Monday, February 26, 2024

Tennessee General Assembly Week 5 Recap

Rep. Susan Lynn
From Rep. Susan Lynn, Jan. 23,2023-

House Approves "Duty to Warn Act" to enhance Public Safety

The Tennessee House of Representatives this week approved Republican legislation to increase protections for those targeted by threats of violence. House Bill 1625, also known as the Duty to Warn Act, requires mental health professionals and behavior analysts in Tennessee to inform local law enforcement if a patient makes an imminent threat to harm a specific individual or clearly identified group. Threats that are more general in nature must be reported to either the 988 Lifeline or a local crisis response service.

“This will strengthen duty to warn, provide some clarity and ensure that mental health practitioners do not have to call law enforcement when a patient makes a threat to them,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville.

The legislation includes protections from civil, criminal and disciplinary penalties for mental health professionals and behavior analysts who make reasonable attempts to comply with the law. The companion version of House Bill 1625 is still advancing through the Senate.

Legislation would Expand Newborn Safe Haven Program

A proposal to expand the availability of Safe Haven Baby Boxes for newborns in Tennessee advanced this week in the House. House Bill 2067, introduced by State Rep. Ed Butler, R-Rickman, would require the Department of Children’s Services to issue grants to counties for the installation of newborn safety devices while House Bill 1922 would add assisted living facilities, nursing homes and emergency communications centers to the list of approved locations for the devices.

The legislation will expand “the opportunity for a woman to safely give up her baby, whether it’s at a Safe Haven Baby Box or whether it’s at a safe haven location,” Butler said, adding the intent is to “save babies’ lives.”

Since 2001, Tennessee’s Safe Haven law has allowed mothers in certain cases to surrender their newborn without fear of being prosecuted. The child must be no more than 14 days old, unharmed and left voluntarily.

The General Assembly previously approved legislation in 2022 that expands the state’s safe haven law by allowing for the installation of Safe Haven Baby Boxes at police and fire stations in Tennessee.

House Bill 2067 is scheduled to be heard in the Civil Justice Committee on Feb. 28 while House Bill 1922 is scheduled to be heard in the Health Committee on the same day.

Bill Increasing Support for Victims of Child Sex Trafficking Advances

Legislation that would significantly increase the time victims of child commercial sex trafficking could file a civil lawsuit against their attacker advanced this week in the House.

House Bill 1906, introduced by State Rep. Jake McCalmon, R-Franklin, would allow victims to sue up to 30 years after they turned 18 for any injuries or illnesses that occurred as a result of the sexual abuse. The law currently allows victims to pursue civil action against an alleged perpetrator up to 15 years after they turn 18.

"These horrific events often traumatize victims for the rest of their lives," McCalmon said. "Victims deserve accountability and the opportunity for justice. Tennessee Republicans are committed to ensuring those who viciously prey on the most vulnerable members of society are held responsible for their actions and severely punished."

House Bill 1906 is scheduled to be heard in the House Civil Justice Committee on Feb. 28.

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