The following are highlights of recent developments with some of the bills we are monitoring and lobbying this year.
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, passed the Senate and is scheduled for the House Judiciary Committee on April 3.
Helping wrongfully convicted people prove their innocence. SB 405/HB 873 – The House bill was deferred to the House Judiciary Committee calendar for Wednesday, April 3. The Senate bill was deferred in the Senate Judiciary Committee until Tuesday, April 9. Please contact members of the Senate Judiciary committee in support of this bill.
Fair Treatment of Immigrants
VICTORY – Discrimination against undocumented families in housing. SB 1167/HB 614 would have prohibited landlords from renting to people who are undocumented. There was strong opposition to the bill from advocates and realtors. The measure was deferred to summer study, which means the bill will not advance.
VICTORY – Turning Tennessee courts into immigration enforcement agencies. SB 1279/HB 1238, as originally amended, would have required general sessions judges to make every defendant state their citizenship and/or immigration status at the beginning of a criminal proceeding. It was subsequently amended again but continued to insert federal civil immigration issues into local criminal courts. This bill failed in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
The Tennessee Public Participation Act – SB 1097/HB 777 – This bill passed on the Senate floor 33-0. On Wednesday, March 27, it also passed the House Judiciary committee.
Discrimination against trans people – SB 1297/HB 1151 – The original intent of this bill was to target transgender and intersex people for harassment and discrimination the moment they walk into certain spaces designated for specific gender use, such as restrooms or locker rooms, threatening them with criminalization. This bill passed out of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. However, these bills have been amended to broaden the definition of what public places are to include locker rooms and bathrooms. While this bill is still disturbing and we continue to be concerned about the hateful, harassing legislative initiatives being pursued, the way this particular bill has been amended removed the most troubling language. If this bill moves forward, we will continue to monitor its implementation to ensure that transgender people are not discriminated against.
VICTORY – The Trigger bill. SB 1257/HB 1029 would have banned abortion in Tennessee immediately should Roe v. Wade be overturned. This bill failed in the House Public Health Subcommittee on March 27, 2019. It is calendared in the Senate Judiciary Committee for April 2.
Legislators in the House Election and Campaign Finance Subcommittee do not share our commitment to increasing access to the ballot box. This week they shut down several bills supporting election security and increasing access to the ballot box, including:
- HB 1477, which would have allowed use of a public college or university ID to register to vote.
- HB 1432, which would have required county election commissions to use precinct-based optical scanners, ensuring election integrity.
- HB 1057, which would have allowed college students to use college ID’s issued by a public institution for purposes of identification at a polling place.
Restrictions on voter registration drives. A new, disturbing amendment has been added to SB 971/HB 1079 that would upend voter registration by requiring any organization that wants to register 100 or more voters be trained by the state election coordinator and face civil and criminal penalties if there are errors on registration forms that they submit. This bill will be heard in the Senate State and Local Government Committee on April 2 and in the House Local Committee on Wednesday, April 3.
For links to actions you can take on Tennessee legislation, please visit our Legislative Action Center.