State Rep. Kelly Keisling's Capitol Hill Review for March 13, 2020
Constitutional carry legislation moves through first House committee
This week in Nashville, historic legislation that allows Tennessee to become the 17th state to enact constitutional carry cleared its first committee in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Members of the House Constitutional Protections & Sentencing Subcommittee approved House Bill 2817 by a 5-2 vote tally Tuesday evening. The measure sends a strong “tough on gun crime” message to violent criminals, felons, and gang members through a series of sentencing enhancements that support our law enforcement and judicial communities as they work to protect our cities and towns.
At the same time, this legislation upholds the freedoms granted to law-abiding citizens under our Constitution by allowing open or concealed carry for citizens 21 and older (18 if certain military service requirements are met) without a permit.
This legislation does not change current requirements for background checks on gun purchases. Law-abiding citizens are also encouraged to attend a class or undergo training to ensure safe operation.
House Bill 2817 now moves to the House Judiciary Committee for a vote on March 18, 2020.
Governor’s key initiatives continue to advance
Several of the governor’s key initiatives continued to advance in the General Assembly this week. These measures include:
House Bill 2220: Authorizes action for the appointment of a guardian for individuals incarcerated in an institution of the Department of Correction or for those involuntarily hospitalized in institutions of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. The bill passed by a 97-0 vote on the House floor and now awaits action in the Senate.
House Bill 2221: Prohibits individuals convicted of sexual offenses or violent sexual offenses from being eligible for an alternative form of punishment to incarceration. The measure also passed in the House chamber with a 96-0 vote this week.
House Bill 2223: Enhances standards applicable for certain food donations in order to increase access to high-quality food for our citizens. The legislation now awaits Gov. Lee’s signature.
House Bill 2227: Creates a rural Brownfield Tax Credit Enhancement Program to support reinvestment in properties where former industries once stood. The measure will allow companies looking to reinvest in these properties and the rural communities they serve to receive a tax credit in order to encourage them to relocate and create new jobs. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.
Legislation focused on improving literacy rates in Tennessee clears House Curriculum Subcommittee
Legislation focused on improving Tennessee’s literacy rates advanced out of the House Curriculum, Testing & Innovation Subcommittee this week.
House Bill 2229 is designed to transform literacy instruction in Tennessee through targeted instruction during a student’s formative years to solidify their academic foundations.
The measure requires a local education agency (LEA) that enrolls students in grades kindergarten through second grade to provide students with appropriate instruction for them to develop reading skills required to meet state academic standards, as well as the developmental expectations for a student’s respective grade level.
Additionally, the legislation requires third grade students reading below grade level to participate in a common reading diagnostic — administered by the Department of Education (DOE) — to benchmark literacy skills and growth.
House Bill 2229 also establishes various requirements for education preparation programs, as well as criteria for literacy training for educators.
Approximately two-thirds of Tennessee students currently are not reading proficiently by the fourth grade. House Bill 2229 provides important resources to our students and teachers so we can change these outcomes and the trajectories of our current and future leaders.
This measure will now be heard by members of the House Education Committee on March 18, 2020.
Gov. issues Executive Order declaring state of emergency in response to COVID-19
On Thursday, Governor Lee issued Executive Order No. 14 declaring a state of emergency in Tennessee to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19.
Implement the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan;
Permit health care professionals licensed in other states to provide health care services in Tennessee related to COVID-19;
Allow pharmacists to dispense an extra 30-day supply of maintenance prescriptions as needed in response to COVID-19;
Allow health care professionals to provide localized treatment to patients in temporary residences;
Expand testing sites for COVID-19;
Allow the construction of temporary health care structures in response to COVID-19;
Implement price gouging protections on medical and emergency supplies;
Suspend restrictions on vehicles transporting emergency supplies to areas affected by COVID-19;
Permit the waiver of certain regulations on childcare centers as needed to respond to the effect of COVID-19;
Authorize TennCare policy changes to ensure that covered individuals receive medically necessary services without disruption; and
Direct coordination with health insurance plans to improve access to screening, testing, and treatment for COVID-19.
During this evolving situation, vulnerable populations should stay home where possible and avoid large gatherings or locations where they are more likely to contact the virus. Those most susceptible include older adults and adults with underlying conditions including diabetes, heart disease and respiratory illness. Non-essential visits to nursing homes and hospitals are also strongly discouraged at this time.
For more information on COVID-19 in Tennessee, please click here.
Legislation improving TANF Program reporting moves to the House floor
This week, legislation improving reporting requirements within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program moved closer to a vote in the House chamber.
Members of both the House Health and House Calendar & Rules Committees approved House Bill 2153, which strengthens reporting requirements for the TANF program. The legislation instructs the Department of Human Services (DHS) to issue an annual report disclosing the amount of federal funding available to be spent during each fiscal year, the amount of federal funds budgeted to be spent and expected to be spent, the amount of federal funds set aside for a necessary reserve, and any restrictions.
It is a result of the TANF Working Group, established by both the House and Senate Speakers last fall, after it was determined DHS had built up a reserve of $730 million in unused block grant funds. These resources are designed to support working families who desire to move away from government assistance and achieve prosperity.
House Bill 2153 is set for a vote in the House on March 19, 2020.
General Assembly approves Holly Bobo Act
Members of the Tennessee General Assembly this week overwhelmingly approved passage of House Bill 2308, also known as the Holly Bobo Act.
The legislation expands Tennessee’s endangered alert system to include missing or endangered young adults under 21. It honors the memory of 20-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo who was abducted from her home in Decatur County in 2011. The young woman’s remains were found three years later.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s current program issues alerts for missing or endangered children under 18 and also features a senior citizen alert program. The Holly Bobo Act makes the TBI’s endangered alert system part of Tennessee Code.
The Holly Bobo Act does not change the activation criteria for AMBER Alerts, which is a federally funded program. Law enforcement reserves AMBER Alerts for the most serious of missing child cases when authorities believe a child is in imminent danger. AMBER Alerts only may only be applied to children under 18-years-old.
House Bill 2308 now heads to the governor’s desk for approval. Additional information can be found here.
Measure ending surprise medical billing in Tennessee begins journey through committee
Members of the House Life & Health Insurance Subcommittee also advanced a measure that ends surprise billing in Tennessee this week.
As amended, House Bill 2680 removes patients from the process of resolving billing disputes between providers and payers in efforts to finally eliminate this ridiculous billing practice in our state.
This legislation will directly affect citizens with insurance who receive services provided by out-of-network providers in emergency situations — often in hospital settings. The measure requires payers to make an initial payment to the provider. If a dispute between the payer and provider arises, the matter is referred to the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance where it is resolved without patient involvement.
House Bill 2680 now heads to the House Insurance Committee for a vote on March 17, 2020.
House Members support legislation to improve transportation for disabled and aging
On Thursday, House Members unanimously supported legislation aimed at improving transportation options for the disabled and aging populations across the state.
The Tennessee Accessible Transportation and Mobility Act of 2020 (HB1596) creates an office within the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) dedicated to expanding and improving accessible transportation. No state dollars will be used to create the new office.
Public transportation is a challenge in certain areas across Tennessee, and it is especially difficult to access for the disabled and aging. The new office created by this legislation will identify and work to eliminate those barriers. The overall goal is to give as much access to public transportation as possible so the elderly and disabled can be out in the community, engaged and living more productive lives.
House Bill 1596 now heads to the governor’s desk for signature. For more information about the legislation, please click here.