Legislative Update


Local Citizens to join Telephone Townhall Meeting  

Please join me for my third annual Telephone Townhall Meeting tonight.  During this Telephone Townhall Meeting, I will be   talking about issues before the Tennessee General Assembly this year and have the opportunity to listen to your concerns. I will also will be available to help if you need assistance with state government services.

The call will take place on Monday, March 7 at 6:30 p.m EST. Citizens who would like to participate can dial 877-228-2184 and must enter the event identification number 112394.

The legislature is facing decisions that affect all citizens on many important issues such as education, our state budget, job growth, and public safety. I want to be open and available to hear from area citizens about these and other important issues facing Tennessee this year.

I invite you to join me and very much look forward to the opportunity to speak to as many people as possible through this forum.

In Brief..

Tennessee Fallen Heroes Medal – The full Senate voted to allow the five soldiers killed in Chattanooga in July due to an act of terrorism to be eligible for the “Tennessee Fallen Heroes Medal.” The medal is currently awarded to honor legal residents of Tennessee killed while serving on active duty or engaged in military support operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force. Senate Bill 1441 removes the requirement that a recipient be a resident of Tennessee when a soldier is stationed and killed in the state during an attack specifically targeting military service members or inspired or directed by a foreign terrorist organization. The medal is awarded by the governor to the immediate survivor of the recipient.

EpiPens – Legislation to allow heath care prescribers to prescribe epinephrine auto-injectors to a wide variety of entities, including restaurants, has passed final consideration in the Senate. The purpose of the bill is to make the EpiPens readily available in locations where an emergency is most likely to occur. Restaurants are among them as food is generally the most common cause of anaphylaxis, a condition which can be deadly if not treated immediately. Also included in Senate Bill 1989 but not limited to are colleges, places of Worship, youth sports leagues, amusement parks, and places of employment. Wasp or bee stings are also common causes of anaphylaxis.

Consumer Protections/Motorcycles-Consumer protection legislation passed the full Senate to ensure that persons purchasing a motorcycle will be informed on the certificate of title if it has been depreciated by 75 percent or more due to being wrecked, damaged, dismantled or rebuilt. Currently, anytime a vehicle depreciated by 75 percent or more is transferred to a new owner, disclosure is given that the vehicle is wrecked, damaged, dismantled or rebuilt and that it will be labeled as such on the next certificate of title. The law, however, does not apply to motorcycles, allowing sellers to take advantage of an unintended loophole not to disclose the information.  Senate Bill 1994 puts motorcycles under the same salvage law requirements as other vehicles.

Senate approves legislation addressing the growing problem of opioid abuse

Two bills which address the growing problem of opioid abuse were approved by the full Senate, including legislation to expand patient access to lifesaving opioid antagonists. 

Senate Bill 2403 would require the Tennessee Department of Health to draft a Collaborative Pharmacy Practice Agreement where standards and parameters are to be outlined for the dispensing of the medication by pharmacists. An antagonist is a drug that blocks opioids by attaching to the opioid receptors without activating them.  Opioid overdoses can be accidental from a legitimately obtained prescribed medication or as a result of the abuse of prescription opioids or heroin, and can result in death if not treated promptly.   

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44 people die as a result of prescription opioid overdose every day in the United States.  Among people 25 to 64 years old, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicles crashes. Under the bill, a pharmacist must complete an opioid antagonist training program approved by the Department of Health within the previous two years to dispense the medication.  It also establishes immunity from disciplinary or adverse administrative actions, as well as immunity from civil liability, if dispensed pursuant to a valid statewide collaborative pharmacy practice agreement.

The other bill approved by the Senate ensures that medical directors of pain clinics are highly qualified. Legislation tightening the requirements for medical directors and owners of pain management clinics was approved during the 2015 legislative session. Opioid pain relievers are responsible for three-fourths of all prescription drug overdose deaths according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The 2015 law required the medical director or owner of a pain clinic be a licensed physician who holds the required continuing medical education and subspecialty certification in pain medicine.  Senate Bill 2057 provides that a medical provider can qualify for state licensing as a pain management specialist by passing the two-part exam administered by the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP). The physician must still be certified by the ABIPP. This allows for physicians that have been in practice for some time, an option that does not require a full-time fellowship which takes a year to complete.

Lottery / Scholarships –

Tennessee’s lottery is experiencing record sales according to Rebecca Hargrove, President and CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation who spoke to the Senate Education Committee about the corporation’s budget. Hargrove said the boost in sales means the amount of proceeds for scholarship programs will increase from a high of $350 million under the current estimates to $368 million for the fiscal year that ends in July. The recent $1.2 billion jackpot provided a significant increase in sales. Since the first awards were given in the fall of 2004, lottery-funded programs have grown to include 12 different scholarships and grants, multiple after-school programs, an energy-efficient schools program and the recent Tennessee Promise initiative. During the 2015-2016 academic year, the number of Lottery-funded scholarships and grants reached over one million. 

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Roger Page Confirmed

In a unanimous vote during a joint convention of the House and Senate, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Roger Page was confirmed Monday night by the 109th Tennessee General Assembly. The confirmation is the first of its kind in Tennessee, brought about by a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that granted the Legislature confirmation powers for all appellate court appointees.  Justice Page previously served on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and was a circuit court judge for the 26th Judicial District of Tennessee. 

Conservators / Wards — The full Senate voted this week to restrict the ability of a conservator to isolate their ward from visitation by family members or loved ones without just cause. A conservator is a legally appointed guardian of a disabled person.  Under current law, a conservator can restrict visitation and communication with a ward in Tennessee without going to court, even when it involves communication or visits by a family member.  Senate Bill 2190 provides the ward has a right to visit, communicate or interact with family and loved ones and that a conservator shall not restrict it unless specifically authorized by a court order. It also provides a process by which the conservator can petition the court to place restrictions upon communication or interaction by showing good cause.

Some of the factors the court can consider are previous protective orders, whether the ward expresses the wish to visit and past preferences. In addition, the bill provides that a conservator shall use best efforts to promptly notify the ward’s closest relatives upon a change of residence, admission to a nursing home, life threatening emergency care, acute care or death. The bill was brought to the legislature as a result of the growing number of divorces where there is conflict between the children of an incapacitated adult whose spouse has been named the conservator. This is in addition to the increasing number of cases of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other disabilities which call for a conservator to be appointed.

Suicide Prevention — The full Senate passed legislation that addresses the issue of suicide among young people by requiring all employees of the Local Education Association (LEA) to attend the suicide prevention training that already takes place for teachers and principals. Senate Bill 1992 would strengthen Jason’s Act passed in 2007 by including bus drivers, cafeteria workers and any other employees as these relationships with students can be influential in the student’s life.  It also requires an LEA to develop a policy on suicide prevention awareness and it requires the state Department of Education to establish a model policy that the LEAs may choose to adopt. Suicide is the third leading cause of death of young people between the ages of 10 and 19. 

Consumer Protection – Deceptive Advertising — The State Senate unanimously passed a bill to investigate and fine companies and individuals who use deceptive advertising methods. Senate Bill 1928 prohibits advertisements that look like a summons or a judicial process notification. It also prohibits advertising that looks like a government document, whether it is through the use of language, seals and logos or if it implies an unauthorized endorsement by a government entity. The bill prescribes a fine of up to $100 per advertisement for violation of the proposed law.

Hiring / Discrimination — Legislation was approved by the full Senate to stop local governments from enacting any charter provision, ordinance, resolution, referendum or regulation which requires a company bidding on a public construction project to employ individuals that reside within their jurisdiction. Senate Bill 1621 comes after the adoption of a charter amendment pushed by labor unions in Nashville that requires at least 40 percent of work hours of local companies bidding on contracts come from Davidson County workers on Metro construction projects that cost $100,000 or more. It also requires 10 percent of work to be granted to low income individuals, an undefined term.

The charter amendment was later ruled unconstitutional by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. The legislation helps to remove the potential for litigation regarding the matter. The Senate sponsor said the charter amendment discriminated against thousands of potential workers who live in Davidson County’s outlying counties and who drive into Nashville to work.