House lawmakers crack down on crime and meth
by Kevin Brooks and Eric Watson
Jun 01, 2014 | 1263 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
(Editor’s Note: State Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland representing the 24th Legislative District, and state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland representing the 22nd Legislative District, have submitted a comprehensive recap of actions taken by the Tennessee House of Representatives during the recently completed second half of the 108th General Assembly. It is being published as a five-part series in the Sunday editions of the Cleveland Daily Banner. Today’s installment is Part 4.)

Legislation aimed at combating the illegal manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine in Tennessee won approval from state lawmakers in Nashville this year, highlighting the efforts of House members to do everything possible to rid Tennessee of the scourge of meth, while still balancing the needs of law-abiding allergy sufferers.

House Bill 1574, the Tennessee Anti-Meth Production, or TAMP, Act, cuts the amount of pseudoephedrine that can be bought in Tennessee from the current limit of 9 grams a month to 5.76 grams, which is equivalent to 24 days of self-medicating treatment, in a month’s time. The legislation also sets an annual limit on pseudoephedrine purchases of 28.8 grams without a doctor’s prescription.

The amounts are designed to target meth users while protecting allergy sufferers who need access to the drug. Children under the age of 18 will be unable to purchase pseudoephedrine products without a valid prescription from a doctor.

In addition, the bill targets the activities of “smurfers” who buy pseudoephedrine from a variety of stores in small quantities and in turn supply illegal meth manufacturers with enough product to create the drug.

Another piece of legislation, House Bill 1661, imposes a minimum mandatory jail time for any individual convicted of a meth-related crime, including a 30-day prison term for possession and a 180-day prison term served for illegally manufacturing methamphetamine, with the option of drug court and treatment at the discretion of the presiding judge.

Currently, Tennessee ranks second in the nation, behind Indiana, in meth lab seizures per year. In 2013 alone, 266 children were removed by the Department of Children’s Services from homes due to meth-related incidents at an estimated cost of more than $7 million. Additionally, the state spends approximately $2 million annually on meth lab cleanup, and in 2013, 1,691 labs were seized in Tennessee. This is in addition to tens of millions of dollars in TennCare costs associated with meth lab burns.

Erin’s Law approved;

Republicans focused

on the prevention of

in-home sexual abuse

Legislation focused on preventing in-home sexual abuse passed the full House of Representatives earlier this year.

The purpose of the bill, known as Erin’s Law, is to encourage schools across the state to provide age-appropriate instruction to kids on personal body safety and how to report sexual abuse, with a specific focus on occurrences that could potentially happen in the home.

The bill is named after Erin Merryn, an Illinois native who was sexually abused as a child. Merryn now fully dedicates her time to getting the law passed in all 50 states.

“Growing up in Illinois, I was always taught in school about tornado drills, bus drills, fire drills and stranger danger,” Merryn said. “But the one message I wasn’t being taught was how to speak up and tell if I was being sexually abused.”

In 2012, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported there were 3,508 child sexual abuse cases reported across the state. However, the United States Department of Justice indicates that child sexual abuse is underreported in about 60 percent of cases, meaning the actual number of abuse cases in Tennessee is most likely much higher.

Because of these statistics, proponents argue sexual abuse prevention programs need to be implemented to raise awareness and help prevent child sexual abuse within Tennessee communities.

Currently, eight states have passed Erin’s law, and 19 additional states are introducing it this year.

Amelia’s Law passes

House of Representatives

in overwhelming vote

Legislation supported by House lawmakers calling for stricter rules for repeat drug and alcohol offenders was overwhelmingly approved this year in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

As passed, House Bill 1759 — also known as “Amelia’s Law” — allows judges to require criminal offenders to wear a "transdermal monitoring device" if alcohol or drugs were contributing factors in their crime. It is a device that can track alcohol or drug levels through a person's skin.

The legislation is named after Amelia Keown, who died in a head-on collision on U.S. Highway 411 near Maryville in 2012, while on her way home to pick up pompoms for dance practice. She was 16 years old.

Records show the man who hit Amelia was out on parole and had a criminal record dating back to 1998. His sheet included aggravated robbery, multiple drugs offenses, and fleeing and evading police, along with other charges. In addition, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation toxicology report showed the offender had methamphetamine and oxycodone in his system at the time of the accident.

The House unanimously passed the proposal, 92-0.

House expands Second

Amendment Rights

for Tennesseans

House Republican lawmakers moved forward this year with numerous pieces of legislation aimed at expanding the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans.

The first measure, House Bill 1404, clarifies a bill passed last year which allows individuals to carry their firearms safely secured in the trunk of their vehicle when on private property without fear of criminal penalty. This tweak to last year’s law also makes it legal for such a person to transfer a gun, once they are on private property, from the interior of their vehicle to their trunk, again without criminal prosecution.

Likewise, House Bill 1405 also clarifies the 2013 “guns in trunks” legislation. Originally, the bill said anyone who is in their “private vehicle” is exempt from prosecution if they carry their gun, safely stored in their trunk, on to private property. This bill defines “private vehicle” to include any motor vehicle which that individual lawfully possesses, ensuring protection under the law if, for example, the individual happens to be driving their spouse’s vehicle that day.

House Bill 1483 removes all prohibitions passed by the General Assembly prior to 1986 with regard to the possession, transportation or storage of firearms and firearms ammunition by handgun carry permit holders, repealing many outdated and antiquated measures on the law books which restricted gun rights from years past.

And finally, House Bill 1952 makes it illegal for drones to interfere with private citizens who are legally hunting or fishing in the state.

As Tennessee’s Constitution guarantees, “The citizens of this state have a right to keep and bear arms.” It is a right that House Republicans have actively sought to protect and expand over the last several years.