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A look at new laws that took effect July 1st in Tennessee, Georgia

Image: Pixabay

TENNESSEE'S NEW LAWS

Requirements aimed at curbing Tennessee's opioid epidemic are among more than 150 new laws that kick in Sunday.

Many laws take effect on July 1 each year, when a new state budget year begins, and some of the highest profile ones this time around are part of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's "TN Together" opioid plan.

Tennessee will begin limiting initial opioid prescriptions to a three-day supply, with exceptions for major surgical procedures, cancer and hospice treatment, sickle cell disease and treatment in certain licensed facilities.

With the three-day initial supply restriction, Haslam's office says, "Tennessee will have one of the most strict and aggressive opioid policies in the nation."

The Tennessee Medical Association, the state's doctor lobbying group, has said it's still concerned about unintended consequences for patients who may have more difficulty accessing effective pain management because of the law.

Among other components, the opioid laws will offer incentives to get offenders to complete substance use treatment programs in prison and make it a second degree murder charge to deal fentanyl and similar dangerous substances when it causes a death.

The $37.5 billion state budget includes $16 million-plus in new opioid services money, $30.2 million more for school safety in response to nationwide school shootings and $3 million to help school districts equip new buses with seatbelts.

The budget doesn't include $250,000 that would have gone to Memphis for the city's bicentennial celebration next year. The Republican-led General Assembly stripped out the money because the city found a loophole in state law that allowed the removal of three Confederate statues from local parks.

Some other laws that take effect Sunday will:

  • Offer a three-year pilot program funded with $1 million annually to help rural hospitals develop business plans
  • Remove a sunset provision on a 2017 law allowing epilepsy patients and their families to buy cannabidiol from other states as prescribed by a doctor
  • Let pharmacists dispense prescription drugs for up to 20 days to a patient displaced by a declared disaster
  • Let people show their vehicle registration in electronic form when pulled over, including on cellphones
  • Let all students who have a medical condition that prevents them from attending regular classes attend homebound instruction, instead of only pregnant students
  • Remove an assessment requirement for teachers licensed in other states with reciprocity if they exceed expectations on their evaluations in their first two years in Tennessee
  • Require regular checks to identify sexual predators for those who work with children
  • Let the state Board of Education reprimand school directors for not reporting misconduct
  • Require higher education institution boards to give 15 days public notice before a meeting to adopt tuition and fee increases to allow for public comment; require disclosure of amount of increase, rationale and steps taken to control it; require a student's acceptance letter to project how much tuition and fees will cost over four years
  • Protect residential information of county corrections officers from public disclosure
  • Remove licensing requirement and require certain training, examination and liability insurance to be a "certified animal massage therapist" or "registered animal massage therapist"
  • Make it a Class A misdemeanor to impersonate a veteran or fraudulently representing a veteran's service to get money, property, services or other benefits
  • Make a judge issue a "no contact order" if a court finds probable cause that an alleged perpetrator caused serious bodily injury or used or displayed a weapon to a domestic violence victim; makes "no contact order" a mandatory condition of the perpetrator's bond, in addition to restraining orders
  • Expand list of juvenile offenses eligible for removal from a record to include prostitution and aggravated prostitution convictions if they resulted from human trafficking
  • Create exception to hearsay rule in criminal proceedings for non-testimonial statements by children under 12 years old relative to sexual and physical abuse; judge decides whether they are used in court
  • Only let boards deny occupational licenses based on past crimes that are directly related to the job someone is seeking, or certain felonies
  • Set out conditions for when juveniles can be placed in state custody or tried as adults, among other changes.
  • Require the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to notify local law enforcement within 24 hours when someone identified as having a mental disorder in the federal background check system has tried to buy a gun
  • Require new driver's licenses for people under 21 to be printed vertically to help identify them as underage

GEORGIA'S NEW LAWS

Several new laws will go into effect in Georgia on Sunday, which marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for the state budget.

Among them is a highly publicized measure that will make it illegal to hold or operate a cellphone by hand while driving. Dozens of other bills and resolutions passed by the state legislature during the 2018 session will also take effect.

Here is a look at some of the major legislation coming into effect Sunday:

DISTRACTED DRIVING

Starting Sunday, Georgia is joining more than a dozen other states in banning hands-on cellphone use while driving.

Under the "Hands-Free Georgia Act," drivers will not be allowed to hold a phone or use any other part of their body to support the device. Violators will face fines of up to $150 and as many as three points on their license.

First-time offenders could avoid the fine by appearing in court with proof that they have purchased a hands-free device.

More: Georgia's Hands-Free Driving Law: what's legal and what isn't

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

The state's medical marijuana program will expand Sunday to cover patients with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as intractable pain.

Backers say the changes will give patients suffering from PTSD and intractable pain an alternative to highly addictive opioid painkillers.

The program, which allows people with certain conditions to possess low-potency marijuana oil, began in 2015 and has since been expanded to cover more conditions. Previously covered conditions include cancer, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy and AIDS.

BREAKING A LEASE

Victims who have received a domestic violence order in either criminal or civil court proceeding will be eligible to terminate a residential lease early without penalty beginning Sunday.

Proponents of the new law say victims who are trying to escape a dangerous environment should not have to worry about such fees.

A tenant would need to provide a landlord with a written notice at least 30 days before breaking their lease.

FREE CREDIT FREEZE

A new law set to take effect Sunday will prohibit consumer credit reporting agencies from charging Georgia residents to freeze their credit report.

Placing a freeze on your credit is a security measure that can be used to combat identity theft. It essentially prevents creditors from obtaining your credit report, making it nearly impossible to open a new account.

Credit reporting agencies were previously allowed to charge a fee of up to $3 to freeze or unfreeze a report.

LOCAL LIMITS ON FIREWORKS

County and municipal officials in Georgia will have more authority to pass general noise ordinances effectively limiting the use of fireworks beginning Sunday.

Under the law, however, fireworks will be permitted statewide on New Year's Eve and Day, the weekend before Memorial Day, July 3 and 4 and Labor Day.


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