Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd April 14, 2021

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House Republicans make Covid relief tax deductible for business

Tennessee businesses will be eligible to receive more pandemic assistance through a bill that will exempt relief funds from state taxes.

Republican leaders on April 5th successfully guided unanimous passage of House Bill 776 which exempts Covid-19 relief payments received between March 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021 from the state’s excise taxes. This legislation provides an excise tax deduction for Tennessee business and entities that have received or will receive such relief payments in 2020 and 2021. Businesses that received funds from the following programs are eligible for the deduction: Tennessee Business Relief Program; Tennessee Supplemental Employer Recovery Grant Program; Coronavirus Agricultural and Forestry Business Fund; Hospital Staffing Assistance Program; Emergency Medical Services Ambulance Assistance Program; Tennessee Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants Program; and payments issued by Tennessee from the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant.

Covid relief payments must be deducted from the tax year in which they were awarded.  Once House Bill 776 becomes law, taxpayers who have already filed a franchise and excise tax return for the 2020 tax year will be able to amend the return to take the deduction for eligible relief payments received in 2020.  The companion bill awaits passage in the Senate Chamber.

Legislation prevents vaccine passports in Tennessee

Legislation that aims to ensure Covid-19 vaccines remain voluntary advanced through House committees this week. House Bill 575 will ensure that medical information reflecting the status of a person’s vaccination cannot be required by any state entities in Tennessee.   The legislation prohibits a state or local governmental official, entity, department or agency from mandating a private business to require “vaccine passports” or proof of a Covid-19 vaccine as a condition for entering their premises or utilizing their services. It also removes authority from county boards of health to enforce and adopt rules and regulations regarding Covid-19, preserving their role as an advisory body to the elected county mayor.  The bill defines quarantine in Tennessee law as the limitation of a person’s freedom of movement, isolation, or preventing or restricting access to premises upon which the person, cause or source of a disease may be found for a period of time as may be necessary to confirm or establish a diagnosis, determine the cause or source of a disease or prevent the spread of a disease.

House Republicans ensure wine is sold safely in Tennessee

House Republican leaders passed legislation ensuring alcohol is sold safely in a way that supports Tennessee businesses. House Bill 742 keeps out-of-state vendors from violating Tennessee’s existing state laws by not paying appropriate state taxes.  As amended,  the legislation creates a license for wine fulfillment houses with a $300 application fee, $300 annual renewal fee and a $50 annual fee for each additional location.

Fulfillment house licensees now may only provide services related to the shipment of wine into or within Tennessee and only for wineries or direct shippers licensed in the state. They must use a common carrier for shipping and obtain the signature of a person 21-years or older upon delivery. Fulfillment house licensees must verify, maintain and submit data to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) on a quarterly basis. Fulfillment houses will be subject to punishment by fine, suspension, or revocation of licensure if they fail to verify, maintain and submit these records. The companion bill awaits passage in the Senate chamber.

Republicans expand telehealth options for behavioral services

House Republicans this week passed legislation that will expand telehealth options for behavioral health services.

Present Tennessee telehealth statute does not recognize audio-only telehealth services as eligible for reimbursement under certain circumstances.House Bill 620 amends the current statute on provider-based telemedicine and allows for the use of HIPPA-compliant audio-only technology for behavioral health services if other means are unavailable. The ability to provide therapy services over the telephone was proven to be beneficial throughout the coronavirus pandemic for patients and providers alike. This legislation ensures that this option will continue to be available for those seeking behavioral health help and treatment.

General Assembly passes bill to curb catalytic converter thefts

The General Assembly this week unanimously passed legislation that aims to curb thefts of catalytic converters in Tennessee.  In partnership with local and state law enforcement agencies, House Bill 1155 targets those who steal catalytic converters from cars. The bill requires any entity engaged in buying these unattached parts to notify law enforcement of these purchases. This will support the creation of a registry which will help suppress criminal activity in Tennessee.  It now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Firearm Information Privacy Protection Act advances

Legislation that seeks to protect the anonymity of citizens related to firearm ownership is moving through the House committee system.

Similar to the protections guaranteed by the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), House Bill 1171, also known as the Firearm Information Privacy Protection Act (FIPPA), will protect Tennesseans who are exercising their right to own and purchase firearms. This legislation will create a Class A misdemeanor for any public personnel that intentionally discloses information about an owner of a firearm, for the purpose of compiling a federal firearms registry or confiscation of firearms. The bill will create a cause of action for a gun owner to pursue civil action against an individual that releases information about gun ownership in order to facilitate any federal government effort to confiscate or register firearms.

The Firearm Information Privacy Protection Act will act as buffer between Tennessee and the federal government’s unconstitutional and invasive attempts to prohibit citizens from protecting one’s life, liberty and family. House Republicans stand committed to protecting the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding Tennesseans. House Bill 1171 is expected to be heard for consideration on the House chamber in the coming weeks.

Republicans advance the Unborn Child Dignity Act

Republicans this week advanced legislation that advocates for the dignity of the unborn through proper burial or cremation. House Bill 1181 requires the same protections, respect and dignity to a deceased surgically aborted child as granted to any other deceased human being. It would be the responsibility of the mother of the aborted child or the abortion facility to provide at their expense a burial or cremation. This legislation does not limit or restrict an abortion or access to an abortion. It only attempts to guarantee an acceptable level of respect for an aborted child. A violation of this law would be a Class A misdemeanor. House Bill 1181 is expected to be heard for consideration in the House Government Operations Committee on April 12.

House of Representatives honor Dolly Parton

The House of Representatives honored beloved Tennessean and cultural icon Dolly Parton with two pieces of legislation this week.

House Bill 938 adopts “Amazing Grace” as sung by Dolly Parton as an official state song. If passed by the Senate, Parton’s rendition of the hymn will join songs like “My Homeland, Tennessee,” “Rocky Top,” and “Tennessee Waltz” on the list of Tennessee’s official state songs. House Joint Resolution 358 recognizes Dolly Parton for her devoted and compassionate service to her fellow Tennesseans and millions around the world through her cultural contributions and philanthropy. The resolution celebrates her dedication to promoting children’s literacy and education worldwide through the Imagination Library, a program that provides new, age-appropriate books monthly to preschool children from birth to their 5th birthday. The program has gifted more than 152 million books to young readers throughout the world.

Tennesseans urged to register as organ donors

The House of Representatives passed a resolution this week urging Tennesseans to register as organ and tissue donors. House Joint Resolution 103 encourages all residents of Tennessee to step forward and register to become an organ and tissue donor so that the lives of others can be saved. 110,000 Americans are currently on the organ donation waiting list, while only 41 percent of Tennesseans are registered to become donors.

. 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