NASHVILLE — More than 140 Tennessee laws kick in today, including measures to crack down on drivers using hand-held cellphones on the roads; strip one court’s review of death sentences; and bar ministers ordained online from administering marriages.
July 1 also marks the start of a new fiscal year, with this year’s spending plan nearing $38.6 billion.
Here is a look at some of the new laws now in effect:
- AMMUNITION TAX BREAK: Removes $435,400 worth of annual taxes on ammunition.
- CHILD RAPE PENALTIES: Increases punishment for aggravated rape of a child to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Previously it was from 15 to 60 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine.
- CHILD SEX DOLLS: Bans possessing, selling or distributing a child-like sex doll.
- CIVICS TEST: Requires students to pass a civics test to receive a high school diploma.
- DEATH PENALTY REVIEW: Removes one state court’s review before executing inmates and provides automatic state Supreme Court death penalty reviews.
- DESTRUCTION OF RECORDS: Makes destroying or altering government records a Class E felony, increased from a Class A misdemeanor.
- EXPUNCTION: Eliminates $180 fee for petitioning the court to expunge someone’s record of certain criminal offenses.
- GOVERNOR’S FAITH-BASED OFFICE: Establishes the governor’s office of faith-based and community initiatives.
- GYM TAX REPEAL: Repeal a $10 million amusement tax on gym memberships.
- HAND-HELD PHONE BAN WHILE DRIVING: Bans the use of hand-held cellphones while driving.
- MARCH MADNESS POOLS: Makes clear that March Madness college basketball bracket pools with an entry fee of $25 or less with a total pool of $1,000 or less are legally allowed.
- ONLINE-ORDAINED MARRIAGE MINISTER BAN: Bans ministers ordained online from performing marriages.
- SEX OFFENDERS: Bars people convicted of a sex offense against a child younger than 12 years old from living with, visiting overnight or being alone with their own minor
- children. Law has been temporarily blocked by court order.
SPORTS BETTING: Allows regulated statewide mobile and interactive sports gambling for people 21 years old and up. Betting will not begin until regulations are crafted and a new board is appointed.
- WATERED-DOWN BATHROOM BILL: Spells out that Tennessee’s public indecency law applies to single-sex, multiperson bathrooms and changing rooms.