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Rare bipartisan bill appears headed for trouble in the Tennessee Senate

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capitol.tn.gov
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  One of the few bipartisan bills introduced this session in the Tennessee Legislature appears to have suffered a setback.

(YOU CAN READ AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS STORY HERE.)

The measure could dramatically reduce sentences for some cases of first degree murder. The proposal would give Tennesseans convicted of murder and sentenced to life * the opportunity to petition for parole after serving 25 years of their sentence. Currently, they can't apply for parole until they have served 51 years.

The bill would not apply to individuals who are sentenced to life without the possibility for parole.

The bill is sponsored in the upper chamber by Tullahoma Republican Senator Janice Bowling. The measure’s House sponsor is Memphis Democrat London Lamar. The proposal passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week 7 to 2.

Senate bill SB561 appeared headed for a vote by the full senate this week. However, the measure has now been diverted to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee instead.  

**A Fiscal Note provided by legislaitive staff notes that approximately 79 current Tennessee felons would immediately be eligible for parole should the measure pass and take effect. The Fiscal Note alao estimates another 5 inmates would become eligibile for parole each year thereafter. 

The Fiscal Note estimates the early release of inmates could save the state $2.46 million in the first year and roughly $1.4 million each year thereafter. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was modified at 1:39 p.m. on 4/12/21. A change was made at * to make clear inmates serving life sentences for murder would not be automatically released after 25 years, but would simply be given the opportunity to petition the parole board for release.  The change made at ** adds additional information available in the Fiscal Note concerning cost savings that state might realize should the measure pass.