Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd March 17, 2021

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Republican leaders this week advanced legislation aimed at further protecting first responders through the Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday. House Bill 511 was amended to add new language under the current definition of terrorism that creates new protections for law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters, correctional officers, department of corrections employees, and other emergency medical rescue workers.  The bill raises the offense of murdering an on-duty first responder for their profession to an act of terrorism. If convicted, the perpetrator would receive life without parole or the death penalty.  Once signed into law, the legislation would be among the nation’s strongest in protecting first responders. It now heads to the Calendar and Rules Committee for consideration.

The First Responder Safety Act, House Bill 585, aims to protect first responders by enhancing penalties against those who harass, threaten, or intimidate first responders.  Currently, those who take negative action against a first responder can be charged with either harassment or with terrorism.  The bill would enhance the harassment charge since negative action against a first responder impacts the ability to recruit and retain first responders. House Bill 585 will be considered in the Criminal Justice Committee on March 17.

Legislation benefits Tennessee’s Volunteer Firefighters

Volunteer Firefighters would benefit by several proposals under consideration in the General Assembly this year.  House Bill 612 proposes to incentivize volunteer firefighter recruitment by establishing a retirement system called a Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP).  The legislation authorizes the State Treasurer to inquire with local governments and the volunteer fire departments about establishing a LOSAP plan for volunteers providing firefighting and prevention services, emergency medical services, and ambulance services.

The majority of Tennessee’s firefighters are volunteers.  The State Fire Marshal’s Office reported 22,065 active firefighters in Tennessee in 2020. Of that, 14,218 (64 percent) are volunteers and 7,847 (35.6 percent) are career firefighters.

LOSAPs may be defined contribution plans, similar to 401k, or defined benefit plans, like a pension.  Such a program is funded by contributions from the local government or nonprofit entities that utilize the services of eligible volunteers. To be eligible to receive benefits from the LOSAP, an individual must be a bona fide volunteer who receives no compensation for the services and instead receives only reimbursement for reasonable expenses or benefits and nominal fees customarily paid to them.  House Bill 612  is scheduled for consideration in the Local Government Committee on March 16.

Constitutional Carry advances to Finance, Ways & Means

House Republicans continued to advance House Bill 786, also known as the Constitutional Carry bill, through committees this week and on to Finance Ways and Means Subcommittee for consideration on March 17.

The legislation ensures honest, law-abiding citizens who are legally eligible may utilize their Second-Amendment right to self-defense without asking for government permission. Alongside of that, the bill strengthens penalties for anyone who steals a firearm, felons in possession of a firearm, and dangerous stalkers. It makes Tennessee communities safer and corrects current law that leaves law-abiding citizens defenseless in violation of their constitutional rights.  

Currently, concealed carry permit holders have the right to carry a handgun, except in restricted areas. House Bill 786 would extend the same constitutional right to carry a handgun without a permit to all law-abiding citizens 21 and older or 18 and older for active members of the military.

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