This information comes from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, MD, R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles, Lewis, Marshall and Maury counties and part of Williamson County in the State Legislature.
We are preparing for a busy 2024 legislative session in Nashville where we will address important issues including improvements to Tennessee’s public safety.
Crime and Public Safety
A main priority of the General Assembly is to ensure Tennessee is a great place to live, work and raise a family in.
Protecting Tennessee communities from crime is a major aspect of this creed.
Cracking down on crime and improving public safety is an ongoing focus of the General Assembly, but expect it to be an even bigger focus in the 2024 legislative session.
In August, Gov. Bill Lee called a special session to address public safety and lawmakers proposed over 100 bills on the topic.
Due to time constraints, only a handful of bills proposed by Lee for the special session were considered.
Many bills proposed by lawmakers for the special session will be refiled in this legislative session.
This year, expect lawmakers to hone in even closer on legislation to make Tennessee communities safer by giving law enforcement more tools to remove criminals from the streets, ensuring the criminal justice system gives appropriate sentences to offenders, and enhancing penalties for violent crimes committed with firearms.
In 2023, the Senate passed blended sentencing legislation, though the legislation did not pass in the House prior to adjournment.
The legislation would give judges the ability to apply blended sentencing of juvenile prison and adult prison for juveniles who commit crimes in their late teens and will age out of the juvenile justice system before their sentence term is up.
A blended sentencing approach would ensure that juveniles who commit crimes have adequate time to be rehabilitated before their release.
Goals are to reduce juvenile recidivism rates and keep dangerous criminals off the streets. Blended sentencing is in place in at least 20 other states. Expect this legislation to come back in the 2024 legislative session and generate much discussion.
Threats of Mass Violence
Among proposals planned for the 2024 session is legislation to increase the penalty for threatening mass violence from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Under the legislation, a person who threatens mass violence would be charged with a felony and subsequently tried in court where they would receive full due process consistent with the United States Constitution.
Closing Holes in Criminal Justice System
In major Tennessee cities, lenient judges let violent offenders out on low bail to await trial, only for offenders to skip their court date or commit more crimes while out on bail.
Perhaps the most egregious recent case of this was the deadly stray bullet that hit Belmont University student Jillian Ludwig while she was walking in a park in Nashville in November 2023.
The shot was fired from an offender with an extensive criminal history who had posted $10,000 bail in September for vehicle theft.
The offender, Shaquille Taylor, also had charges dropped for several violent crimes because he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. Despite this determination, he did not meet the standard for being involuntarily committed.
Allowing Taylor to roam free with a violent criminal history was a systematic failure, and the tragic death of Jillian Ludwig launched a public conversation about issues with the bail bond system and the process for involuntary commitments.
Expect legislation to be proposed in 2024 to set stricter parameters for judges when setting bail and working to improve the process for involuntarily committing someone to a mental institution.
Lawmakers agree that if a person is deemed mentally unfit to stand trial for violent crimes, it goes against the public’s best interest to allow that person to roam free.
However, there will be debate on how to best close those loopholes.
Mandatory universal filing for court system
Legislation mandating court systems across the state use a universal filing system is expected to be brought forth this session.
The system will streamline the filing process and ensure judges and prosecutors have up-to-date information so defendants and perpetrators can be punished based on their full and complete criminal history.
Enhancing penalties for crimes committed with firearms
During the special session a slate of legislation was proposed to impose stricter penalties for crimes committed with firearms.
These proposals were not considered during the special session but may be refiled for the 2024 legislative session.
Sen Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN 37243 at 615-741-3100, toll free at 1-800-449-8366 extension. 13100, or fax at 615-253-0231.
His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN 38462, by telephone at 931-796-2018, by cell phone at 931-212-8823, or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org