New laws starting in 2024 in Tennessee
Published 10:29 am Thursday, December 28, 2023
NASHVILLE – As 2023 turns into 2024, some new laws will take effect in Tennessee at the start of the new year.
New laws such as the gun safety course law, Abrial’s Law and more will take effect on Jan. 1.
Some of the new laws include:
GUN SAFETY COURSE LAW – This law authorizes the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security to start a voucher program for the reason of reducing costs for people who take firearm safety courses after Jan. 1, 2024. Participants will get a $100 enhanced handgun carry permit application and processing fee reimbursement for obtaining the permit.
The law will also require TDHS to give information on approved handgun safety training courses available to Tennesseans at minimal costs on its website. It has to report the number of vouchers used in the program to the judiciary committee along with the House Criminal Justice Committee.
The Department of Safety will pay up to $30 to approve handgun safety schools for each person who completes a handgun safety course for the first time. Gun shops would have to meet requirements set by the department to seek reimbursement and the money must be used to offset costs of handgun safety courses.
The state will be required to provide information to gun shops annually about approved safety courses. Dealers would be allowed to display signs in a prominent location in their store letting people know that the state is offsetting the cost of the course and how much it would cost after the $30 reimbursement.
ABRIAL’S LAW – This bill makes changes to child custody laws in Tennessee, particularly when it comes to abusive situations. The law states that the court can’t remove a child from a parent in a custody dispute if that parent has shown to be competent, protective of the child, and not physically, sexually or mentally abusive.
It also prohibits the parent in the custody battle from being penalized for making a “good faith complaint” about any domestic violence or child abuse.
DISTRACTED DRIVING PENALTIES INCREASE – This bill, known as the Eddie Conrad Act, will increase the number of points that can be charged to a person’s driving record if they are caught texting, videoing, or being on their phone starting Jan. 1, 2024.
The bill is named after Eddie Conrad, who was in the car with his family when a distracted driver hit him from behind, pushing him out into oncoming traffic. He was killed in the accident. His wife and grandchildren were in the car but survived. The family has been bringing awareness to the consequences of distracted driving since the accident.
GPS ADDED TO COURT-ISSUED CAR BREATHALYZERS – If you get a DUI and the court issues you an ignition interlock device that will be put on your car (if after Jan. 1, 2024), it will have GPS technology on it as well. It will not be used for any type of tracking per the law.
An ignition interlock device is a unit that is installed on your car’s ignition system, where you have to blow into a breathalyzer for the car to start.
JUVENILE DETENTION FACILITIES – A bill that passed on March 13 requires the Department of Children’s Services to make sure children in juvenile detention facilities and youth development centers alike can regularly access chaplain services. It specifically says juveniles would not be required to attend or use chaplain services.
The law also requires children who are 16 years old or older to be housed separately from younger children in residential facilities and youth development centers. However, it allows them to be housed together if DCS decides it’s necessary “for the safety and well-being of the children less than 16 or to comply with provisions of current law” focusing on seclusion.
EXPANDING DONATED DRUGS – Currently, state law allows pharmacies and medical facilities to accept and dispense prescriptions and supplies that were donated by others. A law that was passed on April 6 expands that program, allowing more people to donate and expanding the list of medications that can be donated.
The program is meant to prevent medications from going to waste and to improve access for people in underserved communities. By expanding the program, the Tennessee Pharmacists Association said it hopes uninsured and underinsured patients can find more access to needed medications.
The law was known as “The Kevin Clauson Drug Donation Act,” in honor of a pharmacist and professor who died in September 2022 after he was diagnosed with cancer.
The law requires licensed pharmacists employed with the program to inspect donations before they are dispensed, and requires pharmacists to store donations in a secure area. Donated inventory also needs to be separated from non-donated inventory, but can be used to replenish purchased inventory.
Controlled substances also cannot be accepted for donation. People eligible include people making incomes under 600% of the federal poverty level. The law also expanded the program to allow donations of inhalers, patches, injectables, specialty medication and over-the-counter medication.
CHILD CUSTODY JUDGE TRAINING – A new law will require all judges involved in child custody proceedings to complete at least two hours of training or continuing education courses on domestic violence or child abuse per year. They can also receive ten hours of training per five years.
The training can include topics like child sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, coercive control, implicit bias, trauma and the impact of domestic violence.A previous version of the law would have prohibited a parent involved in child custody hearings from being penalized for making “a good faith complaint” about domestic violence or child abuse. It would have prevented courts from removing children from a parent or other party during a child custody proceeding to improve a “deficient relationship” with another parent who has been accused of abuse. It would have also required courts to hold an evidentiary hearing if someone requested it before a “guardian ad litem, evaluator, or other neutral professional” can be appointed.
NEW RULES FOR LOCAL FARMERS MARKETS – Starting Jan. 1, Tennessee will be enforcing new food safety rules at public farmers markets across the state. The change will require certain vendors to purchase a farmers market food unit permit if they intend to prepare and serve food onsite using improvised equipment for things like handwashing, food prep, drinking water, and waste disposal.
The new permit rules apply to any vendor that falls under Tennessee’s definition of a “farmers market food unit.” Vendors will be required to purchase a separate permit for each stall that falls under the new food safety guidelines.
The law specifically applies to on-site food prep. It does not affect vendors who want to offer samples, fresh produce, or food that was prepared off-site in a licensed and inspected kitchen off-site. Hot food prepared off-site will still need to follow these safety rules per the law:
“(1) Samples must be prepared on clean surfaces; (2) Food must be in good, sound condition, free from spoilage, filth, or other contamination; (3) Food must be honestly presented and safe for human consumption; (4) Cut produce should be discarded after two (2) hours; (5) Persons preparing or dispensing samples must wash their hands frequently or have and use disposable gloves; (6) A barrier must be maintained between hands and food, such as gloves, tongs, toothpicks, or napkins; and (7) Sneeze guards or plastic or glass coverings are required to protect open food products from contamination, such as insects, dirt, and customers.”
Vendors preparing food on-site at farmers markets with improvised equipment will have to apply for a permit ahead of time. The permit fee is $300 and must be renewed before July 1 each year. Vendors applying next year before July 2024 will be able to pay a prorated $150 fee and the permit will expire on June 30.