Pro-life bill strengthens protections for mothers in emergencies

Published 1:53 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The House chamber last week passed legislation ensuring the life of a mother will be protected when a nonviable pregnancy endangers her life. House Bill 883, sponsored by State Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes, R-East Ridge, clarifies that terminating a nonviable pregnancy, such as in the case of an ectopic or molar pregnancy, is not an abortion. The measure passed 83-11.
Republicans in the General Assembly in 2019 laid the groundwork to ensure life is protected at conception in Tennessee should the U.S. Supreme Court ever reverse its decision on legalized abortion. The General Assembly that year passed the Human Life Protection Act, a conditional trigger law written to go into effect 30 days following the high court’s decision giving states the authority to regulate abortion.
When the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022 declared that abortion is not a constitutional right, the Human Life Protection Act became law and automatically made abortion for any reason a Class C felony crime in Tennessee.
House Bill 883 ensures elective abortions remain illegal in Tennessee, but removes the affirmative defense clause that could have required doctors to provide evidence defending their actions in court when saving the life of a mother. It now provides protection for physicians by decriminalizing the procedure in such emergencies.
“This bill provides better clarity and returns to the normal judicial system practice of innocent until proven guilty,” Helton-Haynes told members on the House floor on Monday. “It protects the life of the mother and the life of the baby.”
Approximately one in 50 ectopic pregnancies occur each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy will likely result in a life-threatening hemorrhage.
“During pregnancy, a woman takes on the incredible responsibility to safeguard another human life and it is important her health is protected,” Helton-Haynes said. “I’m proud of what this pro-family, pro-life legislation accomplishes and I will continue advocating for the health of women and children in Tennessee.”
Tennessee Right to Life, the state’s largest pro-life advocacy organization, supported House Bill 883. The companion version of the bill is currently advancing in the Senate.
Republican leaders this week advanced the Tennessee Works Tax Reform Act of 2023 that proposes a number of changes to the state’s tax code and represents an unprecedented $407 million in tax cuts impacting every Tennessean.
House Bill 323, sponsored in the House by Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and Assistant Majority Leader Mark Cochran, R-Englewood, is part of Gov. Bill Lee’s top legislative initiates for 2023. The bill aims to lower the tax burden on businesses, boost Tennessee’s economic competitiveness, promote entrepreneurship and small business formation, as well as provide targeted relief to families.
“This is one of the largest tax reforms and tax cuts in Tennessee’s history,” Cochran told members of the House Finance Ways and Means Subcommittee on Wednesday. “It provides tax relief to Tennessee families, for businesses – particularly for small and medium-sized businesses – and makes us a stronger economic competitor in general.”
Tennessee Republicans remain committed to keeping taxes low. Tennessee is the second-lowest taxed state in the nation and collects zero income tax.
The cuts provide significant tax relief to small businesses by lowering the burden of the franchise and excise tax as well as the business tax rate. The bill would allow more than 23,000 small businesses in Tennessee to reduce their excise tax liability to zero by exempting the first $50,000 in income from the state’s excise tax. It also exempts up to $500,000 of business property from franchise tax liability.
The tax cuts would exempt 140,000 Tennessee businesses from the business tax by raising the threshold for business tax exemptions from $10,000 to $100,000 of gross receipts. In addition, it reduces the highest business tax rate from 0.3% to 0.1%.
The proposal will strengthen Tennessee’s economic competitiveness while prioritizing businesses within our state’s borders. It incentivizes businesses to hire Tennesseans and headquarter here. It ensures state tax deductions for research and development (R&D) expenses that help companies grow, innovate and produce superior products and services.
Finally, the proposal will deliver for working families by creating a three-month sales tax holiday food from Aug. 1-Oct. 31, 2023. It also seeks to incentivize businesses to provide paid family leave to employees by establishing a state-paid family leave franchise and excise tax credit on wages paid for a two-year pilot period. House Bill 323 is up for consideration in the Finance, Ways and Means Committee on March 28.
The Tennessee House of Representatives this week approved legislation to improve the adoption process for foster parents of young children who have been abandoned.
House Bill 163 clarifies that if a parent or guardian fails to visit or support a child younger than four years old for three consecutive months it will qualify as abandonment and the child will be eligible for adoption. Currently, the time period for abandonment is four months. Additionally, if a child resides in a foster parent’s home for at least three months, a judge may waive the six-month waiting period for the order of adoption.
“Most children are moved around three times in the first year that they are in foster care,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Ed Butler, R-Rickman. “This type of legislation will help reduce that.” The companion version of the legislation is still advancing through the Senate.
The General Assembly has passed legislation to increase protections and accountability for individuals with service animals in Tennessee.
House Bill 165 expands the penalty for misrepresentation of a service animal to include 100 hours of community service for an organization that assists individuals with disabilities. It also allows for anyone who utilizes or is training a guide dog to be held liable if the animal causes any damages.
“This bill is simply to codify some of the federal (American with Disability Act) guidelines and add some accountability for folks that are abusing this,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Ed Butler, R-Rickman. “An emotional support animal… is not considered a service animal, and therefore a business owner has the ability to ask them to leave.”
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, only dogs are recognized as service animals. They must be trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability and are generally permitted to accompany individuals in all areas where members of the public are allowed. Additionally, there are separate provisions for miniature horses that have been trained as service animals. The Senate version was approved in February. The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
The House chamber on Thursday unanimously passed House Bill 68, co-sponsored by State Rep. Kirk Haston, R-Lobelville. The legislation indefinitely extends summer and after-school learning camps implemented on a temporary basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the summers following the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, all school districts in the state were required to offer in-person learning loss remediation and student acceleration programs, including summer camps, summer learning camps, after-school learning mini-camps and learning loss bridge camps.
These programs have been a success in the summer of 2021 more than 121,000 students participated with an attendance rate of 96 percent. In the summer of 2022, more than 90,000 students participated in the camps. House Bill 68 would continue the successful track record of these camps by making them permanent. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.
Motor vehicle registrations: House Bill 345, sponsored by State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, would allow private, non-commercial vehicle owners and lessees to renew their vehicle registration for a 24-month period instead of a 12-month period beginning on Jan. 1, 2024. Currently, there are approximately 5.1 million passenger vehicles and 154,000 motorcycles registered in Tennessee, according to the Department of Revenue. House Bill 345 is scheduled to be heard in the Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
Parity of teacher salaries at special schools: House Bill 331 sponsored by State Rep. Elaine Davis, R-Knoxville, creates parity for salaries among teachers at state special education schools in Knoxville and Jackson who are currently paid approximately 10 percent less than their counterparts in Nashville. Teachers in each of the three campuses have the same professional and educational requirements, the same dedication to students and the same professional responsibilities. They also have the same director and superintendent of schools, as well as the same Human Resource department.
Cognitive tests for constables: House Bill 724, sponsored by State Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, heads to the governor for his signature after passing in both chambers of the General Assembly. This bill requires candidates for the office of constable to undergo a cognitive and psychological test attesting to their mental and cognitive fitness to perform the duties of a constable. The test is to ensure that elected officials can effectively carry out the duties of their position.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox