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.
February 24, 2020
Criminal Charges/ Aggravated Rape of a Child - Under current law, sex offenders can be charged with aggravated rape of a child if their victim is zero to three years old. Senate Bill 1800 raises that age range to zero to eight years old. Under legislation passed by the General Assembly last year, aggravated rape of a child is a Class A felony offense which is automatically punishable by life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Sex Offenders - In other action, Senate Judiciary Committee members voted to clarify a law passed last year prohibiting sexual offenders or violent sexual offenders from staying overnight at a residence in which a minor resides or is present. Senate Bill 1568 authorizes a District Attorney (DA) to petition a circuit court when they believe an offender whose victim was age 12 or under poses risk of substantial harm to his or her child. The court would then make a finding by clear and convincing evidence regarding prohibition of overnight visits.
HOPE Lottery Scholarship - Legislation simplifying and modernizing the HOPE Lottery Scholarship’s financial aid program was approved by the Senate Education Committee this week. Senate Bill 2097 makes numerous technical corrections including:
- Creating new opportunities to help individuals who are not currently being served well by the program like foster children, homeschoolers, ROTC students, and adult students who do not meet the 25-year-old requirement;
- Establishing one clear definition of scholarship termination at completion of five years or upon receiving a degree;
- Winding down loan programs that are not working or that are supplanted by new programs;
- Only paying for programs within the student’s field of study to keep a focus on timely graduation and costs; and
- Expanding opportunities for soldiers who are not being served by the confines of the state’s Helping Heroes Program established in 2008.
The bill now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee for approval before moving to the Senate floor for final consideration.
Brownfield Sites - Legislation to incentivize the development of brownfield sites in Tennessee passed its first hurdle in the Revenue Subcommittee this week. Senate Bill 2158 would lower eligibility requirements for brownfield sites that qualify for a franchise and excise tax credit. Current law provides a 50 percent franchise and excise tax credit on the purchase of brownfield sites for a qualified development project, but the high eligibility requirements to receive the tax credit have almost entirely prevented this incentive from being utilized. The legislation allows projects in Tier 3 and Tier 4, which are the state’s at-risk rural counties, to more frequently utilize the tax credit. This would be done by lowering the required capital investment from $25 million to $5 million; raising the amount of the tax credit from 50 percent to 75 percent; removing the acreage requirement; and allowing the community to begin remediation and pass the credit along to a company later. The bill was approved unanimously and is scheduled to be considered by the Finance, Ways and Means Committee next week.
911 Operators / CPR Instructions – Legislation passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week to ensure all 911 operators across the state are prepared to provide CPR instructions to a caller in an emergency situation. Currently, not all counties allow 911 operators to run callers through CPR instructions. Senate Bill 1958 ensures all 911 operators in the state will provide telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation (T-CPR), as well as receive proper training to administer it. The legislation also includes liability protection for those providing this service. The legislation now moves to the Senate floor for final consideration.
Tennessee Courts E-filing System – The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced legislation which seeks to modernize the state’s court filing system. Senate Bill 2630 would allow any court in Tennessee to use an electronic filing (E-filing) system to provide greater efficiencies for litigations filed throughout the state. In 2016, the General Assembly passed a law allowing civil trial courts to use an E-filing system. Following the success of this practice in the civil trial courts, this legislation was proposed to expand the ability to all Tennessee courts.
Electronic Citations - Legislation was passed by the full Senate this week allowing law enforcement agencies to choose to issue electronic citations for certain misdemeanor criminal offences in lieu of written citations or arrest. Senate Bill 1622 ensures that a paper copy of the citation be given to the cited person and that the court of jurisdiction receives it within three days of the issuance.
Hunting and Fishing License – Senate Bill 2300 was approved in the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this week specifying that a sportsman’s license is not required in order to assist a person with a disability who is fishing or hunting under an exemption provided by state law. The purpose of the legislation is to establish a designation that will enable the TWRA employee to be able to clearly distinguish between those present as helpers and those who are fishing without a license. Senate Bill 2300 passed unanimously and moves to the Senate floor for final consideration.