Bills on energy infrastructure, benefits for firefighters

The 112th General Assembly has been adjourned for 2022, and it has been a very successful year. We took action to make Tennessee a better place to live, work and raise a family. I will be reviewing the laws passed this session over the next few weeks.

Protect critical energy infrastructure

To ensure that Tennessee’s energy infrastructure can meet the state’s economic demands for reliable and affordable fuel, a new law prevents local governments from blocking the development of such infrastructure, while preserving local zoning authority. The law applies to storage tanks, pipelines, gas transmission lines and other critical infrastructure to power the economy and meet transportation and manufacturing needs.

Energy infrastructure often crosses multiple county lines, so one locality should not have the power to outright ban energy infrastructure, especially when that infrastructure serves the vital needs of an entire state’s population. Industries involved in energy and energy infrastructure are some of the most regulated in the state. Many federal laws already regulate the safety aspects of pipeline construction and maintenance.

Maintenance of TVA coal-fired power plants – A joint resolution passed by the General Assembly this year calling on the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep its coal-fired plants running until a reliable backup of the power grid is developed.

Increase in benefits for firefighters injured in the line of duty – Under previous law, the Barry Brady Act allowed firefighters to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits for certain cancers. The law established a presumption that any condition or impairment of full-time firefighters was caused by certain occupational cancers that occurred on the job. The cancers covered are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, colon cancer, skin cancer and multiple myeloma. A new law passed by the General Assembly this year expands the list of cancers to which the presumption applies to include leukemia and testicular cancer.

Compensate the families of deputy jailers killed in the line of duty – A new law will ensure that the families of deputy jailers tragically killed in the line of duty receive compensation equivalent to that of the families of first responders killed in the line of duty. It expands the compensation program to include deputy jailers, retroactive to March 1, 2020. Under the program, families of first responders killed in the line of duty receive a $250,000 annuity paid over five years in installments of $50,000.

Two deputy jailers were killed in Tennessee in 2020, and this law will ensure that their families can be compensated for their loss.

Tribute to peace officers who died in the line of duty – A new law will ensure that law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty properly receive the Three Stars of Tennessee award, even if there is no next of kin available to receive the award. Under the new law, a representative of the agency in which the peace officer served can receive the Three Stars of Tennessee award on behalf of the peace officer, if there is no family available. Due to a bill passed in 2014, peace officers who die in the line of duty or suffer a career-ending injury receive the Three Stars of Tennessee award at a ceremony on or around September 11 each year.

Strengthening protections for police and service animals – A law known as Joker’s Law was passed this year to toughen the penalty for anyone who harms a law enforcement officer or service animal in Tennessee. The new law increases the penalty for anyone who knowingly and unlawfully kills a police dog, fire dog, search and rescue dog, service animal or police horse. Violators would now be charged with a Class B felony. Anyone between the ages of 14 and 17 who kills or seriously injures one of these animals could also be tried as an adult. Previously, killing a law enforcement service animal was a Class E minimum felony. The law is named for Joker, a K-9 with the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office who was seriously injured. after being shot during a chase last year.

Increasing Access to Law Enforcement in Hospitals – A new law aims to enhance public safety in hospital facilities by giving hospitals the ability to employ and mandate police officers to provide security and law enforcement at hospitals across the state. The new measure is intended to address a growing need for law enforcement in hospitals across the state, particularly in emergency departments which have seen increased patient numbers and emotionally charged patient admissions. due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the legislation, police officers hired by hospitals would only have the authority to enforce the law at the geographic location of the hospital.

Unethical Conduct of Constables – To ensure that constables have a mechanism to deal with criminal or unethical behavior similar to all other law enforcement officers, a new law outlines how this should happen. It states that whenever an officer is arrested or charged with a specific crime or misdemeanor, a judge of the court can put the officer on administrative leave or even remove him. The officer would be entitled to a hearing and the right to appeal to a court of appeal.

Increase in emergency services personnel – A new law creates two new categories of emergency first responders to help paramedics respond to emergencies, drive ambulances and perform limited medical procedures. The two new categories of emergency services personnel created by the bill are Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) and Emergency Medical Services-Apprentice (EMS-A). The former role has successfully completed an EMR training course and qualified through examinations to perform lifesaving interventions and to assist senior level personnel on the scene. The latter does not have an EMS license to provide emergency medical care in Tennessee, but meets all other requirements for operating an emergency vehicle. The EMS-A or EMR must be licensed as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or, in the case of an EMS-A, as an EMR, within 12 months of the date of initial hiring of EMS-A. Ambulance services experienced a constant shortage of manpower before the pandemic and the shortage has been made worse by the pandemic. This legislation aims to address this issue by easing barriers to joining emergency response teams.

Increase in EMT/AEMT training centers – A new law expands a pilot program established by the General Assembly four years ago. This program allows up to 15 EMT/AEMT training centers to be operated by licensed ambulance services. This law makes the pilot project a regular program and doubles the number of authorized training centers to 30. The measure also urges ambulance services operating these training centers to pursue partnerships to increase the state’s capacity to prepare EMTs, AEMTs, and paramedics.

Extension of pension benefits for TWRA and TBI retirees – In 2021, the General Assembly passed a bill that allows Tennessee Highway Patrol retirees with 25 years of service to receive 80% of the scheduled premium or defined contribution for health insurance benefits provided by the state. This is five years earlier than before. Passed by the General Assembly this year, a new law extends the same provision to retirees of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

Contact Senator Joe Hensley, R-Hohenwald, at [email protected]