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.
Statewide Standardization / Food and Drink Regulations– Senate Bill 431, approved by the Senate this week, would prevent local jurisdictions in Tennessee from governing the sale or use of such items as straws, plastic bags and the regulation of food item content, like the “big gulp” soft drink. The proposal follows movements in certain U.S. cities to restrict, ban, or tax the use or sale of certain containers, foods, and drinks beyond what is required by state regulation. The statewide standardization bill prohibits local governments from banning, restricting or taxing certain materials used in food retail businesses and from enacting such ordinances based on food or drink content. It specifies that such restrictions or bans must originate in the Tennessee General Assembly, a practice used by other states like Arizona, Mississippi, California, and Minnesota.
Proton Therapy– Legislation was approved by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee this week allowing state employees diagnosed with cancer to receive hypofractionated proton therapy if the physician and patient believe that it would be more beneficial to their treatment plan. Senate Bill 195 creates the Proton Therapy Access Act. The state insurance program would be required to cover proton therapy at the same rate that would be paid for traditional radiation therapy (IMRT), as long as certain conditions have been met. The legislation will now be heard on final consideration on the Senate floor.
Temporary incapacitation of governor– A resolution allowing voters to change the state’s constitution to address any potential incapacitation of Tennessee’s governor was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week. Senate Joint Resolution 154 provides for any planned or unplanned absence of the governor when the powers and duties of the office cannot be performed. When the temporarily incapacitation is planned, such as major surgery, a written declaration from the governor would be submitted that the powers and duties will be temporarily discharged by the speaker of the Senate. If the incapacitation is the result of a sudden incident where the governor is unable to submit a declaration, then the majority of five administrative commissioners of the governor’s cabinet would make a determination. The commissioners would then submit a written declaration to temporarily name the speaker of the Senate as acting governor. 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 sessions and by a two-thirds majority of the 112th General Assembly which will convene in 2021-2022.
Aggravated Sexual Battery / Public Records— Members of the Senate Judiciary committee approved a measure to add aggravated sexual battery to the list of what can be made public in a delinquency proceeding. Senate Bill 584 requires petitions and orders of the court in a delinquency proceeding to be opened to the public if the conduct would constitute aggravated sexual battery if committed by an adult. The juvenile would have to be 14 years of age or older at the time of the alleged act for this to apply. Under current law, delinquency proceedings open to the public include conduct such as first and second degree murder, rape, aggravated rape, rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping. The bill now moves to the Senate floor for a final vote.
Non-Communicative Persons / Take Me Home Bill — Legislation seeking to help non-communicative persons return home safely, rather than transporting them to jail for identification purposes, has been approved by the full Senate. Under current law, when law enforcement officers encounter persons who cannot identify themselves, they are often taken to jail so that a positive identification can be made. Senate Bill 576 will help the City of Chattanooga share software which allows families to register a non-communicative person with local law enforcement agencies so police officers will have instant access to the identifying information necessary to bring them home. The bill establishes limited good-faith immunity for any defect or malfunction in a software program so Chattanooga can distribute it to other local governments in Tennessee without cost to the recipient. The proposal was brought to the legislature by the parent of a young man who is non-communicative due to autism and is modeled after similar laws in other states.
Lemonade Stand Bill — The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee approved legislation this week referred to as “The Lemonade Stand Bill”. Senate Bill 433 prohibits a local government from requiring a license, fee, or permit for a business that is operated solely by a person under 18 years of age, is located on private property with the property owner’s permission, and generates gross receipts of less than $3,000 per year. The legislation aims to help young people in Tennessee who might want to open a lemonade stand, start a lawn mowing business, or similar venture; and ensures they will be able to do so without being stifled by regulation. The bill will now move to the floor for final approval by the Senate.
Extending Tax Exemption / Farmers — An exemption from sales and use tax for agricultural trailers and vehicles was approved by the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee this Tuesday. Under current law only trailers used to transport livestock are exempt from sales and use tax. Senate Bill 713 extends the exemption to include all trailers used to transport livestock; farm products; nursery stock; or equipment, supplies, and products used in agriculture from state and local sales and use tax. The legislation will now go to the full Senate to receive final approval.
Chronic Disease Prevention Act — The Senate Government Operations Committee passed the Chronic Disease Prevention Act which will create a task force seeking to lower the current rates of largely preventable diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular in Tennessee. Currently, Tennessee is ranked 9th highest in diabetes, 7th highest in hypotension, and 10th highest in cardiovascular disease. Senate Bill 281 creates a task force, bringing legislators and experts together so that they can hear the real science behind chronic diseases and make recommendations to improve the health of Tennesseans. The bill will now move to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
Converting Plastics to Petroleum-based Products — The Senate approved legislation this week to incentivize the use of new technology to convert non-recycled plastics into fuels, chemical feedstock, and other petroleum-based products. Senate Bill 923 clarifies that post-use polymers and recoverable feedstocks, which are sorted but not currently being mechanically recycled, are not considered solid waste. Additionally, the legislation clarifies that the pyrolysis and gasification facilities that are processing these materials are not solid waste processing facilities or incinerators.
Human Trafficking – Senate Bill 577, approved this week, allows a victim of human trafficking to expunge their record of associated non-violent crimes. Petitioners who are able to prove they were a victim of human trafficking to the district attorney and judge, could have all violations subject to expungement cleared from their record. All sentences, including probation, must be completed before the record is cleared and expunged convictions would be reinstated if the victim commits similar crimes in the future. The legislation is pending final action in the House of Representatives before moving to the governor’s desk for his signature.
Give Act- The Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) Act to expand access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students was approved by the Senate this week. Senate Bill 805 is a two-pronged approach that utilizes public-private partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities. GIVE also provides funding for high school juniors and seniors to utilize four, fully-funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs. This bill seeks to reach the students that may not be on a track to go to a four-year university but can get a head start on job skills that will allow them to transition into the workforce. The Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation will determine which courses will be eligible for dual enrollment under the bill.
Repeal of Gym Tax– Senate Bill 960 repealing the state’s amusement tax on gym memberships is headed to Governor Bill Lee for his signature after receiving final Senate approval on Thursday.