By KIMBERLEE KRUESI and JONATHAN MATTISE, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — As Tennesseans prepare to enjoy fireworks and barbecues over the long weekend, a long list of new state laws affecting transgender athletes, whose books may be in school libraries , homeless camps and harsh criminal penalties will go into effect Friday.
In Tennessee, July 1 marks the start of a new fiscal year and when many newly passed bills begin to be implemented.
The state’s GOP-controlled General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed hundreds of bills into law earlier this year during the annual legislative session. Lee also let several take effect without signing them. Here’s a look at some of the notable laws they’ve approved.
The $52.8 billion spending plan for 2022-23 includes a one-month sales tax holiday on groceries scheduled for August, a $750 million increase in K-12 schools and 100 million in violent crime reduction grants. It also has a $121 million break to waive the state’s share of vehicle registration fees over the next year, which comes out to $23.75 per vehicle. Other relief will eliminate $9.7 million in a professional lien tax for doctors and provide $68 million in broadband tax relief for one year.
Tennessee will become the first US state to make it a crime to camp on local public property such as parks – a move critics say is designed to target homeless encampments. The law requires violators to be given at least 24 hours’ notice before an arrest, but the felony charge carries a sentence of up to six years in prison and loss of the right to vote. It will also be an offense to camp around highways at any time – not just overnight – requiring advance warning as well.
The new law comes after Tennessee made it a crime in 2020 to camp on most state-owned property, as long as the spot is not designated for people to camp there.
Despite concerns from the governor’s office and criminal justice advocates, lawmakers have passed a bill that will lengthen criminal sentences and potentially increase incarceration costs. Known as the so-called “truth in sentencing” bill, the measure will require serving full sentences for various crimes, which legislative leaders say ensures justice for victims. These include attempted first degree murder, homicide while driving a vehicle resulting from the drunkenness of the driver, carjacking and especially aggravated robbery.
Separately, 12 other offenses would require inmates to serve at least 85% of their sentence. These range from reckless homicide, aggravated arson, intentional homicide to aggravated possession or kidnapping.
In a sign of his unease with the bill, Lee allowed it to go into effect without his signature — drawing severe rebukes from GOP legislative leaders who argue the new law will hold those who break the law harder” responsible”.
School libraries have been a common target among Republican lawmakers this year in Tennessee and across the country, with many librarians accusing them of providing inappropriate materials to students and demanding more transparency in how books were selected and removed. schools.
After introducing a slew of bills, the Tennessee Legislature finally decided to let the state’s politically appointed Textbook Commission remove the books from public school libraries statewide. The committee will have veto power when people appeal local school board decisions in book removal challenges. Meanwhile, under a separate law, school libraries will be required to publish their content online and regularly review their policies to ensure material is “age-appropriate” and “appropriate”.
Last year, Lee signed a ban on transgender athletes participating in women’s sports. Although none of the supporters could report an incident where this became an issue in Tennessee, lawmakers returned this year to add stiff penalties against schools that violate this ban. Additionally, Tennessee will now ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s varsity sports.
A new law strictly limits the ability of local governments to shut down oil and gas pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects in their jurisdictions.
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