Some stories & news releases on bills that passed the Legislature and maybe didn’t be much attention at the time, at least in some quarters.
Pretrial diversion was abolished so that more first-time offenders will face criminal consequences, reports The News Sentinel, listing some cases where the change – had it been in place previously – might have made a difference in sentencing. (Previous post, on House debate, HERE.)
The state’s “exclusionary rule” was changed to allow more evidence to be introduced despite search warrants with minor flaws, reports The Tennessean, citing a case where the change might have made a difference in convicting a criminal. (Previous post HERE.)
It will be easier to take a blood sample from DUI suspects over their objections under a new law, reports the News-Sentinel, citing situations where the new law might have made a difference.
Blighted Property Penalties
Property owners who let their yards get overgrown or let buildings fall into disrepair could face higher fines – up to $500 per day – under legislation that was passed last year, reports The Tennessean.
Sex Offenders on Campus
News release from the Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), May 24, 2011 — Legislation aiming to prevent criminals or sex offenders from serving in housing facilities in Tennessee’s colleges and Universities has been approved. The bill, sponsored by Senate Education Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), was passed as the General Assembly wrapped up its 2011 legislative session last week in Nashville.
Passage of the bill comes after a former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Resident Assistant was arrested on multiple felony charges connected to allegations that he burglarized dorm rooms and planted cameras, which residents later discovered and reported to campus police.
The accused Resident Assistant had a lengthy rap sheet and was already on probation after serving time in prison for charges like stalking, burglary, and arson. The University had not performed a background check, but has since changed their policy to include one.
The bill is named after one of the victims Kristen Azevedo, whose mother contacted Senator Gresham regarding legislation to address any future violations.
Helping Injured Workers
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
— Legislation to close a hole in the safety net to help workers injured on-the-job has passed the General Assembly. Senate Bill 40, sponsored by Senator Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill), allows an injured employee to collect unemployment where the employee loses his or her job due to a disability resulting from the work-related injury.
“This is a matter of fairness,” said Senator Faulk. “The current process for establishing the base period for unemployment purposes was unfair to the worker, prohibiting many from receiving much needed benefits. This bill allows unemployment, in this particular instance, to go back to the last four quarters worked – not just the last four calendar quarters.”
In Tennessee, if a person is released by a doctor with restrictions, but there are no positions that the employee can perform with those restrictions, then that person is often laid off through no fault of their own. Under Tennessee workers compensation law, employers do not have to make work for employees that are no longer physically qualified. In the instance that a person has been out of work for four quarters, they are not eligible for unemployment.
“These workers are then disqualified, even though they are laid off through no fault of their own,” added Faulk. “I am very pleased this bill has been approved and will become Tennessee law. It’s the right thing to do for those have spent their lives working.”
“These students were under very serious threat of harm,” said Senator Gresham. “This offender had an extensive and alarming history of crimes against women. Although I am pleased that the university system has developed a policy that includes background checks systematically, we need to put this in state law so years from now we do not become lax in ensuring student safety when it involves access to their rooms or apartments. I applaud Kristen and her family for coming forward to push for changes in our law to keep this kind of crime from occurring to any other students in the future.”
The bill requires all persons applying for employment in housing facilities at public colleges and universities to supply a fingerprint sample and submit to a background check by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It requires the applicant to cover the cost of the background check and authorizes the TBI to send the results to the university. Also, the bill prohibits individuals on the state’s, or another state’s, sex offender registry from being employed in a position that would give them access to students’ rooms and apartments at public colleges and universities.
“I am very thankful for all the work done by Senator Gresham to pass this bill,” said Azevedo, who lives in Senator Gresham’s legislative district. “Hopefully, as a result it will never happen to anyone again.”