Tennessee has a total of 133 new laws or amendments to existing laws in the state that will take effect on July 1st, 2017. While some of these laws might not directly affect you — many of them will! Here’s a rundown of some of them so you’ll know what to expect after July 1st…
Gas Price Increase: Yes, we’re about to start paying a bit more at the pump starting Saturday. The IMPROVE Act, which cuts the taxes on food raises the prices on gas and vehicle registration in the state to help pay for road and bridge funding.
The tax on a gallon of gas is going up by $0.04 starting Saturday, and then by $0.01 each year for the next two years — adding up to a total of 6-cents by July 2019. The tax on diesel fuel is going up by a total of 10 cents over the next three years.
License Plate Renewal / Registration Fees: You’ll be paying more to renew or register your car next time, too. The cost to register a vehicle in Tennessee will increase by $5 for passenger motor vehicles, $10 for buses and taxis and $20 for semis and tractor trailers. If you have an electric vehicle there will be an additional $100 registration fee for it.
Not to fret too much, as Tennessee already has some of the lowest flat rate registration fees in America. Some states charge based on the age or value of the vehicle, which can be more expensive — or just outright expensive at $135 per car in states like Maryland. We’re still affordable in terms of tag renewals at the new prices and 100% of the fee increase is going to support our infrastructure.
In Marion County, Dwight Minter is the County Clerk and his staff will gladly assist vehicle owners with any questions they may have regarding the new fees. The office is located in Room 101 at 24 Courthouse Square in Jasper and they can be reached at (423)942-2515.
Blocking a public street is a crime: A traffic safety bill goes into effect making it a misdemeanor to block public highways and streets in an area that restricts emergency vehicle access. The offense is punishable by a $200 fine. This law could impact any would-be protestors who stand in the street restricting emergency vehicles.
Caller ID Spoofing is Illegal: Caller ID is a great invention, especially since it started delivering the name along with the number. Unfortunately, the feature which was meant to allow consumers to avoid unwanted phone calls easily has fallen victim to “spoofers” who manipulate the information which appears on your phone. These spoofers who masquerade as representatives of banks, creditors, insurance companies, or even the government with fake numbers and names or by manipulating text messages will now face tougher punishment if caught, making “spoofing” a Class A misdemeanor.
Homeowner’s associations can’t restrict how you display the American Flag: A new law in the state says that these HOA’s (homeowner’s associations) can no longer enforce rules prohibiting the display of the flag of the United States of America or an official or replica flag of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on the property of a homeowner.
Purple paint means NO TRESPASSING: Probably one of the more odd laws for 2017, but you should be aware of it! Property owners can now use purple paint on trees or posts as an alternative to posting “No Trespassing” signs. The property owner must post at least one sign at a major point that specifies that the use of the purple paint means “no trespassing.’
Annual ‘Armed Intruder Drills’ in schools: Tennesse is taking school safety seriously, and school safety teams in the state will now be required to conduct at least one armed intruder drill in the school each year. While many schools were already participating in such a drill, this is intended to fill the gap and ensure that all schools have a plan and practice it in the tragic event that it is needed.
Nurse Practitioners can now give minors drugs for STDs without parental consent: A new bill authorizes physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives to treat minors for sexually transmitted diseases. They are also allowed to prescribe and dispense drugs to treat the STD. Currently, only health officers or physicians can treat minors with STDs without the knowledge of the parents of the minors.
Fines for voter fraud: An amendment to Tennessee’s election laws requires a court to impose an additional $1,000 fine for a conviction for voter fraud. It also provides a $1,000 reward for information leading to such a conviction.
Teachers are getting more money for classroom supplies: If you ask any public school teacher anywhere how much money they spend out of their own pockets and you’ll always hear at least “several hundred” and many times “as much as a thousand” — and that’s very much the case according to public school teachers in Tennessee.
Currently, only $200 is set aside for every public teacher in K-12 for instructional supplies. The $200 is divided with $100 given to each teacher for instructional supplies as determined necessary by the teacher and $100 being pooled with all such teachers in a school and spent as determined by a committee of the teachers for such purpose.
A new law increases that amount to $400 per teacher with $200 being given to each teacher and $200 being pooled.
Tougher rules for public employees who commit crimes while on the job: An amendment is making it more difficult for public employees accused of a misdemeanor offense during their employment to avoid punishment. Currently, employees can file for suspended prosecution or pretrial diversion.
Suspended prosecution allows the case to be put on hold for six months. After the conclusion of six months, the case could be dismissed if there were no other similar offenses during the six months.
A pretrial diversion is a voluntary program for defendants charged with misdemeanors or criminal violations. When a defendant successfully completes the program, a recommendation is made to the court to dismiss the charges.
The new law makes it so that public employees who commit misdemeanor offenses during their employment do not qualify for suspended prosecution or pretrial diversion.
Firearm silencers are now legal in Tennessee: The Tennessee Hearing Protection Act of 2017 lets people use silencers on guns in the state. Supporters of the measure say it will help protect sportsmen’s ears.
Legislation was also passed that allows people to legally have loaded or unloaded guns and ammunition onboard their boats. Proponents have said the bill brings more clarity to the existing law.
Increased sentencing for people who target police or military: People convicted of committing a violent offense against a uniformed law enforcement officer or uniformed member of the military or Nation Guard where the victim was selected because of their occupation will face a tougher sentencing. An amendment to a sentencing law allows the defendant’s sentence to be increased.
Abortion after 20 weeks banned: A new law in the state bans abortions after 20 weeks in Tennessee if a doctor determines the fetus is viable through required tests. The legislation that subjects doctors to felony penalties doesn’t apply if the mother faces risks of death or serious damage to a major bodily function.
Desecrating a place of worship or burial is now a felony: An amendment increases the punishment for intentionally desecrating a place of worship (church) or burial site from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E Felony.
Credit Cards can charge up to 30% interest: It’s not good news if you’re trying to save money, tighten your budget, or pay down credit card debt, but a new law increases the maximum annual interest rate that a bank may charge on credit card accounts from 21% to a new high of 30%.
Traffic safety: As enacted, requires a motor vehicle to yield the right-of-way by making a lane change, if possible, or reduce speed and proceed with due caution when approaching a stationary motor vehicle that is giving signal by use of flashing lights and located on the shoulder, emergency lane, or median.- Amends TCA Title 55.
Domestic violence charges and firearms: As enacted, requires the court to give a defendant intending to plead guilty to a domestic violence offense notice of the firearm dispossession consequences of a domestic violence conviction and sets out a procedure for a person convicted of domestic violence to terminate possession of all firearms. – Amends TCA Section 39-13-111 and Section 40-14-109.
TennCare reporting of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatments: As enacted, requires managed care organizations participating in the TennCare program to annually report to the bureau of TennCare certain information regarding treatment of claims for mental health and alcoholism or drug dependence benefits in relation to the requirements of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. – Amends TCA Title 56 and Title 71.
Sex offenders: As enacted, requires courts to require any person who is, on or after July 1, 2017, placed on probation for an offense that would qualify the person as a child rapist or child sexual predator and who does not maintain either a primary or secondary residence, to enroll in a satellite-based monitoring and supervision program for the full extent of the person’s term of probation. – Amends TCA Title 40, Chapter 39.