(NASHVILLE) – Several key bills sponsored by Senator John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) will become effective on July 1, including legislation to reform Tennessee’s death penalty appeals process by expediting cases straight to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
The new law eliminates an intermediate step to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The statute is named for Sergeant Daniel Baker, a Dickson County Sherriff’s officer who was brutally murdered during a traffic stop.
“The Tennessee Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights Amendment adopted by the people in 1998 gives crime victims the right to a speedy trial and a prompt and final conclusion of the case after conviction or sentence,” said Senator John Stevens. “However, no action has been taken to put this constitutional mandate into action. This legislation shortens the time victims and their families are made to relive the horrors that have taken place by streamlining the process straight to the Supreme Court where the final decision rests anyway.”
Tennessee is in the minority of states which do not have a direct appeals process in capital crime cases. The midlevel appeal was put into place under a 1967 law. However, all appeals must go to the State Supreme Court for a mandatory review and final judgement. Death row inmates can also file appeals in federal court, meaning it can take several decades before the appeals process is complete.
Capital punishment in Tennessee is reserved for the most heinous, atrocious or cruel acts of murder.
In addition, Senator Stevens sponsored and co-sponsored several other key laws that will take effect on July 1 which include:
- The GIVE Act to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities through regional partnerships to ultimately increase the number of young adults in Tennessee earning an industry certification and entering a career within one year of high school graduation;
- Legislation to exempt agricultural trailers used to transport livestock, farm products, and nursery stock; or equipment, supplies, and products used in agriculture from state and local sales and use tax;
- Legislation that eliminates the state’s amusement tax on smaller sized fitness centers to level the playing field with their larger counterparts;
- A new law to exempt water that is used for agricultural purposes from the sales tax;
- Legislation to exempt fiber-optic cable from state and local sales and use tax;
- A new statute that prohibits local governments from requiring a license, fee or permit for a business operated by a person under 18 years of age that brings in less than $3,000 per year;
- A new law to reinstate a salary increase for Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) and Assistant Public Defenders (APDs) that was suspended during the 2009-2010 fiscal year;
- Legislation updating the EMIF to include GPS monitoring and local matching to remove the financial burden for low risk offenders, enabling them to remain in their community rather than in jail;
- The Barry Brady Act which allows firefighters to be eligible to receive workers compensation benefits for certain cancers;
- Legislation to raise the supplemental pay for the successful completion of 40 hours of annual in-service training from $600 to $800;
- A new statute ensuring that Class A, B, or C felons, which are violent offenders, are required to serve the minimum sentence for their crimes before being eligible for reduction credits for good behavior;
- A new statute that prohibits local government entities from burdening privately-owned sport shooting ranges with any greater restrictions or requirements than what are imposed on government-owned sport shooting ranges;
- Legislation to establish the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives;
- A new law to further protect Tennesseans’ First Amendment right to free speech which seeks to protect citizens from being silenced by “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” (SLAPP), which are frivolous lawsuits aimed at silencing outspoken citizens;
- A new statute establishing that all persons convicted of aggravated rape of a child will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole;
- A new law ensuring that undercover human trafficking operations conducted by law enforcement officials to catch offenders who promote or patronize minors are prosecutable in Tennessee courts of law;
- Legislation that sets up the Victims of Human Trafficking Fund which is a mechanism to provide grants to agencies specializing in comprehensive treatment and support services for victims; and
- A new law that allows a victim of human trafficking to expunge their record of associated non-violent crimes.