Stolen Valor Act, opioid prescription bill passes House, Gov. Haslam set to sign seven-day wine sales bill

Zach Vance • Apr 11, 2018 at 11:36 PM

With Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature expected at any time, Tennesseans will soon be able to buy alcohol on Sundays, while in the legislature, the Senate is inching closer to passing the Stolen Valor Act and a separate bill limiting the amount of opioids prescribed to new patients.

The state Senate voted 17-11 Wednesday to pass a resolution allowing Tennesseans to buy wine in grocery stores on Sundays. The 17 aye votes were the bare minimum needed for the bill’s approval.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, aligns wine sales with beers sales in grocery stores, but prohibits the sales of wine on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

The bill contains two separate dates. Once the legislation becomes law, package stores can immediately start selling liquor seven days a week. On the other hand, grocery stores will have to wait until Jan. 1 to sell wine on Sundays and most holidays.

“The legislation allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays has now passed both the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor’s desk for his action. Please note, the legislation does not become law until Governor Haslam either signs it or allows it to become law without his signature,” Zack Blair, assistant director for the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, said in an email to members.

“The sale of alcoholic beverages and wine at grocery stores and retail package stores on Sunday is still prohibited until the legislation becomes law.”

Haslam told the Tennessean he will sign the measure as soon as his office receives the finalized bill.

Stolen Valor Act

On Wednesday morning, the House unanimously passed the Stolen Valor Act, sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, and Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City.

According to a press release issued by Tennessee House Republicans, the bill strengthens identity protections for military veterans and active members.

The current version of the bill makes it a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500,  for a civilian to fraudulently impersonate a veteran or active military member for some type of tangible benefit.

The House version of the bill, which Van Huss believes the Senate will ultimately adopt, would also charge actual veterans that fraudulently misrepresent or fabricate their military record, rank or achievements to obtain money, property, services or any other benefit.

"I was honored to carry this legislation on behalf of the veterans of Washington County and of Tennessee,” Van Huss, an eight-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps, said.

“We are working to put an end to actions that cheapen your service to our nation. Thank you to all of the veterans who served before my generation of veterans. You likely were not thanked like I was. We would not have been able to accomplish what we did in Iraq if it were not for your efforts across the globe."

During the bill’s House Criminal Justice Committee hearing, Air Force veteran Bob Dewald told Van Huss and his fellow lawmakers about Donald Hunley, a man who entered the American Legion Post 2 in Knoxville, lied about his military record to gain membership and ultimately stole more than $10,000. Hunley was recently convicted and sentenced to a year in prison.

Opioid Prescription Limits

One of the many components of Haslam’s TN Together plan, Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, passed a bill through the House Monday that limits the supply and dosage of prescription opioids for new patients.

“My facet is trying to limit the initial addiction to opioids. We’re looking at placing some limits on that first opioid prescription, should someone have an episode of pain or should someone need pain relief. In most situations, three days of an opioid (prescription) should be enough to get folks through most situations,” Hawk said.

“Saying that, we’re certainly looking at other medical necessities and there may be situations where doctors feel like a longer prescription is needed. We’ve created allowances in the legislation for doctors and patients to have those discussions to expand more days of a prescription should the doctor and patient find it necessary.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, more than seven million opioid prescriptions are filled annually in Tennessee. Studies suggest that patients who receive opioid prescriptions exceeding five days face a higher risk of addiction.

“It’s very important to note this legislation does not and will not affect anyone who is already in a pain management type situation with opioids. And I know that’s been the fear of a lot of folks, that they will be cut off and that’s not the case,” Hawk said. “This just affects the initial prescription of an opioid.”

Hawk’s bill now awaits passage in the Senate, as does Van Huss’ Stolen Valor Act. 

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