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.
March 16, 2020
On Monday, Governor Lee joined with the House and Senate leaders in an announcement concerning the remainder of the legislative session:
Lawmakers will only meet to pass the state’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year and limit all other legislative business. The goal is to pass the spending plan in the next week before recessing for at least eight weeks.
As of the end of last week:
Criminal Law - The Senate Judiciary Committee passed criminal justice reform legislation last week. Senate Bill 2195 expands Tennessee’s Recovery Court System, which is a specialized diversion program focused on comprehensive supervision, treatment services and immediate sanctions and incentives for substance abuse offenders. The proposal broadens eligibility for Recovery Courts to include misdemeanors, except domestic assault offenders, and encourages judges to consider available sentencing alternatives. The legislation also requires courts to consider use of available sentencing alternatives for defendants with a documented history of behavioral health problems.
Finally, the legislation clarifies criteria for revoking community supervision status, updates the permitted amount of time that an individual can be sentenced to probation or have their supervision extended, and limits the ability to revoke supervision for non-criminal violations of conditions, also known as technical violations.
Criminal Law/Re-Entry Stabilization Act - The Re-Entry Stabilization Act of 2020 is a multi-pronged approach to facilitate positive outcomes for those leaving incarceration. Senate Bill 2194 establishes mandatory re-entry supervision, so that all individuals exiting state custody will have a minimum of one year supervised re-entry integration. The mandatory supervision does not create parole eligibility for those who are not eligible, including those convicted to life without parole or to the death penalty. The proposal establishes the Office of Re-Entry Services, which will act as a clearinghouse of existing resources, primarily focusing on providing services to those whose sentences are expiring and are reentering the community.
Criminal Law/Sex Crimes- The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation this week to prevent sex offenders from being sentenced to the community corrections grant programs or from being supervised by the community corrections grantees. The Department of Correction (TDOC) now has specialized officers with extensive training to deal with sex offenders and the inherent, specific risks they pose. Senate Bill 2152 will ensure that these high-risk populations will be supervised by TDOC to the extent they are involved in the criminal justice system.
Criminal Law/Recidivism - The Senate State and Local Government Committee advanced legislation seeking to encourage rural and smaller Tennessee counties to offer recidivism reduction opportunities for inmates through enhanced jail per diem. Senate Bill 2108 would provide an additional $5 per day for prisoners in counties under the population of 336,000 participating in approved recidivism reduction programs. The program could focus on education, vocational training, mental health, substance abuse rehabilitations, building healthy relationships, or any other program shown by evidence to reduce recidivism and increase the likelihood of successful re-entry.
Student Debt - Legislation requiring public higher education institutions to provide students with financial information to help them evaluate the impact of indebtedness passed the Senate on Thursday. Senate Bill 2503 provides that when a student is finalizing their acceptance of a financial aid package, the institution must provide them with the net cost in an interactive loan scenario calculator, along with pertinent information on responsible student borrowing.
Professional Privilege Tax — The Senate Revenue Subcommittee voted this week to recommend legislation to the full Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee to further reduce Tennessee’s professional privilege tax. During the 2019 legislative session, the General Assembly eliminated the professional privilege tax for 15 of 22 professions which were covered. Senate Bill 2201 provides further tax relief by decreasing it from $400 to $200 for attorneys, security agents, broker-dealers, investment advisors, lobbyists, osteopathic physicians and physicians.
Consumer protection legislation — Legislation which includes text messages under the anti-phishing provision of Tennessee’s Consumer Protection Act was approved by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee this week. Senate Bill 2212 widens the definition of “wireless communication” to include text messages sent and received on smart devices. The bill now moves to the floor of the Senate for final consideration.
Healthcare/Alzheimer’s – The Senate Health Committee approved Senate Bill 1889, which would create a three-year pilot program under the Commission on Aging and Disability to provide home and community-based services for those who are experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. Supports would include respite care, personal care, and home-delivered meals. The pilot would operate as part of the OPTIONS program from July 1, 2020 to January 1, 2024. Enrollment would begin no later than July 1, 2020 and offer services no later than January 1, 2021. In 2021, the number of enrollees can be up to 150 participants and should be at least 150 participants for 2022 and 2023.
Personal delivery devices — A bill allowing delivery robots to operate at low speeds on sidewalks and crosswalks in Tennessee has been approved by the Tennessee Senate. The robots operating under Senate Bill 2836 won’t be able to exceed 10 miles per hour and must be equipped with a braking system to come to a controlled stop.
TDOC/Funeral funds — The Senate voted this week in favor of Senate Bill 1578, which would authorize the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction (DOC) to contribute state funds of up to $2,000 toward the burial and funeral expenses of any correctional employee killed in the line of duty.
Education - Legislation to allow the chairman of the Tennessee Board of Education the power to issue subpoenas for educator licensure investigations passed the Senate Monday night. Senate Bill 2260 allows the subpoena to be issued for the appearance of persons or the production of items relevant to the investigation, including video footage.
Holly Bobo Act – Senate Bill 2464, allowing the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to expand its missing and endangered child and young adult alert program to individuals under the age of 21, was approved by the full Senate this week.
Legislation joins Tennessee in Interstate Driver License Compact — Legislation passed the full Senate on Monday joining Tennessee with 42 other states in an interstate Driver License Compact. The compact is used by states to exchange information regarding driver license revocations or suspensions due to major traffic violations by non-residents. The offenses are then forwarded to the home state where the person is licensed. Senate Bill 1643 requires the state to report convictions to an offender’s home state when it involves manslaughter, negligent homicide, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and failure to stop and render aid in when a motor vehicle accident results in the death or serious injury of another. It also applies to offenders with felony convictions when a motor vehicle is used in the commission of a crime. The licensing authority in the compact’s party state may not issue a license to an applicant if the individual has been suspended or revoked in a compact party state and the period of termination has not expired. After one year, the applicant can reapply for a driver’s license, with the compact state’s licensing authority.
Dental care- A bill regarding nonprofit dental clinics passed the Senate Health Committee. Senate Bill 2017 expands the maximum number of dental hygienists a dentist can oversee at a nonprofit provider of free mobile clinics from three to ten.
Education - The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 1790, which authorizes the commissioner of education to grant a waiver to a requesting LEA exempting them the average class size standards to assist the LEA in funding a Grow Your Own Program. By increasing the class size across the district by one or two students, districts can significantly reduce the number of teaching positions and use those savings to develop their own teachers.
Education – On Thursday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 2089, which would require all 95 counties in the state to create and implement a family life curriculum. Currently, only counties which have more than 19.5 pregnancies per 1,000 females ages 15-17 are required to implement family life programs that meet certain standards. This legislation expands these requirements to all local education agencies (LEAs). In addition, the proposal prohibits anyone from making abortion referrals or otherwise advocating for abortion while they are present on school property.