Rep. Bryan Terry’s Newsroom

State Rep. Bryan Terry’s Capitol Hill Review

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 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

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.

Rep. Bryan Terry Legislative Check Up – April 15

April 15, 2021

State Rep. Bryan Terry’s Capitol Hill Review

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.

Rep. Bryan Terry Legislative Check Up – April 8

April 8, 2021

Rep. Bryan Terry sponsors the Firearm Information Privacy Protection Act

April 8, 2021

State Representative Bryan Terry, MD (R- Murfreesboro) is pursuing first-of-its-kind Second Amendment protection legislation entitled the Firearm Information Privacy Protection Act (FIPPA).  House Bill 1171 is aimed at protecting the anonymity of citizens related to firearm ownership.

House Bill 1171 will enhance Public Chapter 380 by creating a Class A misdemeanor for any public personnel that intentionally discloses information about a purchaser or owner of a firearm, firearm ammunition or firearm accessory for the purpose of compiling or facilitating the compilation of a federal firearms registry or confiscation of firearms.  The bill will also 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.

Whereas the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the private health information of individuals, FIPPA aims to offer similar protections for individuals exercising their constitutional rights as they relate to firearms, ammunition and accessories.

“The privacy standards that I am held to as a physician must be replicated in regards to firearms, in order to defend the liberty of every Tennessean,” explained Terry, a Murfreesboro physician.

In 2015 Terry co-sponsored Public Chapter 380, which prohibited the use of any state funds, property or personnel to enforce any federal gun legislation that limited the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans by violating a Tennessee statute, Tennessee common law or the Constitution of Tennessee.

“One’s health information is private and protected by law.  As firearms are necessary for the protection of one’s life, liberty and family, firearm information should be private and protected, as well,” Terry said. “My bill ensures this information remains protected to the greatest extent possible.  FIPPA allows us to safeguard the constitutional rights and liberties of the people of our great state in this uncertain time.”

While there is not a federal law for firearm registration or confiscation at this time, legislation entitled the “Firearm Licensing and Registration Act” was introduced in Congress this year.  The bill requires firearm owners to register their firearms within three months and notify the federal government on how they acquired the firearm and where they store it.

“Though it currently isn’t federal law to register or confiscate firearms, there certainly is discussion on this unconstitutional infringement on our rights.  While we cannot predict precisely what overreaching policies the Biden administration may take, Tennessee must stand prepared to face these challenges as they come,” concluded Terry.

The Firearm Information Privacy Protection Act has passed through two House committees and is scheduled to be heard for consideration in the Senate this upcoming week.  The bill has over 50 House co-sponsors, including Speaker Cameron Sexton and Majority Leader William Lamberth.

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State Rep. Bryan Terry’s Capitol Hill Review

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.

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