The following is a legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver
Greetings! The General Assembly is in full swing and bills are being heard left and right. One such bill, House Bill 2789 was debated at length Tuesday evening in the House Judiciary Committee. This bill, the Juvenile Sexual Offender Registry, would strengthen the state’s sexual offender laws and ensure that we as a state are completely in compliance with the federal government’s Adam Walsh Act. It would require violent juvenile sexual offenders age 14 years or older to register on a sexual offender registry.
An amendment was added to the bill due to concerns raised regarding juveniles who may not reoffend. Currently, juveniles are assessed by mental health professionals after being adjudicated for a violent sexual crime. The Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations agreed to assess the juveniles as “high-risk” and “low-risk,” with only those assessed as “high-risk” being required to register.
In addition, the bill states that a person must stay on the registry for 25 years before applying for removal. However, if the person is convicted of an additional offense, they must stay on the registry for life. These are the minimum requirements that keep the legislation in compliance with the Adam Walsh Act.
The federal government signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act into law in 2006. The state’s fiscal analysts say that Tennessee is eligible to receive over $50 million in grant funding, but that 10 percent of that is in jeopardy unless House Bill 2789 passes. State compliance with the Adam Walsh Act is tied to the grant money.
Thirty-two states have some form of a violent juvenile sexual offender registry. Offenses that would qualify a violent juvenile sexual offender for the registry are: aggravated rape, rape, aggravated sexual battery when coercion is involved, rape of a child with a victim at least four years younger, and aggravated rape of a child or the attempt of any of these.
After four and a half hours of discussion, the bill was deferred for one week. The legislation will be heard again in the Judiciary Committee next week and is expected to be voted on at that time.
House Bill 262 will require the written portion of the driver’s license exam to be administered strictly in English passed out the House Public Safety Subcommittee this week. The legislation was last run in 2007, and the Senate was successful in passing it with an overwhelming 22-5 vote. However, some House members blocked the measure in a House subcommittee, and the bill died on a tie vote.
I believe, along with some of my colleagues, that the law is needed for safety. Drivers who cannot read highway warning signs, traffic signs, hazard signs on other vehicles, or who cannot communicate with police or public safety personnel in the event of a serious accident or emergency are a danger to themselves and others. The bill passed out of the House Public Safety Subcommittee for the first time and will next be heard in the full House Transportation Committee.
House Bill 3221 was approved by the Senate and House Judiciary Committees this week to attack a major source of illegal drug activity in Tennessee. The bill would stiffen penalties against those who get prescriptions in another state and return to illegally distribute drugs in Tennessee.
Action on the bill follows a 96.6 percent increase in drug-related deaths, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Some Tennessee law enforcement officers attribute that increase to the misuse of prescription drugs by those who obtain them legally from out-of-state “pill mills.”
The most common drugs found are: OxyContin, Darvon, and Vicodin. However, drug busts in Tennessee have also included Xanax and Roxicodones. The legislation would increase the penalties for the illegal trafficking of out-of-state drugs from a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a 30-day jail term and up to $50 in fines, to a Class D felony, with 2 to 12 years in prison sentence and up to $5,000 in fines.
As we all know, every ten years the federal government takes the census. The government counts every resident in the United States as required by the Constitution. This data is then used for identifying certain communities to receive funding and to redistrict legislative and congressional seats based on population. Every household in the United States and Puerto Rico will receive a census form that residents are asked to fill out and return. If a household does not return the form, a census worker is then dispatched to the household to gather the needed information.
The Census Bureau recently sent out information regarding the types of questions that will be asked, and warning citizens to be on alert for people posing as census workers. When a census worker visits a home, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag, and a confidentiality notice. Citizens can refuse to take part, but the most important question is simply regarding the number of people who live at the address. The federal government has advised the census forms will be mailed mid-March, and ask that the forms be returned by April 1, 2010.
House Bill 3105 passed out of the House Education Committee this week and would require local boards of education to give preference to a parent’s request in classroom placement of multiple birth siblings.
House Bill 3063 which would prohibit physicians who are on the sexual offender registry from treating children under the age of 18 years old passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this week. It will now be heard in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
House Bill 2768 which would require certain DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device placed on their vehicle moved out of the House Judiciary Committee and will be heard in the House Budget Subcommittee.
The Appalachian Center for Crafts visited us up here at the capitol this week for “Arts Advocacy Day on the Hill”. It is always wonderful to see groups from my district take an active interest in the politics that affects our daily life. As I am a big believer of the arts I was especially happy to speak to these fine folks and discuss the importance art plays in the lives of our children specifically and culture in general. We also discussed plans to bring more art awareness to the capitol by making “Arts Day on the Hill” larger in the future.
In closing, it was a delight having teachers from Northside Elementary, in Dekalb County, attend both full and sub Education Committees. I am truly impressed at the dedication these teachers have demonstrated to educating our children and find myself both grateful and honored to serve them as a Representative. Please feel free to come by my office as well. It is an honor to work for the 40th District.
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver has announced that the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has distributed $5,100 in Arts Build Communities grants and $1,500 in Student Ticket Subsidy grants to DeKalb County institutions to nurture artists and help students experience arts and cultural events.
In partnership with the Tennessee Arts Commission and funded by the Tennessee General Assembly, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee facilitates the Arts Build Communities (ABC) and Student Ticket Subsidy grant programs.
The ABC grant program aims to strengthen communities by funding projects that nurture artists and arts organizations. The following DeKalb County organizations were awarded ABC grants: Friends of the Appalachian Center for Craft of Tennessee to provide seventh-grade students eight intensive, hands-on craft activities at the Craft Center; and the Smithville Fidders’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival to design and produce a promotional packet for the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree.
“This grant program is designed to ensure that Tennessee’s public school students have access to live performances and arts and cultural events, and I think the students of DeKalb County will really enjoy these events,” said Representative Weaver.
The Student Ticket Subsidy grant program is designed to ensure that Tennessee's public school students have access to live performances and arts and cultural events, and reimburses ticket costs for students in 35 counties The Community Foundation serves.
In DeKalb County, 600 students are participating in arts and cultural events with the help of Student Ticket Subsidy grants. The following schools received grants: DeKalb West School has received a Student Ticket Subsidy grant for students to attend Tennessee Theater Company. Smithville Elementary School has received a Student Ticket Subsidy grant for students to attend Arts Center of Cannon County.
The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee oversees more than 720 charitable funds. In the past 18 years, The Community Foundation has distributed $460 million to community programs and institutions. It is located at 3833 Cleghorn Avenue, #400, Nashville, Tennessee 37215. For more information, call 615-321-4939 or visit www.cfmt.org.