Tennessee bill update: gym tax, death penalty & open records

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from WTVF NC5

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WDEF/AP) – We’ve told you about these bills moving through the legislature this session.  Here is an update on how they are doing.  Good news for cutting the gym tax, cutting death penalty appeals and making more public meetings open to the public.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee lawmakers aren’t breaking a sweat over a proposal designed to repeal a $10 million amusement tax on gym memberships.

House members unanimously agreed to sign off on the measure on Thursday. The bill must now clear the Senate.

The proposal is backed by Gov. Bill Lee, who says repealing the tax is important to reduce burdens on small businesses throughout Tennessee.

Advocates of repealing the tax – including owners of gyms, fitness centers and health clubs – argue the current tax places a burden on small business because larger facilities run by national chains are excluded from the amusement tax.

Proponents also argue the repeal would encourage healthy habits, but it’s unknown whether the repeal would lead to lower gym costs.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Bill to provide more scrutiny on public records exemptions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Proposals seeking to create more exemptions to Tennessee’s public records law would face more scrutiny under legislation advancing in the statehouse.

House lawmakers unanimously advanced the bill on Thursday.

Republican Rep. Jason Zachary of Knoxville says his measure requires any future public record exemptions must be reviewed by the House Government Operations Committee, which would give a positive, neutral or negative recommendation on the exemption.

In 2017, a state review found that Tennessee had 538 identified exemptions in state code. That number has since jumped to more than 560 since lawmakers added more in 2018.

Gov.-elect Bill Lee has also called for a complete overhaul of the state’s open meeting and public records laws but hasn’t submitted a proposal.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Bill to nix 1 court death penalty review goes to governor

By JONATHAN MATTISE
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee lawmakers are sending Gov. Bill Lee a proposal to remove one state court’s review before executing inmates. The Republican appears poised to sign it.

The Senate voted 26-6 Thursday for Republican Sen. John Stevens’ legislation to skip Tennessee’s Court of Criminal Appeals and provide automatic state Supreme Court death penalty reviews. One Republican voted no.

The House already passed it.

Lee spokeswoman Laine Arnold says the governor is deferring to the Legislature’s will on the bill, indicating he’ll likely sign it.

Court of Criminal Appeals Judge John Everett Williams has said his court’s last four death penalty reviews took three to six months. Federal courts account for most of the sometimes-three-decades of death penalty court reviews.

Tennessee executed three inmates in 2018. Four executions are scheduled this year.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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House advances contentious anti-discrimination bill

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee’s GOP-dominant House has approved an anti-discrimination business bill that some critics have deemed as dangerous for LGBTQ people.

According to the bill, cities and state agencies would be banned from taking “discriminatory action” against businesses if they have internal polices in compliance with state law.

However, critics counter Tennessee law does not have any anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. They argue the bill could allow businesses with employment policies allowing discrimination against LGBTQ people to face no risk from losing out on tax dollars.

Republican Rep. Jason Zachary, the bill’s sponsor, says the legislation protects all businesses regardless of political leanings.

House lawmakers advanced the measure Thursday. It must still clear the Senate.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Tennessee lawmakers scale back charter school proposal

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee lawmakers are scaling back Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal to make it easier to open high-quality charter schools and close poor performing ones.

Lee first made the pitch to lawmakers during his State of the State address earlier this month. Immediately following the speech, Lee’s team submitted legislation allowing charter schools to bypass local school boards in their quest to get approval to open.

However, that bill has since been significantly amended. On Wednesday, the House Education Committee narrowly advanced a version that simply creates a new state charter school commission in charge of handling appeals of charter school denials.

Committee Chairman Mark White says the nine-member commission will be appointed by the governor and would take over the appeals responsibility currently residing with the State Board of Education.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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