Legislative Updates Include: Constitutional Carry Introduced, Roadway Protection & Enhanced Penalties For Rioting, Evelyn Boswell’s Law, Increased Penalty For Drag Racing, Protection For Women’s Sports, Honoring Lamar Alexander, And Commemoration Of Tennessee’s 225th Year Of Statehood.
Photo: Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville
Photo Credit: Peggy Anderson
Published March 1, 2021
By William Haupt III [The Tennessee Conservative Contributor] –
House Republicans Introduce Constitutional Carry
House Republican leadership this week presented legislation making Tennessee the 19th state in the nation to enact a constitutional right to carry law. House Bill 786 upholds freedoms granted to law-abiding citizens in the U.S. Constitution while also stiffening penalties for criminals who steal or illegally possess firearms.
This legislation includes several provisions that will make Tennessee communities safer by providing more severe punishments for firearm-related crime. House Bill 786 includes sentencing enhancements for theft of a firearm in a car, increases the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 to 180 days and increases unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders. It also increases sentences for possession by a felon and unlawfully providing a handgun to a minor or allowing a minor to possess a firearm.
Currently, concealed carry permit holders have the right to carry a handgun, except in restricted areas. Law-abiding citizens without a carry permit may only carry a firearm in certain locations such as their home, car, or place of business. House Bill 786 would extend the 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. Restricted areas include schools, colleges and universities, playgrounds, athletic events, government property signs posted prohibiting carry, places where judicial proceedings take place, parks, campgrounds and greenways. House Bill 786 moves to Criminal Justice Subcommittee for consideration on March 3.
Legislation protects roadways and enhances penalties for rioting
Legislation protecting public roadways from mob violence began to move through the committee process this week in Nashville. House Bill 513 promotes law and order by increasing penalties for those who obstruct a roadway and creates new criminal offenses for those who participate in rioting.
House Bill 513 increases the penalty for obstructing a highway or other passage way to a Class E felony with a mandatory fine of $3,000. Currently, the offense carries a maximum $500 fine. It creates criminal immunity for a driver who unintentionally causes injury or death to a person illegally obstructing a roadway.
House Bill 513 also enhances penalties for violence committed during a riot. The bill defines a riot as a disturbance in a public place or penal institution involving three or more people who are participating in violent behavior, creating grave danger, substantial damage to property or serious bodily injury to others, obstructing law enforcement or a government function.
House Bill 513:
Creates a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 for a person who throws an object at another with the intent of harming the other person during a riot.
Creates a Class E felony punishable by one to six years in prison for a person who throws an object at another and causes bodily injury while participating in a riot.
Creates a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 for a person participating in a riot who intentionally intimidates or harasses an individual in public who is not participating in a riot.
House Bill 513 will be presented in the Criminal Justice Committee for a vote on March 3.
House advances legislation limiting health boards’ autonomy
Legislation aimed at scaling back the power of Tennessee’s six independent metropolitan health boards passed the Health Subcommittee on Tuesday. House Bill 7 would decrease the autonomy of health departments in Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby, and Sullivan Counties. These boards are comprised of unelected members with their own authority to issue health directives independently from the state.
The Covid-19 pandemic revealed the boards’ unchecked power to adopt rules and regulations as unelected bureaucrats in these counties. The bill proposes that any county health director, health officer and board of health would move to a strictly advisory role, while elected county mayors would have the final authority to establish and implement health policies.
House Bill 7 is scheduled to be heard in the full Health Committee on Wednesday, March 3.
Republicans honor legacy of missing toddler with “Evelyn Boswell’s Law”
House Bill 384, known as “Evelyn Boswell’s Law” honors a missing Sullivan County toddler who was reported missing in February 2020.
The legislation requires a parent or guardian who believes a child 12 years of age or younger is missing to report it to a law enforcement agency or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation within 24 hours. Failure to report or delaying a report would result in a Class A misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Evelynn Boswell was 15-months-old when she was last seen in December 2019. She wasn’t reported missing until February 2020. Her remains were found weeks later on a family member’s property.
The child’s mother, Megan Boswell, never reported her daughter missing. She currently faces 19 felony charges, including felony murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect.
Evelyn’s Law is scheduled for consideration in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on March 3.
House Bill 22 increases the penalty for drag racing to a Class A misdemeanor, making it comparable to a Driving Under the Influence charge. Drag racing is a very intentional act that puts innocent lives in danger. Beyond the increase in force at the moment of impact in a collision, traveling at excessive speed imposes obstacles to the safe operation of a motor vehicle. These include decreased reaction time to avoid vehicles or pedestrians, inability to safely turn or to retain control through curves, increased risk of skidding off roads, increased rollover risk, etc. The bill will now move forward for consideration by the Criminal Justice Committee on March 3.
House advances legislation protecting women’s sports
A bill protecting women’s sports has been recommended for passage and referred to Calendars and Rules Committee. House Bill 003 seeks to protect the competitive balance of girls’ sports. Women’s sports were created to give girls a fair chance at competition. That includes fair victories and fair defeats. House Bill 003 makes clear that participation in public middle and high school interscholastic sports must correspond with a student’s biological gender at birth. Local school districts have a legitimate interest and obligation to ensure they are not creating opportunities for undue injury to children who participate in interscholastic activities and sports. The bill ensures boys are not able to displace girls in competitive events which could deny female athletes’ victories, opportunities or scholarships.
House honors U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander with resolution
The House unanimously passed HJR99 on Tuesday, a resolution honoring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander for his lifetime of service to Tennessee. Alexander served as governor of Tennessee from 1979-87 and in the United States Senate from 2003-21, leaving office in January.
The Maryville native graduated from Vanderbilt University and New York University Law School. Throughout his life of public service, Alexander served as staffer under U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker, Jr. and President Richard Nixon, was president of the University of Tennessee, and served as the 45th governor of Tennessee. While in the Senate, Alexander chaired the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as well as was elected chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus by his colleagues.
Alexander retired to his home in East Tennessee, where he resides with his wife Honey and dog Rufus. The senator built a legacy in public service that is second to none and will be remembered by Tennesseans as a true statesman.
Tennessee commemorates 225 years of statehood
Tennessee will celebrate 225 years of statehood on June 1. The House this week marked this milestone by passing a resolution to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the State of Tennessee.
Nicknamed the ‘Volunteer State’ following the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, Tennessee has led the way in the areas of leadership, bravery, and perseverance. The state is the proud home to three U.S. presidents, Presidents Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson.
The resolution boasts of Tennessee’s rich history, acknowledging the economic, social, technological, and military contributions Tennessee has made to our nation.
About the Author:
William Haupt III, Contributing Columnist
William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, author, and citizen legislator in California for over 40 years. He got his start working to approve California Proposition 13.