The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 444, which would increase the prize limits for Local Option Small Games of Chance and tighten regulations on small games licensees.

Changes in prize limits would include:

  • Single chance from $500 to $1,000;
  • Weekly limit for an organization from $5,000 to $20,000;
  • Raffle prizes from $500 to $1,000; and
  • allowing progressive games of up to $5,000 value, insured games and advertising of prizes.

New controls under the bill include:

  • Prize winnings must be reported to IRS and state Department of Revenue;
  • All records kept for two years;
  • Licensees must keep separate bank account for games of chance revenue;
  • Annual financial report required;
  • Four hours per year of games-of-chance training; and
  • Maximum penalties increased to $2,000

The prohibition on leasing premises from anyone who has been convicted of a violation within the past 10 years would be expanded to include the prohibition of the leasing of premises from any person who violated the Bingo Law.

The bill now goes to the House.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved legislation that enhances motorcycle safety education programs.

House Bill 563 creates an exemption for land owners who authorize the use of their property as an approved motorcycle safety course. Specifically, the legislation exempts qualified land owners from liability for any injury or death or property damage that may occur during instruction or training. 

The bill was signed into law as Act 103 of 2011.

* * *

The Senate approved voted 45-5 in favor of Senate Bill 314, which prohibits motorists from using a wireless communications device to send, read or write a text message while driving.

This violation is punishable by a $50 fine and considered a primary offense, which means a law enforcement officer can pull over a driver for that offense alone.

The statewide ban preempts and supersedes all local ordinances on this type of violation.

“Interactive wireless communications device” is defined as a wireless telephone, personal digital assistant, smart phone, portable or mobile computer or similar device that can be used for voice communication, texting, emailing, Internet browsing or instant messaging. It does not include a GPS or other navigation system, a system that is built into the vehicle or a communication devise that is affixed to a mass transit vehicle or school bus.

“Texting” includes a text message, instant message, email or other written communication composed or received on an interactive wireless communications device.

The bill was signed into law as Act 98 of 2011.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved legislation that would include methadone under the list of controlled substances in driving under the influence provisions.

Under Senate Bill 954, if a person has more methadone than prescribed in their system it would be considered DUI (driving under the influence). The DUI charge would also apply if the methadone is in combination with alcohol or another drug.

The bill is now in the House Judiciary Committee.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 286, which eases municipal advertising expenses for small projects in incorporated towns.

This bill increases the threshold at which projects must be competitively bid and publicly advertised from $10,000 to $18,500 and allows for adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index every 5 years. The legislation also increases the thresholds for telephonic bids from between $4,000 and $10,000 to between $10,000 and $18,500.

The bill was signed into law as Act 93 of 2011.

* * *

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1095, which would establish an independent and objective process for nursing homes to appeal cited deficiencies.

Currently, the state Department of Health conducts its own informal dispute resolution (IDR) process for long-term care facilities, as required by federal law. Senate Bill 1095 would provide an option for long-term care facilities to either use the department’s IDR process or have a Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) hear the appeal.  The QIO would need to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and be under contract with the state in order to conduct the IDR.

Any recommendations made by the independent IDR would be subject to final review and approval of the Department of Health.

The bill is now in the House.

* * *


The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 200, known as the Safety in Youth Sports Act.

This measure protects student athletes from serious head injuries and establishes standards for managing concussions and other brain injuries. The bill also requires that any student who may have suffered a head injury be removed from a sporting event and not permitted to return to play until they are medically cleared.

The legislation also requires that coaches be trained about the risks of concussions.

The bill was signed into law as Act 101 of 2011.

* * *

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 342, which would raise the per diem paid to members of the State Board of Occupational Therapy from $30 to $60.  The bill would also allow a licensed certified registered nurse practitioner or licensed physician assistant to make a referral for the implementation of occupational therapy.

In addition, the bill would create an impaired professionals program.  The board would hire the services of a professional consultant to act as a liaison between the board and treatment programs. A licensee convicted of a felony would be barred from participating in this program.

Lastly, the bill would permit the removal of a board member for lack of attendance and require that an occupational therapist have professional liability insurance.

The bill is now in the House.

* * *

Senate Bill 349, which would regulate the state’s tanning facilities and set age limits for who can use them, passed the state Senate by a vote of 48-1.

This bill would prohibit children younger than 14 from using a tanning device without a letter from a physician; and would require parents to accompany 14 to 18-year-old minors to the tanning facility and sign written consent forms each time they use a tanning device.

The bill also would require tanning facilities to have a license, undergo inspections, post signs warning of the hazards of UV rays, have customers sign a warning statement, report injuries to the state and train tanning bed operators.

The license fees would be $300 per salon (up to 10 beds) and $20 per additional bed.

The bill is now in the House.

# # #