House lawmakers gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that sets new disclosure rules for the Department of Children's Services.
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee unanimously approved House Bill 1505
on a voice vote Wednesday afternoon after members raised no objections to the measure. The bill lays out the disclosures DCS must make when a child dies or comes close to death, and it says a full report must be made once an investigation is concluded.
State Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, said he consulted the department in drafting the bill. He told the subcommittee that the measure "codifies and memorializes" current practices at DCS, which has begun posting records on fatal and near-fatal cases following a court battle led by The Tennessean.
But the bill sets minimum standards for disclosure short of the reports currently released by the department. DeBerry said he would consider future changes to the measure.
"The main goal I had this year was to put into law some of the rules that he (DCS Commissioner Jim Henry) had already made," DeBerry said.
A spokesman for DCS says department officials did not request the bill and have taken a neutral position on the measure.
Subcommittee members did not question the measure, though DeBerry voluntarily amended the bill before Wednesday's vote to address one concern that has been raised. The amendment added a provision requiring the same disclosures in near-fatal incidents as are required in fatal incidents.
The bill now heads to the full House Civil Justice Committee for debate.