This week, State Representative Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon) and House Republicans moved forward with the 'Safe at Home' program in the committee process, giving a positive vote to legislation that will help protect domestic abuse victims across Tennessee.
For many victims of domestic abuse, stalking, and similar crimes, escaping abusers is no easy task.
In 2016 alone, 78,100 domestic violence offenses were reported in Tennessee. In over 80 percent of these reported incidents, the primary victim was either a woman or a child. In over half of reported cases, the victim was physically injured. Victims may need to move to other towns, switch jobs, move their children to different schools, or even change their names just to escape their abusers.
Even then, abusers may still easily find them by searching public records online -- and that is where House bill 2025 comes in.
As introduced, the legislation will create a program known nationally as 'Safe at Home,' which has been implemented by more than 35 states across the country. The goal is to help survivors of domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, stalking, and other crimes in their efforts to keep their abusers from finding them. In doing so, the program will allow victims to take back their lives by preventing an abuser from locating them through public records searches and inflicting additional harm.
The 'Safe at Home' program provides victims with a government-managed substitute address, such as a post office box, for both themselves and their children, which can then be used to obtain a driver's license, register to vote, and complete most other government forms without disclosing the participant's home address.
Once enrolled, the participant can provide the substitute address to virtually all government entities in Tennessee. Participants may also request that other nongovernmental entities, such as their employers and other private businesses, use this address as well.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports that in 2016, more than 78,000 domestic violence crimes, including stalking and rape, were reported to police. Ninety-one Tennesseans were murdered in domestic violence situations during that same time. These cases account for more than 51 percent of all crimes against individuals reported in 2016.
These dramatic statistics demonstrate that this program is a critical step toward protecting victims of domestic abuse, stalking, human trafficking, and similar crimes from any more trauma. This program will also make our communities safer by reducing crime for all Tennesseans.
Tennessee Reconnect Off To Record Start
Following the first week of the application process being officially open for adults to enroll tuition-free this fall at a community or technical college through Tennessee Reconnect, over 4,000 applications have been submitted -- a record start in helping adults who want to go back to school to advance their futures.
Tennessee Reconnect builds off the groundbreaking Tennessee Promise program -- which provides high school graduates two years of tuition-free community or technical college -- by establishing a last-dollar scholarship for adults to earn an associate degree or technical certificate free of tuition or mandatory fees.
Both Tennessee Reconnect and Tennessee Promise are programs under the Drive to 55, an initiative spearheaded by Republicans to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. Studies show that by 2025, at least half the jobs in Tennessee will require a college degree or certificate.
Early results of the Tennessee Promise program show that students participating in the program are succeeding at higher rates than their peers. Tennessee is the first state in the nation to offer all citizens, both high school graduates and adults, the chance to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate tuition-free.
For additional information about how to get involved with Tennessee Reconnect, click here. The application deadline is set for April 15, 2018.
House Lawmakers Strengthen Protections For Parents & Children Involved In Custody Cases
This week, Representative Boyd and House lawmakers passed legislation that adds additional protections for parents and children involved in violent custody cases.
House Bill 1546 empowers a parent or legal guardian who has been the victim of an attempted murder to petition a judge to terminate parental rights of the individual convicted of the offense. The measure enhances current protections for children involved in these types of cases.
Additionally, it strengthens laws for parents or legal guardians who have survived attempts at their lives while increasing punishment guidelines for presiding judges.
Too often, the state has seen a parent or legal guardian cross a very dangerous line, resulting in the serious injury of their partner or spouse. As passed, House bill 1546 aims at providing an additional deterrent in these specific instances while also protecting the safety of our children and surviving parents.
Tennessee House Passes Legislation Easing Regulatory Burden On State's Motorists
This week in Nashville, Representative Boyd and House members gave approval to legislation that eases the regulatory burden on Tennessee motorists involved in minor traffic accidents.
House Bill 1515 increases the property damage threshold for which a motor vehicle accident requires a written report to be filed with the Department of Safety from $400 to $1,500. The measure also reduces the backlog of accident reports that are currently on the Tennessee Department of Safety's books.
While this tweak to current law may seem minor, supporters of the legislation agree the last thing someone involved in an accident should have to worry about is a burdensome regulation that requires an extra form to be filed with the state. As passed, the legislation eases burdens on Tennessee motorists and frees up taxpayer-funded policing resources to be used in other, more important safety areas.
House Bill 1515 now awaits passage in the Senate.