Capitol Hill Week
by Kim Swindell Wood | March 5, 2018 6:43 am
By State Senator Paul Bailey
Feb. 26, 2018 – A major bill which aims to cut off the flow of funds used in the purchase of illegal drugs was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week as legislation addressing Tennessee’s opioid crisis moves front and center in the Tennessee General Assembly. Senate Bill 1717 addresses the use of gift cards obtained through retail theft which has been heavily linked to the purchase of opiates.
From April to June of last year, 98 overdose cases in Knox County resulting in death or hospitalization were linked to individuals involved in retail theft.
It is estimated that Tennessee loses over $14 million in sales tax dollars and retailers lose over $200 million each year related to return fraud. The National Retail Federation has estimates the loss at $12 to $15 billion nationwide, with almost all being related to illicit drug trade.
The bill proposed would give local law enforcement the tools they need to make sure businesses comply with the law passed in 2017 by enhancing penalties for those convicted of Organized Retail Crime; establishing penalties for businesses that do not report; clearly stating what information is to be collected; and, making all identifying information confidential, to be used only by the state and law enforcement. Local law enforcement would decide how to notify businesses affected and what method they should use to report the data.
In other action this week, legislation providing more transparency and accountability when it comes to tuition and fee hikes at the state’s colleges and universities has passed the State Senate on final consideration. Senate Bill 1665 seeks to slow down tuition increases, which have risen by 125 percent over the past decade, by putting constant pressure on the process.
Under the bill, governing boards must give public notice 15 days prior to a meeting to adopt an increase in tuition and mandatory fees in order to allow for public comment and awareness. Any tuition increase must be substantiated by stating the amount of increase, the reason for the increase, and any steps that may have been taken to control it. The proposal also calls for the governing boards of each university to submit a report to be distributed to the General Assembly with information on how the tuition increases where spent during the previous year.
Final approval was given to legislation on Thursday establishing a statewide ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) system of care in Tennessee. A STEMI is a very serious type of heart attack during which one of the heart’s major arteries (one of the arteries that supplies oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart muscle) is blocked. In order to treat a STEMI, it is vital that the patient get to the hospital quickly and have a stent placed so blood flow can be restored.
Senate Bill 2071 requires the Department of Health to recognize hospitals that meet certain criteria as Accredited Receiving Centers and Accredited Referring Centers. Then, the emergency services and ambulances at hospitals shall develop pre-hospital protocols for transporting STEMI patients to the nearest receiving or referring hospital based on nationally recognized clinical practice guidelines. The goal is to get the patient transported to an appropriate center as rapidly as possible to save the heart muscle to save lives.
Finally, the full Senate approved three resolutions on Thursday that I sponsored including Senate Joint Resolution 563 designating May 13-19 as “Police Week” and May 15 as “Peace Officers Memorial Day.” The designation is in honor of the brave and valiant service rendered by the many law enforcement officers through Tennessee.
The second, Senate Joint Resolution 562, commemorates “SIDS Awareness and Remembrance Day” as October 15, 2018. Sleep-Related Infant Death (SIDS) is the leading cause of infant death in the U.S. for health infants under age one, with approximately 3,000-4,000 deaths each year. I cannot imagine the heartbreak families go through who experience a SIDS death and this resolution stands in remembrance of the loss of these precious lives. Hopefully, this resolution will help raise awareness to help save lives as well.
The third resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 564, designates April as “Child Abuse Prevention Month” in Tennessee. It is difficult for many of us to imagine how anyone can abuse or neglect a child. Sadly, it happens to often. The number of children who are neglected or abused continues to increase every year. A lot of this stems from drug abuse, a problem we are working very hard to address this year in the General Assembly. The purpose of this designation is to encourage communities throughout Tennessee to create partnerships among social service agencies, schools, religious organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the business community and to become involved in supporting parents in raising their children in a safe, nurturing environment.