Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley December 9, 2020

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   Legislation aids in fight against food insecurity — A new law passed this year which aims to encourage the donation of food and grocery products to nonprofit organizations for distribution to needy individuals. It aligns Tennessee’s donor liability protection standard with the federal standard of gross negligence.

  The measure explicitly allows liability protection for the donation of past-date foods and extends liability protection to individuals and organizations that donate directly to individuals for personal use, as long as the food is apparently wholesome and fit for human consumption at the time of distribution. This action, in turn, reduces unnecessary waste in Tennessee landfills. Under the legislation, donated food must also meet the standards of the Tennessee Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The new statute helps in efforts to address food insecurity in Tennessee, which is especially helpful during times of economic uncertainty. According to a study from Feeding America, one in seven Tennesseans, and one in five children, is considered food insecure. Over 40 percent of all food produced in the United States goes to waste, of which 98 percent goes to landfills. 

   General Assembly acts to officially recognize Volunteer State nickname — The General Assembly acted this year to embed into state law the nickname Tennessee has enjoyed since 1812 as the “Volunteer State.” It honors the state’s heritage and inspires future generations to answer the call to service. The Volunteer State moniker dates back to the War of 1812 because of the prominent role played by volunteer soldiers from Tennessee. It also refers to the state’s response to President Polk’s call for 2,600 volunteers at the beginning of the Mexican-American War which resulted in 30,000 volunteering from Tennessee alone. 

   Women’s Suffrage Day recognized under new law — August 18th of each year will be recognized as Women’s Suffrage Day under legislation which was approved by state lawmakers this year. The Tennessee General Assembly played a critical role in granting women the right to vote. On August 18, 1920 Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. Rep. Harry T. Burn changed his vote breaking a tie in the House of Representatives making history for the state and the entire country.  This year’s celebration marks the centennial of the amendment. 

   New law extends where elected officials can carry handguns with a valid permit while in the discharge of officials duties – A measure to extend where local elected officials with valid handgun carry permits are allowed to carry a firearm in the discharge of their official duties was passed by the General Assembly. The new law allows any elected official of a county or municipality, not just a commissioner, to carry a firearm inside a building in which judicial proceedings are in progress, but not in the room where judicial proceedings are taking place. It also applies to county attorneys.

   Resolution calls for federal action to secure citizenship for adult adoptees — Members of the General Assembly approved a resolution asking Congress and President Trump to enact federal legislation securing the citizenship of internationally adopted adults. This action would prevent the possibility of deportation for adult adoptees due to non-completion of the naturalization process by their adoptive parents while they were children. The federal Child Citizenship Act of 2000 aimed to protect children adopted internationally by U.S. citizens by granting them citizenship. However, when the act became law, it did not apply to internationally born adoptees over the age of eighteen. As a result, an alarming number of adoptees who were born before February 27, 1982 and raised in the U.S. do not have U.S. citizenship if their parents did not complete necessary processes to provide their adopted children with citizenship.  There are an estimated 18,000 Korean American adoptees alone who do not have American citizenship, despite having been legally adopted. The resolution calls for parity so that all children adopted by U.S. citizen parents will have the same rights as children of U.S. citizens.

   New law allows assistants of disabled persons to offer aid for fishing and hunting without a license—Legislation was approved this year specifying that a sportsman’s license is not required in order to assist a person with a disability who is fishing or hunting under an exemption provided by state law. The new law was introduced after a person received a citation for not obtaining a fishing license to help a disabled person fish. The purpose of the legislation is to establish a designation that will enable the TWRA employee to be able to clearly distinguish between those present as helpers and those who are fishing without a license.