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.
March 18, 2019
Elder Abuse-Senate Bill 1039 creates a new offense for abusing an elderly or vulnerable adult when the abuse results in either serious psychological injury or physical harm. The offense also applies when the abuse involves the use of a deadly weapon or strangulation. Such crimes would constitute aggravated assault, but the new offense would enhance the felony classification one level to a Class B felony, doubling the average amount of time served by offenders. The legislation also eases the process for obtaining an order of protection on behalf of an elderly person who lacks financial resources to petition the court.
Farmers / Farming Equipment – Legislation was approved by the full Senate this week which excludes certain farming equipment from the slow-moving vehicles requirements under Tennessee law. Presently, vehicles traveling at least ten miles per hour below the lawful maximum speed must pull off the road so others can pass, when five or more vehicles are lined behind them. This has become more difficult for farmers since modern equipment has increased in size. Senate Bill 1496 amends current law to specify that the slow-moving vehicles requirements do not apply to farm tractors and implements of husbandry.
Spec Ticketing / Consumer Protection – Legislation addressing “spec ticketing” passed the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee this week. “Spec ticketing” occurs when a ticket broker sells a ticket to a customer that the broker does not have in hand and sometimes has not yet gone on sale. Senate Bill 1176 requires that brokers provide notice to consumers that they do not have the ticket in hand at the time of purchase. Under this legislation, if proper notice is not provided, it is a violation of the Consumer Protection Act, a Class B misdemeanor, and creates a right of action for a court to award a victim damages. This bill will now advance to the floor to be considered by the full Senate.
March Madness- Senate Bill 1057 decriminalizes participation in “low-level sports entertainment pools,” which includes March Madness and Fantasy Football office pools that have an entry fee of no more than $25.00 and the total pool is no more than $1,000. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the legislation this week, and it will now advance to the Senate floor to be approved by the full Senate.
First Amendment Free Speech — Legislation advanced through the Senate Judiciary committee this week concerning Tennesseans’ First Amendment right to free speech. Senate Bill 1097 seeks to protect citizens from being silenced by “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” (SLAPP). Under this legislation, discovery in alleged SLAPP lawsuits cannot proceed until the judge determines the suit’s validity. The bill also establishes clear guidelines for judges in determining if a lawsuit is considered to be a SLAPP. If it is found to be frivolous, then the defendant may be rewarded all incurred court costs and attorney’s fees. The bill now moves to the full Senate floor for final consideration.
TCRS – On Tuesday, the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee approved legislation to lessen the length of time a person must be a member in Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) for a surviving spouse to receive the deceased member’s benefits. Senate Bill 1371 grants a retirement allowance to a surviving spouse who is a designated beneficiary if the deceased TCRS member is vested with five years of credible service. Current law requires a member to have ten years of credible service in order for a surviving spouse of a member to receive retirement benefits.
Domestic Violence — Legislation designed to protect domestic abuse victims from being manipulated into evading the court process or giving untruthful testimony received final Senate approval on Monday. Currently it is a Class D felony to coerce a witness of domestic violence by threatening them to testify falsely or evade court. Senate Bill 611 makes it a Class A misdemeanor for an offender in a criminal domestic violence case to influence the victim to testify falsely, withhold any truthful testimony, or elude the legal process.
Telemedicine — Legislation passed the full Senate floor on Monday expanding telemedicine. Telemedicine refers to the practice of physicians caring for their patients remotely through HIPAA–compliant electronic information systems. Senate Bill 972, sponsored by Senator Ed Jackson (R- Jackson), permits mental health physicians to collaborate with advanced practice nurses and physician assistants, allowing them to arrange for required review of the patients charts and the required visitation via HIPAA-compliant electronic means, rather than at the site of the clinic. Under this legislation the collaborating physicians must have the same prescribing authority as the nurse practitioners and physician assistants they supervise.