Tennessee’s new laws: Dumb and dumber

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, July 10, 2019

It’s always good to be up to date on the laws in your state. In Tennessee, whose legislators are the butt of national jokes over the bills they propose, it’s absolutely essential.
A long list of new laws took effect on July 1, and while some of the worst ideas that the General Assembly had this year did not make the cut, there are several that demand everyone’s attention.
For example, legislators have overridden local ordinances banning switchblade knives with blades 4 inches or longer; thus, giving criminals an additional deadly weapon to use in armed robberies and arguments that in the past might have ended without life-threatening wounds.
The bill’s provision doubling the fine for possessing a switchblade with intent to commit a felony is ludicrous. Of course, the person wielding a switchblade has felonious intent, and isn’t worried about a $6,000 fine. Now, they will face fewer consequences as a result.
That perhaps is the most egregious legislation approved this year, but there are others:
• Lawmakers reinstated the electric chair in case their preferred method of capital punishment, lethal injection, is found to be unconstitutional or the drugs run out. Never mind that electrocution is at least as heinous and prone to error. While other states are moving away from capital punishment or devoting more study to it, Tennessee is doubling down.
• Public Chapter 507, erroneously labeled “Environmental Preservation,” revises the process for third-party appeals of state permits pertaining to air quality, solid waste and hazardous waste. Now, only those parties who took part in a public-comment period or testified at a formal public hearing may petition to appeal a permit, essentially making it harder for citizens to challenge a business or individual that is polluting with tacit permission of state government.
Other new laws that appear to be driven by special interests:
• If you go to a private business that contracts with the state to get a driver’s license, that office can charge you an extra $4. No big deal, right? Unless you live on minimum wage or less.
Other new laws are just ridiculous, hopefully without serious repercussions. For example:
• Sen. Stacey Campfield’s measure to “let” school districts teach the history of Christmas and teachers and students can use traditional holiday greetings. Both already are allowed under the Constitution and existing law, but this way Campfield can pretend he has made a contribution.
• And lastly, if you are an outdoorsman, you don’t have to worry anymore — it is now illegal to use drones “to interfere with private citizens who are lawfully hunting or fishing.”
Whatever happened to getting frivolous laws OFF the books?
— The Nashville Tennessean

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