Norris News – March 29, 2018

On March 29, 2018, in News from Nashville 2018, by Mark Norris
In honor of Vietnam War Veterans Day, March 29th, we recognize the service of Mr. Ken Chorice of Bartlett. He served the country in the Vietnam War from 1969-1970. During his service, Ken served as a driver for Lt. Col Norman Schwarzkopf, better known as “Stormin’ Norman.” Ken continues to serve the community as a volunteer for the Bartlett Police Department through the VIPS program. We thank Ken for his honorable service to the country and the community.

In honor of Vietnam War Veterans Day, March 29th, we recognize the service of Mr. Ken Chorice of Bartlett. He served the country in the Vietnam War from 1969-1970. During his service, Ken served as a driver for Lt. Col Norman Schwarzkopf, better known as “Stormin’ Norman.” Ken continues to serve the community as a volunteer for the Bartlett Police Department through the VIPS program. We thank Ken for his honorable service to the country and the community.

Senate Judiciary Committee approves legislation strengthening penalties for trafficking substances combined with fentanyl

State senators tackled a wide variety of issues this week as three more of the Senate’s nine standing committees closed for the 2018 session, leaving only the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Finance, Ways and Means Committee open. Many important issues still remain on the General Assembly’s agenda before adjourning next month, including the state’s budget, which will move front and center in the remaining weeks.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation this week strengthening penalties for the distribution and trafficking of any substance that is the combination of fentanyl, carfentanil, sufentanil, remifentanil, or any analogue. Senate Bill 1999, sponsored by Senator Art Swann (R-Maryville), requires all convictions relating to controlled substances containing fentanyl be punished one classification higher.

The legislation is one of a series of bills sponsored this year to deal with Tennessee’s opioid crisis.

“There has been a spike in fentanyl-related deaths in Tennessee,” said Senator Swann. “It is an incredibly powerful drug. As we continue to address our state’s opioid epidemic, we must address the growing illegal use of this deadly combination of drugs on our streets.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It is used before surgery as an adjunct to anesthesia and in some cases for acute pain, like advanced cancer. The most commonly known substances to be laced with fentanyl are heroin, cocaine and counterfeit prescription opioids.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health (DOH), fentanyl, when mixed with heroin or other drugs, is a leading cause of opioid deaths in Tennessee. Reports show 1,631 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses in 2016. This is an increase of 12 percent from the 1,451 overdose deaths recorded in 2015.

In other action to fight opioid abuse, the full Senate voted to authorize pharmacists to dispense less than the full prescription for opioids and other Schedule II drugs. Opiate abuse often results from unused prescriptions remaining in the household medicine cabinet by a patient who does not take the full amount prescribed. Under current law, pharmacists are not allowed to partially dispense a Schedule II prescription. Senate Bill 2025, sponsored by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), would allow a pharmacist to partially fill a prescription if requested by the patient or directed by the physician.

The legislation does not require the patient to go back to the doctor for the remainder of that prescription. The physician would be notified that a partial fill has taken place and only the portion filled is reported in the database.

State senators also approved a bill requiring the Department of health to set up a toll-free telephone and web-based hotline to hear reports of opioid abuse or diversion. Senate Bill 2022 calls for entities that prescribe, dispense, or handle opioids to display a sign or to notify employees in writing about the hotline. This bill is sponsored by Senator Haile and now goes to the governor for his signature.

Dr. Jon McCullers, Chair, Dept. of Pediatrics, UT Health Science Center; Pediatrician in Chief, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital; Member, Dept. of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude

Dr. Jon McCullers, Chair, Dept. of Pediatrics, UT Health Science Center; Pediatrician in Chief, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital; Member, Dept. of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude

School Safety Working Group Releases Recommendations

A School Safety Working Group appointed by Governor Bill Haslam to recommend changes to protect students released their report this week. The report includes immediate steps that can be taken to reduce risks. The group identified three priorities including:

  • A review and risk assessment of all school facilities to identify vulnerabilities;
  • An increase in resources to help secure school resource officers (SROs); and
  • A statewide technology application for anonymous reporting of security threats.

After endorsing the plan, Governor Haslam asked the Department of Safety (DOS) and Homeland Security to work with the Department of Education and local officials to immediately begin development and implementation of a statewide risk assessment of every public K-12 school in Tennessee. The risk assessment will be based on model security standards identified by the DOS, with assessment training provided by state homeland security officials to local school district personnel and first responders. The assessments will be completed before students return to school for the 2018-19 school year.

Following the school security assessments, and on an annual basis thereafter, each school’s emergency operations plan must ensure specific facility risks are identified and updated and that state school safety resources, including the additional $30 million proposed in the governor’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget, are utilized to address the identified risks. The governor’s proposed budget and school safety plan doubles the amount of recurring school safety grant funding for schools, which can be used toward SROs or other facility security measures. And, to address immediate needs while further state, local and federal conversations around school security and budgeting take place, total state school safety grant funding would increase by more than 500 percent for the upcoming fiscal year.

The third immediate priority of the working group is for the state to provide a statewide technology application for the anonymous reporting of threats or suspicious activity by students, faculty, staff and others. This would provide for direct communication among and between the individual reporting the threat or activity and the state, local law enforcement officials and local school districts.

The working group also recommended the promotion of positive behavioral health for all students. The governor directed the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services assist schools expand training areas, including training on strategies to increase awareness and responsiveness to signs and symptoms of student behavioral health and mental health needs. To view the full report go to: http://www.tngopsenate.com/governors-school-safety-working-group-recommendations-for-consideration/

Frank Allen, Jr., Joseph Wilder and Pamela Pitts were in Nashville for Financial Planners Day on the Hill. They are all financial planners in Shelby County.

Frank Allen, Jr., Joseph Wilder and Pamela Pitts were in Nashville for Financial Planners Day on the Hill. They are all financial planners in Shelby County.

Bills in Brief

Mental Health Issues / Firearm Purchases — The full Senate approved legislation this week to create greater cooperation between the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and local authorities in order to prevent those with mental health issues from purchasing firearms. Senate Bill 834, sponsored by Senator Haile (R-Gallatin) and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), requires the TBI to notify local law enforcement within 24 hours when they properly identify that an individual identified as having a mental disorder in the NICS ‘Mental Defectives’ Database has attempted to purchase a firearm. The bill also adds new identifying information to the reporting requirements of sheriffs, court clerks, and hospitals to ensure individuals who are adjudicated mentally defective are readily identified. It requires sex, race and social security numbers, along with the name and date of birth already required by law. “What we’re trying to do is deal with a huge information gap that currently exists in the reporting of mental defective status,” Senator Haile said. “If we have better data going into the database on the front-end by requiring the social security number, sex, and race be reported, we can do better at identifying individuals trying to purchase firearms when they should not be able to do so.” The bill follows passage of Senate Bill 2362 earlier this month requiring acute care hospitals to report involuntary commitments in their psychiatric units to law enforcement so that they can be a part of the record used in the verification process for the purchase of firearms.

UT Board / FOCUS Act — Legislation empowering the University of Tennessee (UT) Board of Trustees to operate more efficiently and effectively like the state’s other four-year universities was approved by the full Senate this week. Senate Bill 2260, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), would reconstitute the board from 27 members to 11 who would serve staggered terms. The board members would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. An amendment added to the bill calls for at least five of the members to be UT alumni and that the governor should strive to appoint those members from different University of Tennessee institutions. The legislation also creates seven-member advisory boards at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, University of Tennessee at Martin, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and UT Health Science Center. The advisory boards would submit recommendations regarding operating budgets, tuition and fees, strategic plans, campus life, academic programs and other matters related to the institution.

State Forest / Downed Trees — Action on the Senate floor this week included passage of legislation that creates a “free-use area” in state forests where Tennessee residents are allowed to remove downed and dead timber without cost. The free-use would only apply if the wood is used for the resident’s personal use, such as firewood, home heating and cooking. Senate Bill 1914 would not apply to those who remove it and offer it for sale. The state forester must designate these areas and publish them on the department’s website.

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