Bill Watch is a service of the Knoxville Bar Association Legislative Committee. During each week of the legislative session, the KBA will distribute an updated report, through the support of Stephanie D. Coleman of Owings, Wilson & Coleman. The report will indicate progress and recent actions taken on the bills of interest to KBA members.
You can also get information about the General Assembly, including the text of bills and floor and committee calendars, by accessing the legislative web site at www.capitol.tn.gov.
Firefighters — Senate Bill 655, approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week, would work on establishing a retirement system called a Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) for volunteer firefighters. The legislation authorizes the State Treasurer to inquire with local governments and the volunteer fire departments about establishing a LOSAP plan for volunteers providing firefighting and prevention services, emergency medical services, and ambulance services. LOSAPs may be defined contribution plans, similar to 401(k), or defined benefit plans, like a pension. Such a program is funded by contributions from the local government or nonprofit entities that utilize the services of eligible volunteers. To be eligible to receive benefits from the LOSAP, an individual must be a bona fide volunteer who receives no compensation for the services and instead receives only reimbursement for reasonable expenses or benefits and nominal fees customarily paid to them.
Healthcare/Rural Hospitals — Senate Bill 255, approved by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, would permit the reestablishment of a hospital, without first obtaining a Certificate of Need (CON), in distressed counties designated by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as tier two, three, or four. The legislation applies when the hospital was previously licensed or another hospital was previously licensed at the proposed location within the past 15 years. The party reestablishing a hospital must apply for a CON within 12 months of renewing its license with the Department of Health (DOH).
Healthcare/CON — The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is also considering comprehensive CON reform legislation which will be discussed by state senators on Wednesday. Senate Bill 1281 seeks to make the CON process quicker, easier and less expensive; reduce CON regulation of certain facilities and services; and create greater regulatory flexibility.
Criminal law/Self-defense — Senate Bill 189 would allow those threatened with “grave sexual abuse” such as rape to use deadly force in self-defense.
Human Trafficking/ Self-defense — Senate Bill 188 authorizes victims to use force that could result in serious bodily injury or death, even if the victims are engaged in illegal activity or in a location they are not legally allowed to be, if they are in the situation as a result of their status as a human trafficking victim. Under the bill, the victim must prove in court they are a victim of human trafficking in order to use deadly force.
Hunting and Fishing Licenses — Senate Bill 1199 would implement a 365-day annual sport license be issued by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). Present law requires that all annual sport licenses be issued for the year beginning March 1 and ending the last day of February of the following year. This legislation instead requires that all annual licenses and permits relating to wildlife expire 365 days following the date of issuance.
Lifetime Sportsman License / Adopted Children — Senate Bill 119 came before the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) currently offers a lifetime sportsman license to Tennessee residents, at a significant discount to children under age three. This legislation seeks to extend the discount to adopted children who are under the age of thirteen and whose legal guardians filed for the license within 36 months of their adoption date. The proposal now goes to the floor of the Senate for a final vote.
Hemp Products / Transportation — The full Senate approved legislation that provides an exemption from certain legal penalties if a person is transporting hemp concentrate with a THC composition of less than five percent and the concentrate is intended to be diluted to a THC composition below 0.3 percent upon delivery. After the extraction process, hemp facilities are left with a CBD crude oil, which can be high in cannabinoids or THC. Senate Bill 694 would prevent business owners from being prosecuted for the transportation of this product.
Education/ Dual Enrollment Grants — The Senate approved legislation this week establishing the award for the first four courses taken under a Dual Enrollment Grant (DEG) to be equal to the cost of in-state tuition and mandatory fees established annually for community colleges or Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs). The DEG program provides opportunities for students to begin working toward a college degree, while still pursuing a high school diploma. It is funded by the Tennessee Lottery and administered by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation. Senate Bill 482 also requires the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporations’ (TSAC) Board of Directors to determine the award for the fifth through tenth grade courses taken under the DEG.
State Employees / Disciplinary Practices — The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted this week to pass legislation requiring a state agency in Tennessee to bear the burden of proof in determining, by a preponderance of evidence, whether a state law, rule, or policy was violated in an appeal proceeding against the suspension, termination, or disciplining of an employee. Senate Bill 361, approved unanimously by the committee, returns the burden of proof to the State of Tennessee to provide clarity and consistency regarding the disciplinary process used for state employees.
Ambulance Services — The Senate State and Local Government Committee approved legislation this week designating ambulance services as an essential service in Tennessee. Senate Bill 1597 would give the essential service designation to ambulances, like already provided to police and fire services. Under the proposal, ambulance services can be provided by a public, private or non-profit entity. The contract can be through interlocal agreement, an agreement with a hospital or health care facility, or through any structure suitable to provide at least one licensed ambulance service. The proposal further reiterates a county is not required to appropriate county revenues for this service, and that it can be provided by other means.
Volunteer Health Care Services — Under present law, healthcare providers must be licensed to practice in Tennessee to provide telehealth services. Members of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted this week to approve Senate Bill 929, which adds an exception to the state licensure requirement for licensed telehealth providers in another state when they are providing services on a volunteer basis through a free clinic in Tennessee. Eligible out-of-state providers must also fall under the definition of “health care provider” as defined by Tennessee’s telehealth services law.
Emergency Rescue Workers / COVID-19 — The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee advanced Senate Bill 995 this week. Under current law, there is a legal presumption that any full-time firefighter, paramedic, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or Advanced EMT who is infected with either HIV or the hepatitis C was inflicted with the disease on the job. In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, this bill would broaden the legal presumption to include infectious diseases for which the World Health Organization or federal Center of Disease Control has declared a pandemic and the governor has issued a state of emergency. The bill now goes to the Senate floor for a final vote.
Criminal Law/Aggravated riots —Senators gave final approval to legislation to strengthen penalties for those who participate in violent riots. Under current law, a person commits the Class E felony of an aggravated riot who knowingly participates in a riot which causes bodily injury to others or substantial property damage. Senate Bill 451 adds to the offense of aggravated rioting to include those who are compensated to participate in a riot or travel from outside the state to participate.
Safe at Home – Senate Bill 885 expands the Safe at Home Confidentiality Program administered by the Secretary of State’s Office. It allows victims of human trafficking or domestic abuse to apply for a substitute address which can be used throughout state and local government records, such as driver licenses and voter registration, in order to shield the participant’s address from the public. Under current law, a victim’s minor children can be approved to participate in the program on the same application as the victim. This bill expands the Safe at Home program to cover other family members such as a new spouse, an adult child living at the home, or an elderly parent for whom the victim is a caregiver.
Child Abuse/Confidentiality - Also, Senate Bill 476 creates a Class A misdemeanor offense to attempt to access or obtain confidential information from the Department of Children’s Services regarding allegations of child abuse or neglect that the person knows is in violation of state or federal confidentiality laws or regulations.
Constitutional Amendment/ Attorney General — A resolution to change the way Tennessee’s Attorney General is selected was approved 25-7 on Monday evening by the State Senate. Senate Joint Resolution 1, calls for an open vote by the Tennessee Supreme Court in selecting the State Attorney General, followed by a confirmation vote of the nominee by a majority of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly. Once the nomination is made, the legislature would have 60 days to go through the confirmation process. In the event that the candidate is rejected, then the court would have 60 days to make another nomination. The resolution now goes to the House of Representatives where it must also receive a two thirds majority before it is placed on the ballot.
Right to Work/Constitutional Amendment — Senate Joint Resolution 2, which would add Tennessee’s Right to Work law to the State Constitution, was given final approval from the Tennessee Senate on Monday night. The measure must now receive approval from the House of Representatives before it is sent to voters on the ballot. The amendment would become part of the State Constitution if adopted by a majority vote in the 2022 governor’s election.