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TN Politics: New Laws Have Conservative Priorities at Odds


Since taking office, Gov. Bill Lee's vision for criminal justice reform included more effort to reform criminals rather than just punish them. The American Conservative Union agrees, in part, that sending people to jail for long sentences without the prospect of time off for good behavior or other efforts of self-improvement, such as taking college courses, creates headaches for people who run prisons.

But Republicans in the Tennessee House and Senate want more felons to serve out their max sentences, and a recent Truth in Sentencing bill headed to Gov. Lee's desk would do just that.

Another bill that raised some eyebrows — mostly those of Democrats — was aimed at criminalizing homeless people who camp on state-owned land, such as near roadways and under bridges. Some question the logic of fining people who can't even afford a place to sleep.

After redistricting created the opportunity for Republicans to win a new Congressional seat in Tennessee, the party itself was divided over allowing out-of-state candidates to move here and immediately run for office. Political analyst Otis Sanford says the party's recent expulsion of three newly arrived candidates shows that lawmakers consider residency here — at least for a few years — as true to the party's bonafides as support for Donald Trump.

Finally, Memphis Democrats hope voters will pass a referendum that puts party affiliation on the city ballot. Sanford says city elections have long been nonpartisan affairs and he sees no reason to change that.