Lee's bills, business tax, highlight House calendar

By RICK NORTON
Posted 2/27/20

Three dozen administration bills backed by Gov. Bill Lee, as well as legislation lowering the state’s Business Income Tax and actions supporting law enforcement professionals and Samaritanism …

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Lee's bills, business tax, highlight House calendar

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Three dozen administration bills backed by Gov. Bill Lee, as well as legislation lowering the state’s Business Income Tax and actions supporting law enforcement professionals and Samaritanism dominated the Tennessee House of Representatives calendar last week.
 
And those were just a sprinkle of legislators’ shower of activities, according to the Capitol Hill Review document distributed by state Rep. Dan Howell, R-Cleveland, representing the 22nd Legislative District, and state Rep. Mark Hall, R-Cleveland, who leads the 24th Legislative District.
 
“These administration bills began making their way through the House chamber,” Howell stated. “These initiatives build upon Tennessee’s recent momentum and are key components of Gov. Lee’s agenda for the 2020 legislative year.”
 
Just a handful of those bills include:
 
House Bill 2223: Clarifies the Department of Agriculture is responsible for establishing the standards applicable for certain donations of food. The legislation also strengthens a food donor’s immunity against liability for damage resulting from distribution of apparently wholesome food. 
 
The legislation is scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee.
 
House Bill 2227: Creates a rural Brownfield Tax Credit Enhancement Program which involves sites in rural communities where former industries once stood.
 
“House Bill 2227 will allow companies looking to reinvest in these properties and the communities they serve to receive a tax credit to encourage them to relocate and create new jobs,” Hall explained.
 
HB 2227 moved to the Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
 
House Bill 2242: Ensures integrity within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP, also known as food stamps).
 
“As written, this bill will help our Department of Human Services to fight instances of fraud, waste and abuse within the program,” said Howell, who in years past has served as a legislative champion against welfare fraud.
 
HB 2242 now heads to the House State Committee for additional discussion and debate.
 
Legislators working
to lower Tennessee’s
Business Income Tax
 
“Tennessee’s Business Income Tax, or excise tax, is gaining support in the House,” Hall stressed. 
 
He described House Bill 2301 as a “fiscally responsible approach to attract new business to our state and to encourage small business owners to reinvest into their communities by beginning the process of lowering the excise tax from 6.5% to 6% over a five-year period.”
 
As proposed, the measure would reduce the tax by one-tenth of 1% every year over the next five years, provided revenue growth remains above 2%, Hall explained.
 
In that event, Howell pointed out, there’s a Plan B.
 
“Should the state’s revenue grow less than 1%, then the tax rate will increase incrementally in the same manner in which it decreased … one-tenth of 1%,” the District 22 lawmaker cited. “And, if revenue collections demonstrate a negative growth rate at any point in the process of lowering the tax, this rate would then return to the original 6.5%.”
 
The Cleveland legislators pointed to the bill’s big-picture goal; that being, to put money back into the pockets of business owners so they can expand their operations and create new jobs.
 
Transportation bill
for elderly, disabled
moves forward
 
A piece of legislation sponsored by Howell, who chairs the influential House Transportation Committee, advanced out of the Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee. The bill seeks to improve transportation options for Tennessee’s disabled and aging populations, Howell explained.
 
“The Tennessee Accessible Transportation and Mobility Act of 2020 creates an office within our Department of Transportation dedicated to expanding and improving accessible transportation,” Howell said. 
 
Howell’s reasoning in sponsoring the bill is the challenge faced by public transportation in certain areas.
 
“It can be especially difficult for the disabled and aging,” Howell stressed. “The new office created through House Bill 1596 will be tasked with identifying, and working to eliminate, barriers to reliable forms of public transportation for these specific populations.”
 
HB 1596 was scheduled for discussion before the full Finance, Ways and Means Committee early this week.
 
Proposed legislation
stiffens penalties
for evading arrest
 
In name, the bill is called the Spencer Bristol Act, and it honors the life and legacy of Hendersonville Master Patrol Officer Spencer Bristol.
 
Howell and Hall agreed it is closing in on a vote in the full House chamber.
 
“The Spencer Bristol Act holds criminals accountable by significantly increasing penalties for evading arrest when a law-enforcement officer is injured or dies during a pursuit involving a fleeing suspect,” Howell stated. 
 
The bill is scheduled for discussion and debate in the House Finance Subcommittee this week.
 
“Currently, evading arrest is a Class D felony punishable by not less than two years, and not more than 12 years, in prison,” Hall said. “This initiative enhances that penalty to a Class A offense, punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison.”
 
The Spencer Bristol Act also increases penalties for causing serious bodily injury to a law-enforcement officer during a pursuit from a Class D felony to a Class C felony.
 
Bristol died in the line of duty on Dec. 30, 2019, while pursuing a fleeing suspect following a crash and high-speed car chase that began in Hendersonville and ended on Interstate 65 in Goodlettsville.
 
Good Samaritan
Sentencing Act
still advancing
 
Last week, House Bill 1816 advanced out of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Known as the Good Samaritan Sentencing Enhancement Act of 2020, the bill protects those rendering a Samaritan reaction.
 
“This permissive legislation creates a sentencing enhancement for individuals who commit offenses against those rendering emergency care or assistance to crime victims and who are classified as Good Samaritans,” Howell explained.
 
HB 1816 is scheduled to be heard this week by the House Judiciary Committee.
 
Additional highlights
of lawmaking week
inside the House
 
The Capitol Hill Review, assembled by the House Republican Caucus, and distributed by legislators, also tagged another handful of bills and actions, a couple of which included:
 
• Approved legislation creating the new 32nd Judicial District which will serve Hickman, Lewis and Perry counties. House Bill 1156 was approved in the House chamber by an 84-5 vote.
 
• Honored members of the Mountain Electric Cooperative whose crews saved the life of a motorist trapped during a mudslide and local flooding event on Feb. 11 in Johnson County. Linemen Cody Bryant, Rick Courtner, Charlie Grindstaff, Mollie Ingle and Dakota Tester were the honorees.
 
All received a House Proclamation honoring their dedication and service during a ceremony at the capitol.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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