Legislative & court updates for Sept. 1, 2016

Judge challenges Nashville on delays in providing reports

NASHVILLE—In what may be the first legal challenge to government delays on public records requests in Tennessee under a 2008 law, a judge has ruled that Metro Nashville violated the “prompt” provision in the statute by holding up traffic accident reports.

Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies ordered the city to provide access to the reports within 72 hours of their creation.
He also found that Metro Nashville Police Department’s request form did not comply with the Public Records Act because it stated that the city had “seven business days to process” a records request, which is contrary to law.

For more information, see bit.ly/PromptRecords.

Residents want access to some types of police videos

NASHVILLE—More than 9 in 10 Tennesseans (92 percent) support public access to police body camera video when it records use of force that results in a citizen’s serious injury or death, according to a new poll by icitizen.com in collaboration with the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. The support crosses partisan, age and regional lines.

In addition, a clear majority of voters believe the public has a right to see video of officer-involved shootings before an investigation is finished.

For more information, go online to bit.ly/TennPoliceBodycams.

State association endorses 92 legislative candidates

NASHVILLE—The National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee’s leading small business association, announced Aug. 18 that it has endorsed candidates in 92 state legislative general election races. The endorsements were made by NFIB/Tennessee SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is composed exclusively of NFIB members. The general election will be on Nov. 8.

See the complete list online at bit.ly/TNendorse.

“NFIB stands firmly with candidates who support small business and free enterprise,” said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB/Tennessee. “These endorsed candidates have consistently voted or have pledged to support small businesses on the issues that impact their ability to own, operate and grow their enterprises.”

NFIB’s endorsement is critical to these campaigns. Small business owners and their employees vote in high numbers and are known for actively recruiting friends, family members and acquaintances to go to the polls.

To learn more about NFIB in Tennessee, visit NFIB.com/TN or follow @NFIB_TN on Twitter.

Obama for promoting CTBT without Senate support

CHATTANOOGA—In a letter to President Barack Obama on Aug. 12, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed strong opposition to the president’s plan to propose a U.N. Security Council Resolution.

He said it could reinforce the objectives of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) as international law without a two-thirds vote of the United States Senate, a requirement under the Constitution for U.S. ratification of treaties. In October 1999, the Senate rejected ratification of the CTBT by a vote of 51 to 48.

In the letter, Corker stated, “I write to express my strong opposition to efforts by your administration to circumvent the U.S. Congress and the Senate’s constitutional role by promoting ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) at the United Nations. Regardless of one’s view about the necessity of nuclear testing, seeking to limit a future administration through a customary international law mechanism, when your administration has only four months left in office, is inappropriate.”

See the full text of the letter online at bit.ly/CorkerLetter081216.

Coalition grades presidential candidates on 8 issues

Washington, D.C.—The Secular Coalition for America has released its 2016 Presidential Voter Guides for the general election. Candidates from the two major parties received a grade of A through F based on public statements regarding eight issues related to the separation of church and state, science-based policy, and respect for nontheists.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton earned an A while Republican nominee Donald Trump earned an F.

“The nonreligious are now the largest voting bloc in the country and it is essential that they know where the candidates stand on these critical issues,” said Larry T. Decker, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America. “These guides will empower secular voters to hold political candidates accountable. Donald Trump’s flunking grade should serve as a wake-up call to his campaign about the political peril of pandering to the religious right. This divisive rhetoric no longer resonates with an American electorate that increasingly accepts science, embraces religious pluralism, and values the separation of church and state.”

A poll conducted in July by the Pew Research Center confirms that nonreligious voters are overwhelmingly supporting Hillary Clinton (67 percent) over Donald Trump (23 percent).

“The Democratic party also has work to do reaching out to nonreligious voters,” Decker said. “The party’s platform was hailed for its inclusivity, yet it doesn’t contain a single mention of nonreligious voters, who now comprise more than one-quarter of the entire Democratic party. This occurred only days after leaked emails revealed that top DNC staffers considered exploiting the stigma associated with atheism to undermine the Sanders campaign. If the Democratic party wants to keep the support of nonreligious voters, it is imperative they listen to secular voices within their party and give them the respect they deserve.”

Voter guides are provided as a public service and are not intended to be an endorsement of any candidate or political party.

The Secular Coalition for America is the nation’s top advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other nontheists. The Secular Coalition represents 18 voting member organizations. For more information, go online to secular.org.