NASHVILLE, March 11, 2014– A bill which would nullify federal “voluntary” checkpoints in the Volunteer State State moved another step towards law today. Sen. Mike Bell filed Senate Bill 1485 in January (SB1485). It passed on Jan 27 unanimously by a 37-0 vote. And today, the House concurred by a vote of 91-0.
It reads, in part:
No state, county, municipal or metropolitan form of government law enforcement officer shall participate in, lend assistance to, or be present in any official capacity at any voluntary motor vehicle checkpoint or stop conducted by a private company or research group to collect a human sample from consenting motorists stopped at the checkpoint for research or statistical purposes.
The bill stipulates that the law will apply “whether the checkpoint is funded by federal grant or contract with a federal agency and regardless of whether the motorists consenting to a giving a human sample are compensated or not.”
Practically speaking, the bill would block roadblocks set up as part of a multimillion dollar federal study run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation based in Maryland operates the checkpoints, run by uniformed officers. Officers offer motorists cash for DNA samples, generally $10 for a cheek-swab and $50 for blood. Officers reportedly up the ante for motorists who refuse, offering $100. Furthermore, officers have been reported to force motorists perform checkpoint activities even after total refusal.
The federal government lacks constitutional authority to fund or run such a study, and there is no legal or constitutional requirement for state or local law enforcement to help the federal government carry it out. This bill would nullify the effort in Tennessee.
The bill now moves to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s desk for a signature.