House drops proposal to have AG prosecute protest crimes, cost per conviction projected at $500K

House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) makes an announcement before Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state House has dropped a proposal to give the state Attorney General the power to prosecute crimes committed by protesters.

The Daily Memphian reports House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) dropped the provision after hearing concerns from the District Attorneys General Conference.

Under the bill enhancing penalties for various unruly behavior, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation could be called in.

Attorney General Slatery Herbert Slatery’s office said the legislation reflects a “widely held sentiment that laws be enforced” if state prpoerty is damaged or law enforecement agents are injured.

“If the General Assembly wants us to take on additional responsibilities, there will be a number of steps to consider. If requested, we will obviously engage in those discussions,” said AG spokeswoman Samantha Fisher.

The fiscal note on the bill enhancing penalties for illegal camping on state property to a Class E felony places the cost for each conviction at more than $500,000. But nobody has been convicted under the existing illegal camping laws over the last five years, leading Fiscal Review to deem the impact to be “not significant.”

UPDATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday amended its version of the bill to decrease the severity of the crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

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