Tennessee Citizen Action Reports
No Access to a Jury for You!
What do you do if you're part of the majority in the state legislature and a bill you passed might run afoul of the state constitution? You scramble to change the Constitution, of course!
Last year, Governor Haslam's "Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011" passed the state legislature and was signed into law. Among other things, this new law established limitations on damages in civil liability cases - also known as $750,000 cap on damages. HJR0698 by Rep. Vance Dennis (R-Savannah), would amend Article XI of the Tennessee Constitution to "permit the general assembly by statute to establish limitations on damages in civil liability actions and other causes of action."
So the caps on damages bill passed last year might be unconstitutional and rather than protect our 7th Amendment right to a civil jury trial and/or encourage businesses that innovate and take care of of their workers, they'd rather amend the Constitution to fit their agenda of helping corporations avoid accountability for egregious acts. HJR0698 will be heard in the House Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday, April 11 at 11:00 am. Watch here.
Gubernatorial Power Grab
What do you do if you want your governor to have more power than any governor has had in the past? You change the Constitution!
Currently, the state's attorney general is selected by the Supreme Court of Tennessee. But why allow 5 learned people to discuss the merits of a candidate when a partisan Governor can do so instead? HJR0804 proposes an amendment to Article VI, Section 5 to allow the governor to appoint - with legislative confirmation - the attorney general. HJR0804 will be heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, April 11. See also SJR0693 by Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) to be heard on Senate Finance Ways & Means committee on Tuesday, April 10 at 8:30 am. Watch here.
A Rigged Economy
What do you do if the state's economy is working fine for the top 1%, aka your CEO campaign contributors, and you want to keep it that way? You change the Constitution!
The richest 400 families own more than 150 million Americans (half the country). The $100 million earned in one year by the CEO of Bank of America could have provided median incomes to 2000 families.
If our nation's economic growth had been shared fairly for the past 30 years, wages would be 60% higher than they are now. Corporate taxes are at an historic low in terms of the economy and share of federal revenues. And yet, instead of crafting public policy that makes everyone pay their fair share, SJR0221 by Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Collierville) would enshrine into the Constitution a prohibition on a payroll tax - even on those Tennesseans making millions a year. Basically, we'd be stuck with a Constitution that would prohibit the 1% from paying their fair share. Add this to the secret financial negotiations they want to be able to have with corporations thinking about relocating here and the push to fully repeal the estate tax and we have a system developing that caters to large corporations and their 21st century robbers baron CEOs instead of writing rules that boost the well-being and productivity of hardworking middle and working class families. SJR0221 was passed this year by a simple majority.
Next year it will have to pass by a 2/3 majority. Then, it will go on the ballot to be voted on by the people in the next gubernatorial election.