The full Senate has approved a bill that I sponsored which would move the sales tax holiday weekend to the last weekend in July. The sales tax holiday assists parents with the high costs of back-to-school supplies, which, according to the National Retail Federation, cost families an average of nearly $670. Current law was put into place before the school calendar changed to an earlier start date. The purpose of the bill is to allow families to purchase the educational necessities during the sales tax holiday before the school session begins.
I heard from so many parents, teachers, administrators and students. I am pleased to tell you that we listened and that legislation giving teachers and principals the choice whether to include student results from the 2015-2016 TNReady assessment in his or her evaluation is now on its way to the governor for his signature after the Senate and House of Representatives approved the measure this week. The bill provides additional flexibility for educators, while supporting Tennessee’s continuing efforts to strengthen teaching, learning, and accountability.
This comes after technological problems were experienced with the state’s new online assessment last month. The glitches resulted in an unexpected transition from the online test to a paper format.
Student scores were already not going to be counted during the first year of transition.
Under Senate Bill 2508, the option that results in the highest score will automatically be selected. The bill will become effective upon the governor’s signature.
The full Senate approved Senate Bill 1609 this week broadening the sentencing enhancement for committing theft during a declared state of emergency to also include Class C felony vandalism offenses. The legislation follows a new law passed last year which enhanced penalties for theft during a declared emergency.
The full Senate approved legislation that would increase the penalty for TennCare fraud from a Class E felony to a Class D felony. Senate Bill 2548 increases the term of imprisonment from 1-6 years to 2-12 years and imposes a mandatory fine, in addition to restitution, in the amount of $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $1,000 for a third offense. The legislation aims to ensure that TennCare services are fully available to those who require it most, as fraud hinders the state’s ability to serve the interests of those Tennesseans who need it most.
Child custody / Parental location
The State Senate passed legislation on Monday to help clarify existing law concerning child custody and parental relocation. Senate Bill 2483 states that, if a parent wishes to relocate outside the state and more than 50 miles away from the other parent, they must provide that parent with proper notice. This would stand in cases where a parenting plan or judicial order has already been finalized. The bill passed unanimously and its companion bill is scheduled to be discussed before the full House.
The State Senate passed legislation on Monday that would strengthen the protocol for investigating cases of livestock cruelty. Senate Bill 2529 was brought from the Department of Agriculture and would transfer agricultural abuse probable cause determination from county agents to the department. In many rural areas, the county agents have been placed in situations where they would be required to investigate their friends and neighbors. This legislation would bring the probing authority to a total of thirteen individuals under the state department. Other statutorily designated individuals can perform the functions as well, such as veterinarians. The bill has the support of the Sherriff’s Association, the Humane Society, and the Farm Bureau. It passed the Senate unanimously with all 33 senators signed on as co-sponsors.
Legislation was approved this week to add those who unlawfully photograph a person for sexual gratification to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s (TBI) Sex Offender Registry. Senate Bill 1663 would allow a judge to require, at their discretion, the defendant in a misdemeanor unlawful photographing in violation of privacy case to register as a sexual offender for up to ten years. This would be in addition to the punishment already provided for the offense and would require that the judge take into account the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense when deciding upon the punishment.
Aging caregivers / Persons with disabilities
The State Senate gave final approval to legislation to help aging caregivers who care for a child or ward with an intellectual disability. Senate Bill 2003 would allow eligible people having an intellectual disability (ID) who are on the waiting list for services from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) with custodial parents or caregivers aged 75 and over to enroll into the Self-Determination or similarly capped waiver. In 2015 the original “aging caregiver” law, which was also sponsored by Ketron, was passed by the General Assembly requiring DIDD to enroll all eligible people whose caregivers are 80 and over into the Self-Determination Waiver. However, the average life expectancy in Tennessee is only 76.30 years of age. The bill aims to give aging caregivers who are facing their own healthcare challenges the peace of mind that their child or family member will be cared for after they pass away. At the same time, it provides individuals with disabilities with basic support prior to a “crisis” to help them adjust to being supported by people other than their primary caregiver.
Joey Hensley represents the 28th District of the Tennessee Senate.