The State Senate acted on several bills this week that crack down on sex offenders, including legislation to make it less attractive for those convicted of the crime to move to Tennessee. Senate Bill 2398 allows any county or city to establish a community notification system by a two-thirds vote of the local legislative body. This community notification system will notify certain residences, schools and childcare facilities within that local government’s boundaries that a sexual offender resides or intend to live within a certain distance of such residences, schools, and childcare facilities. The bill follows similar laws in other states, including Alabama.
State Senators also passed Senate Bill 2242 which deals with observation without consent. Currently, voyeurism without consent is a Class A misdemeanor, no matter how many times it occurs. This legislation places those who are convicted of the crime three or more times on the state’s Sexual Offender Registry.
The full Senate approved Senate Bill 1131 to help ensure child sex abuse is reported. The bill adds to the list of individuals who must report any known or suspected child sex abuse any authority figure at a community facility, including any facility used for recreation or social assemblies, for educational, religious, social, health, or welfare purposes. Failure to report known or suspected child abuse is a Class A misdemeanor.
State Senators gave final approval to legislation to help protect students from sex offenders and other violent criminals while at school. Current law requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to perform background checks on vendors who do contract work with schools in Tennessee. Senate Bill 2356 seeks to tighten a law passed last year by adding more offenses and jurisdictions to these background checks including statutory rape by a non-authority figure, aggravated kidnapping of an adult, child abuse, child neglect, aggravated robbery and voluntary manslaughter. It allows the TBI to investigate the potential of interest background for a broader timeframe than was previously granted to ensure that sex offenders and violent criminals cannot slip through the cracks.
In committee action this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 2090 to help ensure Tennessee is not a destination for sex offenders as a result of having weaker laws than other states regarding work and residential restrictions. Tennessee law already has such restrictions for child sex offenders. This legislation prohibits any sexual offender, whose victim was an adult, from knowingly establishing a residence or to accept employment within 1,000 feet of any public, private or parochial school, licensed day care center, other child care facility, public park, playground, recreation center or athletic field available for use by the general public.
Finally, the Judiciary Committee advanced Senate Bill 2254 which is designed to be sensitive to the victims of sexual offenses and their desire to keep their personal identifying information private following the conclusion of a trial where the defendant is found guilty. The legislation provides that certain information regarding the victim shall be treated as confidential and not open for inspection by members of the public, unless the victim waives their right to confidentiality. Nothing in this bill can be used to deny access to the public part of this file as long as the personal information is redacted.