State Senator Mae Beavers’ Legislative Update

 

Senator Mae Beavers

Senator Mae Beavers

Victims of Crime – Legislation to provide funding for a program that gives victims of crime notification regarding any change in status of the offender was approved by the Senate Finance Committee this week.  The bill, SB 1684, creates the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification System Fund by adding a $1 litigation tax on all criminal charges. 

Currently 56 counties in Tennessee participate in the Statewide Automated Victim’s Notification Program, known as VINE.  Another 19 counties are expected to join the program by the end of the year, to boost the total number of participating counties to 75.  However, federal grants that provided funding for the program are set to expire.  This legislation would raise the necessary funds to keep the program up and running and expand its scope to more Tennessee counties. Victims of a crime or other concerned citizens can register to be notified immediately in the event of an offender’s release, transfer or escape through the program. 

Child Sexual Predators – The Senate Judiciary Committee acted this week on legislation designed to let law enforcement act more quickly to protect children from sexual predators using the Internet. The bill, SB 1529, authorizes district attorneys general or assistant district attorneys general to issue a subpoena to require production of records related to the Internet or computer use in cases of sexual exploitation of a minor.  The bill would allow the prosecutor to subpoena the name, address, local and long distance connection records, length and types of service utilized, telephone number, and means of payment for the service. 

Actor and child protection activist David Keith, spokesman for the National Association to Protect Children, told lawmakers the United States consumes more than 50 percent of the world market of that multi-billion dollar global industry.  Since 2005, more than 750,000 pedophiles have been identified by computer in the United States, with only two percent of those being investigated.  He said hundreds of thousands of children are being raped, tortured, filmed and traced on the Internet, and law enforcement agencies don’t have the resources to investigate the crime.

Consumer Protection / Pharmacy – Legislation, SB 774, was approved by the full Senate this week that addresses two important problems related to patients understanding their pharmacy benefits and cost of their prescriptions.  Currently, pharmacies are often prohibited by language in their provider contracts from telling patients what the pharmacy is being paid for their prescriptions, which prevents patients from knowing the costs.  The legislation, called the “Patient’s Right to Prescription Transparency Act of 2009,” would prevent a health plan or Pharmacy Benefit Management Company (PBM) from restricting or prohibiting a pharmacy from giving the patient information regarding actual reimbursement.  The legislation would also define that percentage based co-pays be calculated based on the total prescription price the plan agrees to pay to the pharmacy.  

Second Amendment Rights / Restaurants – The State Senate approved a Conference Committee Report on SB 962 and sent to the governor the legislation allowing law-abiding handgun permit holders to “carry” into restaurants or other establishments serving alcohol as long as the owners of the premises have not posted notification that they are banned.  Those who are in possession of a handgun are already prohibited from consuming alcohol or face a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a $2,000 fine and up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.  The Conference Committee report, as adopted, deleted provisions for a “gun free zone” tied to age or time restrictions.  There are 220,000 gun carry permit holders in Tennessee.  Thirty-seven states allow legal permit holders to carry into locations that serve alcohol.      

Soldier Heroes – The Senate Finance Committee voted this week to send Congress a resolution, SJR 352, asking that an initiative be adopted to honor the wishes of soldiers regarding the disposition of their remains if they die in service to their country.  The initiative, called the “Honor the Written Intent of our Soldier Heroes Act,” would amend a federal law that prohibits a service member from designating a person other than a surviving spouse, blood relative or adoptive relative to direct the disposal of the service member’s remains  

Restaurant Menus – The full Senate has approved legislation, SB 1092, to ban local governments or their boards from imposing requirements on restaurants to provide nutritional information on menus.  The concern is that some communities will impose different standards and significantly increase costs to small restaurant owners.  In March, Davidson County’s Metro Board of Health voted to enact guidelines on providing nutritional information to customers for certain restaurants, even though Congress is considering the Federal LEAN Act.  That act would implement a national standard generally accepted by restaurant owners to provide nutritional information to customers.  Adopting a county-by-county approach to the disclosure of nutritional information increases costs to restaurants, many of whom are small business owners. 

DUI –  Legislation was approved this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee that would require the testing of a driver’s blood alcohol content level in cases where there is serious bodily injury to a victim or death.  The proposal calls for the test to be performed whether or not the driver consents.  Presently, only drivers where a death is involved are required to be tested.  This legislation would extend that requirement in cases where a victim is seriously injured and the law enforcement official has probable cause to believe that the driver has committed the offense of vehicular assault. The test results may be offered into evidence, subject to the rules of evidence under the bill, SB 534.