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.
Firearms/Criminal Law — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation this week allowing Tennesseans to carry firearms without a permit. Senate Bill 765 will allow citizens in Tennessee who are at least 21 years old, or are honorably discharged or active in the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves, to carry a firearm without a permit in a place where they are lawfully present. Under the bill, those who carry without a permit must have no felony convictions, orders of protection in effect, pending charges or convictions for domestic violence or stalking, or have been adjudicated as a mental defective. In addition, individuals convicted of two DUI offenses within the last ten years or one in the last five years would not be eligible, as well as federal prohibitions which include illegal aliens and fugitives from justice.
The legislation also increases penalties for the following firearm-related crimes:
- Increasing the penalty for theft of a firearm to a Class E felony;
- Providing a sentencing enhancement for theft of a firearm in a car;
- Increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 days to 180 days; and
- Increasing the sentences for unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or allowing a juvenile to possess a handgun.
- The bill now goes to the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee for consideration before moving to the Senate floor for a final vote.
Orders of Protection — Several important bills advanced in the Tennessee Senate this week which aid victims of crime, including those subjected to stalking, human trafficking and domestic violence. This includes Senate Bill 621, which creates a lifetime order of protection that can be issued to a victim of certain felony offenses to prohibit the offender from coming around or communicating with them. Under this bill, a victim of a felony offense of assault, criminal homicide, attempted homicide, kidnapping, or sexual offenses may file a petition for a lifetime order of protection against their convicted offender. The legislation also permits service of ex parte orders of protection for up to one year from issuance.
E-911 — Senate Bill 182, approved in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee this week, develops a statewide implementation plan for Text-to-911 service by January 2023. Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency call takers from your mobile phone or device.
Domestic Violence — Senate Bill 216 calls for completion of a one-hour domestic violence course as part of the initial licensure education required for barbers and cosmetologist. It is recommended by domestic violence groups due to the unique relationship that these professionals have with their clients who may otherwise be isolated. The education will help inform barbers, hair stylists, and cosmetologists on how to respond to signs of domestic violence with a client, including referral of resources, but does not hold the professionals liable for those actions or inactions.
Human Trafficking — SB 1115 advanced in the State Senate this week, which removes the statute of limitation for any commercial sex trafficking offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2021.
Human Trafficking — In addition, the full Senate approved Senate Bill 214, which would require law enforcement officers to alert DCS when they take a minor into custody on charges of prostitution so DCS can appropriately place the child in a safe home. Depending on the circumstance, DCS would either place the child in the custody of a parent or guardian, or in a care facility if determined by a judge.
Home Health Services Accessibility — The full Senate approved legislation this week modernizing the process for authorizing home health services for patients, aligning it with a new federal law that ensures greater accessibility. Last year, President Donald Trump signed into law the CARES Act which allowed nurse practitioners, advanced practitioners, and nurse physician assistants to order home healthcare services for Medicare patients. Orders for home health services, however, must be signed off by a physician under current Tennessee law. Senate Bill 478, redefines “home health services” so that advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants may order them as well.
Higher Education Support / Children in Foster Care System — Members of the Senate Education Committee approved legislation on Wednesday which provides resources and support to youth who have aged out of foster care by expanding eligibility for the HOPE Foster Child Tuition Grant and creating a campus foster liaison pilot program at Tennessee’s public universities and community colleges. Senate Bill 722 is included in Governor Bill Lee’s legislative package. The HOPE Foster Child Tuition Grant is a last-dollar scholarship, funded by the Tennessee Lottery, for youth who have been in the custody of the Dept. of Children’s Services for at least one year after the age of 14. The bill addresses this issue by changing the HOPE Foster Child Tuition eligibility requirements to allow for an exception to the custody requirement for youth who were over the age of 17 when they entered into custody and have aged out of foster care before they could reach the one-year custody requirement.
Education — Legislation prohibiting the local selection of supplemental education materials that are aligned to Common Core by schools and districts in Tennessee was approved this week in the Senate Education Committee. Senate Bill 769 explicitly prohibits the Tennessee Textbook Commission and the State Board of Education from approving or publishing a list of textbooks and instructional materials created to align exclusively with Common Core standards and marketed or identified as Common Core textbooks or materials. Furthermore, the bill prohibits individual Local Education Agencies (LEAs), schools, and teachers from using Common Core-aligned supplemental materials.
PSYPACT / Military Families — Legislation calling for Tennessee to join the Psychology Interjurisdiction Compact, or PSYPACT, was approved on final consideration by the Senate on Monday. Senate Bill 161 is among several proposals being considered by the legislature this year to aid active military families and veterans. Occupational licensure compacts provide consistent rules that allow licensed members and spouses to work in other states through “privilege to practice policies” or to more easily transfer their license to a new state.
Child Protection — Senate Bill 270 requires adoptive parents receiving subsidies to annually provide the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) with medical or school enrollment records to ascertain a health check.
Underage Drinking — In Monday’s Floor Session, Senate Bill 157 was approved by the Senate which aims to curb underage drinking. The General Assembly passed legislation in 2010 which prohibited property owners from knowingly distributing alcohol to an underage adult, which is defined as any person between the ages of 18 to 21. This proposal would amend the law to penalize distribution to all minors. Additionally, the bill establishes a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for convictions of offenses related to providing alcohol to minors. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Precious Cargo Act — The Senate gave final approval this week to the 2021 Precious Cargo Act which would aid individuals who need assistance in expressing themselves or in exiting the vehicle when approached by law enforcement or first responders. Senate Bill 110 updates the Tennessee Vehicle Title and Registration System (VTRS) database in order for law enforcement to have the appropriate information when a check is run on the affected person’s license plate. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration where it is already advancing through the committee system.
Criminal Law — Under legislation passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, those who steal packages left in mailboxes or on doorsteps could face jail time. Mail theft is currently charged under existing theft statutes, which applies penalties based on the value of the item stolen. Senate Bill 1121 would add a new section to the Tennessee code that puts in place specific penalties for theft of mail which includes packages, bags, etc. The first offense would continue to be punished based on the value of the stolen item. However, the legislation stipulates that the second or subsequent offense of mail theft must at least be charged as a Class E felony, which is punishable by up to six years in prison and a no more than a $3,000 fine.
First Responders / Residency Requirements — The full Senate voted this week to approve Senate Bill 29 which would allow first responders to live where they choose. The measure would ban residency requirements for police officers and firefighters.
Education/ Teacher Discipline Act — Members of the Senate Education Committee voted this week to advance the “Teacher Discipline Act” which would establish a process for local school districts to enable a teacher to remove a student who causes repeated disruptions. Under Senate Bill 230, once the disruptive student is disciplined, principals could use their discretion to send them back into the classroom or permanently remove the child. The bill also allows teachers to file an appeal with a school’s director or local superintendent if they disagree with that decision.
Constitutional Amendment/ Governor – On Thursday, the full Senate voted to approve a resolution that allows voters to address temporary incapacitation of the Tennessee’s governor. Senate Joint Resolution 10 would provide the framework for a transition in the case that the governor is unable to perform his or her duties due to a planned or unplanned temporary absence.