Press Releases

Kelsey ‘Pleased’ Warrantless GPS Tracking Found Unconstitutional

Press Release from Sen. Brian Kelsey; Jan. 23, 2012:

Senator Kelsey praises today’s U.S. Supreme Court Ruling protecting citizens’ rights

(NASHVILLE, TN), January 23, 2012 — State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) was pleased that today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones held that warrantless GPS monitoring of suspects is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution against unreasonable search and seizure. Kelsey announced that he will introduce legislation in the 107th General Assembly to further curtail the use of GPS monitoring by Tennessee law enforcement.

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has ruled this practice unconstitutional,” said Senator Kelsey. “The Court’s unanimous decision in this case affirms the dangerous infringement on citizens’ rights under our federal Constitution.”

The Supreme Court ruling said that the installation of a GPS tracking device on a vehicle by law enforcement requires a warrant, resolving conflicts among lower courts regarding the matter. Monday’s ruling applies directly to tracking devices that police install on a person’s car or other property. “The government’s physical intrusion on the Jeep for the purpose of obtaining information constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures,” said Justice Scalia, who wrote the main opinion for the court.

“We must guard against unchecked government intrusion,” Kelsey continued. “Our Constitution and legislatures must remain vigilant in protecting against such abuse. The Court has ruled appropriately.”

The decision can be found at:

Press Releases

Senate Approves Kelsey’s “No State Income Tax” Amendment

Press Release from the Senate Republican Caucus, May 18, 2011:

(NASHVILLE, TN), May 18, 2011 – A “No State Income Tax” constitutional amendment passed the Senate today by a vote of 26 to 4. Senate Joint Resolution 221, sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) would clarify a prohibition in the Tennessee Constitution against an income tax and a payroll tax. The Senate action marks the first victory for the resolution in a series of approvals required under Tennessee’s Constitution before the proposed amendment can be considered by voters on the ballot. The resolution will be taken up tomorrow morning by the state House for the first of three successive readings, and it could pass the House as early as Saturday.

“Not having a state income tax has already brought jobs to Tennessee,” said Senator Kelsey. “If this amendment passes, we will be able to tell prospective businesses that we will never have an income tax in our state, a condition which will help Tennessee become the number one state in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

In order for a constitutional amendment to pass, it must first be approved by a simple majority in both the House and the Senate this year. Then, it must be approved by a two-thirds vote in each chamber during the next General Assembly in 2013-2014 before it goes to voters for final consideration on the November 2014 ballot.

The resolution specifies that the state legislature as well as Tennessee cities and counties shall be prohibited from passing either an income tax or a payroll tax, which is a tax on employers that is measured by the wages they pay their workers. A payroll tax has been proposed in recent years by elected officials in Shelby County as a way around an income tax.

Kelsey won passage of a similar resolution by a vote of 28-5 earlier this year, but the House redrafted the resolution more succinctly. The version that passed the Senate today matches the version that is up for consideration in the House tomorrow.

“I am pleased that this resolution passed with such an overwhelming, bipartisan majority,” added Kelsey. “I am glad that the House will take up the resolution tomorrow, and I hope they will pass it Saturday, so we can move even closer to closing the door on the income tax battle forever.”

Press Releases

Senate GOP Leader Norris: TN Civil Justice Act ‘Very Important Legislation’

Press Release from the Senate Republican Caucus, May 12, 2011:

(NASHVILLE, TN), May 12, 2011 – The Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), was approved in the State Senate today by a vote of 21 to 12. The legislation is designed to provide certainty and predictability for businesses, while ensuring that injured plaintiffs receive all of the economic, quantifiable damages they suffer.

Norris said Tennessee’s current civil justice law puts the state at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new businesses and jobs, especially since it is one of the few in the Southeast which has yet to reign in lawsuit abuse through tort reform.

“This is very important legislation,” said Senator Norris. “It is much more than tort reform, as we must be competitive with other states. The state of Tennessee has always been on the cutting edge of tort reform. We must remain competitive, not just in the South or in a regional economy, but in the global context. This bill is designed to put us on a level playing field so we have predictability and certainty for businesses which look to locate or expand their operations in Tennessee.”

“The uncertainties of life command that we balance the need to quantify the risk with our compassion,” he added. “This will strengthen our judicial system and our state as a whole.”

“Our current civil justice system threatens Tennessee’s business climate and hampers our ability to create jobs,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey (R-Blountville). “Unlimited exposure to costly litigation drives up business costs and drives away new jobs. Every citizen should have access to the courts but it is critical that damage awards do not spin out of control and hurt our ability to grow jobs in Tennessee.”

“The legislation will provide certainty and predictability for businesses that want to locate in Tennessee,” said Senator Kelsey. “When we attract businesses, we attract jobs. Without this law, Tennessee is the only state in the southeast that has no limits on possible punitive damage awards. With this law, Tennessee can become the number one state in the southeast for high quality jobs.”

Key provisions of Senate Bill 1522 include:

· The bill limits the maximum appeal bond amount from $75 million to $25 million or 125 percent of the judgment amount.

1  It defines two components of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic damages.

·  The measure places a cap on non-economic damages, which are subjective damages like pain and suffering, at $750,000 per injured plaintiff for both healthcare liability action and other personal injury actions. However, if the harm suffered is intentional, the caps would not apply.

1  As amended, the bill raises the cap to $1.0 million if the plaintiff becomes a paraplegic or quadriplegic because of spinal cord injury, sustains third degree burns over 40 percent or more of his or her body or face, has an amputation of a hand or foot, or wrongfully dies leaving one or more minor children.

2  There is no cap, under the measure, on economic damages and any damages that can be objectively quantified may be recovered.

· Caps punitive damages, which must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, at two times compensatory damage or $500,000, whichever is greater unless the defendant intended to injure the plaintiff, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or intentionally falsified records to avoid liability.

1 Prevents punitive damages in products liability actions, unless the seller had substantial control over the design or manufacturing of the product or had actual knowledge of the defect in the product at the time it was sold.

Norris pointed to the success of the 2008 medical tort reform law which he sponsored and that has been successful in reducing lawsuits since its implementation. The law has resulted in a reduction in non-meritorious claims by 50 percent.

The bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for approval of an amendment before it is sent to the governor for his signature. It will take effect October 1, 2011, and apply to all liability actions for injuries after that date.

Press Releases

Kelsey: Pre-K Study Emphasizes Need for School Reform

Press Release from the Tennessee Senate GOP Caucus, March 23, 2011:

Senator Kelsey concerned with latest report on long term effects of Pre-K

(NASHVILLE, TN), March 24, 2011 (video included at end of release) — This week lawmakers received the final in a series of reports assessing the effectiveness of Tennessee’s Pre-Kindergarten, which continues to show disappointing results regarding the long term effects of the program. The purpose of the study was to assess whether children who attended a Tennessee-funded Pre-K program perform better academically than a comparable group of peers who did not attend.

The study, conducted by Strategic Research group, measured the progress of students from 2007 – 2011 to determine whether those students who attended state-funded Pre-K perform better academically in the short and long term than a comparable group of peers who did not attend Tennessee’s Pre-K program. The study continues to confirm earlier reports showing any gains made from Pre-K are short-term and do nothing after second grade to bridge the achievement gap between children who are at-risk from those with a higher socio-economic background.

As previous reports in this series have found, there are positive effects associated with participation in Pre-K in getting students ready for the kindergarten, first and second grades, meeting the objective of school readiness. As noted in previous reports, however, the positive effects associated with Pre-K participation tend to diminish by third grade. The report says that, by grades three to five, there were “no instances where Pre-K students scored higher than non-Pre-K students.” Instead there were “a number of instances where Pre-K students scored lower.”

“When we look at these statistics about long term gains not being there from Pre-K, I think you can read that information in two directions,” said Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown). “On the one hand, you can say there is no real advantage to Pre-K, so why are we doing it? But on the other hand, you can read it as something is going wrong in grades one, two and three.”

“That is what really saddens me throughout this whole conversation,” he continued. “The Pre-K program that we have instituted is doing some good work in getting students ready for school. Unfortunately, our student performance is so low in this state that, by the time we get to grade three, the students who didn’t have the advantage of Pre-K were able to catch up because it was such a low bar to meet. That is the real problem that is exposed from this study and one that leads me to the conclusion that we need to continue Pre-K and more importantly, we need to continue to work to reform the educational process in grades K-12.”

The State of Tennessee has been funding early childhood education since 1996 when a pilot program was established for economically disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds. In the 1998, Governor Don Sundquist pushed the creation of 30 Pilot Pre-K classrooms, serving approximately 600 students, and the program was expanded under Governor Phil Bredesen.