111th Tennessee General Assembly Adjourns Sine Die on Second Extraordinary Session

The Tennessee State Capitol Building at sunset.

Tennessee’s 61st special session and the 2nd extraordinary session of the 111th General Assembly adjourned sine die on Wednesday, August 12. Last week, Governor Bill Lee called for the Tennessee General Assembly to convene for a special session to address COVID-19 liability protections, telehealth services, and laws governing the Capitol and state grounds. The state legislature passed four main pieces of legislation during the three-day special session that will go to the Governor to sign.

Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act
Both chambers passed legislation that would provide immunity for Tennessee businesses, schools, healthcare facilities, and certain other entities from COVID-19-related lawsuits filed on or after August 3, 2020. There is an exception in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct. As a state public higher education institution, the University of Tennessee is included in this legislation. Once signed into law, the Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act would remain in effect until July 2022, when it will be repealed.

The legislature passed a bill that would require insurance companies to more fully cover telemedicine and telehealth services. If signed by the Governor, it would require insurance companies to cover telemedicine services at the same rate as in-person care. The requirement would be in place until it expires in April 2022. This new law will streamline the marketplace and make it more efficient, effective, and economical for the UT Health Science Center and its statewide partners to function.

Protest-Related Offenses
As the most controversial bill of the special session, legislation that would revise criminal laws impacting protest-related offenses will go to the Governor for his signature. The bill would enhance penalties for sentences involving vandalism, rioting, and assaulting first-responders. In addition, it would strengthen the penalty to a felony for knowingly camping on state property if the property is not specifically designated for use as a camping area or if those camping do not have prior authorization to do so. The legislation would authorize the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to investigate an alleged criminal offense when the victim is a state employee, state property was damaged, or the administration of state government was delayed due to the crime.

A second bill also passed to address protest-related offenses, that would ban mayors, chief executives, governing boards, or governmental entities from prohibiting law enforcement or fire and rescue services from accessing certain areas within their jurisdiction during a public demonstration. Violators of the measure may be held liable for damages, injury, or death.

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