Tennessee Horse Processing Bill Stalled

Tennessee legislation intended to facilitate private sector horse processing development in that state has been put on hold by its sponsor.

The legislation, HB 3619, would have instructed circuit or chancery courts to require a surety from anyone who files a court action challenging permits or licenses issued to processing plant developers. The bill set the bond's value at 20% of the facility's estimated construction cost, or 20% of an existing facility's operational cost. Also under the bill, those who bring cases that the courts deem without merit would have been ordered to pay attorney fees and court costs connected to the case. Those who lose their cases connected to functioning plants could have been be liable for operators' case-related financial losses.

Tennessee House Agriculture Committee members passed HB 3619 on March 13; however, some state legislators opposed the bill on grounds that the surety bond requirement contained in the legislation violated the Open Courts and Equal Protection clauses of the state's constitution.

Bill sponsor Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt said he stripped the surety bond provisions from the bill in late March. On April 3 Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper published his opinion that the bill's surety bond requirement "leads to the conclusion that the process proposed by HB 3619 to contest the licensure of equine slaughter facilities would likely be held unconstitutional under Tennessee's Open Courts Clause."

HB 3619 would have been brought to the floor of the Tennessee House on April 16; however, Holt requested the bill instead be "held on the desk."

"(The action) is an opportunity for us to put the bill in a safe play until we see if we will move it," he said.

Holt said he requested the hold on the bill because the loss of the surety provisions rendered the legislation less effective. As a result, he said he probably would not move the legislation forward before the Tennessee General Assembly's current session ends in May.

Bill opponent Marshall Gordon is pleased Holt stripped the surety requirements from the bill, but he is not completely convinced the legislation promoting horse processing in Tennessee is dead.

"In the last days of the session, anything can happen," Gordon said.

Holt said he has not decided whether he will introduce similar legislature during next year's Tennessee General Assembly session. Gordon hopes Holt will brainstorm with processing opponents before making a final decision.

"Over the summer, I'd like to see Rep. Holt get together with people on both sides to discuss the slaughter issue," Gordon said. "Maybe we can reason together and come up with a solution and help horses, too."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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