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Sat, Apr 19, 2014

State tackles ‘doctor shopping’

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Below is a brief overview of several other bills passed during the second session of the 107th General Assembly. The bills cover everything from a mandatory test to detect potentially fatal heart defects in newborns to a law designed to deter “doctor shopping.”

Next week, we’ll cover several of the laws that received major media attention, but died in the waning days of the session earlier this month.

• Individuals applying for public benefits must first prove they are in the United States legally. Sponsored by Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas), the “SAVE bill” requires those who say they are U.S. citizens to show one form of identification when applying for public benefits.

Those who are authorized immigrants must show two forms of ID when applying. However, if they are able to show only one form of ID, the U.S. State Department must run the information through its SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) program, which costs $25 a month, plus 50 cents per inquiry.

• A bill passed requiring the state’s Genetic Advisory Committee to develop a program to screen newborns for cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCCHD). The screening test, a pulse oximetry, is noninvasive and uses a light emitter with red and infrared LEDs usually attached to the newborn’s foot.

CCCHD is a congenital heart defect that results in low blood oxygen levels often causing the skin to appear blue. Present at birth, the new law would require the pulse oximetry test be administered prior to the newborn’s discharge from a hospital or other birthing facility.

• The General Assembly passed legislation that will offer some convicted criminals an opportunity to clear their records – provided they meet certain conditions.

Individuals may apply to have their records cleared of certain non-violent, non-sexual misdemeanors and Class E felonies committed after Nov. 1, 1989 if:

1. At the time of filing, the person has never been convicted of any criminal offense, including federal offenses and offenses in other states, other than the offense committed for which the petition is filed;

2. At the time of the filing of the petition, at least five years have elapsed since the completion of the sentence imposed for the offense; and

3. The person has fulfilled all the requirements of the sentence imposed by the court in which the individual was convicted of the offense.

There is an associated $350 fee the person must pay, which will cover the associated expenses incurred by the court, state and law enforcement agencies in clearing the individual’s record.

Upon the clearing of the record, the court clerk would secure the documents, which would no longer be public record. However, they may be used again if the person commits another crime.

In addition, all rights are restored to the individual, which means he or she can honestly state they have not been convicted of a crime, vote, apply for gun permits and purchase firearms.

• The General Assembly approved the development of a Fast-Track Economic Development Fund, and Gov. Bill Haslam signed it into law earlier this month.

Uses for the funds include temporary office space, relocation expenses, retrofitting, capital improvements and other costs not previously allowed by FastTrack job training and infrastructure grants.

• A law strengthening regulations on the tattoo industry unanimously passed the Senate and was approved by a vote of 86-6 in the House. Signed by Haslam earlier this month, it makes it illegal for anyone who is not licensed to perform tattoos to possess tattooing equipment.

The law also encourages people such as police officers, teachers or school resource officers to report to the Health Department incidents of underage tattooing. Individuals under the age of 18 currently cannot get a tattoo. However, provided a parent or guardian is present, a 16-year-old can be tattooed to cover up an existing tattoo.

• A bill implementing a suspicion-based drug testing for Temporary Assistance for Needy Family recipients in Tennessee passed the General Assembly. New welfare applicants will be required to undergo a special screening process for suspicion-based drug testing. If after the screening suspicion about drugs is raised, then the applicant will have to undergo a drug test. The original version would have required blanket testing of all applicants, but the state’s attorney general opined that it was unconstitutional.

However, who will pay the bill is unclear, as the legislation does not specify who will pay for the testing. The latest fiscal note on the bill states that TANF beneficiaries would pay the cost for the drug test, estimated to be around $30.

• Haslam also signed into law a bill making it harder for people to “doctor shop” in an attempt to obtain prescription drugs.

The Tennessee Prescription Safety Act of 2012 requires all drug prescribers and dispensers in the state to register with Tennessee’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database.

Anyone who prescribes drugs must check the database for a patient’s controlled substance history before prescribing painkillers and other prescription drugs.

Previous state law required prescribers to report prescription data, but checking the database before writing prescriptions was at the prescribers’ discretion.
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