The Senate Commerce Committee debated legislation last week aimed at reducing auto theft in Tennessee. The bill would require scrap metal processors who purchase vehicles with the intention of dismantling or salvaging them to provide proof of ownership.
“This bill will make it much harder for thieves to fence stolen cars” said Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), a member of the committee. “It simply requires those who scrap cars to get identification and a title from the seller, and to keep a record of the transaction for later review.”
Under the bill as amended by the Committee, any scrap metal dealer purchasing a motor vehicle less than five years old must be given a title by the seller. Any vehicle bought over five years old which does not contain the motor or is inoperable, would not require a title but must have a written statement signed by the seller or their agent stating they have a lawful right to sell and dispose of the vehicle. The title must be accompanied by a photo copy of the seller’s driver’s license. It also requires records on those transactions be kept for five years, including the name and address of the buyer and the amount they paid for the vehicle, date of sale, description of the auto, VIN number, and the license plate number of any vehicle transporting the automobile.
If the seller does not have the identification prescribed in the bill, the sale could not be completed. Those found guilty of violation of the proposed law would be subject to a class A misdemeanor. Any vehicle used to transport a vehicle sold in violation of the act could also be subject to confiscation under the legislation.
“Hopefully, this legislation will serve as a deterrent when thieves realize that they cannot steal and strip a car, and then sell the body to be crushed before law enforcement can trace their steps,” Beavers concluded.
Debate on the bill will continue in the committee next week.
SJR 127 giving citizens a say in protections for abortions rejected in House Subcommittee
The House Public Health Subcommittee rejected legislation overwhelmingly approved by the State Senate earlier this year that would have given Tennesseans the opportunity to restore their voice in determining what state law should be regarding commonsense protections for abortions. The resolution failed by a vote of 6 to 3, despite strong support among members of both the House and Senate.
The measure has repeatedly failed in the House Subcommittee where rules allow for legislation to be killed there by a handful of legislators. Senate rules provide that subcommittees may only make recommendations to the full committee regarding passage of a bill, but legislation cannot be rejected there.
“I am very disappointed that this resolution was rejected in the House,” said Beavers, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Every bill deserves a fair hearing in committee, especially when it is such an important issue and you have the support needed for passage by the full body.”
The resolution addresses a State Supreme Court decision in 2000 that struck down provisions in Tennessee law allowing women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and to wait 48 hours before they receive an abortion. The court also ruled against a state requirement that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital. That ruling made Tennessee more liberal than the courts required in “Roe v. Wade” and made the right to abortion a “fundamental right” in Tennessee.
Rejection by the House Subcommittee means the next opportunity for the measure to be placed on the ballot would be the year 2014.
Senate votes to change spring sales tax holiday to April 25 - 27
The full Senate gave final approval to legislation this week to move the state’s spring sales tax holiday to the last weekend in April so that it will not interfere with businesses that close for Easter. The holiday, which was designed to provide relief to taxpayers by instituting a temporary sales tax exemption on certain items, was scheduled by law for the weekend of March 21 – 23. Those dates coincide with both Good Friday and Easter this year.
Senate Republicans were instrumental in the passage of several tax reform initiatives during the past legislative session. This includes the August and spring sales tax holidays, a half cent reduction on the sales tax on food, and implementation of property tax relief for senior citizens and disabled veterans.
“I am pleased the Senate has approved this legislation,” said Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), a key supporter of the sales tax holiday. “This will give more citizens an opportunity to take advantage of the sales tax holiday in Tennessee since many businesses in our district close for Easter.”
Issues in Brief
Hargett confirmed as TRA Director – The full Senate voted 30 to 0 this week to confirm Former House Republican Leader Tre Hargett as Director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) nominated Hargett to serve on the body, which sets the rates and service standards of privately owned telephone, natural gas, electric, and water utilities. The Senate also confirmed Eddie Roberson, Mary Freeman and Sara Kyle.
DUI / BAC Test -- State Senators have approved legislation that would eliminate the two-hour period in which a blood alcohol test must be administered to be used as evidence in court. The bill, sponsored by Senator Diane Black (R-Gallatin), would change current law which mandates that the blood alcohol content (BAC) test must be administered to a person within two hours following their arrest or initial detention. Some remote areas of the state have difficulty in securing the medical professionals needed to draw the blood for the test. This bill removes that requirement and leaves such decisions about admissibility after a longer period of time in the hands of the court.
Illegal Immigration / Terrorism -- The full Senate has approved two bills that would make it a Class B misdemeanor offense to create or use fake identification for the purpose of obtaining or maintaining employment. The legislation would make the production or use of each false identification document a separate offense under Tennessee law if it is determined that any person in connection with the violation is not legally present in the United States. It also requires the court to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “We must begin a comprehensive approach to attack illegal immigration in Tennessee,” said Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet). “This bill addresses a growing problem we have seen in our state with the production of fake identification for illegal aliens in the workplace.”
Hunting and fishing rights -- The State Senate heard on final reading a resolution on Thursday to amend the Tennessee Constitution by protecting the right to hunt and fish. The measure would be voted on in the same manner as the "Victim's Rights Amendment" in 1998, the “State Lottery Scholarship Amendment” of 2002, or the recent amendment to give property tax relief to the elderly. If approved by the legislature this year and by a two-thirds majority in the next General Assembly in 2009, citizens could expect to see the resolution on the ballot in November.
Toll roads / American-owned -- If Tennessee approves the use of toll roads in the state, they would have to be “American-owned” under legislation sponsored by Senator Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) and approved by the full Senate. The measure would emulate Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that require radio stations to be American-owned to prevent foreign interference in cases of national emergency. The bill requires that any contract, understanding, or agreement entered into for the operation of a tollway or toll facility be made with a U.S. citizen or with a business entity in which more than 50 percent of the equity is owned by U.S. citizens. All members of the State Senate were added as sponsors of the bill.
Animal Abuse Registry -- An Animal Abuse Registry would be set up under legislation approved by the full Senate this week. The bill creates an Internet registry, like the Sexual Offender Registry, that would identify people convicted in Tennessee of aggravated cruelty to animals. Under the bill, the county court clerks would send information to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation who would post it on the website.
Underage drinking – Two bills passed this week dealing with the issue of underage drinking. The first bill, sponsored by Senator Tim Burchett, and approved by the full Senate, would require birth dates to be printed in red and in larger print to make them more visible to clerks or servers who must check the information before selling or serving alcoholic beverages. The second bill, which was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee, would extend indefinitely the state’s beer carding requirement. That law requires clerks to look at picture identification for those buying beer in stores.
Election of Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State -- The full Senate heard on first reading Thursday a resolution to elect Tennessee’s lieutenant governor and secretary of state. The lieutenant governor is currently elected by the State Senate every two years, while the secretary of state is elected by House and Senate members in a joint session every four years. The proposal to change the state constitution would have to pass both chambers this year, and then again by a two-thirds vote in the next General Assembly before it could be voted on by Tennesseans in the 2010 election.
TBI – Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Mark Gwyn, who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, told lawmakers he expects the next drug epidemic in the state will be illegal use of pharmaceutical drugs. Gwyn said TBI agents are already seeing a proliferation of teen parties where pharmaceutical drugs are a pre-condition for entry into the event. Gwyn said the other growing crime in Tennessee is “cyber crime.”