Budget — The 2015 legislative session was highlighted by the passage of a balanced budget that invests primarily in education and workforce development, while continuing a thoughtful approach to making government work more efficiently and effectively. The appropriations bill, which is effective July 1, assumes a conservative three percent revenue growth rate.
(Senate Bill 1399 / Sponsors: Norris, McNally / Status: Public Chapter 427 / Effective Date: July 1, 2015 provided, however than any provision of this act which authorizes prior or immediate expenditures and any section or item which specifies an immediate effective date shall take effect upon becoming a law)
Achievement School District / Eligibility — State lawmakers have approved a bill that expands the eligibility for enrollment in charter schools authorized by the Achievement School District (ASD) that obtains an achievement growth score of “at expectations” or higher. Under the measure, first priority for enrollment will be given to students enrolled in or zoned to attend the ASD school. After the initial enrollment period, however, ASD charter schools with a capacity to serve additional students will be allowed to enroll students who meet one or more of the following criteria:
• The student is a child of a teacher or staff member or sponsor or member of the governing body;
• The student has been assigned to or was previously enrolled in a school identified as a priority school as defined by the state’s accountability system;
• During the previous school year, the student failed to test proficient in the subjects of reading and language arts or math in grades 3-8 on the TCAP if classrooms are not at capacity; or
• The student is eligible for free or reduced price lunch.
These additional students may not comprise more than 25 percent of the ASD charter school’s total student enrollment. The legislation also provides that the ASD can charge an authorizer fee of up to three percent to charter schools of the ASD. The Commissioner of Education will be responsible for setting up the fee structure for the next school year by May 1.
(Senate Bill 293 / Sponsor: Gresham / Status: Public Chapter 507 / Effective Date: July 1, 2015)
Teachers / Reporting inaccuracies / Discipline — Legislation was approved by the General Assembly this year that prohibits local education agencies from discouraging or disciplining teachers for reporting inaccuracies, errors or potentially inflammatory information in textbooks or instructional materials to a supervisor, parent or guardian. The new law prohibits teachers from being asked to waive their rights to make such reports as a condition of employment.
(Senate Bill 1105 / Sponsors: Beavers, Niceley, Bell, Harper, Roberts, McNally, Gresham / Status: Public Chapter 165 / Effective Date: July 1, 2015)
Teachers / Notice of Dismissal — Teachers must be given timely notice regarding their dismissal or if their position is being abolished under legislation which was approved by the General Assembly. Under the new law, teachers must be notified within five business days following the last instructional date of the school year if they are going to lose their job. The bill applies beginning with the 2015-2016 academic year.
(Senate Bill 893 / Sponsor: Briggs / Status: Public Chapter 232 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Students with Felonies / School Assignment — Legislation was passed this year which gives school authorities more of a say in the assignment or reassignment of a student upon returning to school after being charged or convicted of a felony. The bill gives the principal of the school where the student is enrolled, as well as the director of schools, the ability to determine the appropriate educational assignment, including an alternative school, for the student released for readmission.
(Senate Bill 182 / Sponsor: Hensley / Status: Public Chapter 501 / Effective date: July 1, 2015 and shall apply to any violent felonies or violent felony delinquency acts occurring on or after that date)
Students in Foster Care / Graduation – Lawmakers have voted to prohibit a Local Education Agency (LEA) from requiring any student in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services and who is in the eleventh grade or higher to meet more than the minimum graduation requirements set out by the State Board of Education.
Students in foster care are often transferred from one school to the next and may not have time to meet additional graduation standards required by school boards when moved at that grade level. This new law will help these students receive their high school degree and move on to post-secondary education or the workplace.
(Senate Bill 537 / Sponsor: Gresham / Status: Public Chapter 357 / Effective Date: July 1, 2015)
Students / Cystic Fibrosis – State lawmakers voted to approve a new law that allows students with Cystic Fibrosis, with a care plan, to take their medications in the classroom and at meal time. Children with the disease are typically very susceptible to infections and may have to take certain enzymes to aid in digestion. The students must currently go to the nurses’ station to have these enzymes administered, where they could be exposed to children with contagious conditions. The association that helps families of Cystic Fibrosis children claims that these children are completely competent to take their medications on their own.
(Senate Bill 724 / Sponsor: Green / Status: Public Chapter 321 / Effective Date: July 1, 2015)
Community College / Reconnect Grants — The State Senate approved major legislation during the 2015 legislative session which will launch a pilot program to help adults complete their degree in Tennessee’s community colleges. The new law, which was part of Governor Bill Haslam’s legislative package, establishes a Community College Reconnect Grant. The program provides last-dollar scholarship assistance to adults who want to return to community college and complete their associate’s degree in applied science. It is modeled after the Tennessee Promise Program which provides students a last-dollar scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology or other eligible institutions offering an associate degree program.
Under the measure, adults who meet all of the qualifications can enroll in a Tennessee public community college in the 2016-2017 academic year. Key qualifications to receive the grant include: Tennessee residency for at least one year preceding the date of application for the grant; completion of at least 30 hours towards completing an associate of applied science degree; and, an adjusted gross income of less than $36,000. Grant recipients must maintain a 2.0 GPA and enroll in at least 9 semester hours in the fall and spring semesters. In order to fund this program, there will be a one-time expense to the lottery fund of $1.5 million, which will cover roughly 800 recipients.
(Senate Bill 605 / Sponsors: Norris, Green, Stevens, Gresham, Yager / Status: Public Chapter 363 / Effective date: For the purpose of rules it is effective upon becoming law. Section 2 of the bill takes effect July 1, 2015 at 12:01 a.m. For all other purposes it takes effect July 1, 2016.)
GED / HiSet / HOPE Scholarship — Students who score a minimum of 15 on the HiSET test will be eligible for the HOPE scholarship under legislation approved by state lawmakers. The new law revises the required GED score under the HOPE scholarship eligibility requirements to conform to the scale used for the new version of the test, setting a score of 170 to qualify.
The legislation authorizes a student who met the GED, HiSET, ACT and SAT test score requirements to be awarded a HOPE scholarship in the 2014-2015 academic year for the 2013-2014 academic year, provided that the student is not otherwise ineligible for the scholarship and is enrolled in the 2014-2015 academic year in an eligible postsecondary institution.
(Senate Bill 624 / Sponsors: Gresham, Bowling, Watson / Status: Public Chapter 495 / Effective Date: July 1, 2015 at 12:01 am)
E-Filing / Department of Labor — A new law updating the e-filing system in the Tennessee Department of Labor to bring it into the 21st century passed during the 2015 session of the Tennessee General Assembly. The act requires electronic filing of an employer’s quarterly wage and premium report for employers that employ 100 or more people. The measure allows for an opt-out for employers that employ between ten and 99 employees. The conditions for the opt-out are similar to criteria used by other departments of state government, like businesses that do not have access to a computer or the Internet. In addition to providing ease of filing as a result of technological advances, the legislation will result in tremendous cost savings.
(Senate Bill 102 / Sponsors: Norris, Johnson, Ketron / Status: Public Chapter 95 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
Consumers / Identity Theft — State lawmakers have approved a bill that aims to help guard against consumer identity theft. Currently, Tennessee has no restrictions that prevent businesses or individuals from requesting or requiring that a customer provide their social security number on a personal check before it is accepted. The new law prohibits the printing of social security numbers on checks in order to receive a benefit, goods, services or other items of value, unless the person provides written permission or the disclosure is required by the state or federal law.
The legislation will increase inherent consumer protections against crimes of identity theft by preventing consumers from being asked to disclose more personal information than is necessary to transact business.
(Senate Bill 336 / Sponsor / Jackson / Status: Public Chapter 127 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Consumers / Credit Information Security – A new law has been passed which allows a parent of a minor under the age of 16 to place a security freeze on their child’s credit file information so it cannot be used for fraudulent purposes. The measure also applies to a conservator or guardian of an incapacitated person.
Senate Bill 1158 / Sponsor: Massey / Status: Public Chapter 282 / Effective date: Sections 1 takes effect July 1, 2015, with remaining sections on January 1, 2016
Amendment 1 / Abortion — Legislation which restores commonsense protections for women seeking an abortion was given final approval this year. The new law calls for informed consent and a 48-hour waiting period for women and girls considering an abortion, while another measure adopted this year requires abortion facilities performing more than 50 abortions a year be held to the same health and safety standards as other out-patient surgical facilities.
The Tennessee Supreme Court handed down a ruling in 2000 that went a step beyond the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. That action struck down legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly that called for women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and to wait 48 hours before they receive an abortion. Similarly, in 2002 the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled the Tennessee Department of Health’s requirement for licensure and inspection of abortion facilities was not constitutional.
As data from the Centers for Disease Control notes, one out of four abortions in Tennessee is performed on women residing in another state, the third highest out-of-state abortion rate in the nation. Such numbers have resulted in Tennessee becoming known as an abortion destination.
(Senate Bill 1222 / Sponsors: Beavers, Bell, Green, Johnson, Gresham, Gardenhire, Stevens, Bailey, Jackson, Roberts, Yager / Status: Public Chapter 473 / Effective date: July 1, 2015 and Senate Bill 1280 / Sponsors: Hensley, Bell, Green, Johnson, Bailey, Beavers, Gresham, Yager, Gardenhire, Stevens, Bowling, Briggs, Jackson, Roberts / Status: Public Chapter 419 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Human Trafficking – Legislation was approved this year that builds on the General Assembly’s ongoing efforts to attack the problem of human trafficking. The legislature has approved a series of bills over the past four years addressing the problem after a 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report showed 73 of the state’s 95 counties have reported the crime within their borders. A follow-up to the 2011 report was released last year that shows sex trafficking of minors occurs in rural and urban areas of Tennessee and has an effect in both wealthy and poor households. It was also discovered that minors who come from impoverished households are especially vulnerable to victimization.
This year’s legislation includes a bill to give law enforcement and other officials more training to identify, investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking. The new law calls on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to implement such training courses, which will also include information to help first responders and caseworkers find services to assist victims of the crime. It provides for four additional special TBI agents to implement the new program.
(Senate Bill 16 / Sponsors: Ketron, Kelsey, McNally, Bowling, Harris, Roberts, Gresham, Overbey, Crowe, Kyle, Norris, Tate, Tracy, Watson, Yager, Yarbro / Status: Public Chapter 503 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
The General Assembly approved another bill that adds Commercial Human Trafficking to the list of offenses for which a District Attorney may apply for a law enforcement wiretap. The organized crime and conspiratorial nature of this type of offense, commercial human sex trafficking, justifies this enhanced investigatory option for law enforcement.
(Senate Bill 43 / Sponsors: Kelsey, Overbey, Bowling, Yager, Bailey, Beavers, Bell, Briggs, Crowe, Dickerson, Gardenhire, Green, Gresham, Haile, Harper, Harris, Hensley, Jackson, Johnson, Ketron, Kyle, Massey, McNally, Niceley, Norris, Roberts, Southerland, Stevens, Tate, Tracy, Watson, Yarbro, Ramsey / Status: Public Chapter 435 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
State lawmakers also approved a new law which changes the hotline that law enforcement provides to minor victims of prostitution from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline to the Tennessee Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline.
(Senate Bill 305 / Sponsor: Kelsey / Status: Public Chapter 67 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
The statute of limitations to prosecute promoting prostitution will be extended under a bill approved during the 2015 legislative session. Often times, minors do not realize they have been a victim of this crime until well after they are 18. This new law extends the statute of limitations from 10 years to 25 years after the victim becomes 18 years of age to give victims more time to address the issue and prosecutors more time to prosecute offenders who are promoting prostitution.
(Senate Bill 373 / Sponsors: Ketron, Kelsey, Bowling, Kyle, Massey, Overbey, Stevens / Status: Public Chapter 310 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Photographs of Victims – A bill passed during the 2015 legislative session which allows prosecutors to use pre-crime photographs of victims during their accused killers’ trials. Under current law and rules of evidence, a pre-crime photograph of a victim can be admitted into evidence if it is relevant and not overly prejudicial. Some courts, however, do not allow such photographs for fear that they will be reversed based on those instructions. This means that Tennessee courts can vary from one county to the next in this regard. The new law provides that in a prosecution of any criminal homicide, an appropriate photograph of the victim while alive shall be admissible evidence when offered by the district attorney general.
(Senate Bill 933 / Sponsors: Bowling, McNally, Roberts, Haile, Norris, Yager / Status: Public Chapter 527 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Crime Victims / Strangulation — The full Senate and House of Representatives approved legislation to help victims of strangulation, a crime often involved in domestic violence. The legislation redefines strangulation to include: “intentionally or knowingly impeding normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure to the throat or neck or by blocking the nose and mouth of another person, regardless of whether that conduct results in any visible injury or whether the person has any intent to kill or protractedly injure the victim.”
Currently the definition of strangulation requires the act must be “intentional,” which is a higher standard of proof. Adding “knowingly” puts the definition of strangulation more in line with other similar criminal acts. Present law also requires a visible injury in cases of strangulation. In some cases, visible injury cannot be seen unless the victim dies and an autopsy is performed and does not account for cases in which the victim escaped. Strangulation victims are seven times more likely to become victims of homicide. Fifty percent of all domestic violence homicide victims are strangled at least once before they are murdered.
(Senate Bill 428 / Sponsors: Massey, Ketron, Dickerson, Briggs, Kyle, Overbey, Yager, Yarbro / Status: Public Chapter 306 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Andy’s Law / Terrorism – Legislation was passed this year authorizing the seizure of a terrorist’s assets, including money derived from, used or intended for use in acts of terrorism. The new law applies upon conviction of the terrorist. The legislation empowers law enforcement to prevent terrorists or attempted terrorists from keeping their assets.
The bill also allows victims of a terrorist attack and law enforcement that participated in the investigation or prosecution of the terrorist offense to make claim, upon conviction, for damages or costs. It further allows victims of terrorism to bring a lawsuit against those who committed the terrorist act and those who provided material support. The legislative act is known as “Andy’s Law” in honor of U.S. Army Private William “Andy” Long, who was shot and killed outside a Little Rock, Arkansas, recruiting center in 2009 by a Jihadist terrorist, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad (formerly known as Carlos Bledsoe).
Senate Bill 180 / Sponsor: Bell / Status: Public Chapter 441 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Crime / Neighborhoods – The General Assembly has passed a new law giving homeowner associations, neighborhood watch groups or other similar organizations the ability to petition a court to get a restraining order against repeat offenders who have committed crimes within their boundaries. The measure applies to an offender who has committed three or more separate offenses if he or she is convicted of burglary, rape, criminal homicide, dealing drugs, criminal gang activity, prostitution, theft over $500 or vandalism.
The restraining order can remain in effect for one year if granted by the court, and can be renewed by the judge upon a motion of the organized residential entity. The bill aims to keep residents from being repeatedly victimized by criminals who commit crimes in their neighborhood.
(Senate Bill 638 / Sponsors: Johnson, Harris / Status: Public Chapter 365 / Effective date: July 1, 2015, and applies to any person whose third or subsequent applicable offense is committed on or after that date)
Sex Offenders — The General Assembly approved a bill which adds to the residential and work restrictions for sexual offenders to prohibit them from being alone with a minor in addition to being prohibited from residing with a minor.
(Senate Bill 679 / Sponsor: Massey / Status: Public Chapter 516 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Animal Fights — The State Legislature voted to strengthen penalties against spectators attending animal fights. Currently, it is a Class C misdemeanor with a $50 fine to be a spectator at a cock fight; while it is a Class B misdemeanor with a $500 fine to be a spectator at a dog fight.
The new law increases the current penalty for being a spectator at any animal fight to a Class A misdemeanor. It also establishes the offense of taking a minor under 18 years of age to an animal fight as a Class A misdemeanor with a minimum $1000 fine. Finally, it closes the loophole allowing the distribution of animals with the intent to fight.
The purpose of the legislation is to provide punishment stiff enough to put a dent in the pocketbook of animal fight organizers. Animal fighting attracts such criminal elements as the Mexican drug cartel that ran multi-ton quantities of meth and heroin through such events in Tennessee.
Senate Bill 1024 / Sponsors: Ketron, Tate, Briggs, Dickerson, Haile, Yarbro / Status: Public Chapter 406 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Animals in Danger / Liability Protection – The State Legislature voted this year to extend civil liability protection for Tennesseans who rescue an animal locked in an automobile that is in imminent danger of dying. The original liability protection law, which was passed by the General Assembly last year, protects those who break a car window in an attempt to rescue a minor locked in a vehicle if they believe the situation threatens the child’s well-being.
Under the new law, the good Samaritan must determine that the vehicle is locked or there is no reasonable method for the minor child or animal to exit. The rescuer must also contact emergency law enforcement or fire personnel first before forcibly entering the vehicle. They must remain with the minor child or animal in a safe location that is reasonably close to the vehicle until emergency responders arrive.
Senate Bill 616 / Sponsor: Hensley / Status: Public Chapter 166 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Assault on Correctional Officers — Legislation aiding correctional officers who are assaulted by inmates has been approved by the State Legislature. Under the new law a court can order restitution in aggravated assault cases when the victim is a correctional officer, guard, jailer, or other full-time employee of a penal institution, local jail, or workhouse and the offender is an inmate. The measure requires at least 50 percent of the restitution to come from the inmate’s commissary account or a similar account.
(Senate Bill 833 / Sponsors: Yager, Bailey, Bowling, Dickerson, Norris / Status: Public Chapter 283 / Effective date: July 1, 2015, and shall apply to any applicable aggravated assault committed on or after that date)
Sex Offenders / Correctional Officers — Correctional officers who are convicted of having sexual contact with prisoners will have to register as sex offenders under a bill approved by state lawmakers. This legislation closes a loophole in the law that has allowed these officers to be free from the Registry requirement that is mandated for other sexual offenders. The measure was brought to the legislature by representatives of the Sheriff’s office of Davidson County who felt that the loophole needed to be closed.
(Senate Bill 853 / Sponsor: Overbey / Status: Public Chapter 284 / Effective date: July 1, 2015, and shall apply to acts committed on or after that date)
Prescription Drug Abuse / Pain Management Clinics — Legislation tightening the requirements for medical directors and owners of pain management clinics was approved during the 2015 legislative session as the General Assembly continued to address prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. Opioid pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and hydromorpone are responsible for three-fourths of all prescription drug overdose deaths according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC reports that Tennessee’s overdose death rate of 16.9 per 100,000 population is significantly above the national rate of 12.4 percent.
The legislature has made great strides to crack down on bad operators of pain clinics over the past several years, including requiring state oversight and a monitoring program for certain prescription drugs. The new law makes changes to current pain clinic certification requirements, including that the medical director or owner must be a licensed physician who holds the required continuing medical education and subspecialty certification in pain medicine. Medical directors must meet the new requirements by July 1, 2017.
Senate Bill 1266 / Sponsors: Yager, Briggs, Crowe, Massey, McNally, Bowling / Public Chapter 475 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Addiction Treatment Act of 2015 — Legislation which aims to save the life of a person seeking medical assistance for a drug overdose has been signed into law. The Addiction Treatment Act of 2015 prevents certain criminal drug charges from being filed against an individual who is seeking emergency medical assistance upon experiencing an illegal drug overdose if it is their first time. The protection also applies to good Samaritans assisting them in seeking medical care. The bill does not prohibit police officers from charging either of these individuals with other crimes based on evidence.
Another section of the bill restricts the prescription of Buprenorphine, a semisynthetic opioid with a variety of formulations like Subutex and Suboxone, to the treatment of opiate dependence in accordance with Federal Drug Administration (FDA)-approved limitations. This action prevents the drugs from being used for pain management, keeping Buprenorphine from being prescribed for indications not approved by the FDA and in amounts that are not within recognized parameters.
In addition, the measure repeals a section of Tennessee law that allows insurers to refuse payment for a patient if they are under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
Finally, the legislation authorizes the Commissioner of Health to make available recommendations for training first responders in the appropriate use of opioid antagonists, specifically naloxone hydrochloride. The recommendations must include a provision concerning the appropriate supply of opioid antagonists to first responders to administer consistent with the requirements of this bill.
The new law was supported by the addiction treatment and recovery community in collaboration with the Tennessee Medical Association.
(Senate Bill 871 / Sponsors: Dickerson, Yager / Status: Public Chapter 396 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Opioid Abuse / Intractable Pain Treatment Act — The General Assembly moved this year to repeal Tennessee’s Intractable Pain Treatment Act in an effort to reduce opioid abuse in Tennessee. The legislation was supported by the state’s district attorneys and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The Intractable Pain Treatment Act was passed in 2001 and included a “Pain Patient’s Bill of Rights” which gave patients a great amount of responsibility to choose opiate medications as a first line of treatment even through other modalities of pain relief exist. Under the law’s “Patient Bill of Rights,” physicians were required either to provide requested opiate medication or refer to physicians who will.
Since the passage of the 2001 law, Tennessee has experienced multiple negative consequences, including being ranked second in the nation for the rate of opioid pain relievers sold per 10,000 persons. Prescription opioids also rank as the worst abused drug among individuals receiving state-funded treatment services in Tennessee.
(Senate Bill 157 / Sponsors: Bowling, McNally, Yager, Watson, Jackson, Bailey, Haile, Kyle / Status: Public Chapter 26 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Children / Parents with Drug Abuse – Parents whose children have been removed from their care due to drug abuse must demonstrate a commitment to responsible parenting before regaining custody under legislation approved by the General Assembly this year. Before the child can be returned the parent must not be the subject of a criminal investigation for at least 90 days, resolve any former and pending investigations by child protective services to the satisfaction of the court, and pass two consecutive drug screens.
(Senate Bill 681 / Sponsors: Massey, Bowling / Status: Public Chapter 236 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
Drugs / Synthetic Drugs — The synthetic cannabinoids quinolinylindolecarboxylate, naphthoylindazoles, methylindazolecarboxamindobutanoate and naphthalenylindolecar-boxylates have been added to the state’s Schedule I controlled substances law under legislation adopted this year. The first violation is a Class D felony, under the bill, with a second being a Class C offense. The General Assembly has passed legislation to ban other chemical compounds used in synthetic drugs; however, unscrupulous chemists manufacturing the drugs continue to modify molecules in the organic compounds to avoid prosecution. The new law aims to keep these illegal drug compounds, which produce a dangerous hallucinogenic effect, out of the hands of Tennesseans.
(Senate Bill 932 / Sponsors: Bowling, McNally, Briggs, Status: Public Chapter 401 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
DUI / Aggravated Vehicular Homicide / Sentencing — Legislators continued to make progress in addressing drunk driving during the 2015 legislative session with passage of a bill which prohibits the release eligibility for those convicted of vehicular homicide until the offender has served at least 60 percent of their sentence. In addition, sentence reduction credits earned by the offender for good behavior cannot reduce the sentence imposed below 45 percent.
The purpose of the bill is to ensure that those convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide serve more of the sentence imposed upon them. Before the passage of the new law, such an offender was eligible for release after serving only a mere 30 percent of their punishment.
The legislation is named after Ben Woodruff and Mike Locke, both of whom were struck and killed by drunk drivers. The individual who struck Mr. Woodruff with his vehicle had seven prior DUI convictions, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. However, because state law allowed that sentence to be reduced to 30 percent based on credits and time served, the individual was released after only three years in jail.
According to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Correction, the average sentence received for aggravated vehicular homicide over the last ten years is 19.64 years. However, the average time served for the same crimes over the same period averages only 7.87 years.
(Senate Bill 30 / Sponsors: Overbey, Bowling, Stevens, Norris / Status: Public Chapter 433 / Effective date: July 1, 2015, and shall apply to acts committed on or after that date)
DUI / Vehicular Homicide / Transdermal Monitoring — The State Legislature has approved legislation to require the use of a transdermal monitoring device as a condition of a person’s bail agreement if a person is charged with a second or subsequent offense of vehicular assault or vehicular homicide resulting from the driver’s intoxication. The new law is designed to address “the worst of the worst” DUI offenders.
Transdermal alcohol monitoring is a technology that can detect the use of alcohol by offenders and report it to authorities. All expenses associated with the person being subject to a transdermal monitoring device as a condition of bail will be paid by the offender under the bill. The judge may waive, modify or affirm an order requiring a person to be subject to transdermal monitoring if there are medical reasons why the person is unable to participate.
(Senate bill 456 / Sponsors: Bell, Bowling, Haile / Status: Public Chapter 490 / Effective date: July 1, 2015, and shall apply to all applicable bond orders issued on or after that date)
DUI / Vehicular Assault or Homicide / Penalties — The Senate and House of Representatives have passed a bill that provides a mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted of vehicular assault or homicide as a result of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). The legislation puts these offenses under the same mandatory minimum requirements for jail time as other DUI-related crimes. The bill comes after circumstances which have occurred in Tennessee where individuals convicted of vehicular homicide or assault served no jail time. This new law ensures that those convicted of vehicular assault or homicide while under the influence will at least serve a range of mandatory minimum sentences from 48 hours in jail if it is a first offense and up to 150 days if the offender has three or more convictions for alcohol-related offenses.
(Senate Bill 1315 / Sponsor: McNally / Status: Public Chapter 125 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
DUI / Serious Bodily Injury / Repeat Offenders — Legislation increasing penalties against repeat drunk drivers who cause serious bodily injury to a person has been approved this year. The bill creates a new Class C felony offense for aggravated vehicular assault for those with multiple DUI convictions within the last 20 years who have crashed into someone and hurt them badly.
Currently, there are enhanced penalties if the person dies, but if they are injured it is a Class D felony, subject to two years to 12 years imprisonment, loss of driving privileges for one year to five years, and a fine of up to $5,000. This bill elevates the offense from a D felony to a C felony if a person is seriously injured and the intoxicated driver has a BAC of 0.2 or more and has a prior conviction for driving under the influence or for the habitual motor vehicle offender law; or commits vehicular assault and has two or more prior convictions for driving under the influence, habitual motor vehicle offender law, vehicular assault, or vehicular homicide.
The penalty for a Class C felony is three years to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. This measure requires that a fine of $5,000 to $15,000 be imposed on any person who commits aggravated vehicular assault. Additionally, a person who commits aggravated vehicular assault will lose driving privileges for one year to five years.
(Senate Bill 1316 / Sponsor: McNally / Status: Public Chapter 125 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Leaving the Scene of an Accident — The Senate and House of Representatives gave final approval to a bill which strengthens penalties against those who are involved in a car crash and leave the scene of an accident. The bill provides that if he or she flees the scene of an accident that the Department of Safety shall revoke their license if they are not in compliance with the state’s Financial Responsibility Law. The suspension is pursuant to an administrative hearing. If the monetary value of the property damage does not exceed $500, the offense is a Class C misdemeanor and the offender may be ordered to attend driving school. If the monetary value of the property damage exceeds $500, the offense is a Class C misdemeanor and the offender’s driving privileges may be revoked.
(Senate Bill 1181 / Sponsor: Crowe / Status: Public Chapter 523 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Welcome Centers / Highway Fund — Legislation has passed this year which authorizes the Department of Transportation (TDOT) to establish a sponsorship program that allows a person or entity to sponsor a Tennessee welcome center or rest area. The bill also allows for TDOT to acknowledge that sponsorship. Any funds generated from the legislation will go to the state’s highway fund.
(Senate Bill 728 / Sponsor: Southerland / Status: Public Chapter 454 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
Traffic Enforcement / Speed Cameras — The Senate and House of Representatives gave final approval to legislation which prohibits speed cameras statewide, except for in marked school zones and on roads with an S-curve. The act applies to traffic enforcement camera contracts entered into or renewed on or after July 1, 2015. Existing contracts can continue until their expiration date.
(Senate Bill 1128 / Sponsors: Gardenhire, Harris, Beavers, Niceley, Crowe / Status: Public Chapter 468 / Effective date: July 1, 2015, and applies to contracts entered into or renewed on or after that date.)
Telehealth Services – State lawmakers passed major legislation this year to protect Tennesseans’ access to cost-effective healthcare by ensuring that telehealth services are readily available and consistently safe. The new law also ensures that practitioners who offer telehealth services in the state will be held to the same high standard of professional practice as any other healthcare provider in a traditional healthcare setting. Telemedicine is the delivery of health care services to patients in remote sites by using electronic information and telecommunications technology to connect providers to patients who need them. It is particularly important to people in rural communities who may have to drive long distances to receive healthcare services.
Senate Bill 1223 / Sponsors: Bell, Green, Overbey, Gardenhire, Haile, Stevens, Yager / Status: Public Chapter 261 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Healthcare / Veterans — Legislation designed to better support the healthcare needs of military men and women across the state was approved by the Legislature this year. The new law authorizes healthcare providers who are in the National Guard to provide volunteer clinic services in a Tennessee military armory for veterans in need. This provides healthcare services to veterans and other persons who lack health insurance at a free clinic operated on the site of an armory. Currently, no authorization is in place that allows these military members to provide such care. The new program will be referred to as the Mission Tennessee for Veterans Program.
Senate Bill 1016 / Sponsor: Dickerson, Bowling, Norris, Roberts / Status: Public Chapter 277 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Fees / Physician Assistants – The General Assembly approved a bill which aims to ensure that patients seeking care from physician assistants are not penalized by insurance companies through higher co-payment fees. Physician Assistants provide thousands of Tennesseans with access to cost-effective healthcare services. The new law prohibits a health insurance company from charging a higher co-payment fee for services rendered by a physician assistant than that charged for similar services rendered by a physician.
(Senate Bill 54 / Sponsors: Green, Bell / Status: Public Chapter 157 / Effective date: July 1, 2015, and shall apply to all contracts with health insurance entities that are entered into or renewed on or after that date.)
Physician Referral Services / Steerage — State lawmakers gave final approval to legislation which gives Tennessee physicians and patients a greater voice in their health care by addressing the practice of “steerage” as it pertains to referral services, like radiological tests. For example, a physician may recommend a test be done by a specific service based on the technological reliability of the equipment or the expertise of the staff. Currently the insurance company or their benefits manager can step in and steer the patient to a specific provider without recognizing the ordering physician’s preferences in order to cut their costs.
The new law states that the ordering physician must be given the opportunity on the front end to indicate a particular preference or referral provider for the service. If the insurance company or benefit manager contacts the patient for steerage, they must inform them that the physician made a specific request. Should the patient decide to change that referral and go to the cheaper provider, then the benefit manager or insurer must notify the referring physician that his or her preference was not followed. The patient must be given disclosure that they have the right to discuss the change with the ordering physician.
The bill prescribes civil penalties for a violation under the Tennessee Unfair Trade Practices Act.
(Senate Bill 358 / Sponsor: Dickerson / Public Chapter 518 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
Diabetic Testing Supplies / Sales Tax Exemption — Legislation exempting diabetic testing supplies from state and local sales taxes was approved unanimously this year. The new law exempts lancets, test strips for blood glucose monitors, visual read test strips, and urine test strips, putting them in line with other sales tax exemptions allowed for medical purposes.
Tennessee ranks among the worst states in the nation for the percentage of people with diabetes. The United State Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there were 589,696 adults in Tennessee in 2012 diagnosed with the disease. Diabetic patients on average incur nearly two and a half times the annual medical expenses of a person without the disease. This legislation will provide sales tax relief to help with the daily cost of supplies needed to monitor and regulate blood glucose levels.
Senate Bill 33 / Sponsors: Overbey, Haile, Tate, Crowe / Status: Public Chapter 274 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Right to Try / Experimental Drug Treatment — The General Assembly has approved major legislation that allows a terminally ill patient that has an advanced illness to try an experimental drug that has completed Phase I of clinical trials but is still pending approval by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). The new law applies to terminally ill patients who have tried all other treatment options that are currently available as long as their physician has recommended it and the diagnosis and prognosis has been confirmed by a second physician.
Drugs and medical devices undergo three phases of clinical trials before they go to the FDA for review. The process can take more than a decade. Other than clinical trials, which are difficult to qualify for, the FDA has provisions for patients who want to access experimental drugs under its compassionate use program, but that process is also lengthy and time-consuming. The bill also releases the physician and treatment facility from liability for using the drug.
(Senate Bill 811 / Sponsors: Hensley, Haile, Stevens / Status: Public Chapter 376 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Tobacco Vapor Products/Youth—Legislation designed to prevent the use of tobacco vapor products by youth in Tennessee was approved by the full House and Senate. “Vaping,” or smoking electronic cigarettes, has become increasingly popular among teens. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, 29 percent of high school students report using vaping products. The CDC reports that vaping doubles the odds that the user will advance to smoking traditional cigarettes. Vaping products can contain varying levels of harmful substances, some of which can be harmful to brain development for youth.
The new law defines vapor products to include all merchandise used for purposes of vaping liquid nicotine and adds them to the state’s Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act, which requires that a purchaser be 18 years or older. The bill renames Tennessee’s law the “Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco and Vapor Products Act.” The legislation also mirrors other tobacco restrictions in Tennessee law and requires individual bottles of vaping liquid be sold in a container with a child-resistant cap.
The legislation also requests the Department of Agriculture look at other options to decrease the access to vapor products by those under the age of 18 and directs the Department of Health when developing smoking prevention programs that they look at using a broad range of science when looking at alternatives to smoking.
(Senate Bill 411 / Sponsors: Overbey, Massey / Status: Public Chapter 353 / Effective date: Section 13 takes effect on January 1, 2016 with all other remaining sections effective on July 1, 2015)
Pharmacy Drug Disposal Program – Lawmakers gave final approval to legislation authorizing any licensed pharmacy in this state to participate in a drug disposal program to collect and destroy unwanted or unused prescription drugs. Safe disposal programs help prevent unused drugs from getting into the hands of children who could ingest them or adults who could abuse them. It also helps remove them in a way that is environmentally friendly. The legislation exempts any participating pharmacy’s liability regarding theft, robbery, or other criminal activity in regards to a pharmacy’s participation in a disposal program.
(Senate Bill 409 / Sponsors: Overbey, McNally, Yarbro / Status: Public Chapter 40 / Effective date: Upon becoming law on March 27, 2015 for promulgation of rules, otherwise, it is effective on July 1, 2015)
Storage of Weapon / Work — A bill was approved this year which gives employees legal standing to sue an employer if he or she is fired for the sole reason of having a gun stored in their vehicle at work. Last year, the legislature passed a law that allowed legal gun permit holders to keep their weapon stored in their vehicle in the employer’s parking lot while they are working. This year’s legislation prohibits an employer from taking an adverse action against an employee who is a legal gun permit holder, solely for the reason of having their gun stored in their vehicle, if he or she is storing it in accordance to Tennessee law.
The employee will have one year to take action under the bill. The measure also provides that the employee has the burden of proof that the sole reason for termination was the storage of a weapon in their vehicle.
(Senate Bill 1058 / Sponsors: Green, Bowling, Jackson, Stevens / Status: Public Chapter 80 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
Forfeited or Abandoned Firearms – The Senate and House of Representatives approved legislation which aims to clean up current law by providing a more succinct process for the sale, trade or disposal of confiscated, forfeited or seized firearms. The new law improves the process to return any lost or stolen firearms to their rightful owners as long as they are legally able to acquire the firearm according to state and federal law. The bill allows a law enforcement agency to petition a court for a firearm to be disposed of, sold in a public sale, used in legitimate law enforcement purposes or destroyed, and allows departments in which that weapon has been deemed to be used for legitimate law enforcement purposes to enter into an exchange with the licensed firearms dealer for other firearms, ammunition or body armor suitable for use by the agency.
(Senate Bill 1103 / Sponsors: Overbey, Stevens, Yager / Status: Public Chapter 408 / Effective date: Upon becoming law on May 8, 2015 for promulgation of rules. For all other purposes, it is effective July 1, 2015 and provisions requiring the sale or destruction of weapons shall apply to weapons obtained o or after July 1, 2015.)
Lifetime Handgun Carry Permits — The General Assembly voted to create a lifetime handgun carry permit during the 2015 legislative session. The new law continues the present permit process, but gives citizens the option to pay a $500 fee for a permit to carry any handgun that the holder legally owns or possesses without expiration. Like the regular handgun carry permit, the lifetime permit applies unless the holder no longer satisfies the requirements as set by Tennessee law. Criminal history background checks for lifetime permit holders will be conducted every five years under the bill in the same manner as required for permit renewals.
(Senate Bill 700 / Sponsors: Niceley, Bailey, Bowling, Roberts, Stevens / Status: Public Chapter 281 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
Self Defense / Large Game – A new law was passed this year that allows for the killing or injuring of wild animals if it is done in self-defense. The measure requires that the killing of big game, which includes deer, bear, wild turkey and all species of large mammals, must be reported to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency within 24 hours.
(Senate Bill 205 / Sponsors: Niceley, Bowling / Status: Public Chapter 173 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
Inheritance Tax / Final Phase-out — The newly adopted state budget included funds for the final step in phasing out Tennessee’s inheritance tax which is due to expire in 2016. State lawmakers began to phase out the tax, which is also called the “death tax,” under legislation adopted in 2012.
Many retirees cited the death tax as a key reason for them relocating outside Tennessee before passage of the law. There was also great concern that the inheritance tax placed a heavy financial burden on family farms and family businesses.
Previously, Tennessee had a higher inheritance tax when compared to its neighbors and was one of only two states that had both an inheritance and a gift tax.
(Senate Bill 1399 / Sponsors: Norris, McNally / Status: Public Chapter 427 / Effective Date: July 1, 2015, provided that any provision of this act which authorizes prior or immediate expenditures and any section or item which specifies an immediate effective date shall take effect upon becoming a law)
Good Samaritan Law / Senior Citizens — Legislation which encourages good Samaritans to volunteer to transport senior citizens to places such as doctor appointments, the grocery store or the pharmacy has received final legislative approval. The Protection of Volunteer-Insured Drivers of the Elderly (PROVIDE) Act helps non-profit Human Resource Agencies and charitable organizations by giving transportation volunteers civil immunity as they seek to provide these citizens the help they need to remain independent.
Tennessee law protects drivers who are volunteering with a government agency, but not through a charitable organization or human service agency. This new law extends volunteer driver protection to any person volunteering through a charitable organization or human service agency as long as the volunteer driver does not commit gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct and the sponsoring organization maintains liability insurance with limits at least equal to the limits set forth in the Governmental Tort Liability Act.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 14 percent of Tennesseans are 65 years of age or older, and the national average is 13.7 percent. Tennessee’s number is expected to grow to more than 22 percent by 2020.
(Senate Bill 117 /Sponsors: Norris, Yager, Bowling, Ketron / Status: Public Chapter 430 / Effective date: July 1, 2015)
Elder Abuse – State legislators passed legislation which gives law enforcement agencies and the Department of Human Services authority, during the course of an elder abuse investigation, to require medical examination of the person if the agency is not sure whether the elderly person is in imminent danger.
Under current law, a law enforcement agency is not listed as being able to seek an order for an elderly person who is in imminent danger or lacks capacity to consent, to be examined by a physician, or a psychologist in consultation with the physician, or psychiatrist under certain circumstances. The new law allows law enforcement agencies as well as the Department of Human Services to seek such an order.
(Senate Bill 457 / Sponsor: Bell / Status: Public Chapter 387 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Aging Caregivers / DIDD – Key legislation requiring the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to enroll all eligible people on the waiting list with a custodial parent or caregiver age 80 and over passed this year. Approximately 6,200 people are on the DIDD waiting list, with over 130 individuals who are being cared for by family members age 80 and over. These aging caregivers are often facing their own health challenges in addition to the emotional and physical stress of providing care for a loved one with an intellectual disability.
Under the current system, individuals do not receive waiver supports until they are in “crisis” which includes incapacity or death of their primary caregiver, homelessness or being a danger to themselves or others. This means that the individual with the intellectual disability can be faced with the loss of a family member, moving to a strange place, and being supported by strangers at the same time.
It is hoped that providing these individuals with some basic support prior to a “crisis” may reduce overall costs, as well as help them adjust to being supported by people other than their primary caregiver. It also provides aging caregivers who are facing their own healthcare challenges with the peace of mind that their child or family member will be cared for after they pass away.
Senate Bill 17 / Sponsors: Ketron, Haile, Overbey, Tate, Watson, Crowe, Dickerson, Harper, Kyle, Massey, Norris, Tracy, Yager, Yarbro / Status: Public Chapter 430 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Veterans Treatment Courts — State lawmakers voted this year to provide the state’s first sustainable support for both the establishment and maintenance of Tennessee’s Veterans Treatment Court programs. The Criminal Justice Veterans Compensation Act of 2015 (CJVA) increases the assessment fee charged to convicted DUI offenders to expand a successful Veteran’s Treatment Court pilot program that has operated in Davidson, Shelby and Montgomery Counties. Tennessee’s Veterans Courts are the first in the nation to have such support. The program has given service members in Tennessee the option of pursuing treatment and recovery programs rather than incarceration.
Drug Courts around the state have also designated efforts and assistance to the military men and women seeking services to aid in their return to civilian society. Services provided include but are not limited to group therapy, job coaching, mentoring by fellow veterans, and specialized treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the substance abuse frequently used by sufferers to self-medicate. The Veterans Courts are operated through the Tennessee Judicial System as a trial court with special emphasis on access to therapy and support services in a necessary partnership with mental health.
(Senate Bill 711 / Sponsors: Green, Briggs, Gardenhire, Gresham, Bailey, Bowling, Jackson / Status: Public Chapter 453 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
Healthcare / Veterans (Repeat / Also see Health Issues) — Legislation designed to better support the healthcare needs of military men and women across the state was approved by the legislature in 2015. The new law authorizes healthcare providers who are in the National Guard to provide volunteer clinic services in a Tennessee military armory for veterans in need. This provides healthcare services to veterans and other persons who lack health insurance at a free clinic operated on the site of an armory. Currently, no authorization is in place that allows these military members to provide such care. The new program will be referred to as the Mission Tennessee for Veterans Program.
Senate Bill 1016 / Sponsors: Dickerson, Bowling, Norris, Roberts / Status: Public Chapter 277 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Drones – A new law passed this year prohibits the use of a drone at an open-air ticketed event where more than 100 people are gathered without the venue owner and operator’s consent. The new law prevents an amateur drone enthusiast from flying an unmanned aircraft over events, like a Titans game, while it is in progress. The legislation also prevents a drone from flying within or over a fireworks display without consent of the owner or within the grounds of a correctional facility.
Senate Bill 509 / Sponsor: Johnson / Status: Public Chapter 240 / Effective date: July 1, 2015
Beer Permits / Lawful Residents — Legislation passed the General Assembly in 2015 which requires a beer permit holder to be a lawful resident of the United States for not less than one year immediately preceding the date upon which the application was made. The new law helps to ensure that counties can do the appropriate background check of the applicant before issuing a beer permit.
(Senate Bill 185 / Sponsor: Tracy / Status: Public Chapter 29 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
First Responders / Hepatitis C — Legislation was approved expanding the presumption statute currently in state law to include Hepatitis C as being presumed to have been acquired in the line of duty in all cases involving emergency rescue workers. Currently that burden is on the first responder to prove they got the disease on the job.
(Senate Bill 20 / Sponsors: Ketron, Massey, Green, Briggs, Haile, Harper, Yager, Dickerson / Status: Public Chapter 289 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
Class I Carnivores – Lawmakers voted this year to require any person that obtains a Class I carnivore to have a microchip permanently implanted in the animal within six months of obtaining it. The new law will help track the animal if it escapes. Class I carnivores includes lions, tigers and bears.
(Senate Bill 1273 / Sponsor: Yager / Status: Public Chapter 331 / Effective date: July 1, 2015.)
Sinkholes / Disclosure to Buyers — A bill was approved this year requiring residential real property sellers to disclose a known sinkhole in writing on the residential property disclosure to potential buyers.
(Senate Bill 796 / Sponsor: Green / Status: Public Chapter 262 / Effective date: July 1, 2015, and shall apply to any contract entered into on or after that date.)
Laws with July 1 enactment from the 2014 Legislative Session:
Tennessee Promise – The centerpiece of legislation promoting the availability of higher education is the Tennessee Promise Scholarship Act. This new law provides Tennessee high school graduates with last dollar tuition assistance to fill unmet financial needs for tuition and fees so students may attend community college or a college of applied technology free of charge. Students can then use the state’s transfer pathways program if they choose to attend a four-year school, making it possible to start as a junior.
The legislation also provides the opportunity for non-traditional students to return to community college or a college of applied technology free of charge through the state’s Tennessee Reconnect program, which helps adults earn a post-secondary degree. Similarly, the bill allows adults to qualify for the Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills Grant, even if the student has previously received the HOPE Scholarship. To help students succeed, the new law has a strong mentoring component by incorporating the TN Achieves program, which is already available in 27 counties. This last dollar scholarship program provides students who might otherwise slip through the cracks in transitioning from high school to a post-secondary institution with mentors to help them succeed. The college retention rate for students in the TN Achieves Program is approximately 72 percent; whereas the HOPE scholarship program retains students at the rate of 47 percent.
In addition, the legislation provides for removal of the current 120-hour cap for HOPE scholars by extending the award to eight semesters. This is designed to provide HOPE recipients who are double majors or who participate in programs like ROTC with flexibility so the student can receive the HOPE scholarship award for at least eight semesters or 120 hours, whichever comes last.
The new law changes the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship allotment to incentivize completion by raising the scholarship for two-year schools from $1,000 per semester to $1,500 and shifting the scholarship for four-year schools from $2,000 per semester to $1,750 the first two years and $2,500 per semester the last two years. All students currently receiving the scholarships are grandfathered in at the current rate, as well as all who enter in the 2014-2015 school year.
In order to pay for the plan, the legislation transfers approximately $300 million in lottery reserve funds, which will be added to the $47 million already placed in an endowment for student scholarships. It is estimated that the cost of the Tennessee Promise scholarships will be approximately $34 million annually. One hundred and ten million dollars will remain in the lottery reserve fund to help ensure adequate funding moving forward.
(Senate Bill 2471 by Norris, Campfield, Massey and Watson / Status: Public Chapter 900 / Effective Date: For purpose of promulgating rules and for fund transfers, upon becoming law on May 12, 2014, and for all other purposes on July 1, 2015)
Teacher’s Licenses / Testing — A teacher’s license cannot be non-renewed or revoked by the Department of Education based on their students’ growth scores under legislation approved in 2014. This law provides that a teacher, principal or supervisor cannot have their professional license revoked or non-renewed as a result of their students’ TVAAS scores, or another comparable measure of student growth in the event TVAAS is no longer the measure utilized.
Senate Bill 2240 by Tracy / Status: Public Chapter 746 / Effective Date: Upon becoming law on April 22, 2014 for promulgating rules and July 1, 2015 for all other aspects
Rights / Holiday Greetings — Legislation allowing school officials and students to say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or Happy Holidays to one another has become law this year. The new statute seeks to allow the greeting to be exchanged in schools without fear of a lawsuit.
Senate Bill 1425 by Campfield, Kelsey, Yager / Public Chapter 787 / Effective Date: July 1, 2014
Consumers / Lawsuit Lending — The General Assembly passed legislation to regulate the lawsuit lending industry and rein in excessive fees and interest rates charged for loans, which can exceed 100 percent interest. Lawsuit lending refers to cash loaned to plaintiffs awaiting judgments or settlements in civil lawsuits, most often personal injury cases such as automobile accidents, personal injuries or product liability issues. The lending industry claims the interest rates are high because the loan is only paid back if the borrower’s settlement proceeds and because they take significant risks.
The new law provides for a yearly fee of up to 10 percent of the amount of the transaction and provides for a maximum annual fee rate of 36 percent per year borrowed for a term not to exceed three years. It provides for an additional administrative fee of up to 10 percent per year. Other provisions in the “The Tennessee Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Act” include:
• Requires a written funding agreement with a five-day recision option.
• Requires disclosures, notices, and an attorney’s review.
• Prohibits conflict of interest, commissions and referral fees.
• Requires registration with the Secretary of State and a $50,000 surety bond.
• Prohibits the funding of lawsuits in workers’ compensation cases; and
• Gives the attorney general enforcement powers under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.
Senate 1360 by Johnson / Status: Public Chapter 819 / Effective Date: For rules, upon becoming law on April 28, 2014; for the purposes of collecting the annual fee and maximum yearly fee, TCA 47-51-110 as enacted in section 1 of the bill shall take effect on July 1, 2015; for all other purposes, the act shall take effect on July 1, 2014 and shall apply to litigation financing contracts executed on or after that date.