The following legislative highlights are from the week ending on April 12. This list includes bills where there were developments this week. After reviewing the information below, we urge you to contact your legislators to share your opinion on these bills.
Criminal Justice Reform
Citation in lieu of arrest. SB 587/HB 715, which removes unnecessary burdens on law enforcement, making it easier to issue a citation in lieu of arrest, has passed the Senate, and will be heard in the House Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee on April 17. SUPPORT
Rebuttable presumption bail reform bill. SB 409/HB 1131 would have created a rebuttable presumption for any person charged with an expungeable offense who does not already have a criminal record of a non-expungeable crime to be released on his or her own recognizance. The legislation was deferred until January 2020. SUPPORT
Fair Treatment of Immigrants
VICTORY – Verification of immigration status of parents obtaining birth certificates. SB 1278/HB 662 would have required doctors, nurses and hospitals to verify parents’ immigration status when obtaining a birth certificate. This bill failed 4-3 in the House Public Health Subcommittee on April 9, after powerful testimony by hospitals and by Rep. Bryan Terry, who explained that as a doctor that he took an oath to provide services for ALL patients before he voted “NO” on this bill. OPPOSE
The only remaining bill now under consideration that explicitly discriminates against undocumented families is the school voucher bill (please see “Religious Freedom” section for more information.)
Attorney general representation for local education agencies with anti-transgender policies. SB 1499/HB 1274 would require the attorney general to represent local education agencies if they are sued for having anti-transgender policies. The bill will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 16 and in the House Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee on April 17. OPPOSE
Effective abortion ban. SB 1236/ HB 77 would have prohibited abortion from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected, effectively outlawing abortion in Tennessee. This bill passed the House, but on April 9 the Senate Judiciary Committee effectively stopped this bill by sending it to summer study. OPPOSE
Effective abortion ban caption bill. SB 1306/HB 78 is a last-ditch effort to re-introduce the fetal cardiac activity bill, which would prohibit abortion from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected, effectively outlawing abortion in Tennessee. The original fetal cardiac activity bill, SB 1236/HB 77, was effectively stopped by sending it to summer study. However, we understand that legislators have plans to amend SB 1306/HB 78 to bring back the effective abortion ban. This legislation will be heard by the House Health Committee on April 16. OPPOSE
The “trigger” bill, or outlawing abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. SB 1257/HB 1029 would ban abortion in Tennessee immediately should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. This bill originally failed in the House Public Health Subcommittee, but on April 10 the House Health Committee voted to overturn the subcommittee vote and recall it directly to the full committee. This will be heard in the Health Committee on April 16. The Senate Judiciary Committee also voted to recommend this bill for passage on April 9. OPPOSE
Restoration of voting rights to people with felony convictions. SB 589/HB 547 would restore the voting rights of eligible persons convicted of certain infamous crimes upon receipt of a pardon or after completion of their sentence, incarceration, parole or probation. This legislation was deferred to the first calendar of the next legislative session. SUPPORT
Chilling of voter registration drives. SB 971/HB 1079, as amended, would chill voter registration drives conducted by individuals or groups who are not entirely volunteer driven by creating a burdensome list of requirements that must be met in order to hold voter registration drives. The measure threatens individuals and groups holding voter registration drives with criminal and civil penalties if the requirements are not met or if errors are found on registration forms. This legislation would make it harder for marginalized communities to have their voices heard in elections. This legislation passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee 7-2 on April 9, and will be heard by the full House on April 15. OPPOSE
School Vouchers. SB 795/HB 939 proposes a voucher system that would provide parents with tax money to help pay for students to attend private or religious schools. This anti-public education bill weakens equal access to education by diverting desperately needed resources away from public schools, which accept all students, and discriminating against students from undocumented families. These vouchers would also violate religious freedom by funding religious education with taxpayer money. This legislation passed the Senate Education Committee on April 10, and will be heard in the Senate and House Finance, Ways, and Means Committees on April 16. OPPOSE
For additional information, please visit our Legislative Action Center.