Editorial: Are you aware of these new laws?

Editorial Board • Jan 15, 2020 at 10:30 PM

Should public employees enjoy a benefit at taxpayer expense that most taxpayers do not? Federal and state governments have enhanced medical benefits for public employees, benefits not largely available to the public itself.

On the state front a Tennessee law effective Jan. 1 requires state employee insurance to cover proton therapy, an alternative treatment for certain cancers. Proton therapy is a highly advanced form of radiation treatment that uses protons rather than X-rays to treat cancer. Officials say it can be better controlled and deliver higher doses of radiation with fewer side effects.

While it’s now a covered benefit for state workers, a Kingsport resident advised recently that he had to take more than $35,000 out of his 401(k) plan to cover proton therapy for prostate cancer because his employer-provided insurance would not cover it. 

Federal government workers are now guaranteed 12 weeks of leave for the birth of a child or an adoption. But many private workers can’t afford to take that much time off of work.

Another new law in effect since the first of the year in Tennessee requires any prescription for an opioid to be issued electronically. The law was approved by the Tennessee Legislature in 2018, but the state allowed more time for providers and pharmacies to comply.

And a new law revises safeguards and procedures in the Elderly and Vulnerable Protection Act to add a new focus on crimes involving sexual exploitation of an elderly or vulnerable adult. It expands the definition of “neglect” to include failure by a caregiver to make a reasonable effort to protect an elderly or vulnerable adult from abuse or sexual exploitation. And it requires people convicted of abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect or financial exploitation to be placed on a registry managed by the Tennessee Department of Health.

In Virginia, a new law reduces sales and use tax on essential personal hygiene products such as disposable diapers regardless of age of user, and disposable incontinence pads, bed sheets and feminine hygiene products. There’s changes to standard deductions of Virginia individual income taxes. For the taxable year 2019, the standard deduction will increase to $4,500 for taxpayers filing single, or married filing separately; and $9,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.

As they enact new laws governments should always recognize that those who foot the bill — the taxpayers — should not be forgotten, especially when benefits are handed out to public employees.

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