The Tennessean has a feature story on the recently-enacted state law that increases the penalty for assault when the victim is a health care provider, focused on a nurse who was attacked in 2004. The new statute, passed as HB306 and signed by the governor May 13, takes effect on July 1.
An excerpt: “The law acknowledges our professional role,” said Jill Kinch, president of the Tennessee Nurses Association. “In a way there is a symbolic piece to this. The community is saying, ‘We value you as nurses and we are going to include you with this other profession that has this level of penalty for assault, which is the police officer.’ ”
The fines are not symbolic. People convicted of assaulting health care workers will have to pay up to $5,000 — double the normal fine.
Health care is a dangerous profession. The incidence rate for violence against health care workers is more than triple the rate for all of private industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From 2003 to 2009, eight nurses were killed on the job in the United States, and 2,050 nonfatal assaults occurred.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a licensed physician, was reprimanded and fined by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for having sex with patients before he was elected to Congress, according to documents released Thursday.
The Republican won re-election last year despite revelations he had affairs with patients and once urged one of them to seek an abortion.
He was fined $500 for two counts of unprofessional conduct, and is responsible for up to $1,000 in costs for the panel’s investigation. He did not contest the findings
The ruling comes in response to two complaints filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which called the penalties “piteous.”
“This decision demonstrates that Tennessee’s ban on sexual exploitation of patients is essentially meaningless,” Melanie Sloan, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Doctors in the Volunteer State can freely prey on patients with little fear of repercussions.”
The watchdog group has also filed an ethics complaint in the U.S. House.
DesJarlais did not immediately return a message seeking comment from The Associated Press. But the congressman told The Tennessean newspaper: “I take responsibility for past mistakes and am happy to get this resolved.”
DesJarlais nevertheless called the complaint politically motivated, saying it’s “somewhat ironic” that he had gone without any complaints filed against him in the 20 years he practiced before his election to Congress.
DesJarlais has already drawn two Republican challengers in advance of next year’s primary. State Sen. Jim Tracy and state Rep. Joe Carr have far outraised the incumbent through the first quarter of the year.
During his 2010 and 2012 campaigns, DesJarlais tried to cast doubt on reports of violent behavior and multiple affairs before his divorce was finalized in 2001. But court transcripts released the week after the election showed he admitted to eight affairs, encouraged a lover to get an abortion, which he publicly opposes, and used a gun to intimidate his ex-wife during an argument.
The sworn testimony also revealed for the first time that the congressman had agreed when his ex-wife had two abortions.
— Note: The CREW press release is below.
Tom Ingram, veteran consultant to both Gov. Bill Haslam and Pilot Flying J, faces a potential civil penalty for failing for three years to register as required by law as a lobbyist for a company that wants to mine coal on state-owned land near Crossville.
Ingram said Wednesday the failure to register was “inadvertent on Marcelle’s part,” a reference to Marcelle Durham, president of The Ingram Group, the public relations and lobbying firm that Ingram founded and operates.
Durham has written a letter to the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance acknowleding the “inadvertent oversight” and declaring she will submit belated lobbyist registrations for three years of lobbying for Hillsborough Resources Inc., which is negotiating with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to mine for coal on Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. (For copy of the letter, click on this link: Durham_Letter.pdf
In an interview, Ingram said is is careful to balance his lobbying work with his role as a consultant to Gov. Bill Haslam and to Pilot Flying J and does not see any conflicts of interest. (Note: WTVF story on Ingram lobbying HERE.)
His latest role, as Ingram described it, is “managing communications on the investigation” by the FBI into allegations that Pilot Flying J cheated some trucking companies in billings for diesel fuel. Ingram said he is actually retained in that role by Neal and Harwell, the law firm hired by Pilot Flying J.
Bills approved by both chambers Tuesday will increase the penalty for criminal assaults if the victim is either a firefighter, emergency worker or a health care professional.
The bills touched off considerable debate in the Senate as Republican Sens. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville and Brian Kelsey of Germantown questioned the wisdom of putting some victims on a higher level than others.
Campfield said the legislation violates the principle of “equal protection under the law” and questioned why a person assaulting a pregnant woman should face a lesser penalty than someone assaulting a doctor or fireman.
Proponents noted current law already makes the penalty higher when the victim is a law enforcement officer and said firefighters, emergency personel and doctors or nurses face greater risk of assault than others.
Both bills now go to the governor. The bill on health care provider assaults (HB306) passed 31-1 in the Senate and 63-31 in the House. The bill on firefighters and emergency workers (SB66) was approved 24-2 in the Senate; 93-3 in the House.
A bill to raise the penalty for not wearing a seat belt in Tennessee was approved by a Senate committee Tuesday only to be shot down two hours later in a House committee.
Proponents of the bill (SB487) contended that raising the fine from $10 to $50 would motivate more motorists to buckle up and thus reduce fatalities and injuries in traffic accidents.
A recent survey indicated that Tennessee seat belt useage fell from 87 percent to 83 percent last year, according to Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott.
But some legislator critics questioned that proposition. Others said the measure appeared aimed more at collecting revenue than safety. And Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, said he disliked the whole idea of government using fines to prod people into changing behavior in the interest of their personal safety.
“We’re all grown men and women. It not up to the state to protect us from our folly. It up to us,” said Henry.
The House has approved, 64-31, legislation that increases the penalty for assault when the victim is a health engaged in his or her professional duties.
The bill by Rep. JoAnn Favors, D-Chattanooga, was roundly criticized by some making health care providers a separate and special class of citizen. Favors and others noted that there is already a law making the punishment for assault on a law enforcement officer harsher than for others.
Favors, a nurse, said the bill (HB306) is needed because there has been an increase in workplace violence against doctors, nurses and other health care workers. Nevada has such a law, she said, and such attacks have declined since enactment.
The maximum fine for committing bigamy would be doubled – from $2,500 to $5,000 – under legislation approved by the Senate and awaiting a House committee vote.
As originally filed by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, the legislation (SB542) would have elevated bigamy from a misdemeanor to a felony. That provision was dropped after legislative staff estimated that there are 18 convictions of bigamy per year in Tennessee and that the cost to the state for incarcerating them as felons would total more than $368,000 per year.
The bill also changes current law to allow prosecution for bigamy for a longer period after a person already married maries again. Under the current “statute of limitations,” a bigamist can be prosecuted for two years after the second marriage takes place.
In some cases, Bell said, the spouse of a bigamist does not discover the previous marriage, with no divorce, until “several years later.” With the change of law, he said, bigamy is treated as “a continuing offense” so the statute of limitations does not begin until the prior marriage is discovered “so even if it’s discovered later, it can be prosecuted.”
From the News-Sentinel:
State authorities today arrested a Knox County business owner on sales tax evasion charges, officials said.
The Special Investigations Section of the Tennessee Department of Revenue conducted the investigation that led to the indictment and arrest of Brahim Mazouzi, 43, of Knoxville, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Revenue.
Officials said Mazouzi was arrested by Special Agents of the Tennessee Department of Revenue at his business, Magnolia Mini Market, 2400 E. Magnolia Ave. Bond was set at $1,000.
On Jan. 29, 2013, the Knox County grand jury indicted Mazouzi on 19 Class E felony counts of sales tax evasion in violation of Tennessee Code Ann. Section 67-1-1440(g), the release stated. The indictment charges that Mazouzi willfully attempted to evade $25,521.59 in sales tax due the State of Tennessee between January 2009 through July 2010.
Revenue Commissioner Richard H. Roberts said the state’s tax structure depends on taxpayers voluntarily complying with laws. Taxpayers who collect, but intentionally do not remit sales tax, breach the public’s trust and violate the criminal laws of the state, he said.
Officials said that if convicted Mazouzi could be sentenced up to two years in the state penitentiary and fined $3,000 for each of the tax evasion counts.
State officials are still looking for a drug to use in Tennessee executions, though no death row inmates are scheduled to die anytime soon, the Tennessean reports. Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said the state’s lethal injection protocol is a top priority and he is pursuing alternative drugs. He declined to detail what options he was considering, but other states have turned to an alternative drug used in animal euthanasia.
“I’ve been a little cautious talking about this because some of it turns into litigation,” Schofield said in a recent interview. “I don’t have a time frame, but it’s a matter of urgency for us. We have been pushing and working. I want to assure that we haven’t been sitting on our hands.”
Eighty-four people sit on Tennessee’s death row. Sixty-seven have been there for more than 10 years. Six prisoners have been executed since 1960.
For death penalty opponents, the sudden shortage in 2011 of the anesthetic sodium thiopental has been a godsend.
Five states in recent years decided it was easier and cheaper to do away with their death penalties than to keep them.
“We’re very relieved,” said the Rev. Stacy Rector, with Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
“Unfortunately for us, until we get the (death penalty) statute repealed, it’s always going to be a concern.”
News release from Tennessee attorney general’s office:
A Madison psychiatrist will pay the State of Tennessee more than $325,000 for allegedly overbilling TennCare patients for visits, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper announced today.
Named in the agreement is psychiatrist A.K.M. Fakhruddin who is alleged to have overbilled patients for psychotherapy visits. Such practices are illegal under the Tennessee Medicaid False Claims Act. The settlement, which included substantial penalties, represents nearly three times the amount Fakhruddin is alleged to have taken from the program.
An investigation by the TennCare Provider Fraud Task Force revealed that from May 2007 to December 2010, Dr. Fakhruddin billed for extensive 45-50 minute psychotherapy visits when in most cases he was performing brief medication management services with minimal psychotherapy.
“In a few instances, he billed for more than fifteen hours in a day when the actual time spent with patients was a fraction of that amount,” Attorney General Cooper said. “The Task Force takes very seriously the misuse of taxpayer dollars and will continue to work diligently to end such practices. ”
The fraud concerned billings for over 150 patients. The Task Force includes the Attorney General’s Office, TennCare, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Office of Inspector General. It is charged with pursuing fraud by any TennCare provider. General Cooper noted, “The Task Force concentrates on every aspect of Medicaid Fraud, which includes not only physicians and drug companies but also mental health services.”
Inspector General Deborah Faulkner stated, “The State of Tennessee is aggressively investigating TennCare fraud and abuse from every angle by working in unison to achieve the overarching goal of protecting taxpayer resources. The cooperation between our Offices is an example of a successful collaboration to stop TennCare fraud.”
Dr. Fakhruddin, who intends to retire and sell his practice, has denied any wrongdoing. There were no allegations of patient harm.