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Press Releases

Legislation Requiring Drug Testing of Judges Proposed

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; November 15, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and Representative Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) said today they will introduce legislation which calls for drug testing all Tennessee judges. McNally made the announcement after meeting yesterday with Knox County Prosecutor Leland Price and the families of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom. Christian and Newsom were raped, tortured and murdered by Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman seven years ago.

“For a family to have to go through one trial where it involves the torturous murder of their loved one is far too painful for anyone to endure,” said Senator McNally. “But, to have to go through two trials is inconceivable and inexcusable. This legislation addresses this so that no one will have to endure this kind of lengthy and excruciatingly painful court process again due to drug abuse by a judge.”

The families of Newsome and Christian had to endure two painful trials as a result of the misconduct of Judge Richard Baumgartner, who pleaded guilty to illegally taking narcotics during the first trial of the convicted murderers in which he presided. As a result of Baumgartner’s plea, the four defendants who had previously been found guilty, were retried and convicted again.

“I think it’s important that our citizens have confidence in our justice system,” said Representative Haynes. “It is pretty clear after what these two families have gone through that there are issues that need to be addressed.”

McNally said he also plans to introduce legislation which provides for harsher punishment for ethical misconduct by officers of the court that lie about crime victims in order to advance their case.

“Attorney are officers of the court and should not be allowed to lie in order to advance their case at the expense of the victim,” added McNally. “To do so amounts to a second crime against the victims and their families and should be treated as such.”

McNally said both pieces of legislation are still in the drafting stages.

“I am appalled at what these victims and their families endured during these trials,” added McNally. “We must make sure this never happens again.”

McNally is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and represents Senate District 5 in the Tennessee State Senate, which encompasses Anderson and Loudon Counties and portions of Knox County. Haynes is Chairman of the State Government Committee and represents portions of Knox County in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

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Press Releases

GOP Boasts Bipartisan Support for Drug-Testing for TANF Benefits

Press release from the Tennessee House Republican Caucus; May 1, 2012:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The General Assembly this morning passed a major initiative to implement drug tests for those individuals seeking certain public benefits.

The measure, brought by Representative Julia Hurley (R—Lenoir City), requires applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program benefits to undergo a drug test before receiving such benefits. Under the bill, the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) must develop a plan to implement a program of suspicion-based drug testing for each applicant who is otherwise eligible for TANF benefits.

“This measure is about restoring some measure of accountability for taxpayers and ensuring the proper fiscal management of our State’s limited financial resources,” said Hurley following the passage of the legislation on a 73-17 bipartisan vote. “Tennesseans want to have confidence in the system. They want to know these benefits are helping those families who need assistance, not greedy individuals who are trying to get money for drugs. We need to help those individuals who need legitimate support, not those trying to milk the system.”

Following an initial positive drug test, the applicant would undergo a confirmation test using the same urine sample from the initial positive test prior to determine TANF eligibility. The results of the confirmation test would be used to determine final eligibility of these benefits.

In these cases, “drug” shall mean marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, and opiates such as morphine. The DHS Commissioner may add additional drugs by rule. No drug for which an applicant has a current valid prescription will be a basis for denial of TANF benefits under this amendment. The implementation would occur in phases over a two year period.

Representative Debra Maggart (R—Hendersonville), who serves as the Chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, applauded the efforts of Hurley following the passage of the bill. “Representative Hurley deserves a lot of credit for passing this legislation. She researched the subject, talked with experts, and crafted a practical piece of legislation that instills some common sense into the process. Taxpayers should be proud lawmakers like Julia Hurley are fighting for the integrity of their tax dollars.”

The bill passed the Senate on April 25th with a vote of 24-9 and is now going to the Governor to become law. To view a full summary of HB 2725, click here.

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Education Liberty and Justice

Lawmakers Mulling Expanded School Drug Testing

Legislation is advancing through the Tennessee General Assembly that would permit school districts to implement a random drug testing policy for students who participate in any school-sponsored extracurricular activities.

The Senate and House Education committees each passed the legislation last week.

“There’s about five or six coaches that call me every year to get this passed because it’s a deterrent,” said the Senate sponsor of the bill, Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville.

Drug testing of students is already allowed under state law, but not randomly. Currently, a student may only be drug tested “if there are reasonable indications to the principal that the student may have used or be under the influence of drugs.”

If the legislation becomes law, local education agencies that choose to implement a random drug testing policy must notify parents of the policy and get their written consent to test their child, and parents must be notified if their child is chosen for a random drug test.

Results of the tests would remain private, and if a student tests positive for drugs or alcohol, the student would undergo a drug and alcohol assessment to determine whether or not the student needs counseling for their drug or alcohol use.

Lee Harrell, director of Government and Labor Relations for the Tennessee School Boards Association, told the Senate Education Committee a positive drug test would not hurt a student’s education.

“The intent of this bill is not to be punitive…as far as suspension from school,” he said. “The child will, under most policies, be excluded from that activity — if he or she tests positive — for a certain amount of time as determined by school policy.”

Under the proposals, student participation in any extracurricular activity, not just athletics, could result in students being required to submit to testing if their parents agree.

According to Fiscal Review, there were about 484,100 students in 2008-2009 in grades six-twelve, and the committee estimated about half participated in extracurricular activities.

The committee also estimated about five percent of those students would be randomly drug tested if the bill becomes law.

The Senate version of the bill is now ready for a floor vote; the House version could be taken up by that chamber’s Finance Committee next week.