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Safety, opioids combat leads 2018 legislative session

Xavier Smith • Apr 30, 2018 at 4:47 PM

The 2018 Tennessee legislative session concluded last week, and legislators passed bills aimed at school safety, combating opioid abuse, short-term property rentals and more.

School safety

The Parkland, Fla., shooting took place as the legislative session kicked into high gear, which caused many legislators to file and support bills aimed at increasing school safety.

One bill, sponsored by Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, would have allowed certain school employees to carry a concealed gun during school hours.

Wilson County Commissioner Terry Ashe, Tennessee Sheriff’s Association executive director and former Wilson County sheriff, spoke against the measure during the session. Ashe helped start Wilson County’s school resource officer program in 1994.

“I had the political will of a community that was willing to fund it,” said Ashe, who said he believed the preferred measure for school safety should be school resource officers.

Ashe said his opposition to the legislation was due to the liability training agencies such as police departments would have if there’s a “failure to train” incident.

The bill failed, but lawmakers passed a bill that allows off-duty officers to provide security in schools.

In response to the shooting, Gov. Bill Haslam created the Governor’s School Safety Working Group, which reviewed school policies, procedures and process to develop and implement new plans, as well as other school safety measures, including communication and collaboration among law enforcement, educators and mental health professionals.

Opioids

Lawmakers also passed bills aimed at fighting the state’s opioid epidemic. The bills were a part of Haslam’s plan to combat opioid abuse.

The plan focuses on three major components – prevention, treatment and law enforcement – and includes a $30 million investment of state and federal funds.

“There are stricter-now parameters on that initial prescription that prescribers, that doctors and other health-care providers who prescribe these medications must follow,” said Dave Chaney, vice president with the Tennessee Medical Association. “In terms of the initial limits, when it’s written, how it’s filled and the checks and balances they have to do in the controlled-substances database. “

Tennessee Ready

Lawmakers took the final steps in limiting the impact of this year’s Tennessee Ready exam on the last day of the legislative session.

The compromise between the two legislative chambers eased concerns of educators, parents and school administrators after legislators passed a bill in response to the testing issues.

As a part of the bill, school districts can choose to apply 2017-2018 Tennessee Ready assessment data up to 15 percent of a students’ final grade, and will not be allowed to base termination or compensation decisions on the 2017-2018 Tennessee Ready results.

Another bill made it so “no adverse action may be taken” against students, teachers, schools or districts based on this year’s assessment, making the 2018 a hold harmless year for the exam.

This year’s problems follow a series of issues that surrounded the Tennessee Ready exam and its implementation, including last year, which saw more than 9,000 exams scored incorrectly by exam vendor Questar Assessment.

Alcohol sales on Sunday

Wine and spirits sales on Sunday began this month after lawmakers agreed to allow wine and alcohol sales during the same hours allowed for beer sales.

Previously, wine and liquor sales were prohibited from Saturdays at 11 p.m. until Mondays at 8 a.m.

State law now allows liquor sales from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. every Sunday and holiday, excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Liquor stores will be able to sell on Sundays immediately, while grocery stores will be able to sell on Sundays, beginning Jan. 1.

The legislation comes almost two years after wine sales became more widespread in the state. The passage of the wine in grocery stores legislation represented the most comprehensive change in alcoholic beverage law in the state’s history.

Short-term rentals

Lawmakers passed a bill that would prevent municipalities from completely banning short-term rentals in the state.

The bill allows current properties to be grandfathered in if future local municipalities ban them. However, the grandfather clause would no longer apply to the property if there were a change in ownership.

The Wilson County Commission approved an amendment to its zoning regulations in March that effectively treat short-term residential rentals like bed-and-breakfast establishments.

The change would require property owners who rent their properties for short-term use – less than 30 days – to follow similar guidelines as bed-and-breakfast facilities. The change applies to Airbnb, VRBO and other similar rental services.

Wilson County District 18 Commissioner Terry Muncher said he supported the change due to the presence of short-term property rentals in his district. Muncher said he typically gets a call every week about the establishments and could name a list of problems he’s encountered.

“One young couple brought to my attention – and I’d never thought of it. He said, ‘I have a 12-year-old daughter, and weekend to weekend, I never know who is going to be next door.’ That’s scary. I’m a parent, and that scares me,” Muncher said.

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