In Tennessee, July 1 is when bills that were passed and signed by the Governor usually take effect as law. We’ve got a rundown of laws you need to know about. We’re not surprised that some of our legislators continue to pass laws rooted in hate, fear, division and exclusion. We’ve highlighted a few of the good, the bad, and the ugly of what the Tennessee General Assembly passed this year.
The cost of expunging a conviction has been reduced from $350 to $180
Thanks to Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) and Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Tennesseans with a criminal record – many of whom live in poverty due to unemployment – will have a cheaper time getting their records expunged. It immediately became a law on May 25, 2017.
Gas taxes help to improve roads
Depending on how you look at this, the Governor’s IMPROVE Act
will pump $248 million additional dollars into the budget to pay for 962 road construction projects in Tennessee. The law cuts taxes on groceries. It also gives $70 million to counties and $35 million to cities like Nashville to fund mass transit to alleviate traffic congestion.
The tax on a gallon of gas is going up by 4 cents on July 1, and then 1 cent each of the following two years, adding up to 6 cents total. The tax on diesel fuel is going up by a total of 10 cents over the next three years. The cost to register a vehicle in Tennessee will increase by $5 for passenger motor vehicles, $10 for buses and taxis and $20 for semis and tractor trailers. Electric vehicles will have an additional $100 registration fee.
HBCUs get some love by Love
Rep. Harold Love (D-Nashville) pushed a bill through that creates a new initiative and assigns personnel to assist Tennessee’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities with increasing enrollment, retention, and graduation rates by working with school presidents and administrators.
Adults in Tennessee can attend community college for free
Tennessee became the first state in the nation to offer all citizens – both high school graduates and adults – the chance to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate free of tuition and fees and at no cost to taxpayers. Take advantage of this!
Pre-K and Kindergartners cannot be expelled or suspended
A law by Sen. Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) and Rep. Raumesh Akbari protects students in pre-kindergarten through kindergarten (pre-K-K) from being suspended or expelled from school, unless the student’s behavior endangers another student or staff person.
Teachers are getting more money for classroom supplies
Currently, $200 is set aside for every public teacher in K-12 for instructional supplies. A new law removes the requirement that half of the funds be pooled and instead allocates the entire amount to each teacher for instructional supplies as determined necessary by the teacher.
Board of Parole must have experience
A Senate bill (SB275) ensures that at least one member of the Board of Parole has corrections experience. Go figure.
Police officers’ identities are protected
It is now a misdemeanor offense to release the identity of a law enforcement officer’s resident address to the public. This will make officer-involved shooting investigations that much more secretive. HB0560
Tougher penalties for crimes against law enforcement officers
People who target uniformed police, military or national guardsmen can face tougher sentencing. But wait, where are the laws protecting unarmed black men killed by police?
Protestors are NOT protected
Forget having your First Amendment right, now you can be fined $200 for blocking emergency vehicles during a protest. Wanna keep black and brown people from protesting? Make it a law. Seems like this has been directed at Black Lives Matter.
Pregnant women are banned
from getting an abortion after 20 weeks.
Credit cards can charge 30 percent interest
A law increases the maximum annual interest rate that a bank may charge on credit card accounts from 21 percent to 30 percent. Yep, let’s keep poor people poor and enslaved to the lender.
Bills & Budgets: A Community Town Hall & Legislative Update