State Senator Mae Beavers’ Legislative Update


Senator Mae Beavers

Senator Mae Beavers

NASHVILLE-Tea Parties, election laws, economic development, the budget, telecommunications, and violent crime were among a wide variety of issues headlining debate on Capitol Hill this week.  However, State Senators also took time on Monday to remember the victims of last week’s tornadoes across middle Tennessee and commended emergency personnel for their handling of the disaster. 

Tea Parties sweep state and nation as anger over taxation and irresponsible government spending reaches boiling point

Thousands of citizens came to Legislative Plaza in Nashville this week to take part in one of the 24 Tax Day Tea Parties across Tennessee.  Citizens participated by holding signs and reading speeches to protest the tax-and-spend policies in Washington.  The events in Tennessee are part of a larger grassroots movement against government spending called Taxed Enough Already, or TEA, reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party revolt against taxes 235 years ago.

In addition, Wilson County’s Tea Party turned out around 1400 people who showed up to voice their protest and frustration over the irresponsible handling of our federal and state tax dollars.  “I voted against the Governor’s budget two years ago when there was over a billion in surplus,” said Senator Mae Beavers to an enthusiastic crowd in Mt. Juliet during the Tea Party.  “We have to start acting responsibly when it comes to our hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”

Senator Beavers also reminded protestors of her leadership during the anti-income tax debate.  “Over taxation is not the answer to our economic woes,” urged Beavers.  “We need to keep the government out of our business and our pocket books, and let the American people and industry prosper.” 

State Senators debate bills to protect the integrity of voting process

Several bills to protect Tennessee’s election process were acted on this week by State Senators, including legislation requiring voters to provide photo identification before voting.  The bill, SB 150, provides for various forms of photo identification to be used, including a driver’s license, military identification, a valid passport, government employee identification cards, and any federal, state-issued identification card that contains a photograph of the voter.  The legislation does not apply to citizens 65 years old or older and those in nursing homes.  It also allows for those who are indigent to sign an affidavit swearing their status as an eligible voter.  Seven states require a photograph be shown to prove identification, including neighboring states Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana. 

Legislation that would give election officials the tools to prove citizenship before registering to vote was deferred upon final consideration in the State Senate on Thursday.  Sponsors are working to try and revive SB 1999 in the House of Representatives where it received a tie vote in the Elections Subcommittee of the State and Local Government Committee this week. 

The U.S. Constitution already requires citizenship.  In addition, federal law makes it a crime knowingly to make a false statement or claim regarding citizenship upon registering to vote.  However, local election officials are reluctant to ask due to lack of guidance on what criteria can be used in determining citizenship.

Another bill regarding elections approved by the full Senate this week, SB 1420, honors the service of those in the military by making it easier for those overseas to access and return the necessary documents to vote absentee.   In the last election, many Tennesseans in military serving overseas requested that they be allowed to send their scanned documents by email because they did not have access to a fax in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

This legislation would allow Tennesseans serving in the military overseas to scan an absentee request or change of address form and attach the document to an email to be sent to their county election office to make it easier for them to vote.  Currently, only a fax is allowed. The local election office would still compare the signature of the voter before mailing the ballot. 

“I look forward being able to live in a state where we have common sense election laws which protect the integrity of our elections,” said Senator Beavers, who voted for the measures on the Senate floor as well as having filed numerous bills in the past to protect our election process.

Issues in Brief

Second Amendment Protection – The Senate voted 26 to 7 on Thursday to allow 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.  Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers voted for the measure in committee and also expressed her support of our second amendment rights on the Senate floor before voting for the bill.  The bill is one of several proposals in the General Assembly this year to allow citizens to exercise their second amendment rights.  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. 

Aggravated Armed Robbery – Legislation strengthening penalties against repeat violent offenders who use a gun in commission of a robbery was approved in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.  The bill, SB 673, is one of three bills proposed this year by the Public Safety Coalition.  Tennessee ranks second in the nation in the number of violent crimes.  These criminals are often repeat offenders.  Sixty-seven percent of those convicted of violent crimes are re-arrested within three years of being released from prison.  The recidivism rate increases to 80 percent when you move past that three-year marker.  The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for approval. 

Farmers – The full Senate voted 29 to 3 to approve legislation this week that gives limited immunity to farmers who participate in “agritourism.”  The legislation, SB 2164, applies to events like a “pumpkin patch” or “corn mazing” that farmers may want to have on their property.