First off, thank you for following us and for your interest in our organization. I’d like to give an update on where we stand currently with our legislative efforts.
As many of you know, there is currently a special session taking place on the Hill and the start to this session is a little slower than in previous years. Regardless, we need your help to get these things done!
Currently we are working on a handful of bills in three specific areas: protecting small business, ballot access reform, and criminal justice reform.
Protecting Small Business
First, we are looking at some different ways to protect small businesses from the threat of a possible future shutdown order at both the state and federal levels. One piece of legislation being considered was introduced by Brandon Ogles (R) and would prevent the state from labeling businesses as essential and nonessential.
Another proposal talked about that has not been introduced would prevent state and local executives from requiring authorities to enforce an executive order that would require a business to close, restrict freedom of assembly, or freedom of travel. Again, we will keep you updated as the session gets into the swing of things in the coming weeks.
Ballot Access Reform
We will be bringing the same ballot access bill that I worked to have introduced last year, and we have found a sponsor. This bill does not change the formula for ballot access or the state law in any way. All this bill does is change the percentages in the formula to reduce the burden for ballot access in Tennessee.
This approach seems to be the most well received among legislators, as we had nearly half of the house co-sponsoring or supporting the bill last year before our efforts were thwarted by the pandemic-driven shutdowns. The effect would be to reduce the signature burden to a number more consistent with the rest of the country, make staying on the ballot once you collect the signatures a little more possible, and protect taxpayers from having to pay for new costs to primaries.
We will release the bill number and sponsors once the bill is filed. We will also be on the lookout for legislation that protects local governments ability to institute ranked choice voting, any efforts to implement it at the state level, or other reforms that make your voting experience more impactful.
Criminal Justice Reform
In the Criminal Justice Reform category, we are working on a number of issues. Civil Asset Forfeiture is getting attention on the Hill again this session with at least three bills, maybe four. Rusty Grills (R) has introduced HB 59 which would remove the $350 bond that must be paid to get innocent property back after a seizure. Frank Nicely (R) is carrying the companion bill in the Senate, SB 260. We will also be supporting a reporting bill and a bill that addresses the state cap on attorney’s fees, and we will report those bill numbers and sponsors to you as soon as that information is available.
We will also be introducing a bill regarding fully informed juries. This legislation would require a judge to inform the jury of their constitutional right to nullification upon request of the defense attorney.
We need your help to advance these items! Please go to our website and let us know how you would like to help. Members of our action team will be invited to help us lobby on the Hill. Help us spread awareness of our issues and our organization.
A donation of as little as $5 a month will help us pay for our ongoing lobbying efforts, cover our operating expenses, and help fund educational campaigns around the issues you find important. Put us to work for you.
President & Chairman of the Board
This is a great message and possible Bill.