2019's Key Legislative Issues: Common Sense Changes from the 2019 Legislative Session

NGU Risk Management

August, 2019

The General Assembly recently adjourned and all laws enacted in that session have become effective. The Trust and its staff worked hard during the session to educate and assist the members of the General Assembly on issues that are important to Trust members. Here are some highlights.

PUBLIC OFFICIAL BONDS

The Trust recognizes that avoiding unnecessary costs is good business. A comprehensive government liability insurance policy offers the same, and in some cases better, protection to government officials than a public official bond provides. Therefore, it made no sense to pay insurance premiums and bond premiums. Four years ago, the Trust presented this information to the members of the General Assembly, and the General Assembly amended the law to recognize that fact.

Despite the fact that insurance was approved to replace the bond, the law did not lift the requirement to file the insurance certificate as if it were a bond. Others believed that they were required to post a bond even though the law clearly eliminated that requirement. In order to address these concerns, TNRMT once again communicated with members of the General Assembly. As a result of that communication, Public Chapter 260 was enacted. This chapter recognizes that a certificate of insurance satisfies the requirements of the law and removes the requirement that a bond be physically filed.

TNRMT coverage has complied with the law since its inception four years ago and of course is in full compliance with the new law. All TNRMT property/casualty MEMBERS receive the proper insurance certificates at renewal. This certificate of insurance specifies the offices and officials covered. Once again, common sense prevails, and local government officials will avoid unnecessary time and costs.

ELECTION COMMISSIONS

Another law supported by the Trust clarifies a county's insurance obligations with respect to the county election commission; Tenn. Pub. Ch. 44. TNRMT coverage was amended to include elections commission over 2 years ago.

For TNRMT members, this law does not change the Trust's method of handling claims.

Practically, this new law clarifies that if the election commission is sued for non-election issues (e.g., discrimination, retaliatory discharge), then TNRMT, upon confirming coverage, will select and pay for the election commission's attorney fees and expenses. The bill's sponsors supported this law as "common sense."

This law does not apply to election contests. The city still pays for the costs, including attorney’s fees, incurred in any municipal election contests, and the county still pays the costs, including attorney's fees and expenses, incurred by the election commission in county election contests.

As always, if you have any coverage questions, please contact TNRMT or NGU.

WORK-BASED LEARNING LAW REVISED

Work-based learning programs provide an opportunity for students to learn technical and trade skills in a real life setting and also earn credit towards their diploma. For employers, work-based learning programs provide a pool of motivated employees who desire to learn new skills and enhance the employer's business. In 2018, the General Assembly enacted a comprehensive work-based learning program in order to encourage work-based learning programs in Tennessee.

The 2018 law was unclear on one important issue – who is responsible if the student is injured while working "on-the-job?" Is the LEA responsible for a student's injury even though they are not providing direct supervision as when the student is in school? Also, are employers required to carry workers' compensation insurance on these students? Via this newsletter last fall we advised you of our concerns, especially the questionable use of the generic term 'liability insurance'.

The General Assembly addressed this question in the 2019 session. Effective July 1, 2019, LEAs that participate in a work-based learning program are required to maintain student accident insurance for their program students. TNRMT already includes student accident insurance coverage for all students, including students in a work-based learning program. Therefore, Trust members are already in compliance with this new requirement.

In many circumstances workers compensation will apply if the student meets the definition of "employee" in the workers compensation statute. Thus, the student is protected either way.