Legislative updates for May 26, 2016

Phaseout of Hall Income Tax praised for Tenn.

NASHVILLE — Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-German-town) said the signing of legislation phasing out the Hall Income Tax by Governor Bill Haslam on Friday was a major victory for Tennessee taxpayers across the state.

Kelsey, who co-sponsored the legislation, has made repeal of the Hall Tax one of his legislative priorities for the past six years. He also sponsored a successful amendment to the state constitution to forever prohibit a state income tax.

“I am very pleased that Tennessee will now truly be, ‘Income tax free,” he said. “Repealing the Hall Tax will help recruit jobs in Tennessee.”

The tax levies 6 percent on earnings from stocks and bonds, with three eighths of the revenue going to cities and counties.

The new law reduces the Hall tax rate from 6 percent to 5 percent (a 17 percent cut from the total dollars collected by the state) for FY2016. It calls for an annual reduction of at least one percent until the tax is eliminated. It also provides that by Jan. 1, 2022, the Hall Income Tax will no longer be collected and will eliminated as a legal means of taxation in Tennessee.

The new law takes effect upon the governor’s signature and applies to tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2016.

“The Hall Tax has unfairly penalized our seniors and those who have saved for retirement,” Kelsey added. “Almost half of those who pay the Hall tax are 65 or older, and nearly nine of 10 individuals who pay the tax have less than $34,000 per year in investment income.”

Better tracking of sex offenders earns vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Monday voted for bipartisan legislation that would help states improve tracking of convicted sex offenders and punish people who fail to comply with requirements to register as a sex offender.

“This bill extends a successful program that has helped Tennessee and other states track convicted sex offenders, and it also provides states with more tools to help keep our children safe,” Alexander said.

The Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016 makes grants available to states for registering sex offenders and requires state and local governments to check the residences of certain registered sex offenders. The legislation also calls on law enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service to help locate and arrest sex offenders who do not comply with requirements to register.

The legislation authorizes $162 million over two years for sex offender registration programs under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

In 2006, the Senate unanimously passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which created a national sex offender registry so that all states could share information. It also created stiffer penalties for child sexual assault and abuse crimes. The bill was named for Adam Walsh, son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh. Adam was kidnapped and murdered 35 years ago at the age of six.

Since 2006, state law enforcement agencies in Tennessee have received more than $1 million in federal funding as part of the Department of Justice’s Adam Walsh Implement-ation Grant program. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) received $400,000 in federal funding to help improve the state’s sex offender registry in fiscal year 2015.

Cohen launches DUI Reporting Act of 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) last week introduced the bipartisan DUI Reporting Act of 2016. This bill would close a reporting loophole that inadvertently enables repeat DUI offenders to be tried more leniently as first time offenders.

The DUI Reporting Act would require, as a condition of full Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) funding, that DUI arrests are reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the national crime database that is made instantly available to police right from their patrol cars, so repeat offenders can be charged appropriately.

“It is shameful that all DUI arrests are not reported to the national crime database,” Cohen said. “The consequences of this lack of reporting can prove life-threatening. Last year there was a tragic accident just outside of Memphis. Two teenage girls on their way to a vacation were killed around 6:30 a.m. when the car in which they were being driven was struck by a drunk driver who had accrued seven DUI charges since 2008 but had been allowed to plead guilty five times to a first-offense DUI. This story broke my heart, and I believe the hearts of everyone in the Mid-South. Police need access to this information to get drunk drivers off the road, and repeat offenders need to be charged appropriately.”

Gov. Haslam allows legal action against feds on refugees

On Friday last week, Tennessee Governor Haslam reluctantly allowed SJR 467 for the commencement of legal action to force the federal government to comply with the Refugee Act of 1980.

In his statement, Haslam said, “I trust the Attorney General to determine whether the state has a claim in this case or in any other, and I have constitutional concerns about one branch of government telling another what to do. I am returning SJR 467 without my signature and am requesting that the Attorney General clarify whether the legislative
branch actually has the authority to hire outside counsel to represent the state.”

In response, Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) said, “I am relieved he did not attempt to block us, but we are concerned at the apparent lack of urgency. Recent outbreaks of disease, like measles in Memphis, may be traceable to refugees relocated in our community and elsewhere without adequate vetting. This needs to stop now. The Attorney General needs to do his job or we will find someone else who will.”

Corker slams school bathroom guidance

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and U.S. Secretary of Education John King last week, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) joined 25 Republican senators in criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to issue guidance for every public school in the U.S., regarding which bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers transgender students may use.

The letter said this kind of issue should be worked out by the states, parents, school boards, communities, students, and teachers with respect for all students. See the letter at http://1.usa.gov/1s7DHuy.