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4 Things to Watch in Legislature This Week

NASHVILLE — This week, several committees are closing and Tennessee lawmakers are wrapping up their business for the year, leaving most bills now to be decided on the chamber floors.

Throughout the Cordell Hull legislative office building in Nashville, aides and lawmakers alike are guessing when the 110th General Assembly’s legislative session will end —whether it’s the second week of April, as originally predicted, or closer to the end of the month.

Bills that have been closely watched throughout the session are reaching the end of the line.

But here are four other measures to check out in Week 11, three of which show up on the House Criminal Justice Committee.

Serving time

Sentencing is central to the discussion of criminal justice reform. Some view sentence reduction opportunities as important rewards for inmates who demonstrate good behavior.

Others argue that convicts should serve the full time they are sentenced. Two Republican lawmakers have a measure that would prevent inmates convicted of a felony from using sentence reduction credits before their minimum release eligibility.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, and Sen. John Lundberg, R- Bristol, is scheduled to go before the House Criminal Justice Committee at 1 p.m. in House Hearing Room I.

Auditing seized assets

Additional oversight of local law enforcement’s seizure of assets has received a fair amount of discussion this session, particularly large seizures of cash, vehicles and other property.

A measure, sponsored by Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, and Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, would require the comptroller to audit the use of civil assets seized by local law enforcement agencies and judicial drug task forces during regular local government audits.

The measure, also scheduled in the Criminal Justice Committee, would require the Department of Safety to publish proceeds from asset seizures by departments.

Implied consent for a breathalyzer test

The issue of whether a driver has to comply to with a law enforcement breathalyzer test has become a national debate. Videos of drivers refusing to comply have gone viral and the issue has come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

As current Tennessee law reads, implied consent by a driver is not sufficient to administer a blood test. It is also a Class A misdemeanor to refuse a breath or blood test.

Now, a bill sponsored by Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, and Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, would make implied consent enough for a blood or breath test. The bill would also remove the misdemeanor charge. This is also in the criminal justice committee.

Firearms class for high schoolers

While school safety and arming teachers have been hot topics in the legislature, a bill that proposes a high school class on firearms is scheduled come before the House Education Instruction and Programs Committee on Tuesday.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Dawn White, R-Murfreesboro, and Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somersville, would require the state Board of Education to develop standards for a firearm education course to be offered as a high school elective.

The course would include the history, mathematics and science of firearms and firearm safety, but would feature no live ammunition. The committee is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. in House Hearing Room I.

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