State Senator Mae Beavers’ Legislative update


(NASHVILLE, TN) February 27, 2009 – Several bills aimed at protecting children advanced in the State Senate this week, including legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee that would prohibit sex offenders from loitering within 1,000 feet of certain places where children are likely to gather.   The bill would apply to schools, licensed day care centers, child care facilities, public parks, playgrounds, recreation centers or athletic fields when children under age 18 are present.  

This legislation aims to strengthen our laws to protect Tennessee children.  Parents deserve to know that their children are safe, and this bill will keep sexual offenders away from these areas where children are commonly present.  “We must protect our children,” stressed Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers.  “There is no reason for a registered sex offender to knowingly loiter outside of our day care facilities and schools.”

Current law sets a parameter of 500 feet as the distance sex offenders are prohibited from going near school property.  The legislation, SB 511, would expand that distance to 1,000 feet, add other places where children are likely to gather, and spell out that offenders are prohibited from “loitering” within those bounds.  It also would remove an exception currently in place that allows sex offenders to be present on school property during school hours if they are making deliveries.

The Judiciary Committee also approved legislation requiring law enforcement agencies to enter information into the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) database within two hours of receiving a report of a missing child.  The bill would bring Tennessee into compliance with the Adam Walsh Act which was signed into law in 2006. 

The sweeping federal law, named after the murdered 6-year-old son of “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh, required states to adopt strict new standards for registering sex offenders and providing public information about their crimes and whereabouts. This included publishing photos and addresses of sex offenders online and toughening criminal penalties for those who fail to register, among other provisions.  Tennessee made several changes to comply with the law last year.  The states must comply with provisions of the act by 2009 or risk facing a 10 percent cut to their share of funds in a congressional grant program used to fight crime.  

Conservative investment approach best, says treasurer Lillard

Tennessee’s conservative approach to investing state funds has served the state well according to David Lillard, the state’s Treasurer.  Lillard presented legislators on the Senate Finance Committee with information about how Tennessee has performed in an increasingly challenging economic market.

Lillard said Tennessee is dealing with the second worst market in the last 107 years based on the Dow Jones Industrial average.  The state, however, has out-performed 93 percent of its peer funds last year, and 80 percent when looking back at a three-year average. 

Lillard, who became Treasurer on January 15 after Republicans nominated him for the post, said he has moved the state’s portfolio to an even more defensive position since taking office based on the most recent market information and outlook.

“The challenge is to determine how conservative or defensive you go to not sacrifice some of the upside in the event the market turns,” he said.  Lillard also said his staff is monitoring the situation “by the minute.” 

In speaking of Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS), which funds payments to state and local government retirees and teachers, Lillard said “The TCRS is one of the most conservative funds, in terms of investments, in the country.  Our cash flow into the fund is well in excess of that.  We have well-covered ourselves from the standpoint of sources of income versus use of income.  We do not have a liquidity issue in respect to this plan in paying retiree benefits.”

Legislation to watch for

Currently, there is legislation being proposed (SB323) that would change the way mandatory emissions testing is conducted in various counties.  A new technology, similar to a red-light camera, would enable the installation of emissions testing devices on highway exit ramps along with cameras that would snap a photo of your license plate as you drove by the testing device.  The private company who conducts the test would then have access (via government records) to your address, where they would send the $10 emissions fee in the mail. 

“We must be extremely careful when opening up government records to private companies,” said Beavers.  “We must also be wary of private, for-profit companies installing hidden testers and cameras around our cities without thorough questioning from the public and legislature.”

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee next week, of which Senator Beavers is a member.  She plans to ask many questions to the bill sponsor and lobbyists, including whether companies are implementing such devices to try to secure fees from drivers who have been getting their tests done elsewhere, such as in Davidson County.  She also plans to question the turnover of personal information to private companies, as well as the pure technological logistics and errors that could occur if such devices were implemented.