The 2nd session of the 107th General Assembly resumed in Nashville on January 10, 2012. One of the first major issues addressed was redistricting which occurs every ten years after the federal census. During this process the state’s legislative district maps are redrawn based on regional population shifts. Several changes were made to the previous maps and citizens should be aware of the new district lines. To view the maps and find your legislators go to capitol.tn.gov.
Governor Haslam recently introduced his annual legislative package. His proposal focused on two big tax cuts. The inheritance tax exemption would be raised from $1 million to $1.25 million, and the states sales tax on food would decrease from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent. An anti-crime package was also included as well as several proposals dealing with restructuring state agencies.
Several bills introduced by legislators, if passed, would adversely affect the civil justice system. One bill specifically allows hospitals and doctors to provide negligent medical care in Tennessee emergency rooms. Unless a patient could prove gross negligence, a standard just short of criminal behavior, there would be no protection for innocent victims of medical harm.
In another bill, proposed legislation known as “loser pays” would force those with legitimate claims and serious injuries to abandon their legal rights or risk jeopardizing their financial futures. This bill makes the loser in a lawsuit pay the full legal costs and fees of both parties, including the exorbitant defense costs of big insurance companies. Small businesses and families with legitimate claims are prevented from holding wrongdoers accountable. Since people already harmed and injured by others are most often in a weakened financial position from the outset, innocent victims and civil claimants would have a strong incentive not to file suit to recover compensation, despite the merits of their case. This proposal destsroys centuries old legal tradition, and cuts against the fundamental principle that those who are harmed should be made whole.
Several pieces of recently introduced legislation grant different types of immunity and propose changes to Tennessee’s current workers compensation system in ways that would negatively impact injured workers.
As in any session of the legislature, the most effective way to combat these destructive bills is for constituents to reach out and communicate their opposition to their representatives in the Tennessee House and Senate.