|Tax Relief / Business
Tax Equity / Small Business – Legislation set for July 1 enactment provides tax cuts for small businesses which experienced inequities. One new law repeals the state’s amusement tax on gym memberships and fitness centers, leveling the playing field with their larger counterparts. Public Chapter 159
Courts / MISC. / Criminal Justice Reform
Relative Caregivers / Notice of Resources – During the 2019 session, lawmakers approved legislation to help relative caregivers receive information about resources and funding available to help care for a child or children under their guardianship. It directs the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) to distribute information on resources available to relative caregivers to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), which will then distribute the information to each court within the state that issues orders regarding child custody or guardianship, and the courts are directed to notify the relative caregivers about available financial resources. Relative caregivers do not receive the same financial benefits that foster parents receive. However, often relative caregivers are grandparents or older relatives with a fixed income and can be burdened by the cost to unexpectedly care for children. In Tennessee, over 77,000 minor children are raised by relative caregivers over the age of 60. Public Chapter 130
Criminal Charges Expungement Fee – Another new criminal justice reform law eliminates the burdensome $180 expungement fee associated with clearing records of certain criminal charges. The legislation aims to help these individuals secure employment and stable housing instead of re-entering prison. Public Chapter 200
Firefighters Occupational Cancers — Several key bills were approved this year aiding emergency responders, including the Barry Brady Act which allows firefighters to be eligible to receive workers compensation benefits for certain cancers. The legislation is named for a retired captain of the Sparta Fire Department who passed away from cancer on April 4, 2019, at the age of 50, with over 31 years in fire service.
The act establishes a presumption that any conditions or impairments of full-time firefighters were caused by certain occupational cancers which occurred while on the job. Cancers covered are: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, colon cancer, skin cancer, and multiple myeloma.
Eligible firefighters must have been exposed during five or more consecutive years employed with a fire department and must have passed a pre-employment physical exam. 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. Public Chapter 490
In-Service Training Compensation — Firefighters and law enforcement officers will benefit from legislation which raises the supplemental pay for the successful completion of 40 hours of annual in-service training from $600 to $800. The bill is effective July 1. Public Chapter 152
Roads / DUI
Handheld Phones / Driving — Road safety is the impetus behind legislation passed this year which prohibits a person from physically holding or supporting a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is lawfully stopped or parked. A person may still talk on the phone while driving but must do so using hands-free devices such as an earpiece, headphone device, wrist device, or connectivity to a vehicle.
Those drivers found in violation are subject to a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by fine only, not to exceed $50 for the first and second offense. The violation will result in a $100 fine for a person’s third offense or if the violation results in an accident, while the fine is $200 if it is in a work zone when workers are present or in a marked school zone when warning flashers are on.
A function or feature of the cellphone, such as GPS navigation, may be used if the device is mounted in a manner that does not hinder the view of the road and can be activated or deactivated with the motion or swipe of a finger.
A study conducted utilizing National Highway Traffic Administration data shows Tennessee was the worst state in the nation for cellphone distracted driving deaths with nearly five times the national average of 1.49 fatalities per 10 billion vehicle miles. The purpose of the legislation is to save lives by discouraging distracted driving. Public Chapter 412
Accident Reports / Public Records – I sponsored legislation protecting people’s private information after being involved in a motor vehicle accident has passed and becomes effective July 1. The new statute redacts personally identifying information from accident reports to prevent victims from being constantly and illegally solicited. The personally identifying information redacted includes a person’s address, telephone number, driver license number, and insurance information. Public Chapter 111
Tennessee Sports Gaming Act — Two key bills were approved during the 2019 legislative session regarding sports entertainment and gaming, with both becoming effective July 1. This includes a new law which legalizes, regulates and taxes online sports betting in Tennessee. In 2018, the United States Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act through its ruling in Murphy v. NCAA. This repeal gave the states the authority to regulate sports betting. The new statute provides consumer protections for Tennesseans who bet on sports, creating the Lottery Corporation Gaming Advisory Council to oversee and promulgate rules and regulations in accordance with robust regulatory provisions. One of those provisions is that persons must be 21 years of age or older to participate in online sports betting. The Fiscal Review Committee estimates that online sports betting will amount to $50 million in revenue by the second year of enactment. Public Chapter 507
Professional Out-of-State Licensure / U.S. Armed Forces Members and Spouse – The General Assembly approved legislation allowing a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or his/her spouse to practice their occupation for up to one year with an out-of-state medical license when stationed in Tennessee. For military personnel and their families who relocate to Tennessee, it can be a burden to obtain Tennessee licenses for medical professions when added to the challenges of relocating to another state. This new law seeks to take some of the burden away by giving these individuals one year to obtain a Tennessee license for the profession they are currently licensed to practice out-of-state. Under the new law, these armed forces members and their spouses are eligible to practice occupations regulated by the Department of Commerce and Insurance or the Department of Health, as long the license from their home state is current and they are in good standing with the state of their currently held license. Public Chapter 195
Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives – A new law set to become effective July 1 establishes the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. It facilitates collaboration between state government and faith-based and community organizations working to improve public safety, reduce addiction, strengthen families and communities, and overcome poverty in the state. The office will serve as a clearinghouse for organizations to help them work together to best serve Tennesseans in need and identify any available resources that might be available to assist them. The overall purpose of the new law is to maximize the effectiveness of government and private efforts to serve Tennesseans in need. Public Chapter 218
Elected Officials / Ineligibility for Holding Office – Final approval was given to legislation this year to help ensure that an elected official who is convicted of an infamous crime committed while in their official capacity cannot run for office again. The new statute closes a loophole in current law by prohibiting an elected public official that has accepted a plea agreement for an offense committed in the person’s official capacity or involving the duties of the person’s office from qualifying for, seeking, or holding public office or any political subdivision in this state at some point in the future after the plea agreement has been agreed to by all parties.Public Chapter 281