Tennesseans welcoming the new year on Monday will be under 16 new laws. Some are so highly specialized the average person won’t need to know them, but citizens should know at least these top 10, listed in no specific order.
In this list, the specific bill is noted in the description (SB for Senate Bill and HB for House Bill).
Cell phone usage in school zones
Adult drivers can’t talk on a handheld cell phone while driving through a school zone when warning lights are flashing. This is a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $50. This doesn’t apply if the driver is in an exception classification (law enforcement officers and others) or is communicating with first responders in a bonafide emergency. Drivers can talk on hands-free phones and use hands-free functions to send and receive texts.
Drivers under the age of 18 can’t talk on the phone or send/receive texts while driving, even if the device is hands-free. Source: SB0954.
School bus safety, complaints
This law requires a new school bus driver to complete a training program before driving students, be at least 25 years old and have at least five consecutive years of unrestricted driving experience before applying for a license.
This law also requires each school district or charter school with transportation services to appoint a transportation supervisor by Feb. 15, 2018, and provide annual proof of this person’s training.
The following records also must be collected and maintained regardless of whether the district or charter school directly provides transportation services or contracts the work out:
Bus maintenance and inspections
Bus driver credentials, including required background checks, health records, and performance reviews
Driver training records
Complaints received and any records related to the investigation of those complaints
Each school district or charter school’s governing body has to adopt a student transportation policy with specific procedures for receiving and investigating complaints. Each school bus must have the complaints phone number displayed on the rear bumper. Source: HB0322.
Prescription drug donations
This law authorizes the Board of Pharmacy, in cooperation with the Department of Health, to establish a voluntary prescription drug donation repository program. This will let people donate medicine and supplies to be used by others who are eligible. It also establishes standards to ensure the drugs are safely handled, within their expiration dates and inspected before a licensed pharmacist dispenses them; a handling fee may apply. Priority dispensing will go the poor or uninsured. Donations would be made at participating medical facilities and pharmacies.
Donated prescription drugs must be in their original sealed and tamper-evident packaging, or (for drugs in single-unit doses or blister packs) the single-unit dose packaging must be intact if the outside packaging is opened. Source: SB0429.
People who can prove they passed small arms training or combat pistol training in any branch of the U.S. armed forces can skip a step in getting a handgun carry permit. They will be exempt from the firing range part of the training required for the permit. Source: HB0689.
College students’ free speech
According to the Campus Free Speech Protection Act, postsecondary and higher education institutions (those beyond the high-school level) must give students “the broadest possible latitude” to speak, write, listen, challenge, learn and discuss any issue as long as they aren’t violating the First Amendment.
Institutions must not try to shield people from ideas and opinions they find offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical or wrong-headed. Institutions can’t use concerns about civility and mutual respect as a justification for closing off the discussion of ideas.
The law also puts strict limits on ways that institutions might discourage free speech:
Institutions have to allow students’ free speech in the generally accessible outdoor areas of its campus. Free speech cannot be restricted only to particular areas of the campus, sometimes known as “free speech zones.” There can’t be permitting requirements that prohibit spontaneous outdoor assemblies or outdoor distribution of literature. (Some outdoor places may be reserved in advance, though.)
Institutions can’t deny student activity funding to a student organization based on the group’s viewpoints.
Security fees can’t be imposed based on what students or their guest speakers say or the anticipated reaction of listeners.
Institutions can’t stop students or faculty from inviting guest speakers on campus or uninvite such speakers regardless of the speakers’ views.
There are some limits for those expressing their views too:
Students and faculty can’t substantially interfere with the freedom of others to express their views.
There also must be a student-on-student harassment policy covering “unwelcome conduct directed toward a person that is discriminatory on a basis prohibited by federal, state, or local law, and that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.”
The law doesn’t let students disrupt previously scheduled or reserved activities, and institutions aren’t required to fund costs associated with student speech or expression.
There also are some guidelines for faculty based on their areas of competence and the subject taught. Source: SB0723.
Colors of headlights
Vehicles can only have white or amber front lights. There are exceptions for emergency vehicles, school buses, rural mail carriers and authorized law enforcement vehicles. With few exceptions for emergency vehicles and others with specialized professional uses, no vehicle can have front flashing lights except for factory-installed emergency flashers. Source: SB0194.
Alarm system contracts
A homeowner can cancel an alarm services contract after the first two years if the homeowner has to sell the property for medical reasons. The homeowner must give the company 30 days’ written notice. Source: HB1392.
This law lets barbers with residential barber certificates perform services at home regardless of the client’s health. Previously, they could only provide home services to people who were sick. Source: SB0032.
Personal aides for people with disabilities
Competent adults with a functional disability (or caregivers for minor children or incompetent adults) can have paid personal aides to perform routine health maintenance tasks for them at home. Source: SB597.
The Alcoholic Beverage Commission no longer has jurisdiction over enforcement of criminal offenses involving marijuana. Source: HB1291.