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Tennessee flag logo and words family bills

Pornography Resolution (TN Senate Joint Resolution 35)

RESOLUTION SUMMARY

Called the Pornography Resolution, this resolution declares pornography a public health crisis.

RESOLUTION ANALYSIS

As a matter of policy, it is good to identify factors that contribute to the breakdown of the family and the need to address it on a community and societal level.

RESOLUTION SPONSORS

Beavers in the Senate, Weaver in the House

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Full Text: Senate Resolution

RESOLUTION STATUS

Signed by the Governor 4/24/17.

Tennessee flag logo and words family bills

Undefined Words Given Ordinary Meaning (SB 1085 / HB 1111)

BILL SUMMARY

This definitions bill requires that undefined words in the Tennessee Code be given their natural and ordinary meaning, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest.

BILL ANALYSIS

A broad definitions bill that could have a similar effect as SB 30 but would apply to any number of words that private litigants might want courts to redefine.

WHY IT IS NEEDED

Increasingly, courts are being called on to decide how to interpret statutes and finding “reasons” to depart from the above rule of interpretation upon which legislators have been able to rely in wording and enacting statutes.

One clear example is the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the term “federal exchanges” under the Affordable Care Act, for which tax subsidies were permitted, to mean “stand or federal exchanges.”

Another example is marriage. States did not think it necessary to define marriage in terms of a man and a woman because the definition was assumed. States eventually realized that courts, set on making policy, would not give words, previously undefined, their normal and natural meaning and began to pass Defense of Marriage statutes.

More recently in Tennessee, a Knox County judge ruled that the word “husband” in a statute expressly related to a husband and wife no longer referred to a male but was a gender-neutral term and should be interpreted to mean “spouse.”

Because it is impractical, if not impossible, to go through the Code to define all the words in a statute that may not be expressly defined in order to make sure that courts do not define those words in ways the Legislature never intended, this bill tells courts that the words the Legislature uses mean what everyone thinks they mean, not something else.

OBJECTIONS ANSWERED

Objection: The bill violates the separation of powers doctrine by telling the judicial branch what to do.

Answer: The Legislature has the power to define the words it uses in its statutes. To say
otherwise, the objectors can only mean that they think courts should be able to give words meanings different from what the Legislature intended. This is not judging, this is legislating. If the normal meaning of a word makes a statute unconstitutional, then SB 1085 does nothing to interfere with a court’s power to hold the statute unconstitutional.

Objection: There is already a law that takes care of specific terms in the Tennessee Code.

Answer: There is a statute that defines a number of different words, but no statute
accomplishes this statute’s purpose.

BILL SPONSORS

Stevens in the Senate, Farmer in the House

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Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill

BILL STATUS

Signed by the Governor 5/5/17. Public Chapter 302.

Tennessee flag logo and words family bills

Defining Husband, Wife, Father, Mother (SB 30 / HB 33)

BILL SUMMARY

This is a definitions bill that clarifies that the words “husband,” “wife,” “father,” and “mother,” when used in a statute, are to be given their ordinary meaning based on the biological distinctions between men and women.

BILL ANALYSIS

Provides additional guidance for courts as they review statutory language and consider legislative intent when dealing with parties asking them to re-define “husband” or “wife” or substitute the gender-neutral term “spouse” or to define “father” or “mother” as “parent” – effectively removing biology and procreation as inherent and integral to the family and family law for legal purposes.

Provides guidance for courts as they review statutory language and consider legislative intent when dealing with parties asking them to (A) redefine “husband” or “wife” or substitute the gender-neutral term “spouse” or (B) redefine “father” or “mother” in non-biological ways or substitute for those words a new, non-biological term “parent” – effectively removing biology and procreation as inherent and integral to the family and family law for legal purposes.

BILL SPONSORS

Bowling in the Senate, Ragan in the House

TRACK THIS BILL

Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill

BILL STATUS

No action taken in the House or Senate.

VIDEO

Tennessee flag logo and words education bills

Partisan School Board Elections (SB 582 / HB 1039)

BILL SUMMARY

Requires school board elections to be partisan races.

BILL ANALYSIS

Important bill for transparency and voter education. Since Tennessee is mostly Republican, many Democrats have focused on non-partisan elections (school board, municipal office) to assert influence on the local level. They are able to be elected because it is difficult to ascertain the full extent of their beliefs through campaign mailers, etc. This bill will require school board candidates to run as partisan, party candidate.

BILL SPONSORS

Gresham in the Senate, Smith in the House

TRACK THIS BILL

Full Text: Senate Bill / House Bill

BILL STATUS

No action taken in the House or Senate.