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Bill to Block College IDs for Voting Draws Dem Doubts

Questions from Democrats about the true intent of legislation drafted to clarify Tennessee’s voter ID law peppered discussion in a House committee Tuesday.

The legislation would have allowed voters to use college IDs as a form of accepted identification. The bill would rewrite a section of the current code that blocks their use. In HB 229’s original language, college IDs were simply not mentioned.

Rep. Jeremy DurhamJeremy Durham

However, that changed with freshman Rep. Jeremy Durham’s amendment that “basically just eliminates the college IDs part of the bill,” Durham told the Local Government Committee. “I think it’s good public policy to make sure the right people are voting.”

The amendment drew a slew of questions from Democratic committee members as to the true intent of the bill.

Rep. Bo Mitchell, of Nashville, made the argument that state-funded institutions of higher learning are “part of the state of Tennessee” because they receive funding from the state.

“There’s plenty of people who get direct money from the state, but I don’t want them to write down on a napkin who’s qualified to vote,” Durham, R-Franklin, said.

Rep. Larry Miller, of Memphis, was one of three Democratic members to ask either Durham or House sponsor Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, if they could describe any “real-world occurrences” where students had committed fraud using college IDs to vote. Neither could provide an example.

When Rep. Mike Stewart, of Nashville, asked Durham for an example of a problem with college IDs, Durham said, “I suppose that the real problem is if we stick with just state and federal, I think that’s better than having 20, 30 different forms of ID from all these different state-funded universities.”

Rep. Antonio Parkinson, of Memphis, questioned what effect the bill may have on a decision before the Tennessee Supreme Court regarding the use of photo library cards as acceptable ID. The bill forbids using them to vote as well.

“A court decision would not affect the current law,” Lynn said. “A judge is not a lawmaker, and a judge can’t just deem that local IDs are acceptable if the General Assembly has passed a law saying that they are not acceptable, and the governor has signed the law.”

The companion bill, SB125, passed the full Senate last week. However, it allows college IDs to be accepted as valid forms of identification but disallows library cards and out-of-state IDs.

Because the two chambers’ versions differ, it is possible that a conference committee will be appointed to try and reach an agreement, which is necessary before final passage is possible.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at amhipps@capitolnewstn.com, on Twitter @CapitolNews_TN or at 615-442-8667.

Ketron Files Bill to Permit Use of College Photo IDs for Voting

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; March 4, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) will present legislation in the Senate State and Local Government Committee tomorrow that would authorize the use of student photo IDs as acceptable identification for voting purposes. Senate Bill 125 also clarifies that locally issued photo library cards are not allowed under Tennessee’s voter ID law.

“This legislation allows photo IDs issued by state community colleges and state universities as an acceptable form of identification,” said Senator Ketron. “We allowed the use photo identification of faculty members of our state colleges and universities under the original Tennessee law which passed in 2011. We believe that this state issued ID has worked as a sufficient form of identification and that students should also be included.”

Ketron said the legislation clears up any confusion regarding locally issued cards which he said were not supposed to be allowed under the original law passed in 2011. This includes any library cards issued by local governments.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled last fall that library cards issued by the Memphis Library were an acceptable form of identification for voting purposes. The court said that the 2011 law did not clearly spell out that locally issued photo identification cards were not allowed. The state appealed that decision.

“We considered locally issued cards when debating the original bill, but after reviewing the process, decided that the safeguards were not in place to ensure the integrity of the ballot like state and federally issued identification,” said Senator Ketron. “We continue to believe that the safeguards are not in place to use these cards as acceptable identification for voting purposes.”

“This is simply a bill to make it clear that the photo identification must be state or federally issued photo ID cards, and that students attending state universities can use their photo ID when voting,” he concluded.

State: New Voter ID Law Proving a Success

Tennessee’s 2011 law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot had little apparent statistical effect on citizen access to the polls in the general election, records from the Secretary of State’s Office show.

Of the 2.45 million votes cast during the election, 674 provisional ballots related to the new photo ID law were filled out. Of that total, 178 voters returned with proper photo identification and had their ballots counted, according to records.

The new law states that voters who come to the polls without a photo ID may still vote using a provisional ballot. Voters can then return to the polls within two days with a valid ID, such as a driver’s license, and their vote will be counted.

“It’s not even 1 percent of the vote,” Secretary of State spokesman Blake Fontenay said.

The share of voters who did not have their provisional ballot counted because they lacked photo ID comes to roughly .02 percent of all votes cast.

The Nov. 6 election was the broadest test to date of the voter ID law, and lawmakers who supported it say it is proving a success.

“From the moment this law was introduced opponents have been screaming that the sky was falling in ways that would shame Chicken Little,” Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said in a statement. “The numbers have shown otherwise. Photo ID provides voter protection, and now we have proof.”

Shelby County had the most voters casting provisional ballots due to the voter ID law, with 134 cast. Records show 15 of those voters returned with the required identification. Davidson County came in second with 41 voters casting provisional ballots.

“When I see these numbers and then open the paper and see obvious examples of voter fraud in Philadelphia and Cleveland, I rest comfortably knowing that Tennessee has done the right thing in protecting the franchise,” Ramsey said. “What these numbers reveal is that the only thing Tennessee’s voter ID law suppresses is voter fraud.”

When the Republican-controlled Tennessee Legislature passed the photo ID bill, opponents argued the measure was not designed to protect voter integrity, but rather was a deliberate move to discourage groups that tend to vote Democratic, such as the elderly and minority voters.

They say the real takeaway from the recent election is not that the vast majority appear unaffected by the voter ID law, but that potentially hundreds of otherwise eligible voters may have been turned away.

“Those numbers, they may seem low to you, but they’re not,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, a voter advocacy group.“That’s a good chunk of people who don’t have a voter ID.”

Mancini has opposed Tennessee’s voter ID laws. This week, for example, she said that the Davidson County Election Commission “utterly failed,” citing hundreds of voters experiencing problems at the polls on Election Day, including not being able to access provisional ballots.

“If one voter is kept from casting their vote because of this law then it’s one vote too many,” she said. “The other thing is that we’ll never really know many people showed up at their polling place, saw the sign about having a photo ID and just left.”

The Secretary of State’s Office maintains there were few problems at the polls, and that there’s another side to those arguments.

According to Fontenay, “Even one person impersonating a voter is one too many in our eyes. Their argument is that they have no way of knowing how many people might not have had an ID and might have stayed home. Our argument is that we have no way of knowing how many people might have, in the past, cast fraudulent ballots.”

While those are open questions, what seems clear is that public opinion is on the side of photo ID.

A poll conducted before Election Day by the Middle Tennessee State University Survey Group showed that 81 percent of Tennesseans approve of the law requiring people to show a photo ID before voting.

Tennessee is not alone in the debate over requiring an ID to vote.

Ten states in addition to Tennessee require a photo ID to vote. Twenty states, such as Massachusetts, California, Nevada and West Virginia, do not require some kind of identification to vote.

In all, 30 states have laws requiring voters to show ID at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

And that number could rise, according to the NCSL, because a total of 33 states have passed voter ID laws.

Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are among them, but those measures are tied up in court battles or, in the case of Mississippi, require both legislative approval and federal sign-off via the Voting Rights Act.

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@tnreport.com, on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.

Memphis Library Cards OK for Voter ID, Court Finds

Cards issued by the Memphis Public Library are acceptable identification for voting purposes, the state Court of Appeals determined in a ruling today that also upheld Tennessee’s photo ID law.

The 18-page opinion was a partial victory for the city, which had pushed to have the new law declared unconstitutional but, if it was upheld, to force election officials to accept the library cards, which include a photo.

The court determined that the city of Memphis qualifies as “a branch, department, agency or entity of this state,” the standard written into law in 2011 by the Legislature. Lawmakers said voters could cast ballots using photo IDs issued by such entities, or by other states or the federal government.

The city in its argument for finding the law unconstitutional had said it imposed undue costs on voters and violated the equal protection clause since voters casting mail-in ballots are not required to show photo ID.

The court dismissed those assertions.

The requirement that prospective voters present photographic identification to vote in person is not an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote under the Tennessee Constitution.

More from the decision:

In absentee voting, the voter does not appear before an election official and, therefore, cannot present photographic identification.

Such a requirement in the context of absentee voting would be nonsensical. We hold that requiring in-person voters to provide photographic identification while not requiring absentee voters to do so does not violate Article XI, Sec. 8 of the Tennessee Constitution.

Rep. Debra Maggart, who sponsored the photo ID law, criticized the decision.

“While I am encouraged our law was ruled constitutional, the fact the Court decided to add to it is disappointing,” Maggart, R-Hendersonville, said in a statement. “Not only has the Court gone beyond the clear intent of the law by allowing library cards, it has also created an exception for the city of Memphis that falls below the standard for the rest of Tennessee. This is the definition of ‘legislating from the bench’ and, frankly, is unacceptable.”

Maggart won’t be around to push back against the court with any legislation after being defeated in the August primary by newcomer Courtney Rogers.

Two GOP lawmakers who will be, and will wield far-reaching power to shape any such legislation, responded to the ruling.

“I might not have ruled that way, but they are the court. They are the law of the land,” House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said in an interview with TNReport. Harwell said she would need to review the court’s decision before commenting further but that she would not be surprised if the Legislature took action.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said the court had not properly interpreted the will of the Legislature.

“While allowing library cards clearly violates the legislative intent of this law, the court rightly affirmed the law’s constitutionality,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, said in a statement.

Tennessee Citizen Action, a left-leaning advocacy group that has opposed the law, cheered the portion of the ruling allowing for library cards.

“It should send a clear message to the Tennessee State Legislature that their attempts last session to limit allowable IDs to only a handful was both restrictive and excessive,” Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, said in a statement.

Most Tennesseans support the law, according to a Middle Tennessee State University poll taken earlier this year.

The state’s photo ID law is among the strictest in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eleven states require photo identification at the polls. In six others, photo ID laws are being litigated or still require approval from the Justice Department.

Nineteen states require nonphoto identification at the polls, according to the NCSL.

Judge Declines to Add Library Cards to Voting ID List

Chastising the General Assembly’s cherry-picking of the kinds of photo IDs voters can use at the polls, a district judge ruled against an attempt to add library cards to the list in time for Thursday’s primaries.

U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger called provisions of the state’s new voter ID law “ambiguous” Tuesday and called on the Legislature to revise what kinds of photo identification election officials will accept.

“There are parts of this act that make no sense to this court,” she said, adding it’s “nonsensical” that officials can legally accept a hunter’s license from Nebraska but not a library card from Memphis.

Trauger said she was “not convinced” by arguments from the city of Memphis to issue a preliminary injunction, which would have allowed voters there to use library cards as a type of ID.

At issue was whether the Memphis public library system was an entity of the state, whether the individual plaintiffs suffered irreparable harm and the effect a preliminary injunction would have on the election system if the initial ruling were overturned.

“We can’t turn back the clock,” said Janet M. Kleinfelter, Tennessee deputy attorney general. “In a close election, that can make a difference between who wins and who loses.”

Lawmakers in 2011 passed a law requiring voters to produce certain government-issued photo identification to prove their identity at the polls.

Attorney Douglas Johnston Jr., representing the city of Memphis, said his goal wasn’t to get the entire law thrown out but to give registered voters who lack a photo ID more tools to vote this week.

He said state officials should have embraced an opportunity to add library cards to the list of valid IDs, not issuing a “knee-jerk reaction without thinking through what’s attempting to be done here.”

“We are attempting to facilitate this statue, not stop it,” said Johnston. “All we were trying to do was to assist in a small way some of those citizens in Memphis.”

Photo IDs that will be accepted at the polls include a valid or expired driver’s license from any state, passport, federally-issued ID, state employee ID, military ID or gun permit card with a photo.

Ramsey: ‘Great Disenfranchisement of TN’ on Voter ID Never Happened

Statement from Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey; March 16, 2012:

Last week, Tennessee held its Presidential Preference Primary. Unlike in the past, our state had a significant impact on the GOP presidential race. Tennessee for a brief moment once again became the focus of our national political conversation.

But while the horserace politics were very exciting and the national attention flattering, the biggest story of our primary was missed by the visiting national press: the overwhelming success of our new voter ID law.

From the introduction of this law, opponents have been screaming that the sky was falling in ways that would shame Chicken Little. People would be disenfranchised, they insisted. Elderly people and marginal populations would be turned away and left behind, they proclaimed.

To listen to some detractors you would think that the end of democracy as we knew it was literally at hand. But in reality, Election Day came and Election Day went with headlines in paper after paper relating how smoothly the process had gone.

“Voter ID gets going without a hitch.”

“No problems reported with TN’s new voter ID law.”

“Voter ID law sees few hiccups.”

“Voter ID law presents few problems in Tennessee.”

Simply put, “The Great Disenfranchisement of Tennessee” did not materialize. Voters were not turned away en masse. It was, in many ways, just like any other election day. Except on this day Tennessee citizens knew for sure their votes — and only their votes — counted.

Much of the praise for this success goes to our Secretary of State Tre Hargett and his Election Coordinator Mark Goins. They engaged the public in an unprecedented way to inform our citizens of this new law. They let folks know exactly what forms of ID were acceptable and which weren’t. They let everyone know that voters who are residents of a licensed nursing home who vote at the facility are exempt. They told citizens that voters who are hospitalized are exempt. They informed the people that those with a religious objection to being photographed are exempt.

And by Election Day, all of Tennessee knew that if they could not afford one the state would supply them, free of charge, a photo ID with which to vote.

Hargett and Goins and groups like the Tennessee AARP took the message from Memphis to Mountain City. They answered phone calls and emails, held townhalls and generally made themselves available in every way to inform our state about this new law.

Passing the law was the easy part. Educating the public was the hard part and the Department of State and the Division of Elections did the work. They did Tennessee proud.

Under the leadership of Commissioner Bill Gibbons, the Department of Safety also deserves thanks for their efforts keeping drivers license stations open and ready for business so that anyone who needed one could get an ID to vote.

Most of all, however, I believe it is the citizens of Tennessee who deserve thanks. While Tennessee liberals engaged in histrionic weeping about unfairness, voters from all demographic groups stood tall and refused to believe the hype.

If you were to read the pre-Election Day newspapers on this issue you would think Tennessee was a hairs-length away from the installation of an authoritarian dictator. But the people were not persuaded.

In poll after poll, both scientific and otherwise, people have said not only was this law needed, it was required. I cannot begin to tell you how many regular folks have come up to me regarding this issue during the past year, grabbed my arm and said simply, “Thank you.”

The fact that Tennessee’s implementation of this law went smoothly does not surprise me. This state makes me proud on a daily basis — this is just par for the course.

In the end, this law was always about common sense. As desperately as they may have tried, carping critics in the press corps could not hide from regular folks the obvious necessity of this law.

Unfortunately, a few of my friends in the legislature have fallen prey to left-wing pressure. Just this week, Democrats – with the help of one Republican – passed out of a subcommittee a measure that would repeal the law.

This is unfortunate. Let me be clear: Voter ID is the law of the land in Tennessee and as long as I am Lt. Governor it will stay that way. This last ditch, last gasp attempt to overturn the will of the people will not bear fruit. All the Left has done is possibly confuse voters as to the status of the law — potentially harming the accomplishments of those who successfully educated the public on the law.

What this rag-tag repeal effort proves is that despite our Republican Majority conservatives still have much work left to do. Clearly, there are still those in the legislature so disconnected from common sense and their constituents that they seek to repeal a law which is measured, appropriate and proven to work.

You need a photo ID to rent a car, get on an airplane or watch a Rated R movie -there is no reason why you should not need one to vote.

Citizens deserve the right to vote and they deserve to have that vote counted. They deserve to know if the person at the voting machine beside them is truly qualified to be there.

It’s not a hard concept. This law didn’t suppress anything on March 6 other than fraud, uncertainty and corruption. This is as it should be — especially in Tennessee.

State Planning Education Push on New Photo ID Election Law

State election officials plan to aggressively promote all aspects of Tennessee’s new law requiring voters to present photo identification in order to vote.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett, whose office oversees elections in the state, among many other duties, talked with Mark Goins, state elections coordinator, last week about plans to get the word out about the new law.

The Tennessee General Assembly passed a photo ID bill (SB0016) this year, and it has been signed by Gov. Bill Haslam. The state will require photo ID at the polls beginning Jan. 1, 2012, which means the first big test will be the state’s presidential primaries scheduled for March 5.

Hargett says the effort will be two-fold — to make sure local election officials know what to do and, more emphatically, to make sure the voting public knows about the law in advance of voting.

“We’re going to have to work all 95 counties. We need to get out there with boots on the ground and see what resources they have to make sure they fully understand how to implement that law,” Hargett said.

“I’m less concerned with our ability to implement it, because we’ve got good election people around the state. I want to get the message out, so whenever people show up at elections after January 1, they’re not saying, ‘Oh no, what is this?'”

Hargett outlined the plan in a speech to the Bellevue Breakfast Club of the Davidson County Republican Party over the holiday weekend. His speech covered the various aspects of his office’s responsibilities, ranging from publications like the state’s Blue Book to business services to its duties in overseeing elections.

He was proud that November’s elections went smoothly, with the exception of a complaint filed after the election by a Republican Senate candidate in Putnam County. Hargett’s election team had endured the experience of a website crash in the August primary due to the demand for results, a night he termed a “learning moment.”

Hargett has been making numerous public appearances in the state in an effort to educate citizens about the duties of his office. Elections, while a high-profile part of the office’s responsibilities, are far from the only task the secretary of state oversees.

Hargett is one of three Republican state constitutional officers, the others being Comptroller Justin Wilson and Treasurer David Lillard. The Davidson County Republican Party group gathers regularly for breakfast meetings, and Hargett spoke Saturday at Tee’s Fireside Cafe before about 40 people.

Hargett said his office will be active through public service announcements, getting election officials out to various civic organizations to spread the word and working through the media, including issuing press releases, on the new law. Hargett also said when the state publishes ballots next year, his office wants to make sure the new requirements are published along with them.

“I want to focus on areas where some have claimed this law would treat the elderly, or people who may be poor, unfairly,” Hargett said. “I want to make sure we approach a wide, diverse group of people, everywhere possible.”

The House passed the bill 57-35, the Senate 21-11. Most Democrats opposed the bill, saying hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans do not have photo IDs.

“On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea. After all, we all want open, free and fair elections, but like so many issues the devil is in the details,” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh wrote on his blog. “Take for example the impact this legislation will have on rural communities. In Tennessee, only 44% of our counties have a driver’s license station. In our district, we only have one station for all three of our counties, while areas like Nashville & Memphis have multiple DMV’s. This makes it easier for people in cities to obtain a photo ID and vote, while some people in rural areas will have to travel 30 miles or better just to get an ID.”

During debate on the bill in the Legislature, opponents likened it to a “poll tax” which could be construed as an effort to stunt voter participation. Proposals for alternative approaches, such as showing a Medicare card, were shot down.

But in an effort to address constitutional concerns, the Legislature passed SB1666, which provides photo IDs for free for Tennesseans who need them.

Voters must sign an affidavit to obtain the photo ID. The IDs will be handled by the Department of Safety. The act is expected to result in additional state spending of $422,574 for fiscal year 2011-12 and every five years thereafter, since photo IDs expire every five years. It will also involve a one-time increase in spending of $15,500 for computer and programming costs.

Meanwhile, 16 Democratic U.S. senators have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to look at whether states’ photo ID laws infringe on voting rights.

Hargett said he is hopeful the new law can withstand any legal challenge and that his office can focus on the law as it currently stands. When asked by former congressional candidate Lonnie Spivak if there were a chance to have photos placed on voter registration cards, Hargett said he didn’t think the state had the money or the capacity to do that at this time, although he liked the concept.

“Some larger counties could probably handle that. Some smaller ones probably couldn’t,” Hargett said.

He said Goins had removed 13,000 dead people from voter rolls in the state since Hargett took office. Hargett said he doesn’t mean to imply there were that many fraudulent votes cast but that anytime one fraudulent vote is cast it erodes confidence in the system overall.

But he backs the photo ID concept.

“If you rent a movie, you show a photo ID,” Hargett said. “If you want to give blood, you show a photo ID.

“We’re also working with surrounding states to compare voter rolls to make sure people are not voting in multiple states. While 99.9 percent of us would never think of voting in two different states, some people have. It’s up to us to make sure you’re only voting in one state.”

Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, sponsored the photo ID bill in the Senate, and Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, carried it in the House.

“Although it passed in the Senate four years in a row, it would get to the House and die,” Ketron said recently. “We now protect the purity of the ballot box, and for those who want to cheat through dead people, convicted felons and people living outside their district, it’s not going to happen, because we’re going to make sure that you have a photo ID.

“And for those who can’t afford it, the state of Tennessee is going to pick up the tab so it will pass muster for being constitutional, as it did in Indiana, the first state to pass it.”

The new dates for the presidential primaries were also a product of this year’s legislative session.

The Legislature moved the state’s Democratic and Republican presidential primaries in 2012 to March, heeding demands by the national parties to stop front-loading the primary calendar.

The parties have said they would penalize states by taking away delegates without such action. Four states — Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — have preference on earlier primary or caucus dates. Tennessee’s presidential primary had been the first Tuesday in February.

Photo Voter Bill En Route to Senate Floor

Tennessee lawmakers are trying for a fourth year to require voters to bring a photo ID with them to the ballot box.

“When a dead person votes, when a convicted felon votes, it disenfranchises someone who did it legally,” Senate sponsor Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, told members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Opponents, including committee Democrats, Common Cause and the American Civil Liberties Union, told committee members they’re concerned that the elderly or poor who don’t have the means to get a state ID would be turned off from voting.

The bill excludes those voting from hospitals and nursing homes, instead requiring them to vote absentee. For those who don’t bring photo IDs to the polls, the measure allows for voting by provisional ballot or after filing an affidavit, according to the bill and bill summary:

Under this bill, except as described below, if a voter is unable to present the proper evidence of identification, then the voter will be entitled to vote by provisional ballot in the manner detailed in the bill. The provisional ballot will only be counted if the voter provides the proper evidence of identification to the administrator of elections or the administrator’s designee by the close of business on the second business day after the election. The board would have until the close of business on the fourth business day after the election to count any provisional ballot cast under this bill.

Under this bill, a voter who is indigent and unable to obtain proof of identification without payment of a fee or who has a religious objection to being photographed must execute an affidavit of identity on a form provided by the county election commission in order to vote. The affidavit must state that the person executing the affidavit is the same individual who is casting the ballot and that the affiant is indigent and unable to obtain proof of identification without paying a fee or has a religious objection to being photographed.

Eight states now require that voters bring a photo ID with them to the polls in order to vote under most circumstances, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Under the Tennessee bill, a driver’s license, state ID, passport or military identification would be accepted.

The Republican measure passed along party lines with a 6-3 vote and heads to a scheduling committee then to the Senate floor. The proposal has always passed in the Senate since it was first introduced in 2007, but consistently died in the House of Representatives. Ketron says he’s confident the bill will pass both chambers this year now that the GOP has solid legislative majorities.

Ketron, who has previously tied the measure to efforts to stiffen penalties against illegal immigrants, says this bill would hamper their ability to vote, but says he’s specifically targeting convicted felons who lost their right to vote and others committing voter fraud.

Several hundred felons who lost their right to vote ended up casting ballots in the 2008 election, according to Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins, who said the state is approaching 100 convictions for the voting offense.

The House version is scheduled to go before a subcommittee later this month.

Transgender Political Coalition Rallies Behind Marrero, Richardson Bills

Release from the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition; Feb. 3, 2011:

Hate Crimes and Birth Certificate Bills Filed

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) is pleased to announce that both of our bills have been reintroduced in the 107th Tennessee General Assembly.

This week, SB 0313 by *Marrero (*HB 0187 by *Richardson) was filed, which would provide for amendment of birth certificate to reflect a change in gender. Currently, Tennessee is the only state in the nation with a law that totally bans such changes.

Also filed was SB 0314 by *Marrero (*HB 0188 by *Richardson), which adds as an advisory enhancement factor to sentencing that defendant intentionally chose victim of crime based on gender identity or expression. Passage of this bill will make it easier for state and local authorities to track and prosecute hate crimes against Transgender Tennesseans.

We would like to thank our chief sponsors on both bills, Senator Beverly Marrero, (D-Memphis) and Representative Jeanne Richardson (D-Memphis), for their continued support.

We urge Tennessee lawmakers to pass both of these vital pieces of legislation.

TTPC Targets Anti-LGBT Bills in State Legislature

Unfortunately, there are also several bills on file this year that can do a lot of harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Tennesseans:

*SB 0049 by *Campfield/HB 0229 by *Dunn is one such bill. Senator Campfield has been introducing this bill, which would ban the teaching of sexual diversity, for many years. It is anti education and a threat to intellectual freedom. TTPC has consistently opposed this bill in the past and will continue to do so in 2011.

SB0016 by Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro)/HB0007 by Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) & Cameron Sexton (R-Pikeville), would create a new Photo ID to vote, which could effectively disfranchise transgender voters. TTPC, along with several civil liberties and voting rights groups, have fought similar legislation in the past.

SB0113 by Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and others/HB0130 by Debra Maggart & Glen Casada (R-College Grove) would abolishes teachers’ unions ability to negotiate terms and conditions of professional service with local boards of education. In 2008, the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association pushed to have sexual orientation and gender identity added to the non discrimination policy for Metro Nashville Public Schools. To date, Metro Nashville remains the only public school system in Tennessee which bans discrimination against LGBT students, staff, and faculty. We recognize the work of Nashville’s Teachers Union in working for non discrimination language and do not want to have others prevented from doing the same.

TTPC will remain vigilant in identifying any bills we consider harmful towards LGBT people and will fight against any and all of them.

If you do not know the name of your State Senator or Representative, you can Find Your Legislator by clicking here.

7th Annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill

As part of this effort, we strongly urge everyone to join TTPC as we support the Tennessee Equality Project’s 7th Annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill, on Tuesday, March 1. Join LGBT people and supporters from across the state in Nashville as we meet with state legislators and discuss issues of importance to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. More details about the event are below.

Wednesday, February 9, 7 pm EST

Lobbying 101

The Church of the Savior

934 N. Weisgarber Rd.

Knoxville, TN

TEP Knox County Committee

Thursday, February 10, 7 pm CST

Lobbying 101

Club Drink

23 Heritage Square

Jackson

TEP Madison County Committee

Saturday, February 12, 4 pm EST

Lobbying 101

University of Tennessee Chattanooga Student Center, Lookout Mountain Room

Chattanooga

TEP Hamilton/Bradley County Committee

Tennessee Equality Project has planned a number of events to enhance your lobbying day experience.

Monday, February 28

GLBT Candidate Training by Shawn Werner of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund

For everyone considering a run for elected office in their future.

TEP will offer a reception after the candidate training to welcome all AED participants. Exact times and locations shall be announced.

Tuesday, March 1, 8 to 9 am CST

Coffee and a light breakfast courtesy of the Vanderbilt Lambda Association.

The Rymer Gallery

233 Fifth Avenue North

Tuesday, March 1

7th Annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill

Legislative Plaza and War Memorial Building

Nashville

organized by Tennessee Equality Project

Metro Nashville Contract Accountability Non Discrimination Ordinance Deferred

As expected, BILL NO. BL2011-838, which would ban discrimination against all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees of contractors in Metro Nashville and Davidson County, was deferred on Second Reading until Tuesday, February 15 by voice vote.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) wishes to thank the 22 members of the Metro Nashville Council who voted on January 18 to support the bill on First Reading.

Opponents of equality and fairness are working hard to defeat this latest effort to end discrimination. Those who believe in equality and fairness are also working hard to demonstrate support.

Every resident of Davidson County is represented by the five At-Large Members, who all voted Yes on Tuesday: Tim Garrett, Megan Barry, Charlie Tygard, Ronnie Steine, and Jerry Maynard, II. Please contact them and thank them for standing against discrimination, and ask them to continue supporting this important piece of legislation through the remaining votes.

If your District Councilmember voted Yes on January 18, please contact them and thank them as well for standing against discrimination, and ask them to continue supporting this important piece of legislation through the remaining votes. If you are not certain of the name of your District Councilmember, click on http://findwhereivote.nashville.gov/ to find your district number.

Even if your Councilmember did not vote Yes, we still need you to contact them and express your support for ending discrimination in Metro Nashville contract work.

Then, please join us at the next Metro Council meeting on Tuesday, February 15, at 6:30 pm, for the Second Reading of the Ordinance. The Metro Council chamber is in the Metro Courthouse on the 2nd Floor.

Marisa Richmond

President

And Please Save These Other Dates!

March 13 to 15 (new dates!)

Congressional Lobby Days

Washington, DC

organized by the National Center for Transgender Equality

Saturday, July 23, 6:00 pm CDT

TTPC Summer Meeting

Nashville

Contact TTPC for information.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) is an organization designed to educate and advocate on behalf of transgender related legislation at the Federal, State and local levels. TTPC is dedicated to raising public awareness and building alliances with other organizations concerned with equal rights legislation.