Capitol Hill Week
Posted By Kim Swindell Wood | April 10, 2017 7:02 am
Last Updated: April 10, 2017 at 7:03 am
NASHVILLE, (April 7, 2017) — General Assembly committees worked at full steam this week as two more of the Senate’s standing committees, the Education and Commerce and Labor Committees, completed their work for the 2017 legislative session. The General Assembly is looking at wrapping up the session by the second week of May.
Among bills advancing this week is legislation to ensure that agricultural property is not reclassified as commercial for the purpose of property tax assessment. Article 2, Section 28 of the Tennessee Constitution requires farm property to be assessed at 25 percent of its value. The legislation comes after reports of agricultural properties being reclassified as commercial real property, which is assessed at 40 percent of its value.
Senate Bill 904 ensures that both the letter and spirit of Tennessee law and the State Constitution are followed to protect farmers from inequitable taxation.
The State Senate approved a bill that I am sponsoring this week which expands Tennessee’s Castle Doctrine to include boats. The Castle Doctrine is a legal doctrine that designates a person’s home as a place in which that person has protections and immunities, permitting him or her, in certain circumstances, to use force to protect themselves.
Tennessee has already expanded the Castle Doctrine to a person’s occupied vehicle. Senate Bill 1339 simply expands the Castle Doctrine to a person’s boat.
In the Judiciary Committee, a proposal advanced making it illegal for a prison inmate to possess a cell phone during their incarceration. Senate Bill 432 creates a new class E felony offense for knowingly possessing an unauthorized telecommunications device while present in any Tennessee penal institution.
Current law prohibits anyone from bringing in a device of this nature, but there are no laws in place that make possession of them illegal. The bill also applies to use of the device to coerce a witness or juror and when it involves escape from a penal institution.
There were 1,536 incidents with cell phones in state prisons last year alone.
The devices are typically used by inmates to plan other crimes, participate in gang activities, harass victims and witnesses, or to plan escapes. This legislation expands the authority of the prison facility to do something about it, not only for the safety of the correctional officers, but also for the citizens they have contact with outside of those prison walls.
Several bills advanced in the State Senate this week that aid Tennessee teachers, including legislation that defines a list of rights and protections. Senate Bill 14 gives educators the right to:
- Be treated with civility and respect;
- Have his or her professional judgment and discretion respected;
- Report any errant, offensive, or abusive content or behavior of students to school officials or appropriate agencies;
- Provide students with a classroom and school in which the educators, students, the property of the educator and students, and peers will be safe;
- Defend themselves and their students from physical violence or physical harm;
- Share information regarding a student’s educational experience, health, or safety with the student’s parent or legal guardian unless otherwise prohibited by state law or the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA);
- Review all instructional material or curriculum prior to those materials being utilized for instruction of students; and,
- Not be required to use their personal money to appropriately equip a classroom.
Under the bill, the term “educator” applies to any teacher, principal, supervisor, or other individual required by law to hold a valid license of qualification for employment in the public schools of this state. Our teachers are so important to us and I am pleased this bill is advancing.
Committee members also approved Senate Bill 401 which requires all Basic Education Plan (BEP) funds set aside for classroom supplies be allocated directly to teachers. Presently, $200 is allocated for teacher supplies, with half going directly to the teacher and the other half to a committee which pools resources. This proposal calls for the entire amount to go to the teacher.
Similarly, legislation advanced to provide first-year teachers $500 for instructional supplies. Senate Bill 859 aims to help new teachers who do not have a stockpile of instructional supplies get started.
Please call me when I can help you or to weigh in on the issues before our General Assembly. My email address is email@example.com and my phone number is (615) 741-3978 and my address is 2 Legislative Plaza, Nashville, TN 37219.