Jill Talbert, TAND Lobbyist, has submitted this wrap-up report for the 2020 Tennessee Assembly:
The Tennessee General Assembly recessed on March 19, 2020 due to growing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. They returned on June 1, 2020 to finish the session. After a marathon session that ended on June 19th at 3:15 AM, both chambers adjourned in anger and at odds with each other over legislation that they could not resolve. Agreements could not be reached on the COVID-19 liability protection legislation, telehealth legislation and certificate of need legislation and those bills failed to pass as a result.
The COVID-19 legislation, known as the Tennessee Safe Harbor and Recovery Act, would have held covered entities (healthcare provider is included in the definition but it is much broader than healthcare) not liable for damages, injury or death resulting from or in connection with a health emergency claim unless the plaintiff proves by clear and convincing that the entity caused the damages by acting with gross or willful misconduct. A health emergency claim is limited to coronavirus in the legislation. It also says if healthcare providers act in substantial compliance with any public health guidance that there is a rebuttable presumption those providers didn’t act in a manner that constitutes gross negligence or willful misconduct. The fight over COVID-19 liability legislation came down to the Senate wanting to make the legislation retroactive and the House ultimately deciding that such a move would make the legislation unconstitutional. Ever since the legislation failed, Governor Bill Lee has been contemplating calling special session to revisit this legislation.
TAND has been actively monitoring and advocating to pass legislation that regulates raw milk in Tennessee. This legislation was introduced in 2019 and after hours of debate, it finally passed in 2020 after several amendments and compromise. This legislation was sponsored by Sen. Richard Briggs (R- Knoxville) and Rep. Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain) and signed into law by Governor Lee on June 22, 2020. This legislation does the following:
- Gives raw milk farmers the option of completing a safe milk handling course offered by the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Services.
- Lays out the procedures for farmers operating a herd share program.
- Includes a process for handling contaminated milk.
- Includes civil penalties for farmers failing to comply with this legislation.
This legislation goes into effect on October 1, 2020. Great job to everyone for working so hard on passing this legislation! When the public chapter becomes available in a few weeks, we will distribute it to TAND members.
Founder & Principal