Enactment of 153 new laws in Tennessee began Sunday, July 1, including several key acts sponsored by State Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta).
Among legislation taking effect is a measure that aims to curb the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). It requires physicians who prescribe more than a 5-day supply of opioids to women of child-bearing age to inform the patient about the risks it could have to a newborn, as well as cost-effective and appropriate forms of birth control.
“The number of babies born drug dependent has increased dramatically over the last decade,” Sen. Bailey said. “In addition to the heartbreaking pain and suffering these babies must endure, it is very costly to the State of Tennessee. Knowledge is power and education is critical to our efforts to address this problem.”
It costs approximately $62,000 per baby to treat this condition, with a total cost of $1 billion to Tennessee taxpayers annually.
In other action, Bailey co-sponsored major legislation set enacted as of July 1 to cut off the flow of funds used to purchase opiates. The legislation addresses the use of gift cards obtained through retail theft, which is commonly linked to the purchase of opiates. Nationwide, the loss from retail theft is estimated at $12-15 billion, with almost all being related to the illicit drug trade. Bailey said the new law will have a major impact on the illegal drug market.
The database will let retailers cancel cards as soon as alerted and help the state identify stolen sales tax dollars. It also sends real time notifications to law enforcement about suspicious transactions.
Another bill co-sponsored by Bailey that is set to be enacted requires acute care hospitals to report involuntary commitments in their psychiatric units to law enforcement so they can be a part of the record used in the verification process for the purchase of firearms.
“While Tennessee’s mental health hospitals are required to report commitments to law enforcement, the acute care hospitals do not have such a requirement,” added Bailey. “This new act closes the gap to ensure our existing gun laws are properly enforced.”
Other bills co-sponsored by Bailey that were enacted July 1 include the following: legislation to continue the Ambulance Service Provider Assessment Act so Tennessee can receive additional Medicaid funds for the transport of TennCare patients, a measure which is especially important to the state’s rural communities; and legislation setting aside the week of September 17 as Celebrate Freedom Week to ensure Tennessee students receive instruction on the nation’s founding documents, including the U.S. Constitution in which the signing is commemorated on that date.
Legislation to protect victims of domestic violence also took effect Sunday, July 1 as Tennessee began a new fiscal year. The new law, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), was supported by various victims’ rights groups across the state.
The enactment of the legislation comes as the Violence Policy Center released a new study showing Tennessee ranks 4th in the nation for the rate at which men kill women in domestic-related homicides.
Sen. Kelsey said, “Domestic violence is a serious problem in Tennessee that must be addressed. Under this new law, when a hearing takes place, the victim will not be required to testify against a perpetrator with whom they may have a very close relationship. This can be a very difficult thing for these victims to do.”
The legislation provides two ways to increase victim safety when a court finds there is probable cause to believe an alleged abuser either caused serious bodily injury to a victim of domestic abuse or used or displayed a deadly weapon. It amends Tennessee’s bond conditions statute to require the court or magistrate in these circumstances to impose a 12-hour holding period, provide notification to the victim, and issue a “no contact” order as a condition of bail.
“It gives judges the discretion to make those ‘no contact’ orders part of the conditions for release on bond,” Sen. Kelsey added. “This new law helps protect domestic violence victims from harm and hopefully saves many lives.”