Busy session ends for legislators

Xavier Smith • May 16, 2017 at 5:23 PM

The Tennessee General Assembly adjourned for the year last week, marking the end of a busy legislative session for local representatives.

Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, sponsored more than 40 bills and resolutions, while Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, sponsored more than 60 pieces of legislation. The pair co-sponsored several bills this legislative session, including the controversial “Bathroom Bill” and the Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act.

Pody pulled the bathroom bill during the session, citing a changing political scope as the reason. The bill would require students in state high schools and colleges to use restrooms and locker room facilities that align with the sex indicated on the student’s original birth certificate.

The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act was deferred until the 2018 legislative session. The bill, which challenges the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage in 2015, failed to make it out of a House subcommittee during the 2016 session.

Pody also sponsored that bill, which could have cost the state more than $8.5 billion, according to a fiscal note attached to the bill.

The bill called for the rejection of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court giving same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry.

Pody also pulled his bill motivated by Lawrence McKinney, citing lack of support from other legislators.

The bill would look to improve and expedite the state’s exoneration process. Pody drafted the bill after he became involved in McKinney’s exoneration process.

McKinney was released in July 2009 after spending 31 years in prison for rape and robbery, crimes a Memphis judge ruled he didn’t commit in 1977 in Memphis. In 2014, a Shelby County judge expunged McKinney’s record with the state.

However, the state has not granted McKinney’s exoneration, which has kept him from applying to receive up to $1 million for wrongful conviction. The state’s parole board did not recommend exoneration for McKinney last year, and the decision now solely rests with Gov. Bill Haslam.

Beavers also sponsored a bill aimed at firearms, which Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law last month. The bill gives a licensed firearms dealer the same privilege as a private citizen by allowing the dealer to occasionally sell, exchange or transfer firearms from the dealer's personal collection without conducting a background check on the buyer.

The bill also clarifies that criminal history records check requirements do not apply to an occasional sale of a used or second-hand firearm by a person who is not engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing or dealing in firearms. 

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, sponsored 24 bills and resolutions during the legislative session, but did most of her work on Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, as she held nine town hall meetings throughout the district on the issue.

Lynn said roads are the No. 1 issue in the district and her constituents – through nine town hall meetings – expressed they were more in favor of Haslam’s plan than other alternatives.

Lynn said although Haslam’s plan would not be pocketbook neutral for all residents, it would benefit most residents in some fashion. Lynn also said a majority of her town hall attendees were in favor of the legislation.

Lynn also sponsored a bill that will help families of first responders killed in the line of duty. The bill is currently on the governor’s desk.

The legislation will allow the family to remain on the deceased’s health insurance policy for two years after death. Currently family of Tennessee Bureau of Investigation personnel may stay on for six months.

Spouses and children of full-time police officers, firefighters and other first responders who are killed in the line of duty will receive health benefits for a period of two years following the death of their loved one. Family members of fallen Tennessee Highway Patrol, TBI and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers would also be covered under the legislation.

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