New Tennessee laws take effect Wednesday

Robert Houk • Dec 28, 2019 at 12:00 AM

A program to lend a hand to volunteer fire departments in Tennessee is among  new state laws that go into effect Jan. 1.

The measure will help local departments pay for training and cover matching federal grants for capital needs. The program will be managed by the commissioner of the state Department of Commerce and Insurance, who will award grants to departments to buy equipment or to meet the 10% local match requirements for federal grants.

The money would cover local funding needed to secure firefighting grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Tennessee currently receives $7.8 million in such grants annually from FEMA, with 32.5% going to volunteer fire departments.

“Many of our rural communities rely on volunteer firefighters to protect them from all forms of harm,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, said earlier this year.

Other new laws that become effective Wednesday include:

• The Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2019, which makes it a Class E felony “for a person to knowingly abuse an elderly person,” and a Class D felony “for a person to knowingly abuse a vulnerable adult.”

• The Health Care Billing Clarity Act, which “prohibits a hospital from including in any billing statement to a patient any language that indicates or implies that a charge is for a specialty health care service that was rendered by a health care provider unless that charge is described in a manner that provides the patient with sufficient information to identify the health care provider or the specialty health care service rendered.”

• A measure to allow Tennesseans to carry a concealed handgun by renaming Tennessee’s existing handgun carry permit as an “enhanced carry permit.”  An enhanced handgun carry permit does not specify the manner that a handgun must be carried.

• A provision that extends continued health coverage “to the surviving spouses and children of park rangers who are killed in the line of duty to the same extent as survivors of other first responders who are killed in the line of duty.”

• A change to current state law that reduces the age requirement for a person to be eligible to drive a school bus from from 25 to 23 if that person is an honorably discharged veteran, a member of the National Guard or a licensed teacher employed by a local school district.

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