State Senator Mae Beavers’ Legislative Update


Senator Mae Beavers

Senator Mae Beavers

NASHVILLE-This week Gov. Phil Bredesen presented his budget to the General Assembly, leaving many legislators with concerns over how our economic situation will play out in the coming years.

“I am very weary of the mandates and strings attached to the governor’s budget when it comes to the stimulus money,” said Senator Beavers.  “I also question the departure from past state policy when it comes to bonds and tax increases and I urge my colleagues to continue to press the governor about the tremendous burden he will undoubtedly pass on to the next governor.”

Senate committees will begin budget hearings in the weeks ahead.

Legislation advances that protects “English-in-the Workplace” / Judiciary Committee approves bills cracking down on use of false id for illegal aliens

The Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation this week clarifying that Tennessee employers have a right to institute an English-in-the-workplace policy.  The bill, SB 469, makes it clear that an English-in-the-workplace policy is not considered discrimination on the basis of national origin while the employee is engaged in work.  

Protection of employer rights in instituting English-in-the-workplace policies has increased both in the states and on the national scene since the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) began prosecuting employers who required that English be spoken while conducting business.  One notable case involved a Salvation Army thrift store in Framingham, Massachusetts, where two employees refused to learn English and were subsequently fired after being given a year’s notice to learn the language.

Legislation was also approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee that  would make it a Class A misdemeanor offense to knowingly provide, transfer or submit a fake identification for the purpose of obtaining or maintaining employment.  The proposal, SB 294, 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 and requires the court to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Judiciary Firearms Subcommittee recommends several bills to full committee as it concludes its business

Several bills were recommended for passage in the Judiciary Committee’s Firearms and Ammunition Subcommittee as the panel concluded its business this week, including one to allow citizens with handgun permits to carry their weapons into establishments that sell alcohol.   The bill, SB 1127, allows law-abiding handgun permit holders to “carry” into restaurants or other establishments serving alcohol as long as the owners of the premises have not posted notification that they are banned. 

Those who are in possession of a handgun are already prohibited from consuming alcohol or face a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a $2,000 fine and up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.  The bill contains language to try to assure that bars are not included under the legislation. 

Another bill that was recommended by the subcommittee last week was SB1518, sponsored by Senator Beavers, which allows handgun permit owners to carry their handgun into local, state, and national parks.  “Many violent acts take place in parks as criminals know that people are defenseless there,” said Beavers.  “This bill and others would allow law-abiding handgun permit carriers to protect themselves, as well as provide uncertainty in the minds of potential criminals before they choose to attack someone in a park.”

Among other bills approved by the Subcommittee this week was SB 19, which authorizes current and retired judges who possess handgun carry permits to carry a firearm during judicial proceedings.  In addition, the committee approved SB 275, which allows retired full time commissioned police officers access to law enforcement shooting ranges when they are not being used by personnel.  

Finally, the Subcommittee approved SB 1908 to prohibit the sale of “micro-stamped” firearms or ammunition in Tennessee.  Although micro-stamping legislation supporters claim it will help police solve crimes, many believe their real purpose is to price handguns beyond the reach of many Americans, by requiring firearms to be made with the gadgetry necessary to create the markings or to ban handguns by requiring that they “micro-stamp” more consistently than is technologically possible.

Issues in Brief

SJR127 – The Senate voted 24 to 8 this week to give Tennesseans the opportunity to restore their voice in determining what state law should be regarding commonsense protections for abortions.  The resolution, SJR 127, 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 U.S. Supreme Court required in Roe v. Wade and made the right to abortion a “fundamental right” in Tennessee.

Bill Targeting Shoplifters – The State Senate voted 31 to 0 this week to approve legislation that would create a new Class A misdemeanor criminal offense for possession of shoplifting tools used to disable store security systems.  The legislation comes after malls in Tennessee have seen a large increase in a product that is used to line shopping bags that allow criminals to take thousands of dollars of merchandise without setting off store alarm systems.

The legislation was brought by representatives of Sevier County which has five malls within a three mile radius.  Sevierville Police Department Sergeant Rebecca Cowan, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of the legislation, told lawmakers that last year Sevier County apprehended a professional shoplifter who utilized the device to steal $10,000 in a four-hour time period.  Cowan said these instruments, which are purchased on the Internet with instructions on how to use them, are not illegal under current Tennessee law.