The Tennessee legislature is officially recessed until 2023.
This year, we were able to help pass four solid pieces of legislation that moved our state in the right direction. Here’s the recap of our wins in the legislature this year:
Criminal Justice Reform
SB 1781/HB 1679 was sponsored by Leader William Lamberth in the House and Senator Jon Lunberg in the Senate, representing another step in the right direction regarding the expungement process in Tennessee by clarifying the code.
In Tennessee, certain offenses can be removed from a criminal record through a process known as expungement, effectively deleting it from a person’s record as if it had never occurred, and only applies to certain lower-level offenses. To many, the process grants a new lease on life for those who have paid their restitution to society; a life unencumbered by a minor criminal history that could affect a person’s ability to find housing or work.
Previously it was unclear if a new offense that was not eligible for expungement would prevent a different qualifying offense from being expunged. The new language ensures that a person’s expugnable offense as defined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-32-101, is not disqualified by a new offense that is not eligible for expungement.
Read the bill text: https://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/112/Amend/HA0503.pdf
SB 2868/HB 2457 was sponsored by Paul Bailey in the Senate and Kelly Keisling in the House marked a significant move to reign in property seizures by TWRA. The legislation limits the reasons that TWRA can make a seizure to specific offenses committed by hunters, and prevents TWRA from seizing vehicles. The bill further requires due process and a conviction before property can be forfeited and auctioned.
Asset forfeiture has been a topic of interest in our legislature for a number of years now. Nationally governments at the municipal, state, and federal levels confiscate more property than all of the burglaries in the country combined. Only a handful of states require a conviction before the property is forfeited and we hope that this legislation will show legislators the path to requiring conviction in all cases, not just those initiated by TWRA.
Read the bill text here:
SB 2632/HB 2212 by Senator Frank Niceley and Representative Lowell Russell is a great bil. Prior to passage of this bill, if a person on probation committed a new offense, that person would be arrested for the new offense and then bond out. A couple of days later, the probation officer would learn of the new offense and would issue a warrant for another arrest. Compounding the problem, the second arrest often happened when the person was at work, often resulting in job loss, and increasing the likelihood the person will fail to pay restitution and fines, and that the person will find themselves dependent on taxpayers.
In a perfect world, the solution to the problem is simple. Ideally, at the time of the new arrest, the arresting agency could look the offender up in the database, find they were on probation, and add that charge to the impending new arraignment and bond. But because TN doesn’t have an integrated court system, that’s impossible.
This bill corrected this problem by having the probation officer issue a summons to court instead of a warrant for a new arrest for any “technical violation,” defined as B misdemeanor or lesser offense. This action will save tax dollars on incarceration, payroll dollars and time for the arresting officers, and spare the offender from unnecessary adverse action that could strain their ability to rebuild and move past their mistakes.
Read the bill text here:
SB884/HB519 was sponsored by Senator Stevens and Assistant Leader Ron Gant addresses the Professional Privilege tax. This tax applies only to individuals licensed or registered to practice in Tennessee any of the professions listed in Tenn. Code Ann. §67-4-1702. If you are registered or licensed to practice one of the following professions, you are required to pay the $400 tax once per year.
- Securities Agent
- Investment adviser
- Osteopathic Physician
The original language of this bill would have eliminated the tax for all except brokers-dealers. Broker-Dealers are more of a sticking point because they often work from outside of our state and because we have no state income tax, the state feels it is appropriate to collect a minor tax from people who make money in our state but don’t live here or otherwise contribute to our economy.
After passing relevant committees last year, this bill was placed “behind the budget.” This term indicates that a bill has passed necessary committees, and is waiting to be worked into the state budget. There is no guarantee, however, that the bill will be funded, and without funding it does not become law. Many bills die this way every session. This bill was estimated to be a 17 million dollar hit to the state revenues, a relatively large hit that makes the bill significantly harder to pass. In the end, the bill received partial funding and the bill was amended to eliminate the tax for physicians and osteopathic physicians alone, leaving the tax in place for the other professions.
Read the bill text here
I want to thank everyone who stepped up this year to help make these successes a reality.
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Chairman of the Board