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Annie's Bill Blog: What we're watching in the state legislature in 2018

Lawmakers are in session in the state capitol, and we're keeping up with the bills that could have the greatest impact in East Tennessee.

The 110th General Assembly is in session. This year, lawmakers are expected to tackle a wide range of issues - from medical marijuana to education reform.

We're helping you keep track of the bills that could have the biggest impact on East Tennessee. I've linked to each bill's page on the General Assembly's website, so you can keep track of the ones you're interested in or contact your lawmakers about the proposals. You can find your lawmaker by clicking here and filling out your street address.

MORE: 5 issues to watch as Tennessee lawmakers get back to work

This isn't a comprehensive list of every single bill, just a selection of the proposals we're tracking. If you've heard of something that's not on our list or want us to keep up with something that matters to you, let us know. You can email acarr@wbir.com and tell me what you want to see. Check back for regular updates.


Governor Haslam also released his legislative agenda for the year on Feb. 1. Here's what's on his list:

  • HB2114/SB2259 - the Complete College Tennessee Act - restructures the financial aid conditions for Tennessee Promise and HOPE scholarships to require students take at least 30 credit hours in 12 months
  • HB2271/SB2261 - the Juvenile Justice Reform Act - restructures the state's juvenile justice reform system, based on recommendations from a task force on juvenile justice
  • HB2115/SB2260 - the UT FOCUS Act - changes the size of UT's Board of Trustees from 27 to 11 members
  • HB1831/SB2258 - part of TN Together - limits the supply and doage of opioid prescriptions for new patients
  • HB1832/SB2258 - part of TN Together - creates incentives for offenders to complete treatment programs while in jail

Introduced Feb. 1 - the bill filing deadline.

  • HB2315 - prohibits the state and local governments from adopting sanctuary policies
  • HB2320 - allows home schooled students to participate in extracurricular activities at the school they are zoned for - introduced by Rep. John Mark Windle (D) Livingston
  • HB1493/SB2206 - requires the emergency communications board to create a statewide emergency text message system to help and respond to children during an emergency - introduced by Sen. Art Swann (R) Maryville and Rep. Dale Carr (R) Sevierville
  • HB2368 - requires every school to display the national motto - "In God We Trust" - in a prominent location
  • HB2377 - designates Knight Muzzleloader as the official state muzzleloader - introduced by Rep. Jerry Sexton (R) Bean Station
  • HB2380 - creates a credit against sales taxes for a cell phone provider that builds towers in underserved areas - introduced by Rep. Jerry Sexton (R) Bean Station
  • HB2381 - requires the state Capitol Commission to develop a monument to unborn children funded by non-state sources and placed on the capitol grounds - introduced by Rep. Jerry Sexton (R) Bean Station
  • HB2383 - requires schools to count a student present when visiting prospective colleges
  • HB2391 - adds an "advisory question" to the November 2018 election ballot asking "Should the Tennessee Legislature approve the use of medical marijuana?" - an advisory question in non-binding. It would just give the legislature a sense of how Tennessee voters feel about medical marijuana
  • HB2446 - creates a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days for any person convicted of simple possession or casual exchange of heroin
  • HB2457 - allows a voter to use a state-, federal-, or college-issued photo ID to vote
  • HJR0732 - creates a special joint committee to look at the state's long-term transportation needs and funding
  • HB2459 - requires doctors prescribing opioids to women of "child-bearing age" to provide information about the risks of the drugs and options for birth control
  • HB2467 - reduces the sales tax on food by 1 percent every year until it is eliminated by 2021
  • SB2328 - prevents all public and private employers in the state from requiring an employee to sign a non-disclosure agreement related to sexual harassment as a condition of employment
  • SB2335 - allows people to carry guns in areas of airports that are accessible to the public
  • SB2359 - allows a county health department to operate a needle and syringe exchange program
  • SB2441 - requires TDOT to have a law enforcement officer in all work zones - introduced by Sen. Richard Briggs (R) Knoxville
  • SB2444 - creates a sales tax of ten cents per opioid pill. That tax would be allocated toward drug education, prevention and treatment
  • SB2114 - prohibits any person or government entity, including a utility district, from - rounding up a customer's bill without asking for written permission to do so - introduced by Sen. Frank Niceley (R) Strawberry Plains
  • HB2517 - allows Sunday wine sales, and uses tax collected from Sunday sales for a pre-K scholarship fund for low-income students
  • HJR0741 - expresses support for President Trump's plan to build a border wall and urges Congress to immediately take action on it
  • HB2250 - requires the state board of education to create academic standards for an elective gun education class for high school students
  • HB2252 - creates a Class E felony, punishable by a fine, when a member of a local government votes to approve any ordinance or resolution that conflicts with state or federal law related to immigration or historical memorials
  • HB2559 - requires students enrolled in state colleges or universities to pass a U.S. civics test in order to get an associate or bachelor's degree
  • HB2579 - allows local chief law enforcement officers to enter into an understanding with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about the enforcement of immigration laws, detention and removal in local jurisdictions - introduced by Rep. John Ragan (R) Oak Ridge
  • SB2557 - provides a $100 per month raise on July 1 every odd-numbered year to all public employees
  • HB2610 - bans a law enforcement officer from removing a person from an airplane if that person has a valid ticket and doesn't pose a threat to the plane's safety
  • SB2589 - limits the number of state-mandated assessments, converts ACT scores into a letter grade for the purpose of calculating some course grades
  • HB2656 - requires school districts to survey its students about the availability of internet access in their homes within one month of the start of each school year
  • SB2635 - makes aggressive driving a criminal offense
  • HJR0744 - proposes an amendment to the state constitution to clarify that Tennessee citizens have a right to bear and keep arms

These are just a few of the 913 bills lawmakers filed today. 385 in the House, and 528 in the Senate.

Introduced Jan. 31

  • HB2131 - withholds state funds from a local government if it sells, removes or destroys a historical memorial after the state historical commission denies the local government's request - this would directly impact Memphis, which removed two statues of Confederate leaders in December 2017
  • HB2147 - allows the state to slightly increase the grant given to a film company, if the company spends at least 25 percent of its days filming in an economically-distressed area, tells a Tennessee story or uses Tennessee music
  • HB2171 - changes up what is and isn't tax-free on tax-free weekend. Increases the price limit of tax-free computers from $1,500 to $2,000, exempts school calculators that cost less than $150 from sales tax that weekend, exempts printers and monitors less than $200 - introduced by Rep. Roger Kane (R) Knoxville
  • HB2173 - requires pharmacies to distribute certain drugs in a lockable container - introduced by Rep. Tilman Goins (R) Morristown
  • HB2174 - requires the state department of education to make a Bible course curriculum available on its website that a school district may adopt if its leaders want to
  • HB2183 - exempts gun safes from sales tax
  • HB2211 - makes it illegal to talk on a hand-held phone while driving on any road
  • HB2251 - establishes that it is the policy of the state to avoid using state funds to support elective abortions, seeks a waiver from the federal government to exclude medical providers who may use state funds to support abortion from TennCare - introduced by Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R) Lenoir City
  • SB2005 - creates criminal offenses for fraudulently marketing drug or alcohol treatment services
  • SB2025 - authorizes pharmacists to partially fill opioid prescriptions
  • SB2086 - makes not reporting a stolen gun within five days a Class A misdemeanor
  • SB2185 - requires insurance plans to provide coverage for birth control and prevents exemptions for some religious employers
  • HJR0723 - encourages colleges and universities to work on lowering the costs of textbooks - introduced by Rep. Jimmy Matlock (R) Lenoir City
  • And my personal favorite: HB2218 - makes the fourth Saturday of July "Tennessee Day of the Cowboy"

Introduced Jan. 30

  • HB2042 - bans fraternities and sororities at any public college or university
  • HB2115 - re-establishes UT's Board of Trustees to consist of 10 voting members

Introduced Jan. 29

  • HB1948 - allows the manufacturing of liquor and other alcoholic drinks in Lenoir City
  • HB1964 - creates the "Opioid Abuse Treatment and Prevention Act" - this is the Democrats' answer to Governor Haslam's opioid plan, announced last week
  • HB1982 - adds gender identity to the list of characteristics that can constitute a hate crime
  • HB2004 - creates an opioid abuse hotline operated by the state Department of Health
  • SB1911 - bans a city or county from creating any rule or law that stops a property owner from displaying the U.S. flag or any military flag on his or her property - introduced by Sen. Frank Niceley (R) Strawberry Plains
  • SB1914 - creates "free-use areas" within state parks, where people can get dead wood or trees for their personal use - introduced by Sen. Frank Niceley (R) Strawberry Plains

Introduced Jan. 25

  • HB1892 - prohibits abortions after the point that a fetal heartbeat is detected - this one is back from last year. Rep. Micah VanHuss from the Tri-Cities and Sen. Mae Beavers introduced the controversial plan last year, but it never made it out of committee
  • HB1932 - allows local governments to regulate the use of tobacco in hotels, parks, age-restricted venues and private clubs - introduced by Rep. Bob Ramsey (R) Maryville
  • HB1936/DB1975 - requires a person convicted of second degree murder by distributing Schedule I or II drugs to a minor be sentenced as a "Range II" offender. That's anywhere from 2 to 40 years, depending on the charge. - introduced by Rep. Jason Zachary (R) Knoxville and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R) Knoxville
  • HJR683 - urges the placement of a new statue of Davy Crockett be built on the grounds of the State Capitol on top of Motlow Tunnel

Introduced Jan. 24

  • HB1846 - requires schools to notify parents if a school's drinking water is unsafe
  • HB1851 - prevents a city from charging someone with discharging a gun if the person acted in self-defense
  • HB1859 - allows people to renew registration plates every 2 years instead of every year - introduced by Roger Kane (R) Knoxville
  • HB1878/SB1857 - allows public entities to remove, rename or alter a memorial in certain circumstances
  • HB1881/SB1849 - makes Daylight Saving Time the standard time in Tennessee - Rep. Rick Tillis first introduced this plan as HB1518. That bill would have gotten rid of DST in Tennessee. After 10News interviewed Tillis about the bill, he told us the text of the bill was wrong. He withdrew that plan, then filed this one.
  • SB1835 - requires that only 30%, instead of 70%, of the questions on state tests in third grade through high school be fresh, non-redundant questions that did not appear on tests for the last two years, instead of four years for grades 3-8 and three years for high school tests - introduced by Rep. Steve Southerland (R) Morristown
  • HJR656 - honors Phillip Fulmer in his position as UT athletics director - introduced by Rep. Jason Zachary (R) Knoxville

Introduced Jan. 23

  • HB1753 - bans colleges from requiring students to purchase a meal plan - introduced by Rep. Tilman Goins (R) Morristown
  • HB1755/SB1756 - enacts the Tennessee Internet Consumer Protection and Neutrality Act, bans internet service providers in the state of Tennessee from blocking internet signal for people who do not pay a fee - this appears to be Tennessee Democrats' answer to the national net neutrality controversy
  • HB1774 - creates a regional drug court treatment pilot program for juvenile defendants - introduced by Eddie Smith (R) Knoxville
  • HB1777/SB1767 - creates a program that automatically registers people to vote when they apply for a drivers license, photo ID or handgun carry permit
  • HB1785/SB1790 - requires both applicants to be 18 before a county clerk can issue a marriage license
  • HB1801 - only allows the children of state employees and public school teachers to use the 25% tuition discount at state colleges if they have first earned an associate degree using the Tennesee Promise scholarship, Community College Reconnect grant or Tennessee Reconnect grant - introduced by Roger Kane (R) Knoxville
  • HB1802 - allows first responders to get a 25% tuition discount at a state college if he or she has first earned an associate degree using the Tennessee Promise scholarship, Community College Reconnect grant or Tennessee Reconnect grant - introduced by Roger Kane (R) Knoxville

Introduced Jan. 22

  • HB1722/SB1717 - creates harsher punishment for the organizers or managers of organized retail crime (stealing items and returning them for gift cards, then selling those gift cards for money) - introduced by Sen. Richard Briggs (R) Knoxville and Rep. Jason Zachary (R) Knoxville - Knox County deputies have told us they believe organized retail crime is tied to the opioid epidemic. Briggs and Zachary passed a similar bill last year
  • SB1710 - establishes a medical marijuana commission to regulate cannabis-realted health care, called the "Medical Cannabis Act." It only allows people with certain conditions to use "capsules, pills, transdermal patches, ointments, lotions,

    lozenges, tinctures, oils, and liquids," not the kind of marijuana that patients could smoke - This bill was introduced by a Middle Tennessee lawmaker but Rep. Jeremy Faison from Cosby has been extensively involved in the legislation. He said medical marijuana would be a "top 5" issue in the legislature this year.

MORE: Gubernatorial candidates weigh in on medical marijuana

Introduced Jan. 18

  • HB1690 - clarifies that state rules that permit schools to impose sanctions against students owing a school debt do not authorize sanctions against students owing a meal debt
  • SB1689 - applies the offense of animal cruelty to restraining a dog when a disaster is imminent or happening
  • SB1699 - requires local boards of education to put a non-voting high school student liaison on the board
  • SB1679 - prevents local utility boards from installing a smart utility meter without a property owner's written consent, discontinuing service for a person who chooses not to use a smart meter or charging a customer any fee for not using a smart meter - Smart meters created a little bit of controversy in Knoxville during the summer of 2016. This article explains a little bit more about what they do.
  • HB1609 - bans end of course tests for grades 9-12, established ACT as only test required for graduation
  • SB1661 - increases the penalty for criminal offenses involving fentanyl, carfentanil or fentanyl analogues to a Class B felony for amounts between .1 and 10 grams and to a Class A felony for more than 10 grams - The TBI says fentanyl is the most dangerous drug they deal with on a regular basis

Introduced Jan. 17

  • HB1580 - Makes hazing a Class C misdemeanor - especially interesting in light of recent hazing deaths at Florida State, Penn State and LSU.
  • HB1590 - Allows felons to reapply for the right vote if paying court costs, restitution or overdue child support

Introduced Jan. 16

  • HB1569 - allows school districts to expand the size of CTE classes - introduced by Rep. Harry Brooks (R) Knoxville
  • SB1623 - bans using a test for the state's required 11th grade assessment if some kind of issue happened with the test that resulted in students not receiving their scores
  • SB1633 - creates a defense for marijuana possession, if possessed for treating certain medical conditions
  • SB1636 - increases the smoking and vaping age from 18 to 19 - introduced by Sen. Richard Briggs (R) Knoxville - Briggs told us he thinks it is "absolutely a misconception" that vaping is safe
  • SB1638 - bans a court from accepting a plea agreement conditioned on the defendant being sterilized - You might remember the story that inspired this one
  • HJR600 - urges the FDA to make Naloxone an over-the-counter medication - introduced by Bill Dunn (R) Knoxville

Introduced Jan. 11

  • HB1556 - allows a person to register and vote on election day
  • SB1574 - creates a Domestic Abuse Registry managed by the TBI
  • SB1590 - prohibits an employer from using an employee's tips against its minimum wage obligations to that employee

Introduced Jan. 10

  • HB1518 - according to the text of this bill, it exempts the state from observing Daylight Saving Time, but its sponsor says the bill would actually put Tennessee in Daylight Saving Time 365 days a year.
  • HB1519 - requires the coordinator of elections to hire a cybersecurity firm to study the state's voter data system and detail the state's risk of vote hacking
  • HB1533 - requires Tennessee Board of Regents schools and UT to accept sign language as a foreign language - introduced by Rep. Roger Kane (R) Knoxville and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R) Knoxville - Lawmakers passed the high school version of this bill last year.
  • HB1540 - allows package stores to sell any alcohol and grocery stores to sell wine during the time that beer is sold now
  • SB1498 - requires TNReady to be administered without problems for one year before its used in teacher evaluations - introduced by Steve Southerland (R) Morristown - TNReady has a long history of problems. You can read a little about its past issues here.
  • SB1505 - increases the penalty for aggravated assault or homicide when a person shoots a gun from inside a car and hurts or kills a minor - introduced by Sen. Richard Briggs (R) Knoxville and Rep. Rick Stapes (D) Knoxville - This is also known as the Jajuan Latham Act. Latham was 12 years old when he was killed in what police call a gang-related drive by shooting.

Introduced Jan 9.

  • HB1460 - allows local education agencies to establish recovery high schools - introduced by Eddie Smith (R) Knoxville - Rep. Smith told us these schools could help teens who are addicted to drugs turn their lives around.
  • HB1461 - bans bump stocks - A West Tennessee lawmaker introduced the bill after the Las Vegas shooting.
  • HB1466 - moves the controversial Nathan Bedford Forrest statue currently in the statehouse to the Tennessee State Museum - The bust has been on display since 1978, but the controversy arose after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017.
  • HB1469 - allows wine sales on certain holidays: MLK Day, Washington Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Good Friday
  • HB1479 - allows general sessions and criminal court judges to suspend court costs and litigation tax for indigent defendants. It also allows the court clerk to implement a community service program instead of full payment of court costs - introduced by Bill Dunn (R) Knoxville - This isn't the first time lawmakers have tried to tackle this.
  • HB1488 - expands the attorney general's duty to represent a school system or its employees in a court because of the adoption of a "bathroom bill" policy
  • HB1489 - bans kids under the age of 18 from using a tanning bed
  • HB1494 - allows a county mayor to evacuate the county during a local state of emergency - introduced by Dale Carr (R) Sevierville - Carr told us he hopes this would help anyone in the state who deals with a disaster like the Sevier County wildfires in November 2016

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