Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd: House Approves Right to Work Amendment

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   House Approves Right to Work Constitutional Amendment

   House legislators approved a resolution adding Tennessee’s Right to Work law to the state constitution during the final week. The resolution must pass by a two-thirds majority during the 2021 or 2022 legislative sessions in order to appear on the ballot for a statewide referendum in November 2022. The Right to Work constitutional amendment would also become part of the state constitution if adopted by a majority vote during the 2022 election cycle.

   Tennessee’s Right to Work statute has been state law since 1947. It stipulates workers cannot be hired or fired based on their membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization. When it was introduced in 1947, supporters of the bill argued it would “be of great advantage to the average member of organized labor.” Right to Work also protects the rights of those who choose not to join a union.

   Twenty-seven states have Right to Work laws, and nine of those have passed constitutional amendments, including neighboring states Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. The Alabama amendment passed most recently in 2016. Another neighbor, Virginia, is presently considering repealing its Right to Work statute. A constitutional amendment would offer greater protection for workers against such repeal efforts.

   House Legislators Pass Drug-Free Zone Reform

   House legislators this past week also passed legislation reforming drug-free zone laws currently on the books. House Bill 2517 passed by an 88-4 vote on June 17, 2020. The measure right-sizes drug-free zones from 1,000 feet to 500 feet and strengthens penalties against those who sell drugs to children within these zones. At the same time, the legislation allows for a judge to use discretion and apply more appropriate sentencing in certain instances.

   Drug-free zones include public or private elementary, middle, secondary schools, child care agencies, public libraries, recreational centers and parks. By shrinking these zones, House Bill 2517 has the potential to create additional resources to make justice more efficient in our state. House Bill 2517 now heads the governor’s desk for his signature.

   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. 

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