Legislation

Gov. Lee Provides Avenue for Public Feedback on Legislation

Gov. Bill Lee has taken an additional step in his commitment to “an open and transparent government,” creating a webpage for the public to view and provide feedback on legislation that has been submitted to him for consideration. Lee maintains that involving Tennesseans into the process more directly will increase accountability in how laws are made. The site will be updated regularly, as bills pass the Legislature and land on his desk.

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Legislation Affecting Elder Law Practice

As the legislative session progresses, many bills of interest to the Elder Law Section are on the move. Here is a list of notable legislation which has the potential to affect your practice area:
 
SB199/HB249 GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION: Creates elder abuse task force.
 
Sponsors:
Sen. Briggs, Richard, Rep. Carr, Dale
 
Summary:
Creates elder abuse task force charged with examining the current state of financial elder abuse, determining its economic and human impact, and developing recommendations to address problems associated with financial exploitation of the elderly. The task force will consist of 12 members, appointed by the health and financial commissioners, speakers of the legislative houses, district attorney, and TBI, as well as representatives from health and banking associations. The task force will submit its findings and recommendations to the governor and the general assembly no later than January 15, 2021.
 
Senate Status:
02/01/19 - Referred to Senate Government Operations Committee.
 
House Status:
02/01/19 - Referred to House Public Health Subcommittee.

SB265/HB257 CRIMINAL LAW: Punishes specific offenses involving elderly adults.
 
Sponsors:
Sen. Roberts, Kerry, Rep. Littleton, Mary
 
Summary:
Orders that anyone who knowingly commits an offense against the elderly by using a communication device to obtain medical conditions, sending unsolicited medical supplies, and filing a claim of reimbursement through the state Medicare plan for the value of the supplies sent is punishable with a Class D felony.
 
Senate Status:
02/01/19 - Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee.
 
House Status:
02/01/19 - Referred to House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

HB360 TRANSPORTATION VEHICLES: Vision exam for those 75 years or older seeking driver license.
 
Sponsor:
Rep. Cooper, Barbara
 
Summary:
Requires anyone aged 75 or older to pass a vision exam in person prior to renewal of license. Declares that in lieu of participation in the exam at the department, the applicant may undergo an exam by a licensed optometrist within 90 days prior to renewal. Authorizes persons with diagnosed impaired night vision to use night vision equipment without a driving-during-daytime-only restriction.
 
House Status:
01/31/19 - Introduced in the House

SB534/HB799: Offense of financial exploitation of an elderly or vulnerable person. Broadens the offense of financial exploitation of an elderly or vulnerable person to include the use of a telephone or other electronic or communication device to fraudulently or deceptively obtain or attempt to obtain money, property, or another thing of value from that person. Increases penalty for such offense.

SB711/HB686: Public guardianship for the elderly. Allows the executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability to request the district public guardian to serve as a conservator for disabled persons who are younger than sixty (60) years of age if certain criteria are met.

SB1039/HB909: Elderly Abuse and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2019.
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Legislation Affecting the LGBT Community in Committees Today

The Tennessee Equality Project is urging supporters to contact state legislators in two House subcommittees as they debate the merits of two bills that affect the LGBT community, reports Out and About Nashville.
 
The first, SB2480/HB2620, an anti-trans bathroom bill, is on the agenda for the Civil Justice Subcommittee today (March 21). Last week, legislators in that subcommittee questioned the potentially far reach of the bill. While it would compel the state to represent any instance in which a school board is required to defend an anti-trans policy.
 
The second, HB0054/SB0127, popularly recognized at the Business License to Discriminate bill, is on the agenda for the State Government Subcommittee for today. That bill would prohibit government agencies from inspecting the internal business policies of organizations with which it contracts.
 
You can track the progress of both using these links: SB2480/HB2620; HB0054/SB0127
 
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Tennessee House Panel, Gov. Haslam, Face Off on Opioid Prescription Limits

A House panel's action last week to move alternative legislation to Gov. Bill Haslam's opioid proposal is spurring intense discussions between administration officials and health providers who believe the governor's proposed prescription limits go too far, reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Haslam and top administration health officials argue the limits are necessary to combat Tennessee's opioid crisis. Detractors feel the proposed limits are too drastic and impede the authority of doctors, interfering with their patient relationships and prompt multiple visits.

The governor’s plan wants to limit prescriptions for new patients to just five days and with a second opioid prescription for 10 days in "exceptional cases." Doctors will have to justify and document the second prescription under the legislation and first seek non-opioid treatments. There are exceptions for patients suffering from cancer or who are in end-of-life hospice care. Existing patients suffering from chronic pain will not be impacted by the legislation should it become law.

The alternative bill, sponsored by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, who chairs the House Health Committee seeks to mitigate some of the prescription limits, allowing doctors to continue prescribing initial doses of painkillers and provide discretion to pharmacists on how much to fill at one time.  "I think the administration's bill, we felt like, may be a little too burdensome on the patient and prescribers and tries to treat everyone the same even in the practice of medicine. What we felt like was we didn't have to intercede into the practice of medicine," said Sexton. "We thought we could go a little bit different route to achieve that same goal."

Republican senators appear to be more in line with Haslam's original legislation, which is scheduled to come up today in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Taken together, it would amount to some of the nation's strictest prescription limits. 

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Children of Legendary Entertainers Push Elder Abuse Legislation

The children of Casey Kasem, Mickey Rooney and Glen Campbell were joined by supporters to address the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, promoting legislation protecting rights of adult children aimed at preventing elder abuse according to The Detroit News. Kerri Kasem, Kelly Rooney and Travis Campbell advised the committee on the stories surrounding the final years of their parents' lives and how this legislation might have prevented the abuse and exploitation they suffered.
 
Kerri Kasem was involved in several contentious court battles against her stepmother, Jean Thompson Kasem, for the right to see her father, the "American Top 40" host who died in 2014 of complications of Lewy Body Dementia. Since the death of her father, Kasem has made it a priority to guarantee that family members can visit ill or incompetent relatives through measures such as those being considered in Michigan. "What it would allow the judge to do is to just rule on visitation. It would put the burden of proof on the caretaker," said Kasem. "If they're not allowing visitation, they have to prove why instead of hearsay."
 
Travis Campbell said he was limited in his ability to see his father when the musician began experiencing his decline into Alzheimer's disease. Campbell had concerns about his father's health due to the 151 shows the musician was made to perform over three years, even though the entertainer felt he could not perform that many concerts. Travis was instrumental in getting lawmakers in Tennessee to pass the "Falk Act" in 2016. He said toward the end of his father's life, he was only allowed to see him for four hours twice a month. "(The bill) is not just for us, it's for everybody," said Campbell.
 
Kelly Rooney describes her isolation from her father as "slow ... gradual." Rooney maintains that her father had complained of emotional and other forms of abuse prior to his death in 2014. She became emotional when speaking about not seeing her dad for nearly two years before he died. "They withheld medication and withheld food from him," Rooney said of her father's caretakers.
 
The group, along with the Kasem Cares Foundation, plan to continue the mission in hopes that more states adopt similar legislation to protect vulnerable seniors.
 
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Proposed Legislation Targeting Animal Abuse

Since the inception of the state's Animal Abuser Registration Act in 2015, Tennessee continues the mission to address prevailing concerns in defense of animals. Lawmakers have further taken aim at animal abuse, with several bills addressing areas of importance to advocates. Here is some noteworthy legislation to keep an eye on this year.
 
HB1713/SB1698 Expands the requirement that sellers of dogs and cats be licensed to include sellers who sell to individuals and not just sellers who sell at flea markets, who sell for resale, or who sell for research purposes; establishes application and renewal fees of $125 for sellers of dogs and cats who sell to individuals. Amends TCA Title 44, Chapter 17, Part 1.
 
HB1909/SB1689 Applies the criminal offense of animal cruelty to the restraint of a dog with a chain, cord, tether, cable, or similar device while a disaster is imminent or occurring. Amends TCA Title 39 and Title 44, Chapter 17.
 
HB0265/SB0282 Requires registration with the department to operate as a commercial dog breeder; creates inspection requirements for commercial dog breeders; creates Class A misdemeanor offense for a person to knowingly operate as a commercial dog breeder without being registered. Amends TCA Title 62.
 
HB0635/SB0624 Increases from 90 to 100 days the length of time that a licensed dog and cat dealer must wait before applying for reinstatement of the dealer's license following suspension. Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 14, Part 2; Title 40, Chapter 39, Part 1; Title 44; Title 47, Chapter 18; Title 56 and Title 63, Chapter 12.
 
HB1581/SB1704 Expands the list of animals recognized as state pets to include any animal adopted from an animal shelter or rescue facility instead of only dogs and cats so adopted. Amends TCA Title 4, Chapter 1, Part 3.
 
HB2288/SB2154 Changes licensing classification from veterinary technician to veterinary nurse. Amends TCA Title 38, Chapter 1; Title 44, Chapter 17 and Title 63, Chapter 12.
 
Click here for up-to-date progress on each.
 
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Rep. Faison Files Bill Aimed at Ending Private Prison Usage in State

Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Crosby, has filed legislation taking aim at private prison usage in Tennessee, according to the Tennessean. SB1585 proposes an amendment to TCA Title 41, Chapter 24, prohibiting contracts for the operation of prison facilities from containing occupancy level guarantees, in which the state promises to keep its prison at 90 percent capacity or pay the contractor as though the prison were 90 percent full even if it's not. Private prison opponents argue that these guarantees act as a monetary incentive for states to keep prisons full.
 
Faison predicts the bill will be hotly contested, as Tennessee is home to the second largest private corrections company in the United States, CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America. The spokesman for the company, Amanda Gilchrist, recently told the Tennessean that "fewer than half of our contracts include such a provision. Those contracts that include a guarantee ensure our government partners that sufficient space to safely and securely house their offenders in the facility is available to them." 
 
CoreCivic has long been the center of controversy, most recently because of a report from the state Comptroller’s Office, which cites inadequate staffing and supervision of inmates, both persistent problems for the beleaguered corporation. "The U.S. Constitution says that government is supposed to carry out justice," said Faison. "Our Tennessee state Constitution says that government is supposed to carry out justice, not, 'somebody who’s trying to make money gets to carry out justice.' That's crazy."
 
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Hearing Today on Bill to Tighten Asset Forfeiture Standards

Legislation to reform the asset forfeiture process in Tennessee got a hearing today that lasted more than two hours in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. Watch a video of the proceedings. The bill, HB428 by Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, would establish more stringent standards for seizure and make return of assets easier. The Tennessee Bar Association supports substantial reforms in this area.

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