Bill Watch is a service of the Knoxville Bar Association Legislative Committee. During the legislative session, the KBA will provide 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.
Court Jurisdiction / Divorce Cases — Legislation was approved this week clarifying that trial courts can continue to hear divorce cases, modification of parenting plans, and other domestic relations cases, even when an allegation of dependency and neglect is alleged. As recently ruled by the Tennessee Court of Appeals, subject matter jurisdiction of circuit and chancery courts over divorce proceedings and subsequent child custody matters must be considered in conjunction with the exclusive jurisdiction allocated to juvenile courts by state law. This includes any cases where it is alleged that a child is dependent, unruly, neglected or delinquent. Senate Bill 719 provides that circuit and chancery courts having jurisdiction in domestic relations cases can continue to hear them, regardless of such allegations.
Hair Braiding / Right to Earn a Living - Currently, natural hair braiders must complete 300 hours of coursework, which costs between $2,000 and $3,000. They must also pay $60 biennially to the Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners for a license. Senate Bill 1185, which passed the full Senate this week, exempts individuals who engage only in natural hair braiding from the board’s licensing requirement. Under the legislation, hair braiders must attend 16 hours of training in health and hygiene, register biennially with the Department of Commerce and Insurance, and submit a $30 fee. The proposal does not affect cosmetology services or any braiding that includes cutting, extensions, or the use of heat, chemicals, glue or any styling tools other than a comb.
Bus Cameras / Parental Rights — State Senators gave final approval to legislation this week setting up a process to ensure parents are allowed to view photos or video footage installed on a school bus in certain circumstances. Senate Bill 182 requires Local Boards of Education (LEAs) to adopt policies regarding how the video surveillance would be reviewed. The policy must provide that a parent can review the footage within a certain timeframe under the supervision of a director of schools, a school principal or other school officials. The policy must also be in compliance with the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. The legislation does not require LEAs to purchase cameras for their school buses if not already in place. The proposal now awaits action in the House of Representatives.
Life in Prison without Parole /Aggravated Rape of a Child — The Senate Judiciary unanimously approved legislation increasing penalties for aggravated rape of child. Under current law, a person convicted of this offence is sentenced to 34 to 60 years in prison with a fine of no more than $50,000. Senate Bill 290 establishes that no sentencing hearing shall take place and that all persons convicted of aggravated rape of a child will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The bill moves to the full Senate next to receive a final vote.
Child Sexual Predators — Legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this week which creates Class E felony offense for possessing an obscene child-like sex doll which is anatomically correct. Senate Bill 659 also adds a Class A misdemeanor to the crime if the offense involves distributing, selling, or transferring the doll with the intent to sell it. Those offenders would also face fines of $10,000 to $50,000. The bill now moves to the full Senate to receive final approval.
Tax Equity / Car Washes —State senators passed Senate Bill 237 this week which clarifies that services related to automatic car washes are not subject to state and local sales tax. Currently, there is no legislative authority that specifically addresses the taxation of car washes, and a sales tax has not been imposed on these facilities in almost 50 years. However, recently an obscure provision of the tax code related to coin-operated facilities was used to retroactively apply the sales tax law to express model car washes. The legislation now moves to Governor Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.
Bingo / K-12 Schools — Legislation allowing voters to amend Tennessee’s constitution to legalize Bingo games which benefit public and private schools passed the State and Local Government Committee this week. Senate Joint Resolution 97 would provide an additional voluntary source of funds for Tennessee’s K-12 schools by allowing electronic and manual bingo to be played for their benefit. Legislation must be passed by the General Assembly authorizing the game if voters approve the constitutional amendment. The bill now moves to the full Senate for a final vote. Before proceeding to a vote by the people, the resolution must be approved by a simple majority of the 111th General Assembly during the 2019-2020 session and by a two-thirds majority of the 112th General Assembly which will convene in 2021-2022. Once on the ballot, constitutional amendments must receive a plurality of votes cast in the gubernatorial election.
Hemp Task Force — The full Senate voted this week to create an advisory task force to study the processing, testing, transporting, and regulation of hemp products in Tennessee and its economic impact on rural areas of the state. Senate Bill 888 proposes the 12-member task force would hear testimony from persons with expertise or knowledge in the hemp industry and report back no later than January 2020 regarding their findings and recommendations.
Raw Milk Safety / Cow Share Programs — The Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved legislation which sets up some basic practices for cow share programs. Cow share programs involve a contractual agreement between a farmer and livestock shareholders through which a person is able to obtain raw milk. Presently, only commercial dairies produce pasteurized milk, while small farmers are allowed to produce raw milk for themselves and their herd co-owners. Senate Bill 1123 provides that cow share farmers must register with the Department of Agriculture and complete a brief University of Tennessee Ag Extension course in safe milk production. They must also maintain a list of their owners and have contracts with clear terms of ownership; label containers with warnings similar to restaurant menus on hazards of consuming raw foods; and in the event of a rare outbreak, allow the Health Department access to the dairy for inspection and testing to protect consumer health. The bill now moves to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee for consideration.
Law Enforcement Officers / Lifetime Handgun Carry Permit – Legislation removing the fee for obtaining a lifetime handgun carry permit for former law enforcement officers has passed the Senate on final consideration. Senate Bill 1347 removes the current $100 application fee for former law enforcement officers to obtain a lifetime handgun carry permit. In order to receive the fee waiver an officer must have served at least 10 years and left the law enforcement agency while in good standing.