Legislative update


News from Nashville

The State Senate approved a wide variety of issues this week as committees worked at full steam. We welcomed many visitors to our office in Nashville as they came to discuss issues of importance to them. Senate approves lifesaving legislation to foster better
outcomes for stroke patients.

Lifesaving legislation designed to get stroke patients in Tennessee to the best hospital with the best treatment capabilities to foster better outcomes was approved by the full Senate. Senate Bill 2513 requires the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Board to create protocol guidelines from which local Emergency Medical Authorities (EMAs) will establish protocol plans for pre-hospital assessment, triage and transport of stroke patients.

A stroke is what occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked or stopped. It is the fifth leading cause of death in Tennessee. Within a few minutes of a stroke, brain cells begin to die, meaning time is of the essence from the onset of symptoms to arrival at an emergency room capable of treating stroke patients. The legislation aims to ensure stroke patients get to the best stroke center as quickly as possible and brings Tennessee one step closer to improving stroke care.

The bill was recommended by the Tennessee Stroke Task Force, which was established by law in 2016 to focus on stroke best practices and treatment guidelines.
The legislation also establishes that the Department of Health will recognize hospitals on its website which have received department-approved national certification for different levels of stroke care. These levels include Comprehensive Stoke Center (CSC), Primary Stroke Center (PSC), Acute Stroke Ready Hospital (ASRH) or Thrombectomy-Capable Stroke Center (TSC). By recognizing facilities certified by levels of stroke care, there can be better coordination between EMS, health professionals and treatment facilities to ensure stroke patients get to the medical centers with best capabilities to treat them as quickly as possible.

The legislation follows a bill passed last week setting up a statewide ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) system of care in Tennessee. A STEMI is a very serious type of heart attack during which one of the heart’s major arteries that supplies oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart muscle is blocked. In order to treat a STEMI, it is vital that the patient gets to the hospital quickly and has a stent placed so blood flow can be restored.

Senate Bill 2071 requires the Department of Health to recognize hospitals that meet certain criteria as accredited or certified receiving centers and accredited or certified referring centers. Then emergency services and ambulances at hospitals shall develop pre-hospital protocols for transporting STEMI patients to the nearest receiving or referring hospital based on nationally recognized clinical practice guidelines.

The goal is to get the patient transported to the most appropriate center as rapidly as possible to save the heart muscle to save lives. That bill is pending a final vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Representatives of Knoxville’s Metropolitan Drug Commission

Working group is appointed to review school safety in Tennessee

School safety headlined this week’s action on Capitol Hill as Governor Bill Haslam appointed a working group to review school safety in Tennessee. The 17-member group is comprised of leaders from education, mental health and safety, as well as members of the General Assembly and the executive branch of government.

The Governor’s School Safety Working Group wasted no time in getting down to work, meeting on Thursday to start their review. While all schools in Tennessee have safety plans in place, the Governor’s School Safety Working Group is reviewing the policies, procedures and process of developing and implementing those plans, as well as other school safety measures. The panel will collaborate with law enforcement, educators, mental health professionals and others in developing their recommendations. The first recommendations from the group are expected to be delivered before the General Assembly adjourns in April.

The group is chaired by Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner David Purkey.
Seven-day sales legislation overcomes first hurdle with passage
in Senate State and Local Government Committee

The Senate State and Local Government Committee approved legislation permitting retail food stores to sell wine and retail package stores to sell alcoholic beverages seven days a week. Senate Bill 2518 would put retailers on par with restaurants, hotels, convention centers, tourist resorts and other businesses in Tennessee which are already allowed to sell wine and spirits any day of the week under state law.

Presently, retailers can sell beer seven days a week in Tennessee, while the sale of wine and distilled spirits is limited to Monday through Saturday and is not allowed on certain holidays. The legislation would allow retail businesses to open from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, including holidays. Retail package stores would be allowed to choose whether or not to be open seven days a week upon the bill becoming law, while it would become effective for retail food stores on January 1, 2019.
Alzheimer’s Tennessee Advocates
Issues in Brief
Voter Integrity- Legislation which aims to ensure only eligible Tennessee voters participate in Tennessee elections won final approval. Under Senate Bill 1808, local election commissions will receive lists of people who are disqualified from jury duty because they have moved, are noncitizens, been convicted of a felony or have passed away. Election officials would then use this information to determine if the person should still be an active, registered voter in that county.

Family Planning Funds- Legislation making permanent the current practice for disbursing Title X federal family planning funds by the Department of Health has received final approval by the full Senate. Senate Bill 2494 codifies the existing practice for future administrations that county and district health centers are to be fully funded relative to providing these services before any excess funds can be distributed. Then nonpublic entities that provide family planning services, as well as comprehensive primary and preventative care services, would be eligible for the remaining excess funds. The nonpublic providers of family planning services that don’t provide comprehensive primary care would continue to be the last to receive excess funds.
Financial Asset Management Companies / F&E Taxes- A bill which allows publicly traded financial asset management companies to use the single sales factor apportionment formula for Tennessee Franchise and Excise (F&E) taxes has passed final Senate consideration. Senate Bill 2256 helps to keep Tennessee competitive with states offering similar accounting formulas. Manufacturers were afforded a similar tax option under the Tax Reduction Act of 2017 (IMPROVE Act) passed last year.

Refugees of Disasters / Pharmacy- Legislation which authorizes a pharmacist in Tennessee, in good faith, to dispense prescription medication for up to 20 days to a patient who is displaced by a declared disaster has passed on final approval. Senate Bill 1670 allows prescription information to be obtained from a prescription label, verbal medical order, verbal prescription order, or any other means determined to be legitimate in the professional judgment of the pharmacist. The bill would not apply to prescriptions for narcotics.
Impersonation of a Veteran- The full Senate voted this week to make it a Class A misdemeanor to criminally impersonate a member or veteran of uniformed service with the intent to obtain money, property, services, or other tangible benefits. Senate Bill 2030 would require all imposed fine proceeds go to assist veterans homes in Tennessee. The bill makes an exception for those who pretend to be veterans in a movie or play.

Council Members / Active Duty Veterans- The full Senate voted this week to allow a veteran who has been called up for active military service during their elected term of office on a city council, to continue as a council member for up to 13 months. Senate Bill 1959 would apply as long as the council agrees by a two-thirds vote. This bill would allow the active service members to attend and vote in sessions via a two-way electronic audio-video communication. The bill, which has passed the House of Representatives, now moves to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk for his signature.

Human Trafficking / Shelters- The full Senate voted this week to protect the records of trafficking victims who seek treatment from service providers during their recovery process. Current law makes confidential the records of domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers. Senate Bill 1656 adds human trafficking service providers to this list to aid recovery efforts for victims.
Child Sex Offenders- The full Senate approved legislation this week ensuring sex offenders convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a child are listed on the state’s Sex Offender Registry. In 2014, the General Assembly passed a bill creating the offense of continuous sexual abuse of a child. The statute allows prosecutors to try several counts of sexual offenses committed against a child victim in one trial and this prevents the child from having to testify about their victimization multiple times to several juries. However, when the law was passed, this new crime was not added to the state’s Sex Offender Registry. Senate Bill 1944 would add the offense of continuous sexual abuse of a child to the Sex Offender Registry as a violent offender.

Human Trafficking / Intellectual Disability- In an ongoing effort to curb human trafficking in Tennessee, the full Senate voted this week to stiffen penalties for promoting prostitution when the victim has an intellectual disability. Senate Bill 2517makes promoting prostitution in such cases punishable as trafficking for a commercial sex act. The action would allow prosecutors to charge a defendant with a Class D, instead of a Class E, felony crime. The legislation follows a Department of Justice study which showed the rate of serious violent crime, including rape and sexual assault, for persons with disabilities was more than three times the rate of other victims.

In God We Trust- Legislation received final Senate approval that seeks to place the nation’s motto, “In God We Trust,” in all Tennessee schools. Senate Bill 2661 calls for the motto to be displayed in a prominent location. The establishment of this motto was signed into law in 1956 by President Eisenhower, but was imprinted on U.S. coins and currency long before that time. The bill is now pending action on the floor of the House of Representatives