By Jim Tracy, State Senator
Monday kicked off “Sunshine Week” which is a time to emphasize the importance of transparency within the government in the United States.
To stress the importance of an open government, the Senate passed Senate Bill 461 in Thursday Session. This bill would require newspapers that publish government public notices to post the notices on the Internet as well. This must be done on the newspaper’s website with a link to the Tennessee Press Association’s statewide repository website. These notices include anything from government meeting announcements to foreclosures. The idea behind this bill is to make this information more easily available to the citizens of Tennessee.
After much debate, the Senate also passed Senate Bill 125 which would help to prevent voter identity fraud in Tennessee. This bill lays out specific language as to what may be used as photo identification when voting in elections. Library cards as well as out-of-state identification would no longer be a valid form of identification. However, college identification cards would be accepted.
Senate Bill 157 was also approved by the Senate on Thursday. This bill would hold Tennessee virtual schools to a new accountability. Not only would the bill cap the number of students that the schools are permitted to have to 1,500 students, but it would also turn over schools that do not meet the state’s expectations for two consecutive years to the Commissioner of Education who may then close the school or outline new requirements to be met by the school.
In Monday Session, we approved Senate Joint Resolution 132 which urges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow Tennesseans to continue to permit boat access to fishermen above and below 10 of the state’s dams. We also approved Senate Bill 979, a bill that would require hospitals to provide patients with information about the flu as well as the vaccines that are available to prevent it.
There was a lot of discussion in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee this week about workers’ compensation reform. Senate Bill 200 strives to find the perfect medium to improve circumstances for both employees and employers. The bill is also meant to transfer the majority of workers’ compensation claims from the Tennessee trial courts to the new Court of Workers’ Compensation. This bill is intended to simplify the process and get employees back to work quicker while protecting employers from covering non work-related injuries. We also hope to entice more companies to do business in Tennessee by promoting a more inviting system. We also approved Senate Bill 432 which protects Tennesseans who are injured while working out-of-state under the state’s workers’ compensation.
This week the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee approved Senate Bill 847 which increases the fine for an individual who is not wearing their seatbelt in a vehicle from $10 to $50 on the first offense and from $20 to $75 on the second offense. The intent of this bill is to stress the importance of wearing a seatbelt. We also approved Senate Bill 548 which would allow motorcyclists, who are at least 25 years of age and have had a motorcycle license for a minimum of two years, to ride without wearing a helmet as long as they have a specific insurance policy that would cover injuries in the case of an accident. This Wednesday, March 20th, will be our last Transportation and Safety Committee Meeting.
Please let me know what you think! Feel free to stop by my office, call 615-741-1066, or email Tracyfortn@gmail.com anytime! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @jimtracy for news and updates.