Bill Watch is a service of the Knoxville Bar Association Legislative Committee. During each week of the legislative session, the KBA will distribute 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 2, 2020
Firearms/Carry Permits - When amended, Senate Bill 2671 will allow citizens in Tennessee who are at least 21 years old to carry a firearm without a permit, except in restricted areas. The legislation also includes increased penalties for firearm-related crime including:
- Increasing the penalty for theft of a firearm to a felony;
- Providing a sentencing enhancement for theft of a firearm in a car;
- Increasing the minimum sentence for theft of a firearm from 30 days to 180 days; and
- Increasing the sentences for unlawful possession of a firearm by violent felons and felony drug offenders, possession of a handgun by a felon, and unlawfully providing a handgun to a juvenile or allowing a juvenile to possess a handgun.
Under the bill, those who carry without a permit must still meet current requirements used to determine eligibility for a permit holder. Among those eligibility requirements are that persons who carry have no felony convictions, orders of protection in effect, misdemeanor domestic violence convictions, or stalking convictions. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration where it is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday.
Transportation - Legislation designed to improve transportation options for Tennesseans with disabilities and the elderly was approved by the Senate on Thursday. The Tennessee Accessible Transportation and Mobility Act of 2020 creates an office within the Tennessee Department of Transportation to focus solely on expanding and improving accessible transportation across the state. Senate Bill 1612 requires the new Office for Accessible Transportation to do an assessment to identify transportation challenges in coordination with all appropriate state and local agencies. The office is also tasked with constructing a five-year strategic plan and will report back to the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee regarding needs for mobility and accessible transportation annually. The legislation is pending action in the House of Representatives where it will be heard in the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee on Tuesday.
Children/Holly Bobo Act- Legislation allowing the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to expand its missing and endangered child and young adult alert program to individuals under the age of 21 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Senate Bill 2464 is named the “Holly Bobo Act” for a 20-year-old young woman who was kidnapped from her Darden, Tennessee home and murdered in 2011. Currently, endangered child alerts are issued for abduction of persons under the age of 18. The bill now moves to the Senate floor for final consideration.
Sexual and domestic violence victims - Senate Bill 2742 encourages victims to seek needed services by making communications between victims and advocates who specialize in victim assistance subject to confidential privilege from any judicial, legislative, or administrative proceedings. The confidentiality would apply unless the victim waives this right through written permission. The bill now moves from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Senate floor for final consideration.
Roads — The full Senate approved legislation this week allowing 25 Tennessee counties without a Regional Planning Council to create a committee that can open, change or close certain roads in that county. Senate Bill 1734 allows the local county commission, by a two-thirds vote, to set up a five-member committee of the commissioners to only hear opening, changing and closing of roads.
Animal abuse - Final approval was given to legislation this week which bans some convicted animal abusers from owning any pets again. Senate Bill 1747 prohibits individuals convicted of some offenses against animals from owning companion animals for at least two years from the date of conviction and may impose a lifetime prohibition. Upon a subsequent offense, the court shall prohibit the individual from having custody of any companion animal for the person’s lifetime.
Education/ TCAP Testing — Legislation giving teachers more tools to help them prepare their students for end-of-year assessments has received final Senate approval. Senate Bill 1946 requires the Department of Education (DOE) to release a bank of possible Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) questions to local education agencies (LEAs) that are aligned to the current assessments.
Criminal/ Electronic transfer of funds — Senate Bill 2166 updates provisions in Tennessee’s Money Transmitter Act of 1994 and redefines a key shareholder of a money transmitting entity to include persons owning 10 percent or more of the applicant’s stock, rather than the 25 percent previously. The bill also authorizes the commissioner to require money transmitters to submit quarterly reports to the multi-state automated licensing system. In addition, the legislation authorizes the commissioner to require a criminal record check and finger print sample from executive officers, key shareholders, or the director of the applicant as well as any other individual associated with the applicant as reasonably necessary. The measure is pending final action in the House of Representatives.
Tourism/Agritourism –In 2010, the General Assembly adopted the Adventure Tourism and Rural Development Act as a way to promote adventure tourism through tax credits and enhance the economies in rural counties where many adventure tourism districts are located. Senate Bill 1810 lowers the investment and job-producing requirements adventure tourism outfits must meet to receive Franchise and Excise (F&E) tax credits. The legislation lowers the necessary real estate investment from $500,000 to $100,000. For middle-income counties, the job creation requirement per project would also be lowered from 13 to 10 full time jobs or from 26 to 20 part time jobs. In lower-income counties, the job creation requirement would be lowered from 10 to 5 full time jobs or from 20 to 10 part time jobs.
Limited liability/ Agritourism - Senate Bill 2423 ensures that an owner of an agritourism business is not liable for damage of a participant’s property caused by inherent risks of agritourism activities.
Health Care Empowerment Act— The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted this week to expand Tennessee’s Health Care Empowerment Act to allow all licensed medical professionals, instead of only physicians, to use direct medical care agreements without regulation by the insurance laws of this state. Senate Bill 2317 entitles a person seeking medical care outside of an insurance plan, TennCare or Medicare programs to pay out of pocket without forfeiting their coverage plan.
Judicial Districting - The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation on Thursday creating a new judicial district in Tennessee. Senate Bill 561 adds District 32 to the state’s judicial districts, serving the citizens of Hickman, Lewis, and Perry Counties. Currently, the counties are comprised in the 21st district, along with Williamson County. The measure allows Williamson County to become its own standalone judicial district.
Criminal/Traffic Citations —Senate Bill 2458 strengthens penalties against public officials for setting traffic ticket quotas. The bill makes it a Class B misdemeanor for a public official to set a traffic ticket quota for their municipality, subject to a $500 fine. The bill adds to a 2010 law which made the practice illegal.
Domestic assault — Legislation to impose a minimum fine of $100 in domestic assault cases passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Currently, the law provides that in domestic assault cases a court may order a defendant to pay a maximum fine of $200 if the court determines the defendant possesses the ability to pay a fine. Senate Bill 2330 maintains the maximum $200 fine and adds a floor of $100.
Opioids - Legislation encouraging the use of more alternative pain treatments rather than opioids has been approved by the full Senate on final consideration. Senate Bill 1912 amends the state’s opioid reform legislation to include medical devices like pain pumps, spinal cord stimulators, occupational therapy and non-opioid medicinal drugs as non-opioid based alternative therapies for chronic pain. This legislation adds to a new 2019 law calling for chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, and other treatments to be encouraged for pain relief before opioids are dispensed.