Mar 4 2017
10:02 am

House Democrats held a news conference Monday to promote a package of 50 bills they are sponsoring this year deemed to benefit Tennessee’s middle class, reports WPLN.

Their “People’s Bill of Rights” consists of five core principles that they say justify actions like raising the state’s minimum wage, lessening sentences for marijuana possession and opposing school vouchers.

TN Democratic House Caucus
What Members are doing to promote our
People’s Bill of Rights
110th Session

I. The right to an economy that offers well-paying jobs.

Tennesseans need jobs that allow them to provide for their families and build up their communities. Members have introduced legislation or taken action:

a. Guaranteeing equal pay for equal work
i. HB0477, Rep. Clemmons: enacts the "Tennessee Pay Equality Transparency Act."
ii. HB1246, Rep. Clemmons: enacts the “Tennessee Pay Equality Act.”
b. Increasing the minimum wage to $15
i. HB0080, Rep. Hardaway: establishes a minimum wage of $15.00 as of July 1, 2017; provides a minimum wage for employees in the service industry who receive tips and employees that are compensated solely by gratuities.
ii. HB0129, Rep. Thompson: raises the minimum wage paid to tipped employees from $2.13 to $2.50 per hour
iii. HB1060, Rep. DeBerry: establishes a minimum wage that increases annually on July 1; provides a minimum wage for employees in the service industry who receive tips and employees that are compensated solely by gratuities.
iv. HB1311, Rep. Turner: requires the commissioner of labor and workforce development to set a state minimum hourly wage rate at not less than $10.10 per hour, adjusted annually to reflect inflation in accordance with the consumer price index.

c. Fighting outsourcing
i. HB0049, Rep. Clemmons: requires state agencies to present an electronic report to the fiscal review committee each month for any contracts for services procured through competitive means in excess of $5,000,000 and for any cost adjustment or other amendment to the contract in excess of the same amount.
ii. HB0281, Rep. Jones: requires the Department of Corrections develop criteria related to the work period and compensation of correctional employees; requires the department to annually report correctional officer staffing levels.
iii. HB1208, Rep. Fitzhugh: prohibits outsourcing with respect to the maintenance, operation, and preservation of state parks, including buildings, facilities, structures, or improvements upon state park property.
iv. HB1331, Rep. Thompson: requires notification of all members of the general assembly when a recommendation is made for outsourcing of a state agency program
v. HB1387, Rep. Jernigan, “Save Tennessee Call Center Jobs Act”: requires an employer that intends to relocate a call center from this state to a foreign country to notify the commissioner at least one hundred twenty (120) days in advance. The call center then becomes ineligible for any direct or indirect state grant, state guaranteed loan, tax benefit, tax credit, or any other benefit derived from state funds being initially disbursed or renewed to the employer for two (2) years after the date.
vi. HB1391, Rep. Jernigan: establishes the office of apprenticeship and work-study programs within the Department of Economic and Community Development and provides a tax credit to entities that participate in the programs.
d. Improving the quality of existing jobs
i. HB0165, Rep. Pitts: authorizes private employers to give hiring preference to honorably discharged veterans, spouses of a veteran with a service-connected disability, un-remarried widows or widowers of a veteran who died of a service-connected disability, and un-remarried widows or widowers of a member of the military who died in the line of duty.
ii. HB0834. Rep. Jones: requires certain employers to make a reasonable accommodation for any pregnant employee upon request.
iii. HB1184, Rep. Powell: requires that all employers give their employees six weeks of paid leave for adoption, pregnancy, childbirth, or nursing an infant.
iv. HB1329, Rep. Stewart: provides additional remedies available to employees who are victims of wage theft.
v. HB1346, Rep. Camper: requires the attorney general and reporter to conduct investigations of complaints under the general assembly's policy on workplace discrimination and harassment.
vi. HB1355, Rep. Mitchell: deletes requirement that a court must award attorneys' fees and costs to prevailing state and local government employees sued in individual capacity.
e. Providing tax relief for vulnerable citizens
i. HB0020, Rep. Pitts: changes the home value for which real property tax relief will be granted from $100,000 to $175,000 for veterans with disabilities and from $23,500 to $25,000 for low-income homeowners who are elderly or have disabilities.
f. Reducing or eliminating taxes on food and other necessities and promoting the local economy
i. HB0804, Rep. Fitzhugh: eliminates the sales tax on over-the-counter medicine, diapers, and feminine hygiene products; reduces sales and use tax rate on food and food ingredients by .5 percent each year beginning on January 1, 2018.
ii. HB0851, Rep. Shaw: enacts the "Local Food Procurement Act" to facilitate economic activity based on the market in local farm and food products.
iii. HB1364, Rep. Mitchell: eliminates the tax on the sale of food for human consumption; increases the tax on cigarettes from 3.1 cents per cigarette to 8.45 cents per cigarette; increases the tax on other tobacco products from 6.6 percent to 17 percent.

II. The right to safe neighborhoods and a fair and sensible justice system.

Our citizens need a justice system that protects them from violence and lawlessness while promoting justice and encouraging those who want to live lawfully to lead productive lives. Members have introduced legislation or taken action:

a. Promoting commutation or lessening of sentences for marijuana possession and other non-violent offenses
i. HB0109, Rep. Parkinson: increases the amount of marijuana possessed or exchanged under the offenses of simple possession or casual exchange from less than one-half ounce to less than one ounce; prohibits the inference of purpose of selling or otherwise dispensing when the substance possessed or exchanged was less than one ounce of marijuana.
ii. HB0297, Rep. Love: reduces from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor the offense of possession of a small amount of marijuana not in excess of one-eighth ounce; punishes the offense by imposing a fine of no more than $50.
iii. HB0734, Rep. Hardaway: requires a law enforcement officer to issue a citation in lieu of continued custody of a person arrested for a misdemeanor violation of simple possession of a controlled substance, unless the officer determines, based on the person's previous failure to appear in court, that a reasonable likelihood exists that the arrested person will fail to appear in court.
iv. HB0831, Rep. Jones: decriminalizes the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
v. HB1128, Rep. Parkinson: enacts the "Drug Treatment Instead of Incarceration Act."

b. Facilitating expunction for non-violent crimes that occurred years in the past
i. HB0383, Rep. Shaw: reduces the fee for expunction to $205, reduces the time after which sentences have been completed before a person can apply for expunction to one year, and allows a person to obtain expunction for an assault conviction.
ii. HB0418, Rep. Akbari: reduces from $350 to $180 the expunction fee for criminal convictions; revises allocation of fee proceeds.
iii. HB0636, Rep. Akbari: creates a process for the expunction of juvenile court records for cases in which the juvenile successfully completed pretrial or judicial diversion.
iv. HB0754, Rep. Shaw: requires the district attorney general to submit recommendations on an expunction petition within 30 days of service of the petition, rather than 60 days.
v. HB0873, Rep. Akbari: permits a person who has no more than two convictions to petition on a one-time basis for expunction of both convictions provided each offense is otherwise eligible for expunction.
vi. HB1277, Rep. Love: establishes certain procedures for expunction without cost when charge is dismissed or nolle prosequi is entered.
vii. HB1280, Rep. Love: permits person to apply to have a current conviction expunged even if person has prior convictions for Class C or Class B misdemeanors.
c. Combating violent juvenile crime as a healthcare issue in addition to a criminal justice issue
i. HB0380, Rep. Love: prohibits solitary confinement for juveniles in a juvenile detention facility.
ii. HB0822, Rep. Gilmore: requires juveniles to undergo a mental health screening after being found delinquent twice of an offense that would be considered a misdemeanor if committed by an adult.

d. Strengthening domestic violence laws
i. HB0876, Rep. Akbari: increases penalty from Class A misdemeanor to Class E felony for violation of an order of protection, possession of a firearm while subject to an order of protection, and conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
e. Protecting children, our most vulnerable citizens
i. HB0827, Rep. Jones: requires the comptroller of the treasury to conduct a performance audit of private service providers contracting with the department of children's services.
ii. HB0829, Rep. Jones, “MaKayla’s Law”: expands the offense of reckless endangerment to include a person's reckless failure to render inoperable or safely secure or lock a firearm, resulting in a child under 13 years of age gaining possession of the firearm and injuring or killing the child or another.
f. Protecting citizens’ rights
i. HB0824, Rep. Gilmore: requires law enforcement agencies to submit to the Tennessee bureau of investigation reports of the demographics of the following members of the public who interact with the law enforcement agency: victims, suspects, witnesses, and arrested individuals.
ii. HB1261, Rep. Towns: prohibits a law enforcement officer from seizing or destroying a person's photograph or recording of an event or person if it is not illegal and the person is in a place the person has a right to be when photographed or recorded.
g. Aiding in transitioning to life after incarceration with best chance for success
i. HB0823, Rep. Gilmore: requires the Tennessee housing development agency to develop best practices concerning implementation of housing programs and options by local entities to assist formerly incarcerated individuals.

III. The right to strong, well-funded public schools and universities that provide all children the means to reach the highest levels of achievement.

Tennesseans need public schools that give them the opportunity to go as far as their abilities and hard work will take them. Members have introduced legislation or taken action:

a. Opposing school vouchers.
b. Fully funding Tennessee’s Basic Education Plan (BEP)
i. HB1340, Rep. Camper: sets the BEP instructional salary unit cost for the 2017–2018 fiscal year at the statewide average licensed teacher salary.
c. Ensuring that the Achievement School District (ASD) respects the rights of local parents and children
i. HB0353, Rep. Beck: prohibits a school assigned to the ASD from serving grades other than those served by the school before its assignment to the ASD; prohibits the ASD from recruiting students zoned for another school if a school is assigned to the ASD.
ii. HB0354, Rep. Beck: allows the commissioner to assign certain schools or grade configurations within certain schools to the ASD unless the parents of 60 percent of the children enrolled at the school object by signing a petition.
iii. HB1129, Rep. Parkinson: creates a timeline for the commissioner of education to transition schools from the operation of the achievement school district (ASD) back to the local education agency if the ASD-operated school fails to improve student achievement.
d. Eliminating unnecessary and excessive school testing
i. HB1312, Rep. Turner: prohibits the administration of standardized tests to students in pre-K-2; prohibits the use of standardized tests for students in K-2 to evaluate a classroom, teacher, school, or school district.

e. Making higher education more accessible and affordable; returning power to local communities to control their own schools
i. HB0374, Rep. Clemmons: expands the sales tax exemption for purchases of textbooks to include purchases of reading materials required for high school or college classes.
ii. HB1229, Rep. Cooper: Authorizes the Department of Education to create a program whereby teacher trainees can serve as mentors for students who are recipients of the Families First program.
iii. HB0841, Rep. Fitzhugh: enacts the "K-12 Block Grant Act," which distributes block grants to each LEA to improve the quality of education; appropriates $250 million from excess state tax revenues over collected in fiscal years 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 for K-12 block grants.
iv. HB1256, Rep. Towns: grants Local Education Authorities (“LEAs”) the same flexibility as public charter schools to allow the LEAs to be more creative and innovative, including the authority to apply for the waiver of laws and state board rules.
v. HB1258, Rep. Towns: prohibits an LEA from closing a school after July 1, 2017; requires the office of research and education accountability (OREA) to conduct a five-year study on the impact of the students and a community when the LEA closes a school.
vi. HB1366, Rep. Mitchell: enacts the "Transparency in Charter School Finance Act."
f. Ensuring school buses are safe and equipped with seat belts
i. HB0127, Rep. Favors: increases the age limit from 21 to 25 for a person's eligibility to receive the school bus endorsement on a driver license.
ii. HB0395, Rep. Favors: requires seatbelts for school buses.

IV. The right to high quality healthcare for all citizens.

Tennesseans need quality healthcare that gives them the health and freedom they need to pursue their goals without being hindered by preventable illness and disease. Members have introduced legislation or taken action:

a. Opposing any legislation that would cut Medicare or alter it through the use of “healthcare compacts” or other devices
b. Expanding healthcare under the Insure Tennessee plan or similar plans and protecting citizens’ rights to affordable, accessible healthcare
i. HB0035, Rep. Windle: Requires insurance to cover breathing and heartrate monitors for certain infants.
ii. HB0502, Rep. Powell: As introduced, prohibits health insurance issuers from imposing preexisting condition exclusions on insureds.
iii. HB0721, Rep. Powell: Enacts the "Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act."
iv. HB0842, Rep. Fitzhugh: requires the commissioner of commerce and insurance to establish minimum essential benefits for health insurance coverage in this state that is no less extensive than that available under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
v. HB0846, Rep. Fitzhugh: authorizes the governor to expand Medicaid pursuant to the Affordable Care Act; authorizes the governor to negotiate with the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services to determine the terms of the expansion.
vi. HB0847, Rep. Fitzhugh: As introduced, raises the age until which health insurance policies must cover a dependent child from 24 to 26 years of age.
vii. HB0848, Rep. Fitzhugh: As introduced, requires health insurance policies to cover a dependent child until the child reaches 26 years of age.
c. Enacting medical marijuana legislation without further delay
i. HB0830, Rep. Jones: enacts the "Medical Cannabis Access Act."
ii. HB0860, Rep. Miller: creates an exception to the offense of simple possession of marijuana for persons with a valid, state-issued medical marijuana identification card who obtained the marijuana pursuant to a valid physician's recommendation.
d. Improving our mental health system
i. HB0479, Rep. Clemmons: requires every health insurance carrier that issues health benefit plans to submit an annual report concerning mental health substance abuse benefits and claims.
ii. HB0480, Rep. Clemmons: requires managed care organizations participating in the TennCare program to annually report to the bureau of TennCare certain information regarding treatment of claims for mental health and alcoholism or drug dependence benefits in relation to the requirements of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.
iii. HB0871, Rep. Pitts: requires the department of commerce and insurance to develop a consumer and provider education campaign on mental health and alcoholism or drug dependence parity.
iv. HB1209, Rep. Fitzhugh: expands the immunity from arrest, charge, or prosecution to persons seeking medical assistance for drug overdoses to apply to any overdose instead of only a person's first drug overdose.
v. HB1244, Rep. Clemmons: revises requirements for mental health parity with medical health insurance statutes to require certain demonstrations of parity and reports from insurers.
vi. HB1245, Rep. Clemmons: requires every health insurance carrier that issues health benefit plans to submit an annual report concerning mental health substance abuse benefits and claims.
e. Ensuring our air and drinking water are healthy and free of lead and other toxins
i. HB0385, Rep. Powell: Requires principals of schools built before June 19, 1986, to flush fixtures used for drinking water and food preparation for at least 60 seconds before the arrival of children each school day.
ii. HB0631, Rep. Staples: requires the state board of education to promulgate rules for testing lead levels in drinking water sources at public schools built before June 19, 1986 and notify parents or guardians of students at schools where high lead levels are confirmed by a retest.
iii. HB1269, Rep. Thompson: requires annual inspection and evaluation program to measure indoor air quality at schools; provides minimum requirements for the program.
iv. HB0464, Rep. Staples: "Property Assessed Clean Energy Act."
f. Lowering prescription drug costs
i. HB1327, Rep. Stewart: requires certain drug manufacturers to submit information to the department of health about drug prices; requires the department of commerce and insurance to promulgate rules relating to disclosure of drug formulary prices.
ii. HB1328, Rep. Stewart: “Prescription Drug Fair Pricing Act;” requires studies and reports on or before January 15, 2018, by the commissioner of health concerning price gouging for essential generic drugs.

V. The right to participate in our Democracy without facing unreasonable obstacles.

Tennesseans are entitled to participate fully and freely in elections and control their own government according to their priorities. Members have introduced legislation or taken action:

a. Eliminating voter ID laws and other measures that hinder the right of all citizens to participate in our democracy
i. HB0079, Rep. Hardaway: permits the use of a photo identification card issued by this state, the United States, or an accredited postsecondary institution of education in this state for purposes of verifying the identity of an eligible voter.
ii. HB0184, Rep. Favors: allows a person 65 years of age or older who has never been issued a birth certificate to be issued a photo identification license for voting purposes by furnishing a social security card, Medicare card, health insurance card, or other satisfactory document substantiating the person's identity.
iii. HB0429, Rep. Hardaway: allows a voter to take photographs or videos of only the voter’s marked ballot on a mobile electronic or communication device in polling place; authorizes poll watchers and election officials to prohibit any disruptive activity that threatens the voting process or the privacy of a voter.
iv. HB0654, Rep. Miller: authorizes a person to appeal to the state election commission the rejection of a provisional ballot.
v. HB0857, Rep. Miller: requires the issuance of a certificate of voting rights restoration to a person who was convicted of an infamous crime in this state and received a pardon, was discharged from custody after serving or expiration of the maximum sentence imposed for the crime, or was granted a certificate of final discharge from supervision by the board of parole or county correction authority.
vi. HB0954, Rep. Fitzhugh: authorizes a qualified person to register and vote on election day; authorizes a person to update the person's voter information and vote on election day
vii. HB1040, Rep. Camper: revises provisions governing the use of mobile electronic and communication devices at polling places.
viii. HB1310, Rep. Turner: enacts the "Voter Protection Act."
ix. HB1313, Rep. Turner: allows persons 60 years of age or older who possess a valid non-photo bearing license issued by this state on or before January 1, 2013, to vote at a polling place without having to present photo identification.
b. Promoting non-partisan redistricting
i. HB045, Rep. Fitzhugh: fights partisan gerrymandering by creating five member Congressional redistricting commission.
ii. HB0183, Rep. JoAnne Favors: As introduced, enacts the "No Representation Without Population Act of 2017."
c. Encouraging voting and making it convenient
i. HB0423, Rep. Clemmons: permits any registered Tennessee voter to vote absentee for any reason after providing a certification as to the identity of the voter in the application for a ballot.
ii. HB0787, Rep. Stewart: establishes automatic registration of a person to vote when a person applies for a motor vehicle driver license or photo identification license.
iii. HB1117, Rep. Miller: allows disabled veterans to vote absentee.
iv. HB1354, Rep. Mitchell: permits a person at least 15 years old but not more than 18 years old to be registered to vote upon turning 18 years old through submittal of an application for a driver's permit, driver license, or photo identification license with the department of safety.
d. Making campaigns honest and transparent
i. HB0625, Rep. Shaw: prohibits a political advertisement from implying a non-incumbent candidate is an incumbent; requires a political advertisement to include the number or letter of the district, ward, or seat for which the candidate is running, if applicable.
ii. HB1182, Rep. Powell: Requires Presidential candidate to file 5 years of tax returns with the Secretary of State before being included on a primary or general election ballot.
iii. HB1314, Rep. Turner: requires public and private schools to provide students in grade 12 information on how to register to vote, how to vote in an election using a ballot, and how to vote using an absentee ballot; allows schools to provide this information through activities, written materials, internet resources, mock elections, and any other method chosen by the principal after consultation with teachers.
iv. HB1341, Rep. Camper: increases penalty from Class C misdemeanor to Class A misdemeanor for knowingly publishing or distributing false campaign literature.

Eco Warriors and Politics

Science and Stuff

Lost Medicaid Funding

To date, the failure to expand Medicaid / TennCare has cost the State of Tennessee ? in lost federal funding.