New Tennessee laws taking effect July 1

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee’s 112th General Assembly has passed a long list of new laws that Governor Bill Lee signed, which will take effect July 1.

Child Protection Laws

Evelyn’s Law: Parents in Tennessee must report missing children to law enforcement within 24 hours, or they could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. The law is named after Evelyn Boswell, a 15-month-old from Hawkins County that was found dead after an extensive AMBER Alert. (Senate Bill 327)

Eli’s Law: The new law requires that the court be alerted about any child born to parents who have had another child removed from their custody. The law is named after a boy named Eli whose brother was removed from his parents’ home years prior to his birth. Like his brother, Eli was abused. (Senate Bill 867)

Child Exposure to Dangerous Drugs: This bill expands on the “Severe Child Abuse” law. It increases the penalty against individuals who knowingly expose children to illegal drugs like meth, fentanyl, and cocaine. (Senate Bill 1530)

Child Neglect and Endangerment: The new law also includes harsher penalties for anyone who places a child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment – like exposing them to dangerous drugs. Offenders would face a Class A misdemeanor, but if the child is 8 or younger, then the penalty is a Class D felony. (Senate Bill 1951)

Child Rape Sentencing: If someone is convicted of the facilitation of rape of a child or aggravated rape of a child, then the new law requires them to serve 100% of the sentence imposed, minus a maximum of 15% credit. It also adds community supervision for life. (Senate Bill 628)

Human Trafficking Laws

Safe Home for Trafficked Children: Under this law, police are required to notify the Department of Children’s Services when a minor is taken into custody on suspected prostitution charges. The DCS will place the child in a safe place that will help them recover from abusive trafficking. (Senate Bill 214)

Trafficking Victims Self Defense: The new law gives considerations to victims of human trafficking who use force that may result in serious bodily injury or death – even if they are engaged in illegal activity. The victim must prove they are a victim of human trafficking in order to use force when they had a reasonable belief of a threat that would result in serious bodily injury or death. (Senate Bill 188)

Commercial Sex Trafficking: The bill is aimed at combating human trafficking by removing the statute of limitations for any offenses committed against a child on or after July 1, 2021. (Senate Bill 1115)

Sex Trafficking Sentencing: The law adds convicted traffickers to the category of sexual predators who are not eligible for early parole or release. (Senate Bill 1122)

Truth in Sentencing: The new law ensures certain violent or sexual offenders serve all of their sentence imposed by a judge or jury. The law aims to protect victims and their families. (Senate Bill 717)

Gun Laws

Permitless Carry: The law allows Tennesseans ages 21 and over and military members over the age of 18 to carry open or concealed handguns without a permit and also increases punishments for gun-related crimes. The new permitless carry law will also implement stronger penalties for criminals who steal guns or get them illegally. Those who carry without a permit must have no felony convictions, pending charges. Those suspected of stealing a firearm face up to a Class E felony and tougher sentencing. (Senate Bill 765)

Firing a Gun from a Vehicle Sentencing: The new law classifies the offense of reckless endangerment by discharging a firearm from within a motor vehicle as a Class C felony. (Senate Bill 1373)

Theft Laws

Porch Pirates: The new law allows for stiffer punishment against repeat offenders who steal packages left in mailboxes or doorsteps. The first offense is punishable based on the value of the stolen item. Subsequent offenses of mail theft can be charged at least as a Class E felony. (Senate Bill 1121)

Catalytic Converter Theft: Under this new law anyone who buys a catalytic converter that’s unattached must be registered as a scrap metal dealer in a fixed location and must be able to track purchases. Anyone selling a detached catalytic converter must provide identification/documentation. Senate Bill 1612

Laws that Increase Penalties

Drag Racing: The new law is aimed at stopping drag racing. It increases the penalty from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. (Senate Bill 14)

Spencer Bristol Act: The new law not only increases protection for police officers but also, increases penalties for criminals who evade arrest. The bill is named after Hendersonville Master Patrol Officer Spencer Bristol, who was hit and killed in 2019 while running after a suspect. The penalty has been increased to a Class C felony if evading arrest results in serious bodily injury of an officer. If an officer is killed, then the penalty is increased to a Class A felony. (Senate Bill 129)

Aggravated Riots: The law increases the minimum sentence from 45 to 60 days if a person commits more than one aggravating circumstance. It also extends the offense to rioters who travel from out of state and has intent to commit a criminal offense or is being compensated. (Senate Bill 451)

Boating Under the Influence: Under this law, the consequences of BUI rises to be consistent with penalties associated with driving under the influence, DUI. (Senate Bill 246)

‘Bathroom Bill’ Laws

Tennessee Accommodations for All Children: The new law requires schools to try to offer a single-occupancy or employee facility for anyone who wants more privacy, but it specifically bars letting transgender people use multi-person facilities that don’t align with their sex at birth. (Senate Bill 1367)

Transgender Public Restrooms: The law makes Tennessee the first state in the U.S. to require businesses and government facilities open to the public to post a sign if they let transgender people use multi-person bathrooms, locker rooms, or changing rooms associated with their gender identity. (Senate Bill 1224)

Education Laws

Safe Stars Act: The bill creates health standards and metrics to improve student-athlete safety. It also aims to prevent cardiac arrest and concussions. (Senate Bill 1259)

Student’s Right to Know Act: The new legislation requires Tennessee Higher Education Commission to create a web-based dashboard for students considering college and career options. The dashboard will include education cost options and expected occupation wages. (Senate Bill 1521)

HOPE Scholarship: The new law extends eligibility to homeschool students who want to apply for HOPE Scholarships. (Senate Bill 458)

Child Care Laws

Adoption Health Check: The law requires adoptive parents who receive subsidies to provide DCS with medical or school records in order to get a health check. If they fail to do so, the law allows DCS to initiate a face-to-face visit. This follows the deaths of two children in Roane County police believe were buried for several years. The adoptive parents continued receiving benefits after their deaths. (Senate Bill 270)

Child Care Task Force: The bill creates a task force designed to come up with a strategic plan that addresses the challenges of providing high-quality affordable child care. (Senate Bill 677)

Child Care Report Card: Another law makes several changes to the Child Care Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS). The new assessment toll weaves quality indicators into licensing rules so that there is a seamless system for parents and providers to navigate. (Senate Bill 749)

Miscellaneous Laws

TN Business Fairness Act: The new law comes from the COVID-19 recovery efforts. It puts small businesses on the same playing field as bigger competitors when there’s a declared state of emergency so businesses are not forced to close. (Senate Bill 474)

Criminal Justice Reform: The bill primarily focuses on launching a task force that will work to find alternatives to incarceration like the use of Recovery Courts and felony probation. (Senate Bill 767)

Animal Cruelty: A new law removes barriers in order to prosecute aggravated animal cruelty cases in Tennessee. The law no longer requires prosecutors to prove the act was done in a “depraved or sadistic manner.” (Senate Bill 166)

Unborn Child Dignity Act: The law requires any child surgically aborted to receive a proper burial or cremation. (Senate Bill 828)

Tractor Lemon Law: The legislation helps farmers when it comes to replacing or refunding farm machinery. The law requires manufacturers to cover any repair or costs, replacement, or refund that are not the result of the normal wear and tear of equipment. (Senate Bill 831)

Film and Animation: The new law makes way for more incentives for film productions to do business in Tennessee. (Senate Bill 736)

To find everything passed during Tennessee’s 112th General Assembly, click here.

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