Cleveland and Bradley County residents, and anyone in our community’s perimeter who followed the work of the 108th General Assembly of the Tennessee Legislature, are fully or partially aware of much of the work we completed over the latest session.
To say we tackled a wide variety of issues would be a huge understatement. From taxation to annexation to government reduction to many components of education and to a myriad of public safety and law enforcement issues, our state lawmakers worked hard to make possible what you sent us to Nashville to do.
We believe we accomplished many of your goals.
I’ll talk about a few more of them in this installment in our series for the Cleveland Daily Banner.
legislation to better
protect student athletes
Legislation designed to protect student athletes who suffer concussions from risking further medical complications passed the House this year with full support from Republican lawmakers.
As passed, House Bill 867 ensures guidelines are in place to help coaches, youth athletic instructors and parents recognize a concussion and its symptoms in order to keep an injured player from risking their health by returning to competition too soon.
In addition, the legislation requires that schools and organization develop a policy of removing youth from sports activity who show signs of concussion until they receive a medical evaluation from a licensed doctor stating they are clear to return to play.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that from 2001 to 2009, concussions among youth increased 60 percent, leading the CDC to label concussion frequency as reaching “epidemic” proportions.
trafficking in Tennessee
Republican lawmakers joined law enforcement officials from across the state this year to address the issue of human trafficking in Tennessee.
In 2010, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conducted a study regarding human sex trafficking in the state. The results of the study found trafficking and sex slavery in Tennessee is more common than previously known. The report cited that one in four children who run away from home are approached for commercial sexual exploitation within 48 hours of running away. In addition, the average age of a sex trafficking victim is 13, according to the study.
Building on the success Republicans had during the 2011-12 legislative session to cut down on crimes such as this across the state, GOP lawmakers introduced a crime prevention package this year to address issues related to crimes against children, criminal gang offenses and human organ trafficking.
In total, 15 bills were filed, including:
n House Bill 520, which changes the offense of promoting prostitution of a minor from a Class E felony to a Class A felony, a move which will greatly increase the punishment for such crimes;
n House Bill 131, which increases penalties for gang members who commit trafficking for commercial sex acts; and
n House Bill 357, which adds to the law books a new offense for the trafficking of human organs.
By working together with various anti-trafficking groups in the state, lawmakers hope they will be able to shine a spotlight on the disturbing crime trend of sex slavery and human trafficking in Tennessee.
In a unanimous vote of the House and Senate, landmark legislation that will strengthen Tennessee’s DUI laws was passed by the Tennessee Legislature this year and was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam.
As adopted, House Bill 353 requires that interlock devices be installed in the vehicles of all drunk drivers convicted with a blood alcohol rate of .08 percent or higher. Interlock devices are small pieces of equipment attached to the steering wheel of a car with a tube that the driver must breathe into in order to allow the ignition to start.
These devices are critical to eliminating drunk driving, as 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license.
The legislation is backed by numerous local and nationwide safety agencies, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, AAA, the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association, the National Transportation Safety Board, Direct General Corporation, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the Tennessee Association of Police Chiefs.
Now that the bill has passed, Tennessee becomes the 18th state to enact interlock requirements for all convicted drunk drivers. Studies by the CDC show requiring interlock devices for convicted drunk drivers is effective in reducing drunk driving recidivism by 67 percent.