Legislative Update from Senator Becky Massey
Legislation of Interest
Workers’ Compensation Reform
The Sate Senate approved final passage of legislation to make the state more attractive to job creation, while protecting injured employees. Senate Bill 200 would cut costs to businesses, create more predictability, improve the efficiency of claims management, simplify the physician selection process for injured employees and reduce benefit delays to workers. This legislation comes as a result of two comprehensive studies tasked with identifying possible recommendations for improving the program. The primary gains for employees include fewer delays, better medical treatment, claims processing that is easier to follow and better support from the Workers’ Compensation Division when problems do arise.
The Senate has approved legislation that will give Tennessee prosecutors a new weapon in race cases where the Statute of Limitations is about to expire. Senate Bill 831 will allow a criminal prosecution to be commenced by issuing an arrest warrant that identifies the perpetrator based on the DNA profile. 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.
Students of Retired Teacher.
The full Senate also approved Senate Bill 1265 that allows students attending public higher education institutions, who are receiving 25% tuition discount as children of full time teachers, to continue to receive the discount in the event their parent retires. Under present law, every child in Tennessee under 24 years of age whose parent is employed as a full-time certified teacher in any public school or as a full-time technology coordinator in any LEA receives a 25 percent discount on tuition to any state operated institution of higher learning. This bill also adds that a child receiving the discount would continue to receive it if their parent retires after a minimum of 30 years of full-time creditable service in the public schools of Tennessee.
Legislation that would ensure all honorably discharged veterans that relocate to Tennessee receive in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities has been approved by State Senators. Senate Bill 208 applies to veterans who register for college within 24 months from the time of their honorable discharge. In addition, the bill grants members of the Tennessee State Guard one free course per term at any state-supported post-secondary institution, capped at 25 tuition waivers annually. The Tennessee State Guard is the all volunteer arm of the Tennessee Military Department, which provides a professional complement of personnel to support the Tennessee National Guard.
The full Senate approved several bills regarding Human Trafficking. Senate Bill 1027 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.
Senate Bill 1032 increases the charge of promoting the prostitution of a minor from a Class E felony to a Class A or B felony. Senate Bill 1035 provides defendants or victims of sex trafficking restitution of special damages which include medical-related and counseling-related expenses the victim incurred as a result of sex trafficking and other offenses. Senate Bill 1390 broadens the definition of custodian to include anyone who physically possesses or controls a child. This proposal would enable Child Protective Services to remove a child from the care of a trafficker in cases in which the trafficker is not a parent, guardian or legal custodian, which under current law, are the only people considered custodians. Senate Bill 1028 extends the statue 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 a 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. Finally, Senate Bill 1030prohibits defendants from using consent as a defense in the cases of soliciting, sexual exploitation of a minor, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.
Beer Tax Reform
State Senators overwhelmingly approved legislation to reform Tennessee’s beer tax. Senate Bill 422 will convert Tennessee’s outdated price-based tax to a volume based tax. Under the current law which was created in the 1950’s, 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 troops out at $47 per barrel. The bill aims to promote competitiveness and economic opportunity, as well as choice for consumers