Several key laws that gained approval by the General Assembly this year will become effective on Monday, July 1 as Tennessee’s new fiscal year begins. This is not a comprehensive list of all bills that become effective on July 1st so if you have questions about additional legislation, please call our office.
Leigh Ann’s Law / Domestic Violence – I sponsored legislation this session called the Leigh Ann Act which aims to help protect victims of domestic violence. The legislation is named for a Hohenwald woman who was murdered 17 years ago in an act of domestic violence by her former boyfriend who violated a no contact order. It creates a Class A misdemeanor for a person who is arrested on domestic violence charges to knowingly violate a no contact order that is issued prior to the defendant’s release on bond. I was grateful to see this legislation passed and I look forward to it taking effect in July.
Domestic Violence Proceedings / Coercion of Victims – The General Assembly approved SB400, which I co-sponsored, this year to strengthen penalties for offenders who try to coerce victims of domestic violence in judicial proceedings. The new law creates a Class A misdemeanor for influencing a witness to give untruthful testimony or evade the process in a domestic violence case. This offense can only occur in a criminal case involving domestic assault.
Often, the greatest obstacle to address domestic violence is keeping the victim and key witnesses involved in judicial proceedings until the case is concluded. The reasons for the failure of victims or witnesses to cooperate are complicated and varied but often involve coercion or improper influence to testify falsely, withhold testimony or elude the legal process. Currently it is a Class D felony to coerce a domestic violence witness by threat, but there is a gap between a threat of violence and influencing a witness by less aggressive but equally damaging means. The new Class A misdemeanor gives law enforcement and prosecutors a tool to prevent calls from jail or contacts made after the release that instructs or encourages the victim to evade court or lie to authorities.
Healthcare Consumers / Truth in Advertising -- Legislation was approved this year to address misleading and unclear “bad drug” and medical device compensation advertisements and the careless handling and selling a person’s private health information. The new law prohibits advertisements which falsely lead viewers to believe a drug or device is no longer FDA approved through means such as using the phrases “medical alert,” “recall,” or “public service announcement,” or by displaying a government agency logo. It also calls for the advertisements to be more transparent by revealing who is sponsoring it, as well as adding a disclosure directing patients to “not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting their doctor.”
In addition, the legislation makes it illegal for third parties to collect, sell, or transfer a person’s protected health information without their knowledge. Penalties for violation of this statute are placed under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, punishable as a misdemeanor charge with up to one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.
Handheld Phones / Driving -- Road safety is the impetus behind SB173 passed this year which prohibits a person from physically holding or supporting a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is lawfully stopped or parked. A person may still talk on the phone while driving but must do so using hands-free devices such as an earpiece, headphone device, wrist device, or connectivity to a vehicle. Those drivers found in violation are subject to a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by fine only, not to exceed $50 for the first and second offense. The violation will result in a $100 fine for a person’s third offense or if the violation results in an accident, while the fine is $200 if it is in a work zone when workers are present or in a marked school zone when warning flashers are on.
A function or feature of the cellphone, such as GPS navigation, may be used if the device is mounted in a manner that does not hinder the view of the road and can be activated or deactivated with the motion or swipe of a finger.
You May Contact Senator Hensley at
425 5th Avenue North, Suite 746
Nashville TN 37243
Toll Free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100
855 Summertown Highway
Hohenwald TN 38462
Cell Phone 931-212-8823