Two bills that address stalking laws in Tennessee took center stage on Capitol Hill, while the emotional trial surrounding TV personality Erin Andrews continued in Nashville.
Rep. Mike Sparks, a Republican from Rutherford County, sponsored House Bill 1448 that would increase the penalty for unlawful photography, and require any individual convicted of the crime to register as sex offender.
“I want to give people more protection, and I think that’s what we’re doing,” said Rep. Sparks.
A second bill, House Bill 1779 got the attention of members of the Nashville non-profit group Advocates for Women’s and Kid’s Equality (AWAKE). A former stalking victim testified before the House committee, and members of the group argued current Tennessee stalking laws are outdated.
“It’s not designed to capture how people interact and move through the world in 2016,” said Megan Metcalf, Advocacy Director at AWAKE. “Our main goal is to be able to prosecute stalkers before a period of escalation before they may turn violent.”
House Bill 1779 would add social media and text messaging as possible methods of stalking. Current state law only includes emails. The bill also reinforces the fact that stalking cases can be prosecuted in any county where a victim is located. Metcalf says the changes could go a long way in protecting victims.
“This is going to make a difference,” said Metcalf. “This will improve the lives of women and children here in Tennessee.”
Both bills passed in committee today Wednesday, and will now go to the Finance Ways and Means Committee. The bills should be up for a vote in the full House in about two weeks.