Call to Action: Ban the Box Bills in the Tennessee General Assembly

TN State Capitol Building

Greetings Ban the Box supporters.

We at Democracy Nashville wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with some information about the state of Ban the Box measures in Tennessee. As you may have heard, there are some bills that have been introduced in the Tennessee State Legislature related to Ban the Box policies. We wanted to clarify some issues related to them and encourage you to act.

First, the successful work of Democracy Nashville and our community partners in passing our Ban the Box initiative through the Civil Service Commission, removing questions about criminal background from initial applications for most Metro Nashville public jobs, will not be threatened or undone by any current bill in the state legislature. This is good news. Our work was not done in vain and the fruits of our labor will not be jeopardized by the current actions of our state senators or representatives.

Second, one of two bills that has been introduced related to Ban the Box policies (SB 2103 / HB 2002) aims to prohibit local governments from requiring private employers that operate within city limits or that contract with local government to remove questions (banning the box) about criminal background from their applications for hire. To clarify again, this bill would not undo the work we have already done and would not prohibit local governments from banning the box for public jobs. This bill would, however, make it more difficult for groups like ours to extend Ban the Box initiatives to apply to private employers in a jurisdiction or private employers with whom local governments contract. The bill has already passed in the Senate and will likely go up for a full vote in the House on Thursday, March 3. We encourage you to contact your representative in the House to encourage them not to vote for HB2002. Please pass this along to your friends across the state to encourage them to contact their representatives as well. We encourage you to remind your representative that Ban the Box measures do not remove, but only delay, criminal background checks, which helps ensure that qualified applicants seeking work after incarceration have the opportunity to do so effectively, which benefits the entire community—because more working people make for more healthy communities.

Third, a bill (SB 2440 / HB 2442) introduced by Sen. Kyle and Rep. Gilmore last month seeks to ban the box for some state-level jobs in Tennessee. We join the ACLU and others in encouraging you to contact your senators and representatives, urging them to support this measure. It is currently moving through committees in both the Senate and House, hopefully moving towards a vote in the coming weeks.

Thank you for the work you’ve already done in helping us ban the box on (most) public job applications in Davidson County—work that is not threatened by any bill currently under consideration in the state legislature. And thank you for supporting bills that ban the box at the state level, and for opposing those that prohibit the spread of ban the box measures to private employers. In the end, any regressive actions taken by the Tennessee state legislature certainly pose obstacles to the work of creating more just communities, but they cannot stop the momentum already in motion in our state and beyond. Restraining the harmful actions of our elected officials is one essential tactic in the battle to make our communities more just, but thankfully, even if regressive bills do pass and progressive ones don’t, other tactics remain at our disposal. Stay tuned.



Democracy Nashville