Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd March 4, 2020

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   House Republicans Introduce Historic Constitutional Carry Legislation

   This week in Nashville, House Republican leadership unveiled historic legislation designed to uphold the freedoms granted to law-abiding citizens of Tennessee under our Constitution, while also cracking down on bad actors who unlawfully possess a gun.

   When amended, House Bill 2817 extends the right to carry a handgun to all law-abiding citizens with or without a permit through constitutional carry who are 21 and older, except in current restricted areas.

   Additionally, the proposal sends a strong message to violent criminals, felons, and those who illegally obtain a firearm through a series of increased penalties for firearm-related crimes. These include:

•Increasing the penalty for theft of a firearm to a felony;

•Providing a sentencing enhancement for theft of a firearm in a car;

•Increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 days to 180 days;

•Increasing the sentences for unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or allowing a juvenile to possess a handgun.

   This historic measure will make Tennessee the 16th state in the nation to enact constitutional carry. House Bill 2817 is expected to begin moving through the committee process in the Tennessee House of Representatives next week.

   Holly Bobo Act Gains Support in House

   Members of the House Judiciary Committee this week backed House Bill 2308, also known as the Holly Bobo Act. The measure expands Tennessee’s endangered alert system to include missing or endangered young adults under 21-years-old. The legislation honors the memory of 20-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo who was abducted from her home in Decatur County in 2011. The young woman’s remains were found three years later.

   Bobo’s mother, Karen Bobo, recently addressed members of the House Judiciary Committee about the hopelessness she experienced when her daughter went missing on April 13, 2011. In powerful testimony from Karen Bobo, the panel heard how she begged law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert, but they couldn’t because the young woman was 20. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) currently only issues alerts for missing or endangered children under 18 and Silver Alerts for senior citizens. 

   The Holly Bobo Act would not change the activation criteria for AMBER Alerts, which is a federally funded program. Law enforcement reserves AMBER Alerts for the most serious of missing child cases when authorities believe a child is in imminent danger. House Bill 2308 now heads to the House Calendar & Rules Committee, where it will be scheduled for a future vote in the House chamber.

   Legislation Saving Taxpayers $18 Million through Drug-Free Zone Reform Advances in House

   Legislation reclassifying Tennessee’s drug-free school zones gained momentum in the House this week. House Bill 2517 would shrink drug-free school zones from 1,000 to 500 feet and allow judges to use discretion to waive mandatory school zone sentencing enhancements. The cost savings generated by the legislation could equate to a reinvestment of more than $18 million for public safety and rehabilitation. 

   Drug-free zones include public or private elementary, middle, secondary schools, child care agencies public libraries, recreational centers and parks. By shrinking drug-free zones, House Bill 2517 has the potential to create additional resources to make justice more efficient in Tennessee. House Bill 2517 will be heard by members of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee in March.

   As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is ever any issue I can assist with, please reach out to my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, concerns, and suggestions during the second half of the 111th General Assembly.