Tennessee lawmakers looking to crack down on TikTok

Notes from Sen. Steve Southerland’s desk: Steve’s Senate in a Minute

(NASHVILLE) March 2, 2023 — Protecting against unwanted surveillance / drones – The Senate State and Local Government Committee advanced legislation this week that prohibits local law enforcement agencies from purchasing drones from corporations or entities which are banned under the National Defense Act of 2019. Senate Bill 776 aims to protect Tennesseans from surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party and other foreign actors.

Cracking down on TikTok use at Tennessee college campuses – The Senate gave final approval to legislation to prohibit the Chinese-owned social media platforms TikTok and WeChat from being accessed on Tennessee public higher education institutions’ internet networks. Senate Bill 834 is sponsored by a former Captain in the United States Navy who says these platforms pose serious national security risks to the United States. The State of Tennessee and the Federal government have taken similar steps to mitigate the security risks of TikTok by prohibiting government internet networks and devices from supporting the social media app.

Correcting injustices for surviving spouses – Senate Bill 97 expands death benefits for surviving spouses and dependents of individuals killed in workplace accidents. Two women, widows affected by workplace deaths, spoke on how the bill would help families who receive death benefits. In addition to the increased payments, the bill also allows for benefits to continue to dependents if a surviving spouse remarries. Senate Bill 97 was unanimously approved and advances to the Senate floor.

Vehicle Immobilization Devices – The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee unanimously approved legislation this week to establish statewide standards to protect consumers from unscrupulous practices of booting vehicles. Under current law, companies which place vehicle immobilization devices or “boots” on illegally parked vehicles can be regulated by local government authorities, but there is no statewide regulatory standard. Senate Bill 649 clarifies that companies must remove the vehicle immobilization device, or “boot,” when the owner of the vehicle pays the company; if there is a problem with the payment, the company must issue a notice and take the boot off immediately.  It also caps the boot removal fee at $75 a day.  This bill only applies to private parking lots and clarifies that employees cannot earn commission or be contracted to remove or install boots. It allows the Attorney General to prosecute violations of this measure through the Consumer Protection Act.

Expanding Medical Assistants Responsibilities – Two years ago, the General Assembly passed legislation that allowed medical assistants working in outpatient clinics to perform certain tasks. Senate Bill 679 identifies several other practices that certified medical assistants can perform including: preparing medications to be given by a medical provider, giving rectal medications, and giving vaccines from multi dose packaging. The legislation also specifies that medical assistants cannot give medication or vaccinations that require a dosage calculation.

Rural Schools Innovation Act – Senate Bill 999 which advanced out of the Senate Education Committee this week, creates a two year pilot program in which at least two rural school districts would partner together to expand access to high-quality, robust college and career pathways. It allows students in one school district to take advantage of Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes at another school district. This bill will allow school districts to focus their funding in their already exceptional CTE programs while still providing their students opportunities to take more and varied classes.  The legislation now advances to the Finance, Ways, and Means committee.

Thank you for reading this column. Please contact my office to share your thoughts about any legislation. My office can be reached by phone at: (800) 449-8366, extension: 13851 or by e-mail at: sen.steve.southerland@capitol.tn.gov. Thank you for the honor to serve you in state government and God bless!