By Scott Robertson
July 1 has come and gone and already we’ve seen the effects of the new spate of laws passed by the General Assembly and signed into law (or allowed to become law without the governor’s signature).
Most noticeable was the law allowing wine sales in Tennessee grocery stores. Volunteer state fans of the grape were happy to have another source for vino, but found out an inconvenient veritas on the first weekend of WIGS (the acronym used in state legislative circles for Wine In Grocery Stores) sales. The grocery stores, like liquor stores, are unable under the new law to sell wine on Sundays or on holidays. That meant that grocery stores were allowed to sell wine July 1 and 2, but then had to close the wine aisles on both July 3 and 4.
Oh well, that gives both the wine and liquor store lobbies a little something to shoot for in 2017 and beyond. In the meantime, the rest of us can continue to purchase wine on the other 300 or so days of the year.
Another new law is that which allows full-time employees of a college or university to carry firearms on campus. Gun advocates will tell you that the law already allowed such carriage, but that the higher education administrators had come up with their own rules against it – and that this law simply makes it clear the administrators have no authority to change gun laws. Most public universities, ETSU included, have already released new gun-on-campus policies, which are still more stringent than Second Amendment true believers would like, but which the administrators believe would weather a challenge in court.
One of my personal favorites in the relatively short list of interesting new Tennessee laws is the one allowing citizens to register to vote online. It’s a fine step into the 21st century here in 2016.
Tennesseans who already have a state-issued identification document of some sort (generally a driver’s license) will have their identities crosschecked when they register to vote online. Just so, anyone attempting to register to vote in Tennessee for the first time will have to do so in person, in order that a live human being can check the person’s existing ID.
There’s one new law that I like, though it will have no discernible effect in our region. This law bans slower vehicles from traveling in the far left-hand lanes of six-lane highways. The Tennessee Department of Transportation will be using the overhead electronic billboards in those areas to make drivers aware of the law. Violators may be fined $50 per violation.
Also, the state is getting more serious regarding texting drivers. Up until now, texting and driving had been categorized as a non-moving violation. I was fine with that if the officer writing the ticket had observed the illegal activity while the offender was not in motion – say, texting at a stoplight.
The new law, however, reclassifies all texting and driving to a moving violation for the purposes of affixing penalty for the offense. Thus, judges now have the ability to deduct points from an offender’s driver’s license and to send offenders to traffic safety schools.
Finally, the gaming industry’s latest entry into online moneymaking is being regulated. The former Division of Charitable Solicitations is now the Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports and Gaming. Fantasy sports operators including FanDuel, Draft Kings and Yahoo! Sports must now obtain a license from the division before accepting money from players in Tennessee.
Individual fantasy sports players in Tennessee will see no direct effect from the legislation, though if enough states follow suit, the fantasy sports operators may raise their rates. Free games, where players do not pay in and do not have a chance to win a cash prize, will remain unregulated.