Tennessee Capitol Building

The Latest on Legislative Action This Week and Next

This week HB 77 by Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” passed out of the House Health Committee on a 15-4 party line vote and is now scheduled to be heard by the full House on Thursday.

Additionally, the House Business Subcommittee recommended HB 563 by Rep. Jason Zackary (R-Knoxville) for passage. It will ensure that businesses are not disadvantaged in bidding on contracts or receiving benefits from a state or local government entity by either going beyond or only conforming to state law regarding minimum wages, employee civil right protections, employee health care coverage, or family leave policies. This bill will be heard by the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

Of the three gambling related bills covered last week, only one cleared the subcommittee process. HB 1 by Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) that would authorize sports wagering was amended and recommended for passage by the House Departments and Agencies Subcommittee. It was referred to the House State Committee, but has not yet been set for a hearing.

Among other bills scheduled to be heard next week are the following:

  • HB 1152 by Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) provides conscience protection for child-placing agencies exercising sincerely held religious beliefs. It will be heard by the House Children and Families Subcommittee.
  • HB 1151 by Rep. Ragan applies the criminal standards on indecent exposure to actions taken in a single-sex facility where the offender is a member of the opposite sex than the sex the facility is designated for use. It will be heard by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
  • SJR 1 to amend the constitution relative to the appointment of the attorney general, having passed the Senate, will be heard by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.

You can read more about these and 25 other bills that we thought you might find of interest and track their current status through the bill tracking section of our website.

Will Burns is FACT’s Public Policy Director.

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Tennessee Capitol Building

And the ‘Beat’ Goes On

The House Public Health Subcommittee recommended passage of the “Heartbeat Bill,” House Bill 77, by Representative Micah Van Huss (R-Johnson City). It will prohibit most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The bill will be heard in the full House Health Committee on Tuesday. The subcommittee was also expected to hear House Bill 1029 by Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), the so-called “trigger law.” It would make most abortions illegal but only in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade, or if the U.S. Constitution is amended to allow states to prohibit abortion. However, she chose to delay hearing on the bill at this time. We will keep you apprised of when the bill is placed back on the calendar.

Yesterday, the Senate, by a vote of 27–3, approved Senate Joint Resolution 1 that would limit the power of the state Supreme Court, which currently names the state’s attorney general and reporter by secret ballot, to only nominating a candidate and doing so in an open meeting and by recorded vote. Then the nomination would have to be confirmed by the state House and Senate. The Resolution will now move to the House for consideration. The matter will go before a vote of the people in November 2022 before it could become effective.

The House Business Subcommittee will take up House Bill 563 by Representative Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) next Tuesday. This is one of the bills we told you about last week that Family Action of Tennessee is pursuing passage. The bill will ensure that there is one uniform standard across the state for businesses to meet in four areas, one of which includes the scope of anti-discrimination policies. It would prevent what happened last week in Nashville when the city decided to give preferences in awarding contract bids and grants to those businesses that went beyond state and federal law in making sexual orientation and gender identity a protected workforce class.

Also next week the House Departments and Agencies Subcommittee will hear two joint resolutions and one bill on gambling in Tennessee. Specifically, HJR 130 by Representative Larry Miller (D-Memphis) would amend the state’s constitutional prohibition on gambling to authorize casinos and games of chance; HJR 102 by Representative Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) would amend the state constitution to allow charitable organizations to operate bingo games, which are deemed a form of gambling; and House Bill 1 by Representative Rick Staples (R-Knoxville) which will authorize sports betting in jurisdictions that authorize it through a local option election.

Finally, the House Finance Subcommittee will hear HJR 17 by Rep. Van Huss to amend the constitution to recognize that our liberties come from God and not the government.

Will Burns is FACT’s Public Policy Director.

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Nashville LGBT Businesses Get Legally Recognized

Nashville Mayor David Briley signed an executive order this week making LGBT-owned businesses a preference in Metro procurement and contracting. Nashville is the first city in the South to do this.

Said Briley, “We want to make sure that in this moment of prosperity, that no matter who you love or what you look like or no matter what your background or gender . . . you have a level playing field and fair shot at prosperity.”

Regrettably, contrary to the mayor’s stated intent, the executive order will result in preferences for LGBT-owned businesses and discriminate negatively against all others. Moreover, this will affect businesses located in other cities that do business with Nashville.

For the last two years, Family Action of Tennessee, the legislative arm of The Family Action Council of Tennessee, worked on legislation that would have prevented this kind of bias. It passed the Senate, but the effort failed in a House subcommittee. The bill has been reintroduced this year as Senate Bill 364/House Bill 569.

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Is Your Legislator in the Big-Business Echo Chamber?

The overwhelming defeat of the mass transit referendum in Metro Nashville this week should serve as a lesson for the candidates for governor and the state Legislature. But they won’t learn if we don’t insist that they do. Here is how you can “school them.”

To understand the lesson they need to learn, you need to know two things. First, you need to understand what currently seems to drive legislators when it comes to legislation that takes a commonsense approach to some of the social issues we’re facing.

What Is Driving Legislators’ Thinking

It is not what regular Joe and Jane Tennessean think about these issues, but what the Human Rights Campaign, the largest pro-homosexual advocacy organization in the country, and its business allies think. Those business allies are, for the most part, represented by a group called Tennessee Thrives.

Increasingly Republicans, particularly those in positions of leadership, are afraid to do anything that would upset these corporate bigwigs. So, when legislation comes up, as it has for the last three years, that would help keep a 12-year-old biological boy from showering in the junior high girls’ locker room because he thinks he’s a girl, Speakers Randy McNally and Beth Harwell, along with Gov. Haslam (the “Big Three”), begin to “encourage” legislators to kill the bill.

For example, this year a proposed bill would have simply allowed the state to help a local public school system afford the cost of defending itself against an ACLU lawsuit if it got sued for adopting a policy prohibiting biological males from being in the girls’ locker room. The bill died for lack of a second on the Senate Judiciary Committee (kudos for Sen. Mike Bell moving the bill).

Was this bill, and the ones dealing with this subject over the previous two years, opposed because the Big Three and our legislators think it’s great to let a boy shower with a girl? No. They would tell you that they are opposed to a boy being able to do so. So what’s the deal?

It is most likely this: Tennessee Thrives said that the state supporting school systems that believe boys are boys and girls are girls and that boys and girls shouldn’t share locker room shower facilities is “discriminatory” and “will harm our economy and damage our state’s reputation.”

Are you kidding me? Protecting the privacy and safety of kids when they are in a locker room by keeping their biological opposites out is discriminatory? Recognizing objective biological realities over subjective psychological states of mind is discriminatory? Doing that is going to harm our economy?

I think Joe and Jane Tennessean, particularly those with kids and grandkids using those locker rooms, would strongly disagree. It’s common sense. And this leads to the second thing you need to understand.

Big Business Can’t Outvote You

According to The Tennessean, “[t]he for-transit campaign . . . was very much the product of the chamber of commerce. . . . Rather than broadening support . . . boosted by small individual donors, the transit coalition chose to build its coffers almost exclusively with checks from large companies, firms and powerful institutions.”

In other words, the critical importance of the mass transit plan was echoing around in the heads of the chamber elites, but it sure wasn’t resonating among the masses of the regular people who vote.

Our next governor and those who seek to serve in our Legislature need to get out of the “echo chamber” of the big business chamber-type elites whose only corporate value is the bottom line and who could care less about what Joe and Jane Tennessean think.

The number of votes that will be cast in August and November by Joe and Jane Tennessean will outnumber the corporate heads of the businesses belonging to Tennessee Thrives. But they have to remind legislators and the gubernatorial candidates of that. And here’s how.

How to ‘School’ the Political Candidates

First, when it comes to who should be our next governor, at you can watch videos of how the candidates answered nine questions we posed to them.

The two who chose not to participate and the one who chose to participate but did not answer any of the actual questions, let alone follow the directions, just told you what they think about those of us who care about these issues—we don’t really matter to them, regardless of what they may say on a television commercial. As to the rest, listen to what they said and listen to how they said it, and take your conclusions to the ballot box.

Then, in a few weeks, we’ll urge you to ask your state legislative candidates to answer our 15-question voter guide survey. Let them know that you expect answers if they want your vote.

If we who are just regular citizens don’t weigh in on these issues during this election cycle, then only the corporate bullies aligned with Tennessee Thrives will thrive.

David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Business Protection Act Passes Committee

Senate Bill 127  was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday. The bill protects businesses from discrimination by a state or local official or a local government on the basis of their personnel policies, such as employee benefits, so long as the business’ policies comply with state and federal law. The bill now heads to the Senate floor. Sen. Paul Bailey, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, Sen. Bill Ketron, Sen. Jack Johnson, Sen. Ed Jackson, and Sen. Mark Norris voted for the bill. Sen. Jeff Yarbro voted no, and Sen. Richard Briggs and Sen. Ken Yager chose not to vote.

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