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From the Hill: Bill in committee would strengthen state’s sexual offender laws

By State Rep. Matthew Hill
A bill some say would strengthen the state’s sexual offender laws and ensure Tennessee is completely in compliance with the federal government’s Adam Walsh Act was discussed at length last week in the House Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 2789 would require violent juvenile sexual offenders age 14 or older to register on a sexual offender registry. Due to some concerns regarding juveniles who may not re-offend, an amendment was added to the bill.
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 those assessed as “high-risk” being required to register.
The bill states a person must stay on the registry for 25 years, then may apply for removal.
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. State compliance is tied to grant money. Fiscal analysts say Tennessee is eligible to receive over $50 million in grant funding, but 10 percent of it is in jeopardy unless House Bill 2789 passes.
After four and a half hours of discussion, the bill was deferred for one week and will be heard again in the Judiciary Committee this week.
LICENSES IN ENGLISH
A bill requiring the written portion of the driver’s license exam be administered in English only passed out the House Public Safety Subcommittee.
The legislation was last run in 2007, and the Senate was successful in passing it, however, some House members blocked the measure in a subcommittee, and the bill died on a tie vote.
In 1984, Tennessee adopted a law making English the official language of the state. The law reads in part, “All communications and publications…produced by governmental entities in Tennessee shall be in English.”
The Tennessee Department of Safety does not apply the phrase to driver’s license examinations or driver’s license study guides, however. Currently, TDOS administers the test in English, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese.
Having passed out of the House Public Safety Subcommittee, House Bill 262 will next be heard in the full House Transportation Committee.
RX DRUG LAWS
The Senate and House Judiciary Committees approved legislation to attack a major source of illegal drug activity.
House Bill 3221 would stiffen penalties against those who get prescriptions in another state and return to illegally distribute them here.
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. Some attribute the increase to the misuse of prescription drugs obtained legally from out-of-state ‘pill mills.’
The legislation increases penalties for 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 two to 12 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
EDUCATION BILL
House Bill 3105 passed out of the House Education Committee and would require local boards of education to give preference to a parent’s request in classroom placement of multiple birth siblings.
SEX OFFENDER ISSUE
A bill that would prohibit physicians who are on the sexual offender registry from treating children under 18 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and will now be heard in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
DUI IGNITION LOCKS
House Bill 2768 moved out of the House Judiciary Co mittee and will next be heard in the House Budget Subcommittee. The bill would require certain DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device placed on their vehicle.