Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today held a ceremonial bill signing at the Bartlett Criminal Justice Center to highlight three pieces of public safety legislation. The bills were a result of his administration's multi-agency, comprehensive public safety action plan aimed at curbing violent crime, lowering the rate of repeat offenders, and significantly reducing drug abuse and drug trafficking in Tennessee.
"One of the key roles of state government is to keep citizens safe," Haslam said. "These laws will play an important role in combating some of our state's toughest safety challenges."
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) reports that in 2010 and 2011, domestic violence victims made up more than half of all reported crimes against Tennesseans. HB 2389/SB 2251 increases the mandatory jail time for repeat domestic assault offenders. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett) sponsored the legislation.
There were nearly 6,000 reported weapons law violations statewide in 2011, according to TBI. The felons with guns bill, HB 2388/SB 2250, increases sentencing for certain convicted felons in possession of firearms. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Barrett Rich (R-Somerville) sponsored the bill.
The gang violence bill, HB 2390/SB 2252, gives district attorneys a new tool to charge individuals that commit crimes of force or violence. This new law makes the crimes of aggravated assault, robbery and aggravated burglary a criminal class higher for sentencing purposes if these crimes are committed by three or more individuals acting in concert. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Barrett Rich (R-Somerville) were sponsors.
In May, the governor signed his prescription drug abuse legislation, which was also part of the administration's public safety action plan. The law requires prescribers and dispensers of prescription drugs to register with the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database. All prescribers must also check the database for a patient's controlled substance history before prescribing an opioid or benzodiazepine.
The public safety action plan was created by the Governor's Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group that includes commissioners and representatives from the departments of Safety and Homeland Security, Mental Health, Children's Services, Correction, Health and Military along with the chairman of the Board of Probation and Parole, the directors of the Governor's Highway Safety Office (Department of Transportation), Office of Criminal Justice Programs (Department of Finance and Administration), Law Enforcement Training Academy (Department of Commerce and Insurance) and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
The plan outlines 11 objectives and 40 actions steps and includes input gathered from meetings with more than 300 public safety professionals and stakeholders across the state.