Capitol Hill Update from David “Coach” Byrd, 12-8-21

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Greetings. This week I want to address highlights regarding the new election & voting laws for our state. 

Voting / Senior Citizens –  Public Chapter 233 makes it easier for elderly residents who live in assisted living facilities to vote by allowing campus residents in assisted living to participate in a voter drive at a skilled nursing home.  

Strengthening Election Integrity – Public Chapter 306 strengthens election integrity and increases accountability for out-of-state donations made to state and local election officials. The new law prohibits the State Election Commission, the Secretary of State or Coordinator of Elections from accepting any donation unless both the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate approve of the donations. Additionally, it makes the same prohibition for any county election commissioner or election administrator, unless approved by the Secretary of State or designee.

Increasing Voter Participation / Convenient Vote Centers – Public Chapter 419 expands the successful Convenient Vote Center Program in Tennessee, which allows citizens to vote on election day at any of a participating county’s polling locations most convenient to their work, school or travel. It makes them permanent in Rutherford, Monroe, Williamson and Wilson Counties and authorizes Weakley, Sullivan and Sumner Counties to participate in the pilot program for federal, state and local elections held in 2022. 

Tennessee Election Integrity Act – Public Chapter 374 requires all absentee ballots to include an easily discernible watermark and requires absentee ballot counting boards of local county election commissions to reject them if they do not have it to prevent election fraud and uphold election integrity. 

Registry of Election Finance / Collection of Fines – Public Chapter 302 allows the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance (TREF) to hire outside counsel to more effectively collect outstanding fines for violation of the state’s campaign finance laws. Previously, the State Attorney General had the sole responsibility to collect fines issued by TREF.  

Ethics / Legislators and State Contracts – Public Chapter 347 bans legislators from holding services contracts with the General Assembly while also placing new restrictions and public disclosure requirements if they contract with state government in general. 

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.