By PETER SAWYER
CARYVILLE — On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Haslam appeared briefly at the Caryville Municipal Building to sign Lynn’s Law — which provides greater power to prosecute those who abandon the disabled. The signing of the law occurred just over one mile from the site of its tragic inspiration.
“Government can work, and this is an example of it working at all levels,” Haslam told a crowd of dozens as he signed the measure into law. “This is also an example of (a community) caring.”
Lynn Cameron, the developmentally disabled 19-year-old who inspired the bill, was abandoned at the Big Orange Bar in Caryville last summer, by her mother, Eva Cameron.
But the mother escaped prosecution largely because of a loophole in state law.
“Simply because she was over 18, she was considered an adult,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro. “That was the loophole we (are) closing up.”
While Lynn hadn’t been physically abused, she was abandoned, said Powers. She was older than 18, but was dependent on her mother, who received a check to take care of her, he said. Under former Tennessee laws, no crime was committed.
So lawmakers included “abandonment” in “abuse and neglect” and carefully defined other language in the new law to give prosecutors more power to ensure those who abandon disabled individuals in Tennessee won’t escape prosecution again.
“We want to make sure (someone) is held accountable,” Powers said.
Under Lynn’s Law, Eva Cameron would be now considered a “caretaker” and therefore subject to prosecution.
Another reason for Lynn’s Law is to ensure Tennesseans who need Adult Protective Services receive them. When Lynn was abandoned, it was an emergency situation. This prioritized her case ahead of 7,200 Tennesseans waiting to receive Adult Protective Services.
“We want to make sure people aren’t crossing state lines so they can receive faster services than someone who’s already a resident here and that’s on the waiting list,” Powers said.
Powers initially sponsored Lynn’s Law in the Tennessee House of Representatives where it passed 92-0. Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, carried it in the Senate, where it passed 31-0.