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Rep. Watson to Meet with White House Officials to Detail Human Trafficking Challenges in TN

Press release from the Tennessee House Republican Caucus; November 29, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Study after study shows the United States is facing an epidemic of human trafficking. States like Tennessee, which serve as the intersection for numerous interstate highways and have multiple regional airports, are targeted by the perpetrators of the crime. At the invitation of the Office of the Vice President, one legislator is heading to the White House to tell officials what Tennessee is doing to crack down on the criminal activity.

Representative Eric Watson (R—Cleveland), who chaired the House Judiciary Committee in the 107th General Assembly, has been a leading voice when it comes to equipping law enforcement with the resources needed to combat human trafficking. For his part in the White House meeting with top officials, Watson will detail the challenges facing Tennessee as well as how state and local law enforcement agencies have worked together to stop and prevent trafficking cases from occurring.

Human trafficking, which is also referred to as modern day slavery, is defined in federal statutes as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion.”

“Tennessee, in many ways, is a hotspot for this particularly disturbing form of illegal activity—we’ve got to put a stop to that,” remarked Watson. “I’m hopeful this meeting at the White House will serve as a jumping off point for increased cooperation between all levels of law enforcement so we can do just that.”

A 2011 report on trafficking in Tennessee by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) found:

  • Eighty-five percent of Tennessee counties stated that they have investigated at least one human sex trafficking case over the last 24 months.
  • Seventy-two percent of the total counties in the state reported at least one case of minor human sex trafficking.
  • There were 16 entities that reported an excess of 50 cases and eight reported over 100 cases of minor cases of human sex trafficking.

Since that report, the General Assembly passed tough new laws against human trafficking and the TBI has added a training segment on the subject for officers and agents.

Watson added, “I feel like we are making some real progress, but more has to be done. We’re going to learn about the best practices that are being utilized around the nation at this conference and I intend to bring them back to Tennessee.”

Watson is part of a 25-person contingent meeting with officials. The event takes place on Thursday, December 6th at the White House in Washington, D.C.

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TNCA to Haslam: “Where’s the Justice?”

Press Release from Tennessee Citizen Action, April 7, 2011:

Passage of “Miscarriage of Justice Act” Amplifies The Need for Corporate Accountability in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, TN – April 7, 2011 – The attack on hardworking Tennesseans and their families continued yesterday when a piece of Governor Bill Haslam’s legislative package, the so-called “Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011,” passed the first hurdle on its way to becoming law.

The bill will place a $750,000 cap in most personal injury and health care malpractice lawsuits and would also limit punitive damages to twice the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. It passed in the House Judiciary Subcommittee and will be heard next in the full House Judiciary Committee.

“It should be called the “Miscarriage of Justice Act of 2011,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, “I don’t know how any legislator can look into the eyes of a victim’s family member and tell them how much they think their loved ones’ life is worth.”

Several studies point to the need for a civil justice system that is robust and can hold corporations accountable, instead of one that places arbitrary caps on potential damage awards:

  • A Health and Human Services report released in March estimates that approximately “90 percent of nursing homes in the U.S. have at one time hired an individual with a criminal record.”
  • The 2011 HealthGrades Clinical Excellence Research & Consulting report on trends in hospital quality and patient safety states that there were “79,670 patient deaths among patients who experienced one or more patient safety events.”
  • The same report states that “nearly one million patient-safety incidents occurred among Medicare patients over the years 2006, 2007, 2008.”
  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that there were 181,000 severe injuries attributable to medical negligence in 2003.

“It’s common knowledge that damage awards act as a deterrent and make large corporations think twice about repeating egregious acts that can lead to abuse, neglect, and death,” Mancini said, “This bill takes away the right of victims to have their day in court and the right of juries to hold accountable any responsible parties.”

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31727_162-20038384-10391695.html

http://www.healthgrades.com/business/library/research-studies.aspx

http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/99xx/doc9924/12-18-KeyIssues.pdf

Tennessee Citizen Action works in the public interest as Tennessee’s premier consumer rights organization. Our mission is to work tirelessly to improve the overall health, well-being, and quality of life for all people who live and work in Tennessee.

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Sex Offender Registry Bill Moves Out of House Judiciary

Press Release from the House GOP Caucus, April 1, 2011:

GOP Legislator Joined by District Attorney General in Applauding Committee Passage of Important Legislation

(NASHVILLE, April 1, 2011) – This week the House Judiciary Committee passed a top priority of Representative Barrett Rich’s (R—Somerville) legislative agenda. HB 1177, the Sexual Offender Registry bill, passed the Committee and will be sent to the Calendar & Rules Committee for scheduling a full House vote on the legislation.

The bill requires all sexual offenders who are incarcerated, but who have not yet registered as a sexual offender or violent sexual offender, to be registered in the institution in which they are incarcerated by no later than August 1, 2011. Effectively, the bill increases public safety as it will catalogue and publicize the sexual offenders around the State. It ensures those who have been convicted of a sexual offense have to sign a TBI registration form. The TBI then takes the person’s information and places it into the sexual offender database.

Rep. Rich was joined by District Attorney General Mike Dunavant in applauding the action taken by the Judiciary Committee. Rich remarked, “I am grateful to the Members of the House Judiciary Committee for recognizing the importance of this legislation and I want to thank General Dunavant for bringing this to our attention. It is an honor to work with him on this issue. Our Majority is committed to preventing further victimization of Tennessee families.”

District Attorney General Mike Dunavant stated, “I want to thank Representative Rich and the Members of the Judiciary Committee for advancing this critical legislation in such a timely fashion. The D.A. and Members of the General Assembly working together will provide for a safer Tennessee.”

The text of HB 1177 can be accessed here.

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Tennessee Citizen Action: Lawsuit Caps Would Have Negative Effects

Press Release from Tennessee Citizen Action, March 23, 2011:

TENNESSEE CITIZEN ACTION ASKS GOVERNOR HASLAM TO FOCUS ON THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS CAPS ON DAMAGES HAVE ON HARDWORKING TENNESSEANS

Nashville, Tenn. (March 23, 2011) — In the House Judiciary committee late this afternoon, testimony was presented on behalf of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011,” which would cap medical malpractice damages at $750,000. Unfortunately, the testimony continued with an all-too common theme of catering to large corporations at the expense of hardworking Tennesseans.

“Herbert Slatery, the Governor’s counsel, said that unemployment in Tennessee is really bad and we agree,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, “But all his remarks were about what’s beneficial to large corporations. Not once did he mention the real human impact the Governor’s bill would have on the hardworking people of the state.”

Earlier in the day, Tennessee Citizen Action directed a press conference in which the impact of the bill was discussed by the family members of victims of medical malpractice and nursing homes abuse. The constant refrain from these brave family members was that caps on damages would remove the most important reason they had for filing suit: to deter fraudulent and abusive business practices so that what happened to their loved ones never happens again.

In his remarks, Mr. Slatery, said also said that the litigation risk is a factor in businesses decision to move here. But it is widely known that since 2008 when a unique Tennessee solution was put in place to make it more difficult to file non-meritorious claims, there has been a 44% decline in the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed.

Tennessee Citizen Action believes that businesses are run by intelligent people who will be attracted to the state because they can see that, one, we are not known for excessive jury awards and, two, we already have a solution in place that streamlines the process in malpractice suits and weeds out non-meritorious claims. But most importantly, businesses will be attracted to the state when we begin to treat it’s people as it’s number one priority, producing a well-educated and highly motivated workforce that stands on a firm foundation of a well-developed public infrastructure.