Lawmakers approved hundreds of bills during the legislative session of the 111th Tennessee General Assembly.
Many will go into effect next month, while others will begin later this year and on Jan. 1. From handheld phone use to online sports gambling, here’s a look at 12 of the new state laws that will take effect July 1.
Handheld phone ban while driving
This law will prohibit drivers 18 and older from holding or physically supporting a cellphone with any part of one’s body while driving.
So what does this mean? You can’t talk on the phone while driving unless you use an “earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication.”
Drivers could be fined up to $200. Younger drivers already are prohibited from using phones while driving.
On July 1, the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act”will take effect. It will allow online sports gambling but continue to prohibit gambling in physical locations.
Additionally, the March Madness and Fantasy Football Freedom Act will take effect. The regulation will decriminalize wagers on fantasy sports leagues and sports pools under certain circumstances.
Since many forms of gambling are prohibited in the state, the law adds “low-level sports entertainment pools” to activities officially not considered gambling.
Death penalty appeals
The Sergeant Daniel Baker Act is named for Dickson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Daniel Baker, who was fatally shot in 2018. The suspects in the crime have trials set for August, with prosecutors seeking the death penalty.
The new law would expedite the death penalty appeals process by sending death penalty cases to the Tennessee Supreme Court and removing a Court of Criminal Appeals step.
Criminal justice reform
After taking effect, a $180 fee will be removed for individuals petitioning the court for expunctions of certain criminal offenses and remove a $350 fee for a defendant applying for expunction of an offense after they complete a diversion program.
The new law is part of an ongoing criminal justice reform effort.
The law will remove the license requirement for “engaging in natural hair styling” as a job. Current laws define natural hair styling as hair techniques that cause tension in hair strands, including “twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking or braiding of the hair by hand or mechanical appliances.”
Businesses operated by minors
Thankfully for this summer’s lemonade stands, the new law stops a county or municipality from requiring a license, fee, permit or any other kind of regulation for a business that is solely operated by a person under 18, is located on private property with the owner’s consent and grosses $3,000 or less in a year.
Indecent exposure bill
One of several recent bills slammed by the LGBTQ community that passed this session, the law will redefine a “public place” to prohibit indecent exposure in restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms or showers designated for multi-person, single-sex use.
Critics have said the legislation targets transgender people. The bill was introduced around the same time as several others that angered LGBTQ activists, including a bill that would allow adoption agencies to deny same-sex couples and a bill that would prohibit gay marriage in the state.
Child abuse cases
The law extends the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases, giving victims more time to pursue legal action. It also revises and tightens the penalties for persons who intentionally fail to report cases.
The new law prohibits dropping items or substances from an unmanned aircraft into an “open-air event venue” in which 100 or more people are gathered for a ticketed event.
This law clarifies that a marriage license cannot be issued for an applicant who is under the age of 17 and defines “parent” for purposes of parental consent to marriage of a minor.
The legislation also would delete the “obsolete requirement” that a minor’s marriage license application be mailed to the parent of the minor and held for three days before the license is issued. This comes after a law signed by former Gov. Bill Haslam in 2018 that outlawed anyone under 17 from marrying in Tennessee.
This law would would make possession, owning, selling, transferring or manufacturing cock fighting paraphernalia with intent that the items will be utilized in promoting, facilitating, training for or furthering cock fighting a Class A misdemeanor.
A new law would prohibit a person from loitering or “conducting any commercial activity” in or close to the median of a state highway. The act will lead to Class C misdemeanor offense that requires a warning citation for a first offense.
Reach Andrew Wigdor at email@example.com and on Twitter @andrew_wigdor
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