their care is missing, has been abducted, or has run away within 48 hours of that child’s disappearance, followed by a written report as requested by law enforcement.

This law applies in instances where a child’s whereabouts are unknown to a parent or guardian and that individual knows, believes, or has substantial reason to believe the child’s whereabouts are unknown to any other individual tasked with temporarily supervising a child. Situations where there is knowledge that a child has been abducted, has suffered serious bodily harm, abuse, sexual exploitation, or who has run away would also be included in reporting requirements outlined in Evelyn’s Law.

As a result of Evelyn’s Law, failure to report or delaying a report while demonstrating reckless disregard for the safety of a child will now be considered a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,500 or both.

If a parent or guardian fails to report or delay reporting with reckless disregard resulting in serious bodily harm or death, they will now be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by three to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The legislation will soon be introduced and assigned to the appropriate standing committee for discussion and debate.

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