Why You Should Be Paying Attention to Pending Tennessee Legislation

Thanks to the ACLU of Tennessee for this eye-opening quiz and information!  Legislative season is upon us and here are a few reasons why you might want to get involved.

  • If you have a better idea of what to do with almost $43M
    • $42,948,820The taxpayer dollars that law enforcement agencies waste enforcing marijuana possession laws could be better spent on addressing and solving serious or violent crimes. SB 1211/HB 0873, a bill currently pending in the Tennessee legislature, would remove the possibility of jail time for individuals possessing less than one ounce of marijuana.
  • If you or someone you love isn’t straight
    • In Tennessee, you can be discriminated against at work because of who you are.  SB 371/HB 296 would prohibit discrimination or harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Tennesseans not only in the workplace, but also in public accommodations, housing, financing, insurance, education, in places where alcoholic beverages are consumed, real estate, public utilities, tax exemptions, the profession of healing arts, health facilities, and welfare.
  • If you’re a woman of reproductive age
    • Since the passage of Amendment 1, which altered Tennessee’s constitution to state that nothing in it protects the right to an abortion, politicians have been lining up to file bills restricting abortion including
      • A bill that would force a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and either view it or listen to a verbal description of it, as well as forcing her to listen to a fetal heartbeat.
      • Legislation that would interfere with doctors’ ability to decide what to say to patients based on their unique circumstances, instead mandating what physicians say in order to bias female patients’ personal health care decisions.
      • A measure that would force a woman to meet with her doctor and then wait three days before getting an abortion, requiring additional time off from work, creating child care concerns, and increasing the time and expense of travel.
  • If you’re black
    • While Blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly similar rates, the disparity in the arrest rate for marijuana possession among Blacks in Tennessee are four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. Aggressive enforcement of low-level offenses such as marijuana possession unnecessarily draws hundreds of thousands of people nationwide into the criminal justice system for nonviolent activities, primarily young people of color.
  • If you’re non-Christian
    • While the Bible is an important book to many state residents, Tennesseans come from a wide range of diverse faiths—privileging one religion over another is not only unconstitutional, it sends the wrong message, marginalizing the thousands of Tennesseans who choose to practice other religions or not to practice religion.
  • If you have the audacity to carry cash
    • In Tennessee every year, law enforcement agents seize millions of dollars from civilians during traffic stops, frequently without a warrant and without ever pursuing criminal charges.  These funds often flow back into agency budgets.  Several pending Tennessee bills would limit such “policing for profit.”
  • If you are a child or have a child
    • Because truancy is technically not a crime, even though some Tennessee judges have jailed children for missing school, kids whose families cannot afford to hire an attorney do not have the right to have one appointed.  A pending Tennessee bill, SB 0977/HB 0571, would entitle minors to an attorney in court proceedings alleging truancy.