(NASHVILLE) – This week, Tennessee House Democrats were instrumental in stopping two pieces of tough legislation that had the potential to negatively impact Tennesseans all across the state.
“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy in America, and we must continue to protect that right at all cost,” State Representative Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville). “Today we stopped bad legislation.”
House Bill 639 would have required a voter to present photographic identification in order to have the right to vote. Currently, Tennesseans are required to pay directly for photo identification in the state.
In the committee, some members had concerns that in tough economic times, affected groups like those on fixed incomes or unemployment may not be able to purchase or renew their identification. There were also concerns about those Tennesseans who are not required to have photo identification like the disabled or the elderly.
“Whether unintended or not, the consequences of this bill would have been unconstitutional and bad policy,” said Pitts. “This bill would have systematically disenfranchised the elderly, the disabled, minorities and some working Tennessee families who do not have the resources or need for photo ID.”
HB0639 was defeated in the Elections Subcommittee of the House State and Local Government Committee by a 3-3 tie vote.
Another difficult bill House Democrats helped defeat this week was House Bill 311. This bill would have denied local county commissions the power to set wage minimums for businesses in their communities.
HB0311 would not allow local governments to decide whether or not to set requirements on private employers to pay their employees a living wage. Currently in Tennessee only two counties require employers to provide a living wage standard. Under the bill, all 95 Tennessee counties would no long have the authority to regulate their local businesses.
“Government works best when it respects its limits, and this bill would clearly overstep the separation we try to keep between state and local government,” said Pitts.
HB0311 received a 3-3 tie vote in the Employee Affairs subcommittee of the House Consumer and Employee Affairs committee. Both bills cannot proceed without a majority vote in favor. All House committees are expected to wrap up their business for the year later next month.