The 112th Tennessee General Assembly has passed a number of new laws that will go into effect July 1, 2022.
Budget and Tax Relief
Budget - SB2897 will invest $52.8 billion in the state of Tennessee for the 2022/2023 fiscal year, with total legislative initiatives making up $84.1 million recurring and $570.8 million in non-recurring expenditures.
Removing license plate registration fee - Thanks to SB2491, until June 30, 2023, Tennesseans will not have to pay the state’s annual license plate registration fee of $23.75.
Compensating vendors for sale tax collections - According to SB0500, a new measure will restore compensation for vendors to collect tax to pre-2000 levels. Vendors will now receive 2% of the first $2,500 on each report and $1.15% of amounts over $2,500 on each report.
Blocking obscene materials on school computers - SB2292 ensures that vendors that contract with schools will comply with state law to prohibit pornography and obscene materials from school computers. It also requires vendors to take steps to block any inappropriate content on school computers. If they fail to comply with the new law, an LEA may withhold further payments to the provider and ultimately consider non-compliance a breach of contract. The law also requires each local board of education to establish a mechanism for parents to report a failure of the technology selected by the LEA to prevent access to harmful materials and submit an annual report to the State Board of Education on the successes or failures of the technology.
Expanding human trafficking training in schools - SB1670 will require all school employees to be trained to detect and prevent the human trafficking of children. Personnel that isn’t contractors, including bus drivers, janitors, or cafeteria workers, will be required to undergo the same human trafficking training as teachers every three years. The training course will be online and last roughly 45 minutes to an hour.
Ensuring fairness in girls’ sports/ K-12 - The General Assembly approved SB1861 to enforce legislation passed in 2021 prohibiting biological males from participating in girls’ sports in public K-12 education institutions.
Taking action against abortion advocacy in public schools - SB2158 will prohibit an LEA or public charter school seeking assistance in teaching family life from knowingly agreeing with a person or entity that performs abortions, induces abortions, provides abortion referrals, or provides funding, advocacy, or other support for abortions.
Revising teacher evaluation criteria - SB2155 will require more significant consideration of student achievement in teacher evaluations.
Alleviating school staffing challenges - To address ongoing staffing challenges in schools, SB2702 will allow retired members of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System to be employed as K-12 teachers, K-12 substitute teachers, or K-12 bus drivers without the loss or suspension of the retired members TCRS benefits.
Establishing a 10-point grading scale for Tennessee schools - To align with neighboring states, the General Assembly approved SB0388 to establish a 10-point grading scale for grades nine through 12 in schools statewide.
Increasing access to Tennessee Promise Scholarship - Thanks to SB2631, overachieving students who graduate from high school early will be eligible to receive the Tennessee Promise scholarship to assist in tuition costs.
Expanding financial assistance to disadvantaged students - SB1025 will expand the Ben Atchley Grant to provide financial aid to underprivileged students.
Criminal Sentencing / Public Safety
Truth in Sentencing - SB2248 will require a person convicted of certain offenses to serve 100% of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release.
Increasing transparency in sentencing - Under SB2183, victims and their families will be better informed about how much time an offender will serve at the time of sentencing. It also requires Tennessee courts to record the estimated number of years and months to be served before a criminal is eligible for parole.
Cracking down on child abusers - SB2748 strengthens penalties for emotional and mental abuse or neglect of children at an unlicensed child care facility.
Protecting victims of crime - SB2288 will allow a court to revoke probation or parole for an offender who committed a misdemeanor or a felony if the offender commits a technical violation.
Joe Clyde Daniels Act - Under SB2223, convicted murderers will have a more challenging time being granted parole if they do not disclose the location of their victim’s remains.
Increasing penalties for boating under the influence - To keep Tennessee waterways safe, SB2736 increases penalties for boating under the influence.
Human trafficking - SB1378 will expand the criteria for what qualifies as a Class A felony offense of trafficking for a commercial sex act as an effort to crack down on criminals who traffic children.
Strengthening punishment for violent felony offenses - SB2683 requires individuals that have been convicted of first-degree murder, the perpetration or attempted perpetration of rape, rape of a child, and aggravated rape of a child to be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Protecting against sex offenders — SB1786 prohibits a sexual offender, violent sexual offender, or a violent juvenile sexual offender from renting or offering to rent a swimming pool, hot tub or other body of water used for swimming. Violating this law would be a Class A misdemeanor.
Cracking down on drive-by shootings — To impose stricter penalties on criminals who engage in drive-by shootings, SB2087 requires that a person convicted of aggravated assault that involved the use or display of a deadly weapon be punished one classification higher than otherwise provided by law if the violation was committed by discharging a firearm from within a motor vehicle.
New offenses for heinous crimes — Criminals who commit particularly heinous, worst-of-the-worst crimes will now face new offenses with more substantial penalties thanks to SB2841. The crimes are punishable by the death penalty or imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.
Expanding the definition of unlawful photography – SB2362 expands the definition of unlawful photography.
Increasing penalties for litter — SB2012 increases penalties for illegal dumping of tires.
Judiciary / Courts
Divorce Court Proceeding — SB1661 authorizes a court to allow mediation between parties in a divorce proceeding to occur by video conference when appropriate.
Receiver of Estate – SB1680 authorizes the court to appoint a public receiver to make a recommendation on the need for a temporary or permanent receiver over an estate. A receiver is an appointed custodian of a person or entity’s assets. When a business owner passes away without a succession plan, a county legislative body has the power to appoint or elect a public administrator, a public guardian and a public trustee.
Banning dangerous drug sales — SB1997 bans the sale of tianeptine, which is marketed as an antidepressant and attaches to the receptors in the brain similar to opioids.
Health / Healthcare
COVID-19 visitation law – SB1997 ensures that those who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be allowed to have visitors in end-of-life situations, even during a public health emergency for COVID-19.
New Tennessee Center for Nursing Advancement – SB2401 aims to address nursing workforce needs by creating the Tennessee Center for Nursing Advancement. The new measure allows the center to collect and aggregate data on nursing turnover, reasons for nursing turnover and successful recruitment practices.
Improving efficiency of the Certificate of Need process – The General Assembly approved SB2466 to provide funding to reform Tennessee’s Certificate of Need (CON) program and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how Tennessee’s healthcare system is managed. CON is a legal document required for a hospital or health care facility to locate or expand its capacity.
Expanding access to wheelchairs – SB2134 will expand access to important medical equipment for Tennesseans who need assistance getting around outside their homes.
Child Safety / Wellbeing / Human Trafficking
Increasing safeguards for residential child care agencies – SB2730 puts into place additional safeguards of reporting requirements for residential child care agencies (RCCAs). Under the new law, RCCAs would be required to disclose all contracts in agreement with third parties to provide care, housing and placement for children in Tennessee in order to receive a new license or license renewal.
Elections / Campaign Ethics / Candidate Eligibility
Increasing transparency and accountability to campaign finance – To provide more sunshine to campaign operations, SB1005 will require state candidates to report all expenditures regardless of the amount and all contributions over $100. It allows for unitemized contributions up to $100; however, if unitemized contributions make up $2,000 or more per statement period, per candidate, then those contributions must be reported.
Protecting public safety and property – To encourage homeless individuals to relocate to safer areas and receive needed assistance, including mental and physical health care, SB1610 gives local governments a legal mechanism to prevent homeless populations from camping on public property.
Commerce / Labor / Consumer Protection
Residential blasting — To address neighborhood concerns about residential blasting, SB2055 updates blasting requirements, including adding safety processes and protocols.
Travel Insurance – SB1868 clarifies existing regulation for travel insurance. It includes provisions offering savings to the consumer, and prohibits the automatic addition of travel insurance to a booking.
Transportation and Safety
Hannah Eimers Roadside Safety Act – SB1671 requires robust safety testing of crash cushions and guardrail end terminals located on public highways and roads to ensure safety on Tennessee’s roadways.
Traffic safety — SB2367 allows a person convicted of speeding to take a defensive driving course within 90 days of their conviction in order to have up to 5 points removed from their driving record.
Ensuring safety of wake surfing — To ensure safety on Tennessee waterways, SB2107 prohibits wake surfing between sunset and sunrise on a body of water that is less than 50 acres in size and within 200 feet of any shoreline, among other new rules.
Cracking down on littering — To provide a new tool to neighborhood associations to prevent littering, SB2376 adds criminal littering and aggravated criminal littering to the list of offenses for which a neighborhood association may seek an injunction or restraining order prohibiting a repeat offender from entering the neighborhood.
Energy / Energy Infrastructure
Protecting critical energy infrastructure – To ensure Tennessee’s energy infrastructure can support the state’s economic demands for reliable and affordable fuel, SB2077 prevents local governments from blocking the development of such infrastructure while preserving local zoning authority.
Emergency Personnel / Law Enforcement / Correctional Officers
Expanding benefits for firefighters injured in the line of duty — SB1569 establishes that any conditions or impairments of full-time firefighters were caused by certain occupational cancers which occurred while on the job.
Strengthening protections for police and service animals — SB2013 increases the penalty for anyone who knowingly and unlawfully kills a police dog, fire dog, search and rescue dog, service animal or police horse. Offenders would now be charged with a Class B felony.
Funding for ambulance services — SB1872 could generate over $20 million for local ground-based ambulance services throughout the state.