The state approved a $52.6 billion budget for 2022-23 that will go into effect July 1. The budget will include several items meant to ease the financial burdens of state residents, including a one-month sales tax holiday on groceries, waiving the state portion of vehicle registration tag fees for a year, and a one-year broadband tax relief.
A number of new laws will also go into effect on the first of July, including laws that cover education, transgender females in school and college sports, healthcare, homelessness, criminal activity and more. Other hot topics were also addressed, including abortion, the new Titans’ stadium, campaign financing, COVID-restrictions and book banning in schools.
Here is a rundown of the new laws.
Related to Education
Local school systems will now have to post curriculum and curriculum changes at the beginning of each semester.
School districts will have to give teachers time to practice remote learning situations, and provide them with training programs that include virtual learning tips.
The Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA), which will begin in the 2023-24 school year, will establish a new funding formula for schools in the state.
Anyone retiring from a public school previous to July 1, 2025 will be able to come back as a teacher, substitute, bus driver, etc. without the loss or suspension of retirement benefits so long as certain conditions are met.
School districts are now required to have after-school mini camps, bridge camps and summer school to compensate for learning loss.
All school district employees that work with kids will be required to get human trafficking training.
Those who don’t stop for a school bus when the stop sign pops up will now be fined $200 if caught on camera.
Related to School and College Sports
If a school does not use a student’s birth sex for sports participation, the state will be allowed to withhold money from schools.
A law has been passed to ban transgender females from participating in higher education female sports.
Related to Healthcare
The new SAFE Act, standing for “stopping addiction and fostering excellence”, revises and enacts various provisions for alcohol and drug services in the state preventing them from doing anything that reduces or limits services that are of “best clinical interest” of the patient. The law also requires the state to establish and maintain a list of organizations on the Department of Mental Health’s website with nationally recognized recovery residence standards.
Healthcare prescribers offering prescriptions for opioids will also be required to offer prescriptions for an opioid antagonist or reversal drug, such as naloxone.
Related to Homelessness
This next law shuts down homeless camps and makes homelessness a crime by expanding existing laws to make it a felony to camp on any public property, and a misdemeanor to camp along a controlled-access highway.
Related to Gun Control
A lot was discussed in the legislature related to gun control in the last six months, but what passed is a law the requires the Tennessee Department of Safety to do a criminal background check every four years on anyone with a concealed carry permit, and charging $50 to renew the permit. Anyone found prohibited from purchasing or possessing a gun on the background check will have their concealed carry permit renewal denied.
Related to Human Resources
No longer can state agencies require a bachelor’s degree as a condition of employment unless skills required for the position can only be reasonably obtained from receipt of said degree.
The Crown Act prevents employers from discriminating against people with hairstyles that are part of their cultural identification or ethnic group. The exception is when the hairstyle interferes with state and federal health and safety laws.
Employers are now prevented from paying employees less than minimum wage, even if their earning or productive capacity is impaired by age, a physical or mental deficiency, or injury.
Related to Driving a Vehicle When Intoxicated
Nicholas’ Law treats the second offense of boating under the influence the same as a second offense of driving under the influence. This means the offender is prohibited from operating a boat or other vehicle until they are able to seek reinstatement of their driving privileges.
As a condition of bail, a DUI offender may be required to install an ignition interlock device into their vehicle. This device requires the driver to provide a clean breath sample in order to start their car if the court determines it to be in the best interest of justice and public safety.
Related to Criminal Activity
The Transparency in Sentencing for Victims Act requires courts to put on record the estimated number of years and months a defendant will serve in prison before becoming eligible for release.
People convicted of human trafficking will have a special designation on their driver’s licenses allowing law enforcement officers to identify them quickly.
A person convicted of first-degree murder for the killing of another in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated rape, rape, rape of a child or aggravated rape of a child will be sentenced to life in prison without parole or death.
Another new law prohibits corrections officers from restraining a prisoner or detainee who is known to be pregnant. The exception is under an “extraordinary circumstance ruling” that requires restraints for the safety and security of the person, staff, or other detainees. In such situations, officers would, however, still be prevented from using leg or waist restraints on a prisoner that is in labor, and restraints would need to be applied in the least restrictive manner possible.
Child welfare and abuse laws have been refined to include protections for emotional and mental health in childcare settings. This would make it a felony for a person or entity to operate a childcare agency after having their license suspended.
Related to New License Plate Designs
Twenty-three more new Tennessee license plate designs were authorized.
Related to Littering
Criminal charges for littering have been expanded to specifically refer to people caught dumping tires on public or private roads.
Money collected from barrel taxes on beer and bottle taxes on soft drinks was authorized to be spent by the Tennessee Department of Transportation to be used for roadway and waterway litter cleanup.
Related to Water Safety
Regulations on wakeboarding and wakesurfing in public waters were approved restricting nighttime activities, setting minimum distances from docks and shores, and requiring participants to wear life vests.
Related to Utility Charges
From now on, a utility system, upon request or application for a connection of utility service by a customer, must promptly provide the customer with the connection cost.
Other legislation addressed during the most recent sessions includes agreement to authorize $500 million in bonds to help fund the new Tennessee Titans stadium, updated finance ethics legislation related to disclosure of funding sources, harsher penalties for doctors who violate strict abortion pill regulations, more limits on COVID-19 safety, additional powers to remove books from school libraries deemed age-inappropriate, a deadline was set of 2024 to join the states who include a paper record of every ballot cast, and lawmakers banned local police officials from requiring officers to live in the county they patrol due to staffing shortages.