House Republicans kill massive $800 million tax increase

Published 1:07 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

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House Republicans last week successfully defeated a major tax increase on Tennessee businesses. House Bill 2043, sponsored by a Democrat lawmaker, would have enacted the Business Enterprise Tax Act, raising taxes on all Tennessee businesses with gross receipts of $250,000 or more annually. An amendment passed by House Majority Whip Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, eliminates a nearly $800 million annual tax increase on Tennessee businesses. It also strips a proposal to enact a burdensome multinational reporting requirement, known as the Worldwide Combined Reporting Act. “This is a bait-and-switch bill that punishes virtually every business owner in Tennessee with a massive tax increase,” Garrett said. “Our small businesses are the backbone of our state economy, and the more money they keep, the better able they are to expand and hire more workers.” Tennessee remains one of the lowest-taxed states in the nation. Tennessee Republicans have in the last decade cut $2.5 billion in state taxes through sales tax holidays and elimination of other taxes, including the Hall income tax, inheritance tax and nearly all professional privilege taxes on citizens in certain occupations. Republicans last year passed the largest tax cut in state history, including a three-month-long tax holiday on groceries, through the Tennessee Works Tax Act of 2023. In addition to benefiting families, these cuts provide important relief for small businesses through various changes to business, franchise, and excise tax collections. These reforms will encourage future entrepreneurship and further strengthen our state’s economic competitiveness.


A Republican proposal would establish a process for voters to declare their party affiliation in Tennessee. House Bill 1616, sponsored by State Rep. Bryan Richey, R-Maryville, would allow residents to register with a statewide political party or recognized minor political party. “No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, voters should have the right to declare their political affiliations,” Richey said. “This is a simple bill that gives all Tennesseans a choice when it comes to how they wish to express their political beliefs.” The legislation would also allow voters to remain unaffiliated. On Election Day, voters registered as either Republican or Democrat will be given their respective party ballot, while unaffiliated voters will be able to choose either ballot. House Bill 1616 has been placed behind the budget and will be considered at a later date.

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Legislationthat gives sexual assault victims more time to file a civil lawsuit against their attacker has been unanimously approved by the Tennessee General Assembly. House Bill 2216, also known as Danielle’s Law, will extend the statute of limitations from one year to three years for civil lawsuits relating to a sexual assault injury or illness. The time would increase to five years if a police report was filed. “This allows survivors to have time to process the trauma and navigate the legal process,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin. “There have been cases where rape kits have not been processed within a year of the assault occurring, leaving survivors with no option to pursue civil action.” The legislation is named after Nashville resident Danielle Pyle, who found out 13 months after filing a police report that the local district attorney’s office had declined to pursue charges against her alleged rapist. Existing state law prevented her from taking civil action since it had been more than one year since the crime occurred. House Bill 2216 will now head to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to be signed into law.


The K-12 Subcommittee on Tuesday advanced legislation to increase the availability of anti-choking devices in Tennessee schools. House Bill 2028, sponsored by State Rep. Greg Martin, R-Hixson, would require the Tennessee Department of Health to administer a grant program to reimburse public and private schools and first responders for anti-choking devices. “These devices safely remove food, candy, coins, balloons and (whatever) else might be stuck in an airway,” Martin said. Anti-choking devices help clear objects out of airways using negative pressure. The program would reimburse schools for the purchase of one device for each cafeteria in a school and medical first responders for one device in each emergency response vehicle. More than 12,000 children in the United States are taken to the hospital every year for choking on food. It is the fourth leading cause of unintentional death in children younger than five. House Bill 2028 is scheduled to be heard in the Education Administration Committee on March 27. If approved, the three-year grant program would take effect July 1.


The General Assembly is considering legislation to ensure young women have access to feminine hygiene products at school. House Bill 2207, also known as the Menstrual Hygiene Products Accessibility Act, would provide the products for free to students in public and charter high schools statewide. “For young ladies that do not have access, they may stay home from school and increase absenteeism rates,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Elaine Davis, R-Knoxville. “My goal is to bring dignity for these young ladies, and keep them healthy and in the classroom.” Tennessee taxes menstrual products as non-essential luxury goods, which means that public assistance programs such as TANF and WIC do not cover the cost of these necessary products. The bill would allocate 20 percent of the tax revenue from the items sold in Tennessee to a special account that would be distributed to eligible schools. The menstrual hygiene products would then be placed in women’s restrooms, locker rooms and the nurse’s office. House Bill 2207 has been placed behind the budget to be considered for funding at a later date.


A bill currently advancing through the House would establish stronger penalties for those who threaten mass violence in Tennessee. As amended, House Bill 2538 would make it a Class E felony to knowingly, through any means of communication, threaten to commit an act of mass violence. The punishment would increase to a Class D felony if the threat was made against a school, house of worship, or government facility. It could also be enhanced to a Class D if the defendant had a prior conviction for threatening mass violence, or they had taken a substantial step towards carrying out the crime. “There aren’t a lot of great tools for a (district attorney) if someone calls and makes a credible, knowing threat of violence against a location,” said bill sponsor Assistant House Majority Leader Mark Cochran, R-Englewood. “It’s either a misdemeanor charge or you can be charged with an act of terrorism…so this gives them another type of charge to go after in that type of situation.” The bill requires, as a condition of bail or other pretrial release, a court to order a defendant charged with threatening to commit an act of mass violence to undergo a mental health assessment to determine if emergency involuntary admission to a treatment facility is needed. It also authorizes a court to order a defendant to undergo a mental health evaluation to determine whether the defendant is competent to stand trial or the defendant’s mental capacity. House Bill 2538 is expected to be considered in the Finance Ways and Means Subcommittee on March 27. 


The House last week advanced multiple bills relating to animal cruelty crimes in Tennessee. House Bill 1875, sponsored by State Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport, would add animal fighting to Tennessee’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act of 1989. “Any time that there’s dog fighting going on, it’s been proven that there [have been] people involved in organized crime, sexual traffickers, drug dealers… just all these different things go along with that,” Crawford said. “This will allow law enforcement and our judges to be able to proceed in having better cases against them.” A separate piece of legislation, House Bill 2691, would require local law enforcement agencies to be notified before a person entered into an area to investigate suspected animal cruelty. Justification for the entry would also be required.The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski, would also ensure state or local employees had probable cause prior to entering private property or an animal facility. Law enforcement would also have to be notified prior to an arrest being made for alleged cruelty to non-livestock animals.

(Rep. John Holsclaw represents parts of Carter County in the Tennessee Legislature)