House Republicans propose to protect consumer privacy
Republican leaders this week announced a proposal that protects Tennesseans’ right to privacy and returns control of personal information back to consumers. The Tennessee Information Protection Act requires large technology companies to fully disclose to consumers what information is being collected about them through their online activities.
When consumers interact on websites, social media, or apps they leave behind personal information that is sold for profit to groups that use it to market their products, ideas or beliefs with targeted ads without our knowledge. The legislation requires online platforms to disclose up-front exactly what personal information will be collected and how they intend to use it. Tennesseans will have the ability to “opt-out” of the selling of their personal information to third parties without discrimination.
The proposed legislation includes protections for biometric data that measures physical characteristics like voice recordings, fingerprints, retinal scans or face recognition. Companies will be held accountable when they misuse a consumer’s information. The bill gives the state attorney general authority to impose civil penalties when big tech companies fail to safeguard private data or violate consumer protections. It applies to companies with a global gross annual revenue of more than $25 million. It includes companies that buy, receive or sell information of more than 50,000 customers, households, devices or anyone that collects more than 50 percent of their global annual revenue from selling customers’ personal information.
General Assembly passes bill creating lifetime orders of protection for victims of violent crimes
Legislation creating lifetime orders of protection for victims of violent crimes passed both chambers unanimously and now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for his signature. House Bill 434 creates a lifetime order of protection to strictly prohibit communication between an offender and their victim.
Republican Leaders partnered with Nikki Goeser, a victim of stalking, to create this legislation. She was present in the House chamber for the unanimous vote on Monday. Goeser’s stalker shot and killed her husband, Ben, in front of her in a crowded restaurant in 2009. Her stalker has been behind bars serving time for second-degree murder, but has continued to try to contact Goeser, sending her letters from prison. Offenders that violate the order could receive up to a Class A misdemeanor, ensuring that these penalties will tack significant time onto ongoing sentences. The legislation is retroactive, so persons who have previously been victimized can receive lifelong orders of protection. This bill also permits service of ex parte orders of protection for up to one year from issuance. .
Defense Doctrine allows sexual assault victims to use deadly force
Legislation authorizing the use of deadly force for sexual assault victims was approved unanimously in the House chamber this week. House Bill 50, known as the 2021 Defense Doctrine, allows victims that have a reasonable belief they are imminent danger of serious sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape to utilize deadly force as a method of self-defense to avoid serious bodily injury and escape dangerous threats to their personal safety.
Recent data from the Tennessee Department of Health reveals that sexual violence is a major public health crisis resulting in long-term societal and economic costs. Approximately 6,177 people were assaulted in Tennessee in 2017, according to the department. House Bill 50 now awaits final passage from the Senate Chamber.
2021 Precious Cargo Act passes both chambers
The 2021 Precious Cargo Act passed unanimously in the House on Monday. House Bill 40 updates the Tennessee Vehicle Title and Registration System (VTRS) to account for individuals who may need assistance expressing themselves or exiting the vehicle when approached by law enforcement or first responders. This registration will assist officers and responders when interacting with persons with physical, verbal, or cognitive impairments. The bill passed in the Senate chamber earlier this month and now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature
The SAFE Act passes in the House
The House this week unanimously approved legislation designed to improve the quality of care for Tennesseans battling addiction. House Bill 215 continues ongoing efforts by House Republicans to fight Tennessee’s opioid and drug crisis by creating additional safeguards for patients of sober-living homes.
The bill expands on the Stopping Addiction & Fostering Excellence (SAFE) Act of 2018 by promoting best practices and making sure patients who utilize recovery homes receive the highest quality of care to succeed in their sobriety. The bill encourages sober-living homes to be nationally accredited to ensure the home’s management abides by a strict code of ethics and provides a safe and healthy living environment for patients in recovery. Recovery facilities not adhering to national accreditation standards would risk losing licensure and could face penalties. This legislation balances creating the best possible environment for recovery while making sure our communities are safe from the dangers of poorly managed facilities with no accountability. The Senate companion bill will be considered in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on March 24.
STRONG Act increases opportunities for Tennessee Guardsmen
House Republican leaders continued to advance important legislation this week including a proposal to expand eligibility for tuition reimbursement for Tennessee National Guardsmen under the state’s Support, Training, and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen (STRONG) Act. The STRONG Act provides eligible service members in the Tennessee National Guard with tuition reimbursement for coursework completed as a full-time student in pursuit of their bachelor’s degree.
Republican leaders are sponsoring House Bill 83 which expands eligibility to service members for a master’s degree and certificate-producing programs. It provides tuition reimbursement for up to 120 hours for a bachelor’s degree, 40 hours for a master’s degree and 24 hours for a vocational or technical program. The legislation also provides reimbursement for up to 30 additional hours for any service member enrolled in ROTC or other officer-producing programs while pursuing a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Students enrolled in officer-producing programs are required to take certain courses which can be outside the requirements of their chosen degree. This could lead to ROTC students hitting the credit hour cap before obtaining their degree and losing their eligibility for additional reimbursement. Finally, the bill extends the program for four more years until June 30, 2025. The STRONG Act has boosted recruitment of service members in the National Guard since its enactment in 2017. This legislation aims to retain and renew more service members by offering additional education benefits. House Bill 83 will be considered by the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee on March 23.
Republicans advance Right to Work resolution in the House
House Joint Resolution 72, the “Right to Work” resolution, passed the House Commerce Committee this week. The resolution will add the state’s Right to Work law to the Tennessee Constitution.
Tennessee’s Right to Work statute has been state law since 1947. It protects all workers from discrimination based on their membership in or affiliation with any labor union or employee organization, giving workers the right to choose not to join a union. The resolution overwhelmingly passed in the 111th General Assembly, which is the first step in enshrining the law to the state’s constitution. The measure is also required to be passed in the 112th General Assembly before it can be sent to voters on the ballot.
Twenty-seven other states have Right to Work laws, and nine of those have passed constitutional amendments. As neighboring states and the Biden administration are considering repealing Right to Work statutes, a constitutional amendment would offer greater protection for Tennessee workers against such repeal efforts. HJR 72 is set to be heard in the Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee on Wednesday, March 24.
David Crockett to be honored with statue on Capitol grounds
Legislation honoring Tennessee legend David Crockett with a statue on the Capitol grounds passed the House on Monday.
The General Assembly created the David Crockett Commission in 2012, tasking them with the responsibility of finding a home for a statue of David Crockett on the grounds of the Capitol. House Bill 220 designates the desired location for the statue, requiring it to be placed on a pedestal above the entrance to the Motlow Tunnel on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
The Tennessee native is revered across America as a folk hero. Crockett served in the Tennessee House of Representatives, where he represented Lawrence, Hickman and Carroll Counties, and served in Congress as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is known for his service to the state in the Tennessee militia during the War of 1812 and the Battle of the Alamo. House Bill 220 now awaits consideration in the Senate.
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