Capitol Hill Week
By Kim Swindell Wood | March 31, 2016 6:42 am
Last Updated: March 31, 2016 at 6:44 am
State Senator Paul Bailey
By Senator Paul Bailey
NASHVILLE – Action in the Tennessee General Assembly continues to shift from legislative committees to the floor of the Senate as lawmakers look towards adjournment in April. Committees worked diligently to advance a number of key bills, including legislation that I am sponsoring that would allow counties and municipalities to offer eligible volunteer firefighters group insurance benefits. Senate Bill 1824 does not mandate that local ordinances offer insurance, but does give them the freedom to do so, if they wish. According to the U.S. Fire Administration’s 2015 National Fire Department Census, nearly 75 percent of the 638 fire departments in the state are fully volunteer operations.
Tri-Star General — In other action, legislation I am sponsoring to create an award to recognize distinguished citizens of Tennessee has received approval. Senate Bill 1458 would create the “Tri-Star General” honor for people who have shown outstanding displays of community service. The legislation authorizes each member of the General Assembly to nominate one individual per year for the award, while the governor can recognize up to five additional individuals. The recipients will be awarded with a certificate, signed by the Governor and the Secretary of State, commemorating their honorary title.
Red Light Cameras — I was also very pleased the State Senate voted to approve a bill I am sponsoring regarding citation notices for traffic enforcement cameras, or red light cameras. While current law states that non-payment cannot affect one’s credit score, driver’s license status or insurance, some of the contracted enforcement companies have attempted to make violators believe otherwise, in order to collect payments. Senate Bill 2492 requires the notice to print, in bold-faced font, the same size as the largest font, “Non-payment of this notice or citation cannot adversely affect your credit score or report, driver’s license and/or automobile insurance rates.”
Students with F1 or M1 Visas – My legislation authorizing the Commissioner of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to issue a subpoena for valid law enforcement purposes to an institution of higher education regarding students who are in Tennessee on F-1 or M-1 visas has received final Senate approval. The purpose of the Senate Bill 2394 is to give the Department of Safety and Homeland Security more information about those students who are here on a student visa but are not attending classes. F1 visa and M1 visa are the two categories of visas that are issued to international students who wish to study in the U.S. The subpoena would compel the production of the following information from higher education institutions in Tennessee: the number of non-immigrant students who possess an F-1 or M-1 visa for instruction enrolled at an institution at the beginning and end of a period of study; and the names and addresses of non-immigrant students who were enrolled at the beginning of a period of study, but were not enrolled at the end of the period of study.
TN Ready / Educators — On education issues this week, 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. Under Senate Bill 2508, the option that results in the highest score will automatically be selected. Educators will be able to log into TNCompass, the state’s new licensure and evaluation portal, to see which calculation benefited them the most and was ultimately incorporated into their evaluation. This information will be available in late summer or early fall when teacher’s composite evaluation scores become available. If at any point in this three-year transition an educator’s evaluation would not benefit by including the student growth data from the 2015-16 TNReady test, he or she can have that data excluded.
Livestock / Custom Meat Sales — The Senate has approved legislation concerning the on-farm sale of custom slaughtered meat. Under current statute, a person can sell custom slaughtered beef to an individual, as long as the sale took place before the animal was brought to the slaughter house. However, any sale of the meat after the slaughter takes place is illegal. Under Senate Bill 1798 a person can sell the meat at any time before or after the slaughter takes place. The legislation aims to give farmers more power over their livestock and livelihood.
Telehealth – State Senators unanimously passed legislation to ensure that Tennesseans utilizing telehealth services are not receiving different reimbursements based upon their rural or urban locality. Senate Bill 2373 provides that coverage and reimbursement for telehealth services cannot be impacted by the geographical location of the client. Telemedicine is the delivery of health care services to patients in remote sites by using electronic information and telecommunications technology to connect providers to patients who need them. It is particularly important to people in rural communities who may have to drive long distances to receive healthcare services. The proposal builds on major legislation passed last year to protect Tennesseans’ access to cost-effective healthcare by ensuring that telehealth services are readily available and consistently safe.