Editorial Roundup: Tennessee

Kingsport Times News. January 12, 2023.

Editorial: New laws going into effect in Tennessee, Virginia

The new year brings tax relief to some Tennessee farmers and a raise for Virginia minimum-wage workers. New state laws go into effect either Jan. 1, or July 1, and some may affect you.

“Dallas’s Law” is now on the books in Tennessee, named for Dallas Barrett, who died of asphyxiation after a fight with security guards in Nashville. Six guards were indicted on reckless homicide and aggravated assault charges. The law revises required training necessary for someone working as a security guard or officer, adding de-escalation and safe restraint techniques, and emergency first aid/CPR training.

Another law requires a health insurance entity, a health services provider or a health care facility to notify a patient of internal communication concerning a patient’s medical claim, and yet another requires a business that allows someone to sign up for a service or subscription online to provide the option to cancel the service or subscription online without additional steps.

And then there’s the “Tennessee Abortion-Inducing Drug Risk Protocol Act,” which makes it a felony to receive abortion-inducing drugs by mail.

Persons such as law enforcement officers may now restrict access to their home address in searchable databases, and Tennessee farmers are now exempted from sales taxes on items and services used for agriculture production, including building materials, repair services and labor.

Another new law will reimburse eligible relatives of foster youth to help support the cost of raising them. And cemeteries with small trust funds may now share banking and trustee costs with other cemetery trust funds.

In Virginia, the state minimum wage has been increased $1 to $12 an hour. Since May 2021, the minimum wage has steadily increased in the commonwealth, and according to the Code of Virginia, will continue to do so for years to come. The next jump will be Jan 1, 2025.

The federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25, a rate that hasn’t changed since 2009. As of last fall, 15 states have minimum wage rates that match the federal minimum wage. In this new year, 27 states have increased their minimum wage.

Tennessee is not among them because it and four other states have no state minimum wage and rely on the federal minimum wage.

Virginians also are seeing some taxes cut. Effective Jan. 1, taxes at the grocery store for certain products have dropped from 2.5% to 1%. That includes essential hygiene products like diapers, bed sheets and feminine hygiene products.

Virginia’s new Consumer Data Protection Act adds new consumer privacy rights, a broader interpretation of “personal information,” a separate “sensitive data” category, and data protection assessment obligations into the mix with the commonwealth’s three major preexisting privacy and data protection laws.

Last year, Virginia became the second state after California to pass a comprehensive consumer privacy law, which gives Virginians new consumer privacy rights over their “personal information,” including the right to access, the right of rectification, the right to delete, the right to opt out, the right of portability, and the right against automatic decision making.

Tennessee should follow suit.


Johnson City Press. January 18, 2023.

Editorial: Cockfighting should be a felony

A Bristol lawmaker is continuing his efforts to put some teeth into Tennessee’s notoriously weak law against cockfighting.

Sen. Jon Lundberg is once again sponsoring a bill (Senate Bill 0194) to change the penalties for cockfighting from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony.

Tennessee legislators have routinely declined to get tough on cockfighting.

Some have even defended this hideous practice as part of the tradition and culture of many rural communities since Colonial times.

Over the years, these misguided supporters of animal fighting have argued that the father of this country, George Washington, was himself a cockfighting enthusiast. We would point out to those people that Washington was also a firm believer in bloodletting, a medical practice of the 18th century that some historians believe contributed to his death.

In recent years, bills that would have returned cockfighting to a felony offense have stalled in the state House Agriculture Committee. Lundberg has again filed his bill in hopes it will find favor in the new legislative session.

Sadly, legislators have refused to crack down on cockfighting even after hearing testimony from federal agents who say Tennessee is part of the infamous “Cockfighting Corridor,” where criminals who engage in this blood sport flock to ply their horrifying trade.

An FBI agent once told legislators that the operator of a busted cockfighting pit in Cocke County boasted that he bribed a state lawmaker nearly 20 years ago to lower the penalty for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor. Since that time, Tennessee has seen its reputation as the cockfighting capital of the South grow.

As law enforcement officials are quick to point out, cockfighting is not a harmless diversion. There’s an obvious link between cockfighting and interstate gambling, prostitution and illegal drugs.

Those who engage in cockfighting should be punished as the barbaric criminals they are. It can be argued that a Class E felony is too light of a penalty for a despicable crime, and one that rightfully deserves more than a slap on the wrist.

That’s why the Humane Society of the United States pays a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of cockfighters.

Go to https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/cockfighting-fact-sheet to learn more.