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 8, 2019
College credit scholarships- Senate Bill 805, also known as GIVE, is a two-pronged approach that utilizes regional 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. Previously, high school students only had access to two fully-funded dual enrollment credits. With access to four credits, students will now be better prepared for entry into the workforce within two years of graduation. GIVE Student Grants will be funded via the Tennessee Lottery and support expanded access to dual enrollment.
Illegal drugs- The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation this week strengthening penalties for possessing or trafficking fentanyl, carfentanil, sufentanil, remifentanil, or any analogues, mirroring the same weights used to define punishments for heroin. Senate Bill 798 makes it a Class B felony to knowingly manufacture, deliver, or sell 15 grams or more of these substances, while penalties would be punishable as a Class A felony if it involves 150 grams or more.
Criminal record expungement - Senate Bill 797, which eliminates the $180 expungement fee associated with clearing records of certain criminal charges, advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
Firefighters- Senate Bill 1442 creates a presumption that any conditions or impairments of full-time firefighters caused by certain occupational cancers occurred while on the job and establishes eligibility for worker’s compensation benefits. The cancers include non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, colon cancer, skin cancer or multiple myeloma. Eligible firefighters must have been exposed to heat, smoke, and fumes; or carcinogenic, poisonous, toxic or chemical substances during the course of five or more consecutive years of employment with a fire department. An eligible firefighter may file a medical claim pertaining to any condition or impairment of the cancers listed in the bill for up to five years after the most recent date of exposure.
School Bus Drivers / Veterans and Teachers — Legislation unanimously passed the full Senate this week lowering the required age for certain individuals to drive a school bus. The General Assembly passed legislation a few years ago which raised the required age for a school bus driver to twenty-five which inadvertently created a shortage of available drivers. Senate Bill 245 allows honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, members of the National Guard or any reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces, or licensed teachers employed by a Local Education Agency (LEA), to drive a school bus once they are twenty-three.
Association Health Plans / Small Business —Senate Bill 1227 was unanimously passed by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Tuesday and addresses the fees distributed and given to association health plans which allow small businesses to partner together in order to provide their employees with insurance. The legislation clarifies that making payments to a trade or professional association, who are tax exempt, does not qualify as unfair trade practice in the business of insurance. This bill now moves to the Senate floor for a final vote.
Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act — Legislation was approved by the Commerce and Labor committee on Tuesday which adds smoking hemp to the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco and Tobacco Products Act. The law, which was enacted in 1992, establishes a minimum age to smoke or use tobacco products, while instituting penalties for violating the age restriction. The legislation has since been amended to include vapor products. Senate Bill 360 further amends the law to prohibit the sales, distribution, and purchasing of smoking hemp products to anyone under 18 years old. It now moves to the Senate floor for a final vote.
DUI / Implied Consent —Under current law, a driver is deemed to have given implied consent to a breath test for the purposes of determining the alcohol and/or drug content of a motor vehicle operator’s blood. Drivers who refuse to comply with the test, after an officer has deemed it necessary, are subject to license suspension or may be required to drive a vehicle with an ignition interlock device. However, current law allows for no penalty when refusing to consent to a blood test. Senate Bill 1342 aligns blood tests with breath tests and invokes the same penalties for refusal to comply. The legislation also deletes the criminal punishment for refusal to consent to a sobriety test to align Tennessee law with the Supreme Court case of Birchfield v. North Dakota, which ruled that it is unconstitutional to criminally charge someone for not consenting to a sobriety test. The bill will now advance to the floor for approval by the full Senate.
Alternative Pain Treatments – The Senate approved legislation on Monday that adds language to further define “alternative treatment” in Tennessee law to include chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, and other such treatments that relieve pain without the use of opioids. Senate Bill 194 is part of an ongoing effort in Tennessee to provide alternative pathways to treat pain in order to curb opioid addiction.
Community Oversight Boards — The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation this week aiming to create greater balance within community oversight boards in Tennessee. Senate Bill 1407 amends the current unlimited subpoena power by requiring an oversight board’s special investigator, chief of police or head of internal affairs go before a judge and request a subpoena. The legislation now goes to the Senate floor for final consideration.