Thursday, May 3, 2018

Three Big Wins from This Year’s Legislative Session

From an American for Prosperity email - Americans for Prosperity had a few major policy issues in Tennessee this year, including civil asset forfeiture reform, occupational licensing reform and entitlement reform. We saw significant progress in all three areas.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

Two major bills passed that will reform civil asset forfeiture laws in Tennessee:
HB 2021 will limit the practice of “Policing for Profit.”
  • By itself, having cash is no longer grounds for seizure – law enforcement must prove you obtained the cash illegally. Previously, the burden of proof was on individuals to show their cash was legitimate.
  • If your property has been seized and you weren’t present, law enforcement must notify you via certified mail, giving you the opportunity to claim and speak on behalf of reclaiming your property. If the property was taken without merit, the seizing agency will have to pay your attorney fees up to $3,000.
  • Drug screen results must be submitted to the state within five days. If the substance was not an illegal drug, the civil asset forfeiture case must be dismissed and any property returned.
  • While this reform does not require a criminal charge or conviction for property seizure, it should drastically curtail civil asset forfeiture by placing a larger burden of proof on law enforcement to return property quicker and by requiring agencies to pay if they’re wrong about seizures.
Additionally, HB 2143 will require detailed reporting over civil asset forfeiture and how dollars are spent. Adding transparency to the process will help determine what additional reforms need to be taken.

Occupational Licensing Reforms

The Fresh Start Act, or HB 2248, gives those who have a previous criminal conviction the ability to attain a professional license (such as barbers, cosmologists, accountants or any of the 200+ professions requiring a license to work) if their previous crime does not affect their ability to do a job or is unrelated to their desired profession.  This is a great first step towards helping former offenders get their livelihoods back and contribute to society.

Entitlement Reforms

HB 1551 reinstates work requirements for entitlement programs such as food stamps. Work, school and volunteer requirements were placed on hold during the recession, but Tennessee’s unemployment rate is at an all-time low and this change will empower Tennesseans to lift themselves up from dependency. More success in entitlement reform included HB 1822/SB 2247 which will strengthen entitlement fraud detection, transitional assistance and support programs.

Bonus Victories We’re Excited About – and Think You Will Be, Too

 Taxes and Spending

  • We lobbied to defeat HB 2361/SB 2354. This bill would have circumvented future public referendum votes on transit plans and infringed on private property rights with eminent domain.
  • We supported HB 1462/SB 1589, which adds budget constraints to control spending and government growth

Licensing and Regulation

  • HB 1540/SB 2518 Consumers can now purchase alcohol seven days a week, and businesses have more freedom concerning their sales.
  • Cosmetologists will now be able to practice their trade outside of shops and salons, allowing them more earning flexibility thanks to the soon-to-be-signed HB 710/SB 797.
    The last six counties that required emissions testing will no longer do so. HB 1782/SB 2656 was passed overwhelmingly and awaits the governor’s signature.
  • Innovative rental programs like Airbnb won’t be subject to restrictive government regulations, allowing more freedom for entrepreneurs in the state (HB 1020/SB 1086).
  • We helped kill SB 444/HB 446, which would have increased fines and fees for violators of HOV lane rules. This law is enforced in only one county and wasn’t a good use of taxpayer money.
We did experience some setbacks regarding cronyism and the cozy relationship between government and the politically well-connected. HB 1914/SB 1894 was a disappointing set of bills passed by the legislature that allow city-owned gas utilities to use revenues to fund the Chamber of Commerce and other Economic and Community Development organizations. This a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.

Rod Williams comment:  These are notable reforms. I am pleased. Americans for Prosperity, the Beacon Center, individual legislators and independent citizen activist can share in the credit. I am proud of our State government and those who helped advance a freedom agenda.

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