VOL. 125 | NO. 67 | Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Tenn. House Delays Armed Robbery Sentencing Bill
ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A proposal to boost Tennessee sentencing requirements for armed robberies was delayed in the state House on Monday over an attempt to remove a related measure to reduce prison time for certain nonviolent crimes.
The bill sponsored by House Minority Leader Gary Odom, D-Nashville, would require people convicted of aggravated robbery with a weapon to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. The current minimum is 30 percent.
The measure would pay for the increased sentences by removing mandatory prison time for first-time offenders who commit one of 19 other nonviolent felonies, including burning personal property, passing forged checks or shoplifting items worth less than $1,000.
Sentences for the nonviolent felonies would be transferred to community corrections.
"We have a limited number of jail cells," Odom said from the well of the chamber. "Now who should we have occupying those jail cells? The most dangerous convicted people that we have."
But Republican Rep. Matthew Hill of Jonesborough objected to changing the sentences for the nonviolent crimes.
"I'm not interested in a get-out-of-jail-free card," said Hill, who proposed to change the bill by removing several crimes from the bill.
Odom said Hill's change would defeat the entire measure because the state doesn't have the money to pay for longer jail sentences. After losing a procedural vote to throw out Hill's amendment largely along partisan lines, Odom rescheduled his bill for Thursday.
Afterward, Odom told Hill he was engaging in political gamesmanship and said he would travel to Hill's district to give him "full credit" for the measure's defeat if the bill dies.
Hill said he wasn't trying to defeat Odom's bill.
"I agree with the intent of the legislation in respect of if someone is shoving a gun in people's faces, and trying to hurt them and kill them and injure them, yes, they need to serve all of their time in jail," Hill told reporters.
"But so do people that set personal property on fire."
The companion measure is awaiting a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.
Read HB2813 at: http://capitol.tn.gov
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