4/27/2019: In Brief…

Senator Bill Powers Takes Oath of Office – Newly-elected State Senator Bill Powers (R-Clarksville) took the oath of office this week, beginning his tenure representing Tennessee’s 22nd Senate District.  The oath was administered by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins in the office of Governor Bill Lee on Thursday.  Powers won a decisive victory on Tuesday for the Senate seat previously held by U.S. Congressman Mark Green. 

Opioids / Reducing Deaths Due to Overdose – The Senate approved legislation this week intended to gather more knowledge and awareness regarding the potential benefits of co-prescribing naloxone to patients at risk for overdose. Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, is a lifesaving medication that can stop or reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.  Senate Bill 1384 requires the state’s Commissioner of Health, in collaboration with the Chronic Pain Guidelines Committee, to study and determine under what circumstances co-prescribing naloxone with an opioid are beneficial to patients at risk for overdose. The commissioner would then publish the results by January 2020 to each prescribing board that licenses healthcare professionals. The results could aid legislators in crafting future legislation.

Scooters – Legislation regulating the operation of motorized scooters passed the full Senate this week as the number of them continues to rise in cities across the state. Senate Bill 1107 defines electric scooters and regulates them in the same manner as bicycles.  These regulations provide that persons operating a scooter must be of legal age to operate a motor vehicle; and operators must comply with the rules of the road, must ride close to the right-hand curb when on a roadway, and must use a front-lamp when driving in the dark. The legislation also states that scooters may be parked on a sidewalk if it does not impede the normal or reasonable movement of pedestrians or other traffic. This bill does nothing to inhibit or preempt local regulation regarding scooters or shared scooter services. The bill now waits to receive final approval from the House before going to the Governor for his signature.

Tax Revenues Show Healthy Growth – Tennessee tax revenues exceeded budgeted estimates in March according to the latest reports from the Department of Finance and Administration.  Overall March revenues totaled $1.1 billion, which is $52.8 million more than the state received in March of 2018 and $28.6 million more than the budgeted estimate for the month.  Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter said, “The state’s year-to-date tax revenue growth indicates a promising finish to the 2018-2019 fiscal year.  However, a fourth of the state’s volatile corporate tax revenue collections typically occur within the next month. Therefore, we will continue to monitor our monthly tax receipts closely.”  On an accrual basis, March is the eighth month in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.  Year-to-date revenues, August through March, are $251.5 million more than the budgeted estimate. The growth rate for eight months is 4.1 percent. General fund revenues are $224.3 million more than the budgeted estimate and the four other funds are $27.2 million more than estimated.

Election Integrity – The Senate gave final approval to legislation which addresses those who intentionally, knowingly turn in fraudulent or incomplete voter registration forms.  It aims to preserve the integrity of Tennessee’s election process, while encouraging voter registration and the work of well-intended voter activist groups. The proposal comes after election officials in Davidson and Shelby counties experienced a last-minute surge in voter registration applications with faulty or grossly incomplete information.  Senate Bill 971 would enhance election security by (1) requiring a person or organization conducting a supplemental voter registration drive of 100 people or more to be trained to properly complete applications and protect confidential information; (2) prohibiting organizations from paying individuals based on the number of voter registration forms submitted; (3) requiring applications collected by designated people or organizations to be filed in a timely manner, within ten days of receiving the voter registration; and (4) permitting the State Election Commission to assess a civil penalty to organizations paid to conduct voter registration that submit 100 or more deficient forms, excluding omission of Social Security numbers.  This provision does not affect unpaid volunteers or organizations which use only unpaid volunteers to conduct voter registration such as the League of Women Voters, Boy Scouts, churches, and college Student Government Associations.  Tennessee voters may register to vote or change their information on their computer, tablet or mobile device at https://govotetn.com/.

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