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More Issues For Consideration As State Legislature Resumes

This information comes from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley MD, R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles, Lewis, Marshall, Maury and part of Williamson counties.

The second session of the 113th General Assembly will convene Jan. 9, 2024. These are a few issues addressed in the first half to the 113th General Assembly.

Cracking down on TikTok use at Tennessee College Campuses - This law prohibits accessing of Chinese-owned social media platforms TikTok and WeChat on Tennessee public higher education institutions’ internet networks.

The State of Tennessee and the Federal government have taken similar steps to mitigate security risks of TikTok by prohibiting government internet networks and devices from supporting the social media app.

These platforms pose serious national security risks to the United States.

Preventing sanctioned countries from buying real estate in Tennessee — This law prevents foreign governments, businesses and non-US citizens from 38 countries on the U.S Department of Treasury’s sanctions list besides China from purchasing or acquiring real estate in Tennessee. There are 38 countries on the sanctions list, but China was added to the list in the law that passed this year. 

Prohibiting Chinese Surveillance - The General Assembly passed a law that prohibits law enforcement agencies from purchasing drones from corporations or entities banned under the National Defense Act of 2019.

Those include drones made in China, Russia or other adversarial countries. Agencies are not required to replace existing equipment and can still use any drones they have. New devices must be purchased in compliance with the new regulations. 

Protecting Tennessee businesses from local minimum wage requirements - This law protects businesses and workers in Tennessee by prohibiting local governments from imposing requirements on an employer pertaining to hours worked, work scheduled or employee output during work hours.

The law preempts local governments from imposing additional wage or employee benefit mandates on private employers.

Local governments also are prohibited from requiring a private business to pay an hourly rate above minimum wage as a condition of contracting with the local government or operating within the local government’s jurisdiction.

Finally, the law prohibits a local government from giving preference to vendors, contractors, service providers or other parties doing business with a local government based on wages or the employee benefits they provide. Local governments still maintain the right to adopt policies for their own employees.

Extending COVID-19 liability protections indefinitely – The General Assembly made permanent laws passed during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect citizens from government overreach and provide businesses and health care providers with liability protections from health-related claims.

By making these laws permanent, lawmakers ensure that state and local governments cannot require COVID-19 vaccine mandates and that statewide standards are met before local governments can issue mask mandates in public buildings and schools.

Among other things, it also guarantees a person hospitalized can have a family member with them during their stay. The new law removes the termination date on these provisions of July 1, 2023.

Protecting parental rights regarding vaccines –  This law, called the Mature Minor Doctrine Clarification Act, prohibits a healthcare provider from giving vaccinations to minors without parental consent.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee Department of Health issued a memo to healthcare providers that cited the Mature Minor Doctrine for authority to provide COVID-19 vaccines to minors without parental consent.

After lawmakers raised concerns with the newly authorized shots given to children without parental knowledge or consent, the department reversed course.

This law clarifies that the Mature Minor Doctrine does not allow giving vaccinations to minors without consent from their parents.  

Ensuring smart, financially responsible investment – This year, the General Assembly passed legislation to ensure that the state is only investing taxpayer funds into financially responsible companies.

The new law specifically prohibits the Tennessee Treasurer from making investments based on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ratings, which value companies based on their advancement of environmental and social causes unrelated to core business functions. The legislation will ensure Tennessee tax dollars are invested to maximize investment returns rather than to push a public policy agenda.

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor implemented the ESG rule, which allows retirement plan managers to invest based on ESG factors instead of focusing on financial ones.

In response, Congress passed legislation that would nullify the department’s new rule, but President Biden vetoed that legislation.

Tennessee is one of at least nine other states that have since prohibited or discouraged ESG investments, including Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky and Montana. 

The Tennessee Monuments and Memorials Commission – This law creates the Tennessee Monuments and Memorials Commission with nine members appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Members will be responsible for waivers related to monuments and historical sites.

The new commission is intended help the Tennessee Historical Commission run more efficiently. 

Marriage – Besides current and former state judges, a new law allows current and former county and municipal judges to solemnize marriages. 

Biological sex clarified in law - A new law clarifies existing code so that all branches of government use the same definition of “sex”.

In Tennessee code “sex” is defined as a person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth and evidence of their biological sex.

According to law, evidence of a person’s biological sex includes government-issued identification that accurately reflects a person’s sex listed on their original birth certificate. 

Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way, N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN 37243, or call 615-741-3100, or call toll free 1-800-449-8366, extension. 13100 or fax 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN 38462 or phone 931-796-2018 or call his cell phone at 931-212-8823, or E-Mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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