(NASHVILLE, TN), June 27, 2013 — Several key laws sponsored by State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and approved by the General Assembly this year will become effective July 1, including a new law to aid victims of human trafficking. The law 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.
The legislation was part of a 13-bill package designed to enhance penalties against those who patronize or promote human trafficking, as well as give more rights to victims of the crime. Currently, two-way closed circuit testimony is afforded to victims of aggravated sexual battery, rape, incest, aggravated child abuse, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated kidnapping. The new law sponsored by Ketron will extend that opportunity to children who are victims of human trafficking.
Ketron said according to a 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) study, 78 of Tennessee’s 95 counties reported human trafficking has occurred within their boundaries, with 62 counties reporting that it involved minors. “This is a growing problem in Tennessee,” he said. “Many traffickers prey on vulnerable and innocent victims, like children.”
Another new law sponsored by Ketron set to take effect July 1 makes improvements to a 2010 law he passed that implemented cost saving strategies in the way Tennessee state government procures goods and services. Ketron is Chairman of the General Assembly’s Joint Fiscal Review Committee which reviews all state spending. Provisions in this year’s legislation include a requirement that all cooperative purchasing conducted be done through contracts awarded through full and open competition and pursuant to policies or rules and regulations adopted by the Procurement Commission.
In addition, Ketron sponsored a new law set to take place on July 1 allowing the Department of Labor to access fines on unscrupulous construction employers who are found guilty of workers’ compensation premium fraud. Currently, premium fraud enforcement can only come from criminal charges by district attorneys general or civil suits by the state’s Attorney General. However, due to scarce resources, those charges rarely occur.
“The new law seeks to assist legitimate construction employers who compete against contractors who have insurance but intentionally underreport their payroll or nature of their work to insurance carriers in order to lower their premium payments,” added Ketron. “This legislation comes as a result of the recommendations of the Department of Labor’s Employee Misclassification Advisory Task Force and only applies to the construction industry.”
Other laws co-sponsored by Ketron set to take place July 1 include:
A new law to reduce the sales tax on food from 5.25% to 5.0%;
A new law giving Tennessee prosecutors the authority to obtain a “John Doe” arrest warrant based on a rapist’s DNA profile, saving the case from dismissal on grounds that too much time has passed if the perpetrator is not caught within the statute of limitations;
A measure, called Lynn’s Law, to protect vulnerable adults who are willfully abandoned and who are mentally disabled and cannot care for themselves; and
Legislation that requires principals to suspend or expel students who cause bodily injury to a teacher, bus driver or other school personnel