Weekly Review

List of some of the laws that will become effective July 1, 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013
Budget / Food Tax Reduction -- The $32.8 billion budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year is fully balanced and incorporates approximately $43 million in tax cuts for Tennesseans.  


The food tax reduction measure builds on 2012 legislative action to reduce the state portion of the sales tax on grocery food from 5.5% to 5.25%.  


Budget Bills 501, 502, 503, and 504 by Norris / Public Chapter 454 , Public Chapter 453, Public Chapter 452, Public Chapter 451 / DOE:  July 1, 2013 / Food Tax Relief Bill Senate Bill 199 by Norris, Kelsey, Yager, Crowe, Beavers, Bowling, Campfield, Gresham, Harper, Johnson, Ketron, Massey / Public Chapter 323 /  DOE:  July 1, 2013


Budget / Stability -- Legislation was approved during the 2013 session requiring the governor to allocate in the state’s annual budget 10% of the growth in tax revenue for the rainy day fund until it reaches a level of 8% of the total amount of tax money put into the general fund and the education trust fund. The purpose is to ensure an adequate savings account in case of a downturn in the economy or prolonged recession.  Prior to this legislation, the governor was only required to maintain the rainy day fund at 5% of the estimated state tax revenues allocated to the general fund and education trust fund.  


Senate Bill 994 by McNally, Henry, Bowling, Crowe / Public Chapter 175 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Beer Tax Reform – The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a measure to reform Tennessee’s beer tax.  Upon enactment, the new law will convert Tennessee’s outdated price-based tax to a volume-based tax.  Under the current law which was created in the 1950s, Tennessee leads all other states’ beer tax rate by a 12% margin. In comparison to the state’s neighbors, Arkansas’ tax per barrel rings up at $7.51 and Mississippi’s at $13.23, while Tennessee tops out at $37 per barrel.  The bill aims to promote competitiveness and economic opportunity, as well as choice for consumers.  


Senate Bill 422 by Kelsey, Green, Ketron, Tate, Bowling, Harper, Yager, Ford / Public Chapter 189 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Government Efficiency / Procurement -- Improvements were enacted this year to a 2010 law that implemented cost saving strategies in the way Tennessee state government procures goods and services.  The 2010 law combined procurement of goods and services for the state into one central office under the watchful eye of a new Chief Procurement Officer and Procurement Commission.  Provisions in this year’s legislation include a requirement that all cooperative purchasing conducted be done through contracts awarded through full and open competition and pursuant to policies or rules and regulations adopted by the Procurement Commission.  It also redefines small business from those companies employing up to an average of 30 persons on a full-time basis to 99 persons, puts into place a new procedure for electronic bidding and gives the state the right to audit the books of a contractor or subcontractor relating to a contract entered into with the State of Tennessee.


Senate Bill 170 by Norris, Ketron / Public Chapter 403  / DOE:  July 1, 2013 and applies to contracts entered into or renewed after that date


Cutting the Size of Government -- Legislation aimed at cutting the size of Tennessee government has been approved this year to repeal unnecessary laws. The bill focuses on making recommendations to the legislature in areas of government waste, duplication, and out-of-date regulations that should be removed from the law books.  The Office of the Repealer, which will perform this task, will be housed in the General Assembly’s Legal Services Division. 


Three bills that eliminate dozens of unnecessary Tennessee laws have already been approved by the Tennessee General Assembly this year.  The bills relate to transportation, finance and commerce. Specifically, the bills delete references to programs that have since been abolished by the federal government, reports that were assigned to come from entities that no longer exist and several instances of repetitive language.  The legislation helps streamline state law and makes it easier to interpret for all interested parties.


Senate Bill 595, by Johnson, Tracy, Ketron, Yager, Bell, Bowling, Crowe, Dickerson, Green, Haile, Kelsey, Norris, Stevens, Watson, Ramsey / Public Chapter 475 / DOE:  Upon becoming law for setting up a system to solicit and receive suggestions; otherwise on July 1, 2013  and Senate Bill  521 by Bowling, Tracy / Public Chapter 308 / DOE:  July 1, 2013  / Senate Bill  511 by Hensley / Public Chapter 164 / DOE:  July 1, 2013 / Senate Bill 1208 by Johnson / Public Chapter 211 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Workers’ Compensation / Misclassification – Another workers’ compensation bill which passed this year allows the Department of Labor to access fines on unscrupulous construction employers who are found guilty of workers’ compensation premium fraud.  Currently, premium fraud enforcement can only come from criminal charges by district attorneys general or civil suits by the state’s Attorney General.  However, due to scarce resources, those charges rarely occur.


 The new law seeks to assist legitimate construction employers who compete against contractors who have insurance but intentionally underreport their payroll or nature of their work to insurance carriers in order to lower their premium payments.   


The legislation is the result of the recommendations of the Department of Labor’s Employee Misclassification Advisory Task Force and only applies to the construction industry.


Senate Bill 833 by Ketron / Public Chapter 424  / DOE:  July 1, 2013 and applies to violations occurring on or after the effective date of the act


Trusts -- Legislation was approved this year which is a continuation of the state’s efforts to establish Tennessee as the most attractive legal environment in the nation for trust and trust services. The new law will bring Tennessee trust law to the forefront by demonstrating leadership in six, broad ranging areas. These areas are expressed statutory authority for dynasty and purpose trusts; asset protection for self-settled and third-party-settled trusts; protection of directed trustees and trust protectors; flexible trust administration and modification; and well-developed and flexible bank regulatory law. The benefit of the bill is that it strengthens trust law against court challenges which may overturn the settlor's intent. 


Senate Bill 713 / by Stevens, Bowling, Henry / Public Chapter 390  / DOE:  July 1, 2013 except as provided otherwise (See Section 55)


Healthcare Funding -- The budget included cost increases of $350 million for TennCare inflation and other health care costs and $3.9 million for mental health.  In addition, the budget provides $43.1 million to support “Healthy Tennessee” initiatives from the Tobacco Arbitration Settlement funds.  


As amended, the budget restored $1.37 million for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Peer Support Centers, $2.3 million to continue grants for adolescents recovering from alcohol and substance abuse, $2 million to increase reimbursement paid to providers for services to citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities and $400,000 to help veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).   


The Hospital Coverage Assessment was also approved to prevent potentially catastrophic cuts to Tennessee hospitals.   The assessment is used to draw down federal funds available through a Medicaid match program approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  It will continue to provide the critical dollars necessary to help with the hospitals unreimbursed TennCare costs.  


A few examples of programs that would be affected without the assessment, in addition to the reduction in payments to hospitals and health professionals, are: critical access hospitals; the Graduate Medical Education program; 8-visit limit imposed on outpatient services, x-rays, and physician office procedures; various therapies; and the enrollment cap for the medically needy.  The bill’s language ensures that the coverage assessment cannot be passed along to patients.


Senate Bill 441 by Overbey, Massey, Bowling, Burks, Ford, Gardenhire, Yager / Public Chapter 250  / DOE: July 1, 2013  


Infant CPR -- State Senators voted to require hospitals, birthing centers, healthcare facilities and healthcare professionals that interact with parents or caregivers of a newborn to make available instruction concerning the appropriate use of infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in an effort to save infant lives.  The measure also provides for civil immunity for healthcare practitioners acting within the scope of their practice in making the information available.


Senate Bill 665 by Gresham / Public Chapter 197 / DOE:  July 1, 2013  


Assault Against Healthcare Providers -- A new law passed this year stiffening penalties against those who assault healthcare providers who are discharging their duties.  The legislation adds nurses, physicians and other health care providers to the list of persons where, if an assault or an aggravated assault is committed while acting in the discharge of the provider's duty, the maximum fine is increased.   The measure doubles fines for convictions on assault charges from $2,500 to $5,000 and triples them in convictions on aggravated assault against affected providers from $5,000 to $15,000.


The rate of violence against healthcare workers is more than three times that of those employed in other professions.   


Senate Bill 412 by Green, Massey, Kelsey / Public Chapter 325 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Meningitis / Proof of Immunization -- Legislation that requires new incoming students at any public institution of higher learning who live in on-campus housing to provide adequate proof of immunization against meningococcal disease passed during the 2013 legislative session.  The Tennessee Higher Education Commission will have authority to promulgate rules and regulations to implement the new law known as the Jacob Nunley Act.  Nunley, an MTSU student, died in 2012 after he contracted bacterial meningitis.  Students may be exempt only under limited circumstances. 


Senate Bill 93 by Finney Tate, Hensley, Dickerson, Ketron, McNally, Burks / Public Chapter 114 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Flu and Vaccine Information -- The full House and Senate has approved legislation that ensures hospitals inform patients about influenza and the availability of vaccines.  The new law provides information be given to patients six months of age and older in order to keep the dangerous disease from spreading to help protect the health of all Tennesseans.


Senate Bill 979 by McNally / Public Chapter 60  / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Prescription Drugs / Pain Management Clinics -- Legislation has passed prohibiting pain management clinics from dispensing controlled substances, striking a compromise between making sure proper medication is available to law-abiding citizens and keeping addictive substances out of the hands of abusers.  Pain clinics have become common businesses in the state and have been tied in the past to Tennessee’s high level of substance abuse.  According to the Department of Health, prescription drugs, specifically hydrocodone, alprazolam and oxycodone, are the top three prescribed drugs in the state and are used frequently to treat pain.  This bill makes sure that patients go through the necessary channels to receive potentially dangerous medication.  That means making sure they see a doctor, receive a valid prescription, and then visit a certified pharmacist, instead of just receiving their medication at the clinic.


Senate Bill 705 by McNally, Overbey, Burks, Campfield, Yager / Public Chapter 336 / DOE:  Section 4 takes effect at 12:01 a.m. July 1, 2016 and the remainder takes effect July 1, 2013


Prescription Drugs / Mid-level Practitioners -- Legislation was passed this year that requires a mid-level practitioner only prescribe controlled substances that are on an approved formulary, or if not, mandates that they consult a supervising physician to receive his or her authorization on a patient-by-patient basis.  The bill also limits the episode of treatment of Schedule II and Schedule III narcotics in which advance practice nurses and physician assistants can prescribe to a 30-day course of treatment unless the supervising physician is consulted.  In addition, the Department of Health would be required to send correspondence to the top 50 prescribers of controlled substances requesting them to justify the need for prescribing that many narcotics.  


Senate Bill 529 by McNally, Burks and Yager / Public Chapter 396 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Prescription Drugs / TennCare Fraud -- Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed legislation which clarifies TennCare’s anti-fraud law to prevent prescription drug abuse in the program.  The legislation makes it easier to prosecute in the jurisdiction where law enforcement authorities made the arrest.  The new law also changes the phrasing in state law prohibiting “doctor shopping” to provide that a violation occurs when the TennCare benefits are used instead of when TennCare pays for the clinical visit or for the controlled substances.  Written to stop fraudulent use of TennCare benefits, especially in the case of controlled substances, this law ensures that a person who knowingly sells, delivers or aids and abets fraud will face a Class E Felony, which includes mandatory jail time.  


Prescription Drugs / Licensing Boards -- Approval was given to a bill requiring any podiatrist, dentist, medical doctor, nurse, optometrist, osteopathic physician or physician assistant who is indicted in Tennessee for an offense involving the sale or dispensing of controlled substances, to report to the appropriate licensing board within seven days of such indictment. The legislation encourages the district attorneys general and appropriate federal attorneys to alert the appropriate licensing board when an indictment regarding the sale or dispensing of a controlled substance takes place so they can take appropriate corrective action to revoke the license of an abuser.


Senate Bill 955 by McNally, Overbey, Burks / Public Chapter  232  / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Prescription Drug Fraud / Identity Theft -- Legislation passed the Senate and House that would create a Class D felony offense for prescription drug fraud in cases of identity theft. The bill defines this offense as using fraud or forgery to obtain a controlled substance. It also adds the theft of identifying information of a prescriber to obtain a controlled substance to the charge of identity theft.   


Senate Bill 1363 by Haile, Burks, Campfield, Massey / Public Chapter 151 / DOE:  July 1, 2013 and applies to offenses that occur on or after the effective date.


Prescription Drugs / Pharmacist’s Discretion  – Another measure passed this year aimed at fighting drug abuse gives Tennessee pharmacists the right to deny a patient medication if they believe the drug is not being used for a legitimate purpose.  Moreover, pharmacy owners and managers can not interfere with a pharmacist’s acting on their professional opinion in denying the medication under such circumstances, and pharmacists may not be penalized.


Senate Bill 962 by McNally, Campfield, Crowe, Bowling, Burks, Haile, Johnson, Niceley, Stevens, Yager / Public Chapter 276 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Synthetic Drugs -- A bill that adds to the list of synthetic cannabinoids that are currently prohibited within the state of Tennessee has now become law after passage in the legislature this year.  This measure clarifies the definition of a controlled substance analogue to ensure that any substance that differs from a controlled substance by no more than two atoms qualifies. By expanding the definition, it prohibits a DUI offender from using the defense that he or she was lawfully using a controlled substance analogue. The bill does provide exemptions for drugs or substances that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for research purposes. 


Senate Bill 48  by Beavers / Public Chapter 161 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Crime / Gangs -- The 2013 legislative session saw progress in Tennessee’s war on crime as several bills passed to make Tennessee’s streets safer.  This effort included major legislation to combat gang crime in Tennessee.  Gang-related crime in Tennessee has risen steadily in the last four years, as incidents rose about 110% from 2005 through 2011 according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).  The TBI also reports that cities with fewer than 50,000 residents saw gang crimes rise 232% as members are migrating from urban areas to recruit new members, expand their drug distribution territories, form new alliances and collaborate with rival gangs and criminal organizations for profit and influence. 
 
Last year, the General Assembly increased sentences for certain serious crimes committed by groups of three or more acting in concert.  Lawmakers also approved tougher sentences for gun possession by criminals with prior violent or drug felony convictions.  This year’s legislation continues those efforts by rewriting and simplifying the state’s Criminal Gang Enhancement statute, which prosecutors report is too difficult to interpret and navigate. 


Currently, prosecutors must prove the group is a “criminal gang,” show the defendant is a “criminal gang member,” demonstrate the gang and/or an individual has committed a criminal gang offense, and establish the group has a pattern of “criminal gang activity.” The revised statute lists the specific offenses considered to be criminal gang offenses rather than asking prosecutors and courts to interpret current law’s more vague definition.   
 
According to 2012 data from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, gang members now outnumber law enforcement officers 2 to 1 in the state.  This bill gives law enforcement another tool in their toolbox to fight the epidemic problem Tennessee is facing with criminal gangs.  


Senate Bill 202 by Norris, Tate, Finney, Burks  / Public Chapter 357  / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Human Trafficking -- A package of legislation was approved this year that builds on the legislature's ongoing efforts to attack the problem of child prostitution and human trafficking in Tennessee.  The legislation is part of a series of bills designed to enhance penalties against those who patronize or promote the illegal act. 


According to a 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) study, human sex trafficking is a widespread problem in Tennessee, with 78 of the 95 counties reporting the crime has occurred within their boundaries during the last 24 months.  The study showed that sixty-two counties reported the presence of sex trafficking of minors.    


The package includes:


Senate Bill 446, which adds aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, trafficking for commercial sex acts, patronizing prostitution and promoting prostitution, to the list of offenses for which a minor or a law enforcement officer posing as a minor might be solicited.  According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections, there has been an average of almost 15 admissions each year over the past 10 years for trafficking for commercial sex acts, patronizing prostitution, promoting prostitution, and aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. (by Overbey, Kelsey, Finney L, Ford / Public Chapter 436  / DOE:  July 1, 2013)
Senate Bill 1027, which allows children who are victims of trafficking for commercial sex acts and patronizing prostitution the opportunity to testify outside of the courtroom by using a two-way closed circuit television. Currently, the same courtesy is afforded to victims of aggravated sexual battery, rape, incest, aggravated child abuse, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated kidnapping and criminal intent to commit any of the offenses above.  (by Ketron, Ford, Crowe, Beavers, Burks, Overbey / Public Chapter 251 / DOE:   July 1, 2013)
Senate Bill 1028, which extends the statute of limitations for commercial sex acts and soliciting the sexual exploitation of a minor to ten years after the victim turns 18 and patronizing and promoting prostitution of minor to 15 years after the victim has turned 18.   In many instances, victims are unaware of the fact they are victims at the time of their 18th birthday. This legislation would allow them more time and maturity to make that realization. (by Kelsey, Ketron, Crowe, Bowling, Burks, Campfield, Ford, Haile, Harper, Massey, Overbey, Stevens, Yager / Public Chapter 416 / DOE:  July 1, 2013)  
Senate Bill 1029, which adds trafficking for commercial sex acts to the list of gang-related offenses. Criminal street gangs have embraced human trafficking as a lucrative revenue source; as sex trafficking now rivals narcotic sales as a major source of revenue for many gangs.   (by Kelsey, Beavers, Burks, Ford, Haile, Overbey, Stevens, Yager / Public Chapter 415 / DOE:  July 1, 2013) 
Senate Bill 1030, which prohibits defendants from using consent as a defense in the cases of solicitation, sexual exploitation of a minor, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. (by Kelsey, Ford, Crowe, Bowling, Burks, Campfield, Massey, Stevens, Overbey / Public Chapter 350 / DOE:  July 1, 2013)
Senate Bill 1031, which would prohibit the lack of knowledge of a person’s age as a defense against the charges of patronizing prostitution or soliciting the sexual exploitation of a minor. The legislation does provide an exception to this prohibition in instances where the defendant and victim are within four years of age of each other.  (by Kelsey, Yager, Beavers, Haile, Overbey, Stevens / Public Chapter 337 / DOE:  July 1, 2013) 
Senate Bill 1032, which increases the charge of promoting the prostitution of a minor from a Class E felony to a Class A or B felony. (by Kelsey, Ford, Crowe, Beavers, Burks / Public Chapter 414  / DOE:  July 1, 2013) 
Senate Bill 1033, which creates a new Class D felony offense for promoting travel for prostitution.  The bill also deletes the definition of “sexual servitude” and changes it to “commercial sex act” and ensures that the purchase is an offense punishable under Tennessee law.  (by Kelsey, Ford, Crowe, Overbey, Yager / Public Chapter 465 / DOE:  July 1, 2013)
Senate Bill 1034, which would create grounds for the termination of parental rights when a parent or guardian is convicted of trafficking for commercial sex acts.   (by Kelsey, Bowling, Crowe, Gresham, Yager / Public Chapter 365 / DOE:  July 1, 2013)
Senate Bill 1035, which provides defendants or victims of sex trafficking restitution of special damages that include medical- and counseling-related expenses the victim incurred as a result of sex trafficking and other offenses.  (by Kelsey, Ford, Crowe, Beavers / Public Chapter 242 / DOE:  July 1, 2013
Senate Bill 1036, which would create a Human Trafficking Task Force. The group would be composed of 19 members and would be charged with the duty of creating a plan for the prevention of human trafficking within the state. The chairman of the committee would be appointed by the governor and the remaining members by various departments.  (by Kelsey, Crowe, Harper, Yager, Overbey / Public Chapter 464  / DOE:  July 1, 2013)
Senate Bill 1038, which adds trafficking for commercial sex acts, promoting prostitution, patronizing prostitution, solicitation of a minor, soliciting the sexual exploitation of a minor and exploitation of a minor by electronic means to the list of criminal acts that can constitute a charge of  unlawful debts.   (by Kelsey, Ford, Crowe, Burks, Overbey, Stevens, Yager / Public Chapter 278 / DOE:  For appointments it is effective upon becoming law on May 20, 2013, otherwise it is effective July 1, 2013)


DNA Profile -- The General Assembly has approved legislation that will give Tennessee prosecutors a new weapon in rape cases where the statute of limitations is about to expire.  Under the measure, prosecutors will soon be able to obtain a “John Doe” arrest warrant based on the perpetrator’s DNA profile, saving the case from dismissal on grounds that too much time has passed.  


Approximately 90,000 women are raped every year in the United States, with only 25% of these attacks resulting in arrests.  Courts at all levels have recognized the validity of DNA tests in identifying suspects and establishing guilt.


This legislation ensures that Tennessee law keeps pace with emerging DNA science so that prosecutions will be kept alive even when the perpetrator can’t be brought to justice within the time allowed by the statute of limitations.


Senate Bill 831 by Green, Ketron, Finney L, Bowling, Burks, Campfield, Haile, McNally, Norris, Stevens, Beavers, Tracy / Public Chapter 205  / DOE:  July 1, 2013 and shall apply to commencement of prosecution for any offense, regardless of when committed, except those offenses for which prosecution is barred on July 1, 2013 because the applicable time limitation set out in Tennessee law has expired.


Sexual Abuse  -- Another bill approved by state lawmakers in an ongoing effort to strengthen laws relating to sexual abuse, broadens the definition of “intimate parts” used in prosecuting sex crimes to include certain bodily fluids.


Senate Bill 1237 by Bowling, Ford / Public Chapter 172  / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Lynn’s Law -- A new law was passed this year protecting vulnerable adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities.  Called “Lynn’s Law,” this measure is named for 19 year-old Lynn Cameron who is a developmentally disabled Illinois woman who was abandoned by her mother in a Caryville, Tennessee bar.  Unable to tell authorities who she was and how she got there, Lynn was left without identification and put into emergency care until she could be identified.  When law enforcement authorities sought to prosecute the mother, they found Tennessee law does not cover willful abandonment.  


“Lynn’s Law” defines abuse or neglect in the adult protection statutes to include willful abandonment or failure to pick up an adult if the caretaker knows that the person cannot take care of his or herself without assistance.  The new law applies to an individual or institution that has assumed the duty to provide for the care of the adult by contract or agreement and includes a parent, spouse, adult child or other relative either biological or by marriage who resides with the incapacitated adult or who regularly visits them and who knows he or she is unable to care for themselves. 


Lynn’s mother was receiving compensation for providing care to her daughter by the state of Illinois.  It took law enforcement authorities 10 days to identify her. 


Senate Bill 675 by Yager, Green, Burks, Ketron / Public Chapter 431 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Bigamy -- Legislation was approved by state lawmakers that raises the fine for bigamy from $2,500 to $5,000, punishable as a Class A Misdemeanor.  The new state statute makes the offense continuous rather than upon the date of the second marriage, so that even if it is discovered after the statute of limitation expires, charges can be prosecuted.  


Senate Bill 542 by Bell, Ford / Public Chapter 227  / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Burglary / Forfeiture -- Legislation that adds the felony offense of burglary to the list of offenses to which vehicle forfeiture may be applied has passed.  Before passage of the bill, if a criminal broke into a home or business but stole less than $500 worth of property, the vehicle used to get away with the property would not be subject to forfeiture.  This legislation aims to help law enforcement deter crime and to make criminals responsible for their actions.


Senate Bill 823 by Stevens, Burks, Ford / Public Chapter 285 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Drug Paraphernalia / Public Nuisance Law -- The definition of drug paraphernalia would be added to the state’s public nuisance law under a bill passed during the 2013 session. Declaring it a nuisance allows a district attorney to take an offender to court under a lower burden of proof than in a criminal case.  The civil procedure is more commonly used in houses that deal in gambling, drugs or prostitution.  If a business or house is declared a nuisance, authorities can abate or padlock it.  The owner then has 30 days to remove the defined nuisance.  


Drug paraphernalia includes all equipment or products intended or designed for use in cultivating, growing, ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introducing into the body a controlled substance.  


Senate Bill 633 by Tracy, Finney / Public Chapter 247 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Drones -- Legislation was approved this year to protect citizens from unwarranted surveillance by drones and to help ensure compliance of the unmanned planes with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The new law defines “drones” and requires a search warrant to be issued by a judge before one can be used in Tennessee.


The Federal Aviation Administration predicts 10,000 commercial drones could be in the skies by 2020.  The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.


The bill does provide for exceptions to prevent imminent danger to life when law enforcement authorities are countering a high risk of a terrorist attack, looking for a fugitive, monitoring a hostage situation or helping find a missing person.  If drones violate these provisions, civil action may be filed under the legislation.  The measure also requires that data will be private and deleted no later than 24 hours after acquisition.  


The legislation is modeled after a recently passed Florida law.  Eleven states have filed or passed similar legislation.


Senate Bill 796  by Beavers, Gardenhire, Kelsey, Bell, Crowe, Niceley / Public Chapter 470  / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Jails / Work Program -- A new law won passage this year requiring any person convicted of a felony and sentenced to a local jail to participate in the jail's work program. Currently, inmates can opt out of a jail's work program. This legislation would incorporate participation in a work program into the violator's sentencing. An inmate would be excluded from participating if the County Sheriff thinks he or she poses a security or escape risk, suffers from physical or mental health conditions, or if the county cannot afford to provide the security or transportation for the inmates sentenced to the work program. 


Senate Bill 524  by Bowling, Ford / Public Chapter 168 / DOE:  July 1, 2013 and applies to any person sentenced to a local jail or workhouse on or after.


DUI / Restructure Drunk Driving laws -- In other efforts to curb drunk driving, legislation has been signed into law rewriting Tennessee’s DUI laws to make them more understandable by prosecutors, defense lawyers and citizens.  The new law comes from Tennessee Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons who said the state’s DUI laws have received so many additions (58 pages worth) over the years that they have become very complicated and are in need of streamlining.  


The current law consists of numerous sections dealing with DUI offenses, punishments and enhancements as well as ignition interlock requirements and fees, implied consent testing and related fees, open container requirements and drug and alcohol treatment.  Many of these provisions are duplicative among several sections or overlap other requirements, making it difficult for prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and the general public to determine the consequences.


The reorganization consolidates these sections into a more organized law by placing DUI offenses, penalties, fines and suspension times at the beginning.  That section is followed by implied consent and testing, restricted driver licenses, alcohol and drug treatment, distribution of fines and fees, vehicle seizures, underage offenses, open container and ignition interlock.  


Senate Bill 186 by Norris, McNally, Tracy / Public Chapter 154 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


DUI / Interlock Devices -- State lawmakers have approved key legislation to curb drunk driving, requiring the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.  In 2011, 257 people were killed in Tennessee in alcohol-related crashes, which is approximately 27% of all traffic fatalities in the state.


Ignition interlocks are critical to eliminating drunk driving, as 50% to 75% of convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), requiring interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers saves lives and is effective in reducing drunk driving recidivism by 67%.


The new law decreases, from 0.15% to 0.08%, the breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is considered an enhanced offense for purposes of issuing a restricted driver license. The bill also requires the interlock device be capable of taking a photo, to ensure that another person does not provide the sample for a convicted offender. 


Interlock devices are small pieces of equipment attached to the steering wheel of a car with a tube that the driver must breathe into in order to allow the ignition to start.  The newest ignition interlock technology makes it easier for courts to require DUI offenders to utilize the device by including cameras to ensure that the person tested is the correct driver.  


In December, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and American Automobile Association (AAA) came out in support of requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.  The NTSB’s recommendations follow the July 2012 enactment of Surface Transportation Reauthorization legislation, known as MAP–21.  That federal law encompassed a number of drunk driving reforms, including providing incentive grants to states that adopt all-offender ignition interlock laws.


The average first offender has been on the road 80 times drunk before their first arrest.  Currently, 17 states require interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. 


Senate Bill 670 by Beavers, Haile, Bell, Campfield, Gardenhire, Dickerson, Bowling, Green, Johnson, Yager, Harper, Burks  / Public Chapter 344  / DOE:  July 1, 2013 and applies to offenses committed on or after that date


Embryo / Legal Process -- Legislation moved successfully through the General Assembly during the 2013 legislative session providing a legal process for embryo donors to transfer rights to an embryo to future parents.   The bill enables “legal embryo custodians,” those donors who hold the full legal rights to an embryo, to contract the relinquishment of rights to future parents prior to the inception of an embryo into a female uterus to future parents.  Written in accordance to guidelines from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, this new law will both protect donors from future liabilities or complications and clarify the legal rights of future parents who choose in vitro fertilization.


Senate Bill 473 by Massey, Finney L., Ford, Burks, Campfield / Public Chapter 309 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Conservatorship -- Final approval was given to legislation to tighten requirement on how emergency conservatorships are handled. The new law establishes an explicit emergency conservatorship procedure which has been missing from current law.  Other needed protections in the bill include requiring notice of conservatorship within 48 hours and a review hearing within five days.  It also outlines that an emergency conservatorship can only be ordered when a judge finds that the ward would be harmed without one.  In addition, the bill requires that more frequent financial reports be filed and conservatorships be reviewed each year to determine if a ward still requires a conservator to handle their affairs.  


Senate Bill 555 by Overbey, Kyle, Stevens, Beavers / Public Chapter 435 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Comparative Fault -- State lawmakers voted this year to make clear that fault will be apportioned to the wrongdoer and not to persons or entities that are less at fault in tort cases.  Generally, the state has adopted through a series of Supreme Court rulings a system of comparative fault where juries in civil suits distribute fault proportionally to a defendant and plaintiff.  If a plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault, the plaintiff cannot recover damages from the defendant.  Under the system of comparative fault, if there is more than one defendant, the jury will determine the percentage of each defendant's fault, and the individual defendant is generally only responsible to the plaintiff for that particular percentage of total damages. This provision is a departure from the doctrine of joint and several liability under which all defendants were equally liable for the entire amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff. 


This bill codifies the provision that in any civil action, a defendant will only be severally liable for the percentage of damages for which fault is attributed to him or her by the trier of fact.  It says no defendant will be held jointly liable for any damages unless the parties intentionally act together. The new law does not apply to cases where the parties enter into legally enforceable contracts and agree to a specific allocation of fault between them. It also does not apply when joint and several liability involves tort actions in which a negligent defendant failed to prevent or enabled the foreseeable acts.


Senate Bill 56 by Kelsey, Gardenhire, Overbey / Public Chapter 317 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Vicarious Liability -- Legislation has been approved that sets forth three scenarios in which punitive damages can be awarded against a defendant based on the theory of vicarious liability.  The bill amends the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011 to protect innocent employers from liability for the negligent actions of its employees unless:
the act or omission was committed by a person employed in a management capacity while that person was acting within the scope of employment;
the defendant was reckless in hiring, retaining, supervising or training the agent or employee and that recklessness was the proximate cause of the act or omission that  caused the loss or injury; or
the defendant authorized, ratified or approved the act or omission with knowledge or conscious reckless disregard that the act or omission may result in the loss or injury.
Any instance of these circumstances is grounds for determination by the finder of fact.  


Senate Bill 222 by Kelsey, Green / Public Chapter 224 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Financial Responsibility / Bodily Harm -- The General Assembly voted to increase the penalty for violation of the state’s financial responsibility law when an offender was at fault for an accident resulting in bodily injury or death.  Currently, the penalty is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $100.  This bill strengthens the law by elevating the offense to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.   


Senate Bill 251 by Green / Public Chapter 479  / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Omnibus Charter School Bill --  The General Assembly passed a bill that amends a large number of provisions governing charter schools in Tennessee.  Called the “Ominbus Charter School Bill,” most of the legislation’s requirements target the specifics of charter school operations.  Provisions of the bill include:
allows a charter school to request that an LEA convert an existing public school into a charter school, tailored to students zoned in that area;
authorizes a charter management organization (CMO), which is a body that operates multiple charter schools, to form “advisory school councils” for each school in order to satisfy the requirement that a charter school’s governing body have at least one parent on it.  Advisory councils must have at least one parent, one teacher representative and the principal, as well as no fewer than 5 members;
requires a chartering authority to submit a performance report one year prior to the submission of a charter renewal application; and
gives LEAs the final say in deciding whether a charter school’s formation will have a substantial negative fiscal impact on the LEA that would not be in the best interest of the pupils, school district or community.


Senate Bill 205  by Gresham / Public Chapter 326 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Classroom Discipline -- The full Senate and House of Representatives gave final approval to legislation that requires principals to suspend or expel students who cause bodily injury to a teacher, bus driver or other school personnel.  Presently, Tennessee law states a principal “may” suspend a student for a variety of reasons, including assault or violence against school employees.  The new law authorizes school administrators to suspend a student from school for using vulgar, obscene or threatening language toward a principal, a teacher, a school bus driver or other personnel at anytime on school property.  It also applies when such conduct is exhibited off school property if it includes a threat of bodily harm to the teacher.  The measure, however, makes the punishment mandatory when a student escalates to committing an act that results in bodily injury.  


Senate Bill 264 by Gresham, Summerville, Tate, Burks, Crowe, Hensley, Ketron, Beavers, Gardenhire, Ford / Public Chapter 442 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


School Safety -- Legislation that aims to help keep students safe at school won final approval this session empowering a local director of schools, in conjunction with the school principal, to hire retired law enforcement officers to provide security.  The bill comes in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December, which pointed to the need to increase school safety nationwide.  


The School Security Act of 2013 gives school superintendents the option to hire school safety officers as long as they have Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification.  POST-certified officers have extensive law enforcement training, including the handling of firearms.  Many retired police officers, highway patrol officers, federal agents, game wardens and other personnel carry this certification.  The applicant must also have a handgun carry permit and receive an additional 40-hour training course that would include instruction on crisis management and hostile situations in the school setting.  


The superintendent may allow a teacher to possess a gun at school if he or she is POST certified, has a gun carry permit and receives the additional training.  However, all decisions regarding the carrying of firearms will be made at the local district and school level.  The bill also requires the chief of the local law enforcement agency to be notified that the employee has been authorized to carry a gun.  


The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was also the impetus behind legislation requesting the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP) Review Committee to make a recommendation in its annual report this year as to whether the state’s school funding formula should be modified to include a component regarding school safety and security.


Governor Bill Haslam, state law enforcement officials and homeland security experts met with education leaders from more than 120 school systems earlier this year to discuss school safety.   Mental health specialists and emergency management officials also joined the group to think through additional measures that school districts can put into place to avoid a tragedy like the one which occurred in Newtown.   The group reviewed best practices and new ideas on school safety, noting that the right plan would likely vary district by district.  Both of these bills fit into that plan.  


Senate Bill 570 by Niceley, Crowe, Bowling  / Public Chapter 358 / DOE:  July 1, 2013 and applies to the 2013-14 academic year and thereafter  / Senate Resolution 30 by Gresham / Signed by Senate Speaker


Protecting Children from Offenders -- A new state statute passed this year expanding the list of offenses that bar a contract worker from working in situations that require being in contact with children or entering the school grounds while children are present.   Under current law, any person who contracts or is employed by someone that contracts with a school or childcare center is required to submit to a criminal history records check if their work involves interaction with children.   The new law enacted this year adds drug crimes, violent juvenile sexual offenses, and violent crimes to the list of actions that prohibits contractors or employees of contractors from entering school grounds or having contact with children.  Other violent crimes prohibited include murder, kidnapping, sex offenses and child abuse.


Senate Bill 16 by Gresham, Burks / Public Chapter 177 / Upon becoming law on April 23, 2013 for crimes committed on or after July 1, 2013


Public School Property / Referendum -- A bill prohibiting the use of messages supporting or opposing referenda and initiatives on public school signs and buildings won approval this year.  The new law also bans the use of school video or audio messages through telephone or electronic messaging that support or oppose referendum initiatives.  The move comes after controversy erupted regarding the use of public school telephones and marquee signs advocating the adoption of a wheel tax in one Tennessee city.  State law makes it unlawful to use public buildings or facilities for meetings or preparation of campaign activity in support of any particular candidate, party or measure unless reasonably equal opportunity is provided for presentation of all sides or views, or reasonably equal access to the buildings or facilities is provided to all sides.    The law, however, did not apply to referendums. 


Senate Bill 547 by Bell / Public Chapter 395 / DOE: July 1, 2013 


Students with Disabilities / Occupational Diploma -- The General Assembly passed legislation requiring the State Board of Education to adopt an occupational diploma for students with disabilities.  


Senate Bill 886 by Hensley, Burks, Ford / Public Chapter 422 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Home School Students / Athletic Participation -- Legislation has passed the General Assembly authorizing home school students to participate in interscholastic athletics at the public school in which they are zoned. The bill gives home-schooled students an opportunity to try out for the local school sports teams if they meet the same health, academic and conduct standards required of other participants.  The bill was fueled by the success of NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who was a home schooled student.   The legislation is not in conflict with Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) standards as the organization has opted to leave the decision about participation of home schooled students to local boards of education.


Senate Bill 240 by Campfield, Burks / Public Chapter 225 / DOE:  July 1, 2013 and shall apply to participation in extracurricular athletics beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year


Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology -- The name of the “Tennessee Technology Centers” will be changed under legislation passed this year.  The legislation changes the name of the centers to “State Colleges of Applied Technology” to better reflect the coursework being offered to students.  


Senate Bill 643 by Tracy, Bowling, Ketron, Burks, Beavers, Bell, Campfield, Crowe, Dickerson, Finney L, Ford, Gardenhire, Green, Gresham, Haile, Harper, Henry, Hensley, Johnson, Kelsey, Kyle, Massey, McNally, Niceley, Norris, Overbey, Southerland, Stevens, Summerville, Tate, Watson, Yager, Ramsey / Public Chapter 473  / DOE:  July 1, 2013


All Comers Policy / Public Colleges and Universities -- Legislation was approved this year to prohibit public institutions of higher education from denying recognition, privileges or benefits to a student organization or group on the basis of religious content. 
The bill applies only to the public college or university under the auspices of the University of Tennessee system or Board of Regents, but it would prohibit them from discriminating against religious student groups by means of an “all-comers” policy.  An “all-comer’s” policy is one that requires a student organization to accept as a member any student who wants to join and/or allow any student who wants to run for an officer position in that organization to do so.


In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it was not a violation of the First Amendment for a public college to impose an “all-comers” policy as a condition upon which a student organization would receive official university recognition. 


Senate Bill 802 by Beavers, Bowling / Public Chapter 283 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Veterans / Truck Drivers -- State lawmakers passed legislation to make it easier for experienced military truck drivers to receive a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Tennessee.  The new law waives the state’s CDL skills test requirement if a veteran provides proof of a military license for the class of vehicle in which they are seeking licensure, as long as their driving record shows no accidents or citations over the past two years.


Currently, an active duty soldier who drives a commercial weight truck in Tennessee is exempt from any additional license due to their specialized military training.  However, after the soldier leaves the military, they must immediately take the CDL knowledge test and skills test in order to continue to drive a commercial vehicle of the same weight on state roads.  


The employment rate among veterans age 18 to 24 is approximately 33% for men and 39% for women.  Tennessee is one of only eleven states that still requires soldiers with experience, training and no accident history to take the skills test.


Senate Bill 10 by Green, Bell, Burks, Ford, Gresham, Massey, Crowe / Public Chapter 62 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Military / Licenses --  The House and Senate have approved legislation to ease license requirements for members of the U.S. Armed Forces or National Guard.  As amended, the bill waives professional license fees for soldiers who are on active duty deployment and gives them a six-month grace period for renewal when they return.  The legislation also allows soldiers and their spouses who have professional licenses from a different state and who move to Tennessee to have their licenses expedited.  


The intent of this bill is to help active duty soldiers who have moved to Tennessee who hold, or whose spouse holds, a professional license in another state.  Oftentimes, those families depend on a second income of a spouse who is using a professional license and time is of the essence to help them with employment.


Senate Bill 493 by Green, Ketron, Bowling, Ford, Gresham, Overbey, Finney L, Burks, Norris / Public Chapter 122  / DOE:  Upon becoming law for promulgating rules and regulations but goes into effect July 1, 2013


Armed Forces / Leave -- The full Senate and House voted to enable public employees who are members of any reserve component of the armed forces to use up to five days of sick leave in lieu of annual leave so that the service member would not have to take leave without pay. The measure includes members of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard. In order to qualify for this benefit, the employee must have received 20 working days of compensation. 


Senate Bill 667 / by Gresham, Crowe, Green / Public Chapter 432  / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Active Duty Soldiers / Student Absences -- Legislation that gives students two additional excused absences when traveling more than 250 miles to visit a parent or guardian returning from active duty became law this year.  This measure helps provide the necessary travel time so the parent and child can be reunited.


Senate Bill 1161 by Gresham, Yager, Burks, Crowe / Public Chapter 155  / DOE:  July 1, 2013


9-1-1 / Texting -- The House and Senate have approved legislation that makes hoax texting and other means of prank communications to 9-1-1 dispatchers illegal.  The new law anticipates changes coming to Tennessee through Next Generation 9-1-1 technology, an initiative updating emergency infrastructure to include transmission of text, images, video and other data to 9-1-1 centers.   This technology-neutral legislation would make it a Class C misdemeanor to text a phony 9-1-1 communication to an emergency center, the same offense currently charged to prank telephone calls to dispatchers.  Penalties are increased to a Class A misdemeanor if they are repeated.  The bill aims to keep pranksters from falsely tying up limited resources that are needed to address real life-threatening emergencies no matter how the 9-1-1 call for help is transmitted.   


Senate Bill 33 by Yager / Public Chapter 116   / DOE:  July 1, 2013 


Safe Commute -- This year’s legislative action saw passage of a bill that protects the Second Amendment rights of legal gun permit holders while traveling to and from their workplace.  Action on the legislation comes after Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey worked with property rights advocates and Second Amendment rights groups last fall to forge a compromise on the matter.  


The legislation clarifies that an employer may require employees who have a permit to keep their weapon out of sight and securely locked in their automobile while their vehicles are in their employer’s parking lot.  The bill also allows business owners to continue to post prohibitions against firearms on their property, but gun permit holders who keep their firearms in their locked car would be exempt. Additionally, the bill grants property owners broad premise liability against damage or injury caused by firearms properly stored.


Approximately 5% of Tennesseans have a handgun permit.  


Senate Bill 142  by Ramsey, Johnson, Ketron, Tracy, Campfield, Gresham / Public Chapter 16 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


Hangun Permits / Mental Health -- A new law was approved this year to help ensure that those who suffer mental illness do not receive a handgun permit and harm themselves or others.  Currently, mental health professionals are already required to provide notification about a potentially dangerous patient, but they have the option of telling the person's family, those against whom threats are made or law enforcement officers.  This legislation requires reporting to law enforcement officials when a mental health professional deems the patient might seriously harm or kill someone.  It also requires court clerks to notify the state within three days about involuntary commitments instead of once every three months. The intent is to focus on applicants who might suffer mental illness while leaving law-abiding gun owners free to exercise their Second Amendment rights.


Senate Bill 789 by Haile, Ramsey, Bowling, Burks, Crowe / Public Chapter 300 / DOE:  July 1, 2013


License Plates -- Legislation that requires license plates to be illuminated when a vehicle’s headlights has been signed into law.  The bill was brought to the legislature by law enforcement officials who claim some vehicle operators try to hide their plates from view.  The legislation exempts antique vehicles which are 25 years old or over, before it was standard manufacturing practices to light the area where license plates are attached.


Senate Bill 131 by Hensley / Public Chapter 223 / DOE:  July 1, 2013 and applies to violations on or after that date.