We are nearing the end of March which means we are nearing the end of session! Committees are closing, but the work for Tennessee continues. I was joined this week by 4-H students, EMS workers, Jefferson County Leadership, and my mayor from Jefferson County, Mark Potts.
Pro-life bill strengthens protections for mothers in emergencies
The House chamber on Monday passed legislation ensuring the life of a mother will be protected when a nonviable pregnancy endangers her life. House Bill 883, sponsored by State Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes, R-East Ridge, clarifies that terminating a nonviable pregnancy, such as in the case of an ectopic or molar pregnancy, is not an abortion. The measure passed 83-11.
When the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022 declared that abortion is not a constitutional right, the Human Life Protection Act became law and automatically made abortion for any reason a Class C felony crime in Tennessee.
House Bill 883 ensures elective abortions remain illegal in Tennessee, but removes the affirmative defense clause that could have required doctors to provide evidence defending their actions in court when saving the life of a mother. It now provides protection for physicians by decriminalizing the procedure in such emergencies.
Tennessee Right to Life, the state’s largest pro-life advocacy organization, supported House Bill 883. The companion version of the bill is currently advancing in the Senate.
Republicans propose $407 million in tax cuts for families and businesses
Republican leaders this week advanced the Tennessee Works Tax Reform Act of 2023 that proposes a number of changes to the state’s tax code and represents an unprecedented $407 million in tax cuts impacting every Tennessean.
The cuts provide significant tax relief to small businesses by lowering the burden of the franchise and excise tax as well as the business tax rate. The bill would allow more than 23,000 small businesses in Tennessee to reduce their excise tax liability to zero by exempting the first $50,000 in income from the state’s excise tax. It also exempts up to $500,000 of business property from franchise tax liability.
The proposal will strengthen Tennessee’s economic competitiveness while prioritizing businesses within our state’s borders. It incentivizes businesses to hire Tennesseans and headquarter here. It ensures state tax deductions for research and development (R&D) expenses that help companies grow, innovate and produce superior products and services.
General Assembly modernizes money transmitter laws
The General Assembly this week approved legislation that modernizes Tennessee’s money transmitter regulations.
House Bill 316, also known as the Money Transmission Modernization Act, provides a long-overdue update to state laws governing companies like Paypal and Venmo that help transmit money between parties within the United States and abroad.
The legislation does not address the use of digital currency, virtual currency or cryptocurrency. It also does not create any new form of currency or require individuals or businesses to use digital currency.
Additionally, the bill does not relate in any way to central bank control or a central bank digital currency. It also has nothing to do with the Uniform Commercial Code which governs various commercial matters including credit and bank transactions. The Money Transmission Modernization Act will now head to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Republicans protect teachers from implicit bias training advances
A proposal allowing Tennessee teachers to choose whether they want to take part in implicit bias training advanced out of the House K-12 Subcommittee this week.
House Bill 158, sponsored by State Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, would prevent a local education agency or public charter school from requiring its employees to complete or participate in the training, which is designed to expose an individual to biases the program’s creator presumes the person to have.
The legislation would also protect employees from any adverse employment action if they refused to take part in the training. Additionally, the State Board of Education and the Department of Education would not be allowed to require an educator to complete or participate in the program as a requirement for things like educator licensure or professional development. House Bill 158 is scheduled to be heard in the Education Administration Committee on March 29.
House votes to streamline adoptions of young foster children
The Tennessee House of Representatives this week approved legislation to improve the adoption process for foster parents of young children who have been abandoned.
House Bill 163 clarifies that if a parent or guardian fails to visit or support a child younger than four years old for three consecutive months it will qualify as abandonment and the child will be eligible for adoption. Currently, the time period for abandonment is four months. Additionally, if a child resides in a foster parent’s home for at least three months, a judge may waive the six-month waiting period for the order of adoption.