(The Center Square) – The grades are in for Tennessee's 111th General Assembly.
A Taxpayer Scorecard released by the Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity has graded legislators based on its analysis of key reform votes and sponsorship of taxpayer friendly bills.
“There is no better barometer by which to measure lawmakers’ allegiance to fiscal responsibility, economic freedom, and breaking down barriers so every Tennessean can live the American Dream than to evaluate their votes on important legislation,” said Tori Venable, Tennessee state director for Americans for Prosperity. “Simply put, their votes are their record.”
Legislators were graded on their votes on key legislation that addressed issues such as justice reform, tax cuts, deregulation for businesses, government transparency and health care innovation.
One of the most important reforms passed by this General Assembly included in the analysis, Venable said, was a reform of Tennessee’s drug free zones law.
Drug free zones are areas extending from every school, park, library and day care facility. The zones cover large swaths of Tennessee cities. State law imposes enhanced sentencing in drug free zones, causing minor drug crimes to carry mandatory minimum prison sentences.
“There were mountains of data showing it was not working as intended,” Venable told The Center Square via email. “Simply reducing the zones from 1,000 feet to 500 feet, which covered 27% of Nashville‘s land area, and giving the judges discretion on whether the enhancement should apply – which they should have had in the first place – will save taxpayers $18.5 million. This law will preserve public safety, makes our system more just, and is smart on crime while being soft on taxpayers.”
Legislators also were graded on their votes on Gov. Bill Lee’s Education Savings Accounts program, certificate of need reform, telemedicine, repeal of the Professional Privilege Tax and a constitutional amendment to add Tennessee’s right-to-work law to the state Constitution.
Extra points were awarded for sponsorship of key legislation. Points were subtracted if legislators supported efforts to expand Medicaid or a bill to impose a one-cent tax on every call placed in the state.
The highest-scoring state representatives were Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville; Robin Smith, Hixson; Michael Curcio, R-Dickson; Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby; Esther Helton, R-East Ridge; and Andy Holt; R-Dresden.
The lowest-scoring representatives were Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis; Jesse Chism, D-Memphis; Mike Stewart, D-Nashville; Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville; and Bill Beck, D-Nashville.
The highest-scoring state senators were Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield; Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville; Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown; and John Stevens, R-Huntingdon.
The lowest-scoring senators were Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville; Sara Kyle, D-Memphis; and Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis.
“If standing up for public school students, teachers, and Americans who want a fair wage is offensive to special interest lobbyists, we’ll wear their scorn as a badge of honor,” Brandon Puttbrese, spokesman for the Senate Democratic Caucus, told The Center Square via email.
Founded in 2004, Americans for Prosperity is a conservative political advocacy group. The organization supports free markets and entrepreneurship by advocating for lower taxes and limited government.