BY DAVID FISHER
NASHVILLE (December 29) — During 2021, state representatives and state senators participating in the 112th Tennessee General Assembly, passed dozens of new Tennessee laws that go into effect in the Volunteer State on January 1, 2022.
The new laws impact many areas of state and local government. Some of the new laws include: election security safeguards; student discipline; compensating college athletes for their name, image and likeness; victims’ rights; elder abuse / conservators; professions and occupations; reducing recidivism; Inmate Reentry Success Act of 2021; correctional officers pensions and retirement benefits; Workers Compensation; chiropractic services added to TennCare; mail order wine; dual enrollment grants; redistricting; COVID Omnibus Bill; state of emergency length; special session appropriations bill; treasurer bill on banking collateral; motor vehicles; titling and registration; hardship driver licenses; new license plate design picked by Tennesseans; anti-domestic violence training for licensed Tennessee beauty professionals; partisan school boards; maximum effective rate of interest on home loans; homestead exemptions; and gaming.
The following bills were signed into law by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and go into effect on January 1, 2022:
Senate Bill 1315: Enacts the “Tennessee Election Integrity Act,” which requires that absentee ballots, other than ballots authorized by state or federal law to be delivered electronically to qualified voters who are entitled to vote by absentee ballot, include a watermark approved by the coordinator of elections; requires a counting board official to verify that the absentee ballots contain the watermark and reject any ballot that does not bear the watermark.
House Bill 1178: Prohibits the coordinator of elections from approving convenient voting centers for any county election commission that has not used at least one early satellite voting location throughout an early voting period in the most recent regular November election, Extends authorization for counties that have an approved convenience voting pilot project plan to establish convenient voting centers within the county for federal, state, and local elections held in 2022. Present law only provided such authorization through 2020.
Student Discipline Act
House Bill 0016: Establishes a process for local school districts to enable a teacher to remove a student who causes repeated disruptions. Once the disruptive student is disciplined, principals can use their discretion to send them back into the classroom or permanently remove the child.
Name, Image and Likeness Bill
House Bill 1351: Authorizes an intercollegiate athlete at a four-year public or private institution of higher education located in this state, other than an institution of higher education governed by the board of regents of the state university and community college system, to earn compensation for the use of the athlete’s name, image, or likeness under certain conditions.
Tennessee became the 15th state to pass a bill allowing college athletes to earn money for the use of their name, image and likeness.
Tennessee is the latest state to sign a name, image and likeness (NIL) bill into law, as many are in the south.
Some states are moving ahead of the NCAA, which has been considering changes to its NIL rules. It’s a move that would fundamentally alter a system of amateurism that prevents athletes from participating in endorsement deals, monetizing their social-media followings or getting paid for signing autographs amid an enterprise that generates billions of dollars for their schools.
Tennessee’s bill would affect college athletes in men’s and women’s sports, but especially high profile teams. There are four Division I FBS college football teams in the state — University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University, University of Memphis and Middle Tennessee State University.
The bill also says that an institution cannot adopt rules that prevent or unduly restrict athletes from earning compensation for the use of their name, image or likeness.
However, the institution can prohibit certain uses of an athlete’s name, image or likeness if it reasonably considers there to be a conflict with the values of the institution. For example, an athlete cannot promote gambling, tobacco, alcohol, and adult entertainment.
House Bill 0870: Outlines an order of priority for funds paid into court for any criminal case with priority to ensure the victim of a crime is paid restitution first. The measure also extends the amount of time a victim has to apply for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund from one to two years.
Elder Abuse / Conservators
House Bill 0100: Requires a petition for the appointment of a conservator to include a search of the Department of Health’s registry of persons who have abused, neglected, or misappropriated the property of vulnerable persons. It also requires a search of the National Sex Offender Registry.
Professions and Occupations
House Bill 0188: Allows military veterans who are honorably discharged to be given credit for active duty training and coursework which is applicable towards occupational licensure. It amends a law passed by lawmakers in the 111th General Assembly that allowed high school students and inmates to receive full credit for coursework or training completed toward an occupational licensure, registration or certification.
Reducing Recidivism (Jails, Local Lock-ups)
House Bill 0240 – As enacted, authorizes counties to develop and operate transition centers pursuant to interlocal agreements; authorizes a transition center to partner with a nonprofit organization that provides programming designed to reduce recidivism. The bill authorizes Tennessee’s community colleges and colleges of applied technology to contract and partner with local governments for the purpose of providing educational and workforce development programs to assist with reducing recidivism rates of criminal offenders held in local correctional facilities and improving opportunities for successful reentry upon release from incarceration.
Inmate Reentry Success Act of 2021 (Probation and Parole)
House Bill 0785: The Reentry Success Act of 2021 (Public Chapter 410) provides compensation to Tennessee counties who provide evidence-based programming for inmates housed in county jails. Evidence-based programming is defined as a program shown by scientific research to effectively reduce recidivism rates and increase an offender’s likelihood of success following release from incarceration, including programs focused on education, vocational training, mental health, substance abuse rehabilitation, or building healthy relationships.
The act provides a multi-pronged approach to help improve public safety and facilitate positive outcomes for those leaving incarceration by establishing mandatory supervision so all individuals exiting state custody will have a minimum of one-year supervised reentry integration, waiving the restricted driver license fee, removing the Parole Board’s ability to deny parole to a person who has not attempted to improve their education or vocational skills due to long wait lists for these programs and granting limited employer liability to businesses which in good faith hire a parolee convicted of a non-violent criminal offense.
Correctional Officers Pensions and Retirement Benefits
Senate Bill 1114: As enacted, authorizes a correctional officer of a local government who is a member of the state retirement system to retire under the state retirement system upon completion of 25 years of creditable service; authorizes local governments participating in TCRS to adopt a mandatory age of retirement for correctional officers.
House Bill 0386: As enacted, the new law transfers administration of construction service provider registration from the secretary of state to the bureau of workers’ compensation.
Chiropractic Services Added to TennCare
House Bill 0419: This new law adds chiropractic services performed by a person authorized to engage in the practice of chiropractic to the list of healthcare services that may be included as covered TennCare medical assistance.
Mail Order Wine
House Bill 0742: A new law that allows consumers to have wine shipped to them. It creates a license for wine fulfillment houses with a $300 application fee, $300 annual renewal fee and a $50 annual fee for each additional location and keeps out-of-state vendors from violating Tennessee’s existing state laws by not paying appropriate state taxes.
Dual Enrollment Grants (Scholarships and Financial Aid)
House Bill 0752: Legislation passed by the General Assembly this year increases the number of dual enrollment courses to help high school students earn college credits paid for by the state from two to four. As enacted, the bill clarifies that the dual enrollment program will award the in-state tuition and mandatory fees cost up to a maximum amount for the first four courses taken and make other related changes.
COVID Omnibus Bill
Senate Bill 9014: Passage of the 21-page COVID-19 omnibus bill ensures government entities cannot force private businesses to institute COVID-19 mandates and private businesses cannot take action against unvaccinated employees nor compel an employee or visitor to show proof of vaccination.
The bill specifically prohibits the reduction or denial of unemployment benefits to an eligible claimant that leaves employment for refusing to receive an immunization or vaccination for COVID-19.
Additionally, Lee signed Executive Order 92, which suspends a previous order that gave parents a choice to opt their children out of mask requirements in public schools.
The new order comes alongside the passage of SB 9014, which statutorily prevents government entities and public schools from requiring masks except under severe conditions. Schools would need to go through an intricate process to require masks and only on a school-by-school basis, not district-wide.
A principal would need to request the action, and the state would need to have a health emergency declared along with a rolling 14-day average of 1,000 cases per 100,000 residents. In that case, a school could institute a 14-day mask mandate and would be required to provide children age 12 or older with an N95 mask, along with “age-appropriate” masks for children younger than 12.
State of Emergency Length
House Bill 9075: Limits COVID mandates from 60 to 45 days.
Special Session Appropriations Bill
SB 9007: Makes appropriations relative to the special session. SB 9008 – Allows the attorney general to petition the court and for a court to appoint a pro tem district attorney if they peremptorily and categorically refuse to prosecute all instances of a criminal offense without regard to facts or circumstances.
Treasurer Bill on Banking Collateral
House Bill 9073: This law changes the amount and variety of collateral banks need to have on hand. It authorizes the use of cash as a form of eligible collateral for purposes of the collateral required to be pledged to secure public deposits. Present law requires qualified public depositories to deposit with the state treasurer eligible collateral equal to or in excess of the required collateral of the depository.
Motor Vehicles, Titling and Registration
Senate Bill 0110: Enacts the “2021 Precious Cargo Act,” which establishes procedures for certain citizens with an intellectual or developmental disability or medical conditions to communicate specific needs to law enforcement and first responders.
Hardship Driver Licenses
Senate Bill 0784: As enacted, requires that a Class H or hardship license issued to a minor holding a Class P license or instructional permit expires on the date the Class P license or instructional permit expires.
New License Plate Design Picked by Tennesseans
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee unveiled the state’s next standard license plate chosen by Tennesseans through a statewide vote.
“In our 225th year of statehood, we invited Tennesseans to cast their vote and help select the state’s next license plate,” said Gov. Lee. “I’m proud to announce the winning design that will represent our unique grand divisions and take its place in Tennessee history.”
More than 300,000 Tennessee residents cast a vote, with 42 percent voting for the winning design.
New plates will be available online and in-person beginning January 3, 2022 as residents complete their annual tag renewal. Up to 100,000 plates per week will be produced to meet initial inventory demands.
Per Tennessee statute, the plate is redesigned every eight years if funds are approved in the General Assembly’s annual budget. Statute also requires the display of “Tennessee,” “Volunteer State” and “TNvacation.com” on the plate, as well as county name and expiration year decal locations. Statute provides that Tennesseans may select an “In God We Trust” plate option.
This new license plate design will replace the current plate that launched in 2006 with modifications in 2011, 2016 and 2017.
Anti-Domestic Violence Training for Licensed Tennessee Beauty Professionals
Senate Bill 0216: Starting January 1, 2022, a new law will require licensed Tennessee barbers and/or cosmetologists to complete up to one hour of anti-domestic violence training either in-person or online, at no cost. Licensees have between 2022-2024 to complete the approved training. Licensees are not required to become mandatory domestic violence reporters.
Partisan School Boards Allowed
House Bill 9072 – Senate Bill 9009: A new Tennessee law that allows partisan elections for school board members goes into effect January 1, 2022.
The law allows Tennessee counties to decide if school board elections will be partisan.
The legislation removes prohibition for a person seeking a position on a school board to campaign as the nominee of a political party and authorizes political parties to nominate candidates for school board membership by any method authorized under the rules of the party or by primary election.
The legislation will allow individual county parties to declare whether a race will become partisan. If a party decides to create a partisan race, the affiliations for that party will appear on the ballot. Any party also can decline to include the party on the ballot, whether candidates run as the Republican, Democrat or Independent.
According to State Senator Mike Bell, (R-Riceville), currently 77 counties conduct primary elections and 18 determine candidates by caucus.
Representative Mark Cochran (R-Englewood), who co-sponsored the bill, announced his support for the legislation, saying, “A public official’s political philosophy of government matters. It matters here, it matters at the local school board; it matters on a county commission. That is an absolute universal principle.”
Before it was passed, an amendment was added by the Senate which gives county parties that already have filed petitions 30 days to re-petition to add school board members.
The bill amends Tennessee Code (TCA) Title 49, Chapter 2.
Senate Bill 0588: As enacted, transfers all powers and duties regarding the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act to the sports wagering advisory council.
Senate Bill 0566: As enacted, increases maximum homestead exemption to be $35,000 or $52,500 for certain persons.
Maximum Effective Rate of Interest on Home Loans
Announcement: The Federal National Mortgage Association has discontinued its free market auction system for commitments to purchase conventional home mortgages. Therefore, the Commissioner of Financial Institutions hereby announces that the maximum effective rate of interest per annum for home loans as set by the General Assembly in 1987, Public Chapter 291, for the month of January, 2022 is 5.77 percent per annum.
The rate as set by the said law is an amount equal to four percentage points above the index of market yields of long-term government bonds adjusted to a thirty (30) year maturity by the U. S. Department of the Treasury. For the most recent weekly average statistical data available preceding the date of this announcement, the calculated rate is 1.77 percent.
Persons affected by the maximum effective rate of interest for home loans as set forth in this notice should consult legal counsel as to the effect of the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-221 as amended by P.L. 96-399) and regulations pursuant to that Act promulgated by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. State usury laws as they relate to certain loans made after March 31, 1980, may be preempted by this Act.
Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 5-1-111(a), county legislative bodies are required to redistrict their county by January 1, 2022. In order to complete this task, local officials must be equipped with the knowledge of the relevant legal, technical, and procedural aspects of redistricting.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 12:00 noon (CST) on Tuesday, January 11, 2022.