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Long slate of new Tennessee laws to kick in Thursday

June 30, 2021 GMT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A long slate of new Tennessee laws will kick in Thursday, ranging from allowing most adults to carry handguns without clearing a background check or training to requiring certain medical providers to cremate or bury fetal remains from surgical abortions.

July 1 also starts a new fiscal year, with the spending plan for this year hovering around $42.6 billion.

Here is a look at some of the new laws that will begin Thursday.

CONCEALED CARRY: Under the new law, adults 21 and older and military members between 18 and 20 will be allowed to open or concealed carry handguns without a permit, joining nearly 20 other states that have enacted similar measures.

FETAL REMAINS: Certain medical providers will be required to dispose of fetal remains from surgical abortions by cremation or burial and cover the costs of the disposal. The measure states that the pregnant woman “has a right to determine” the method and location for the final disposal of the fetal remains if desired, but if she picks a different location she would have to shoulder some cost.

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TRANSGENDER BATHROOM SIGNS: This first of-its-kind law requires businesses and government facilities to post signs if they let transgender people use multiperson public bathrooms of their choice. However, it’s unclear how or if the law will be implemented. Nashville’s top prosecutor has already announced that he won’t enforce it and civil rights activists have filed a legal challenge seeking to block its implementation.

TRANSGENDER SCHOOL BATHROOMS: Schools and districts will be open to lawsuits if they let transgender students or employees use facilities marked for the sex opposite of what’s on their birth certificate.

FAMILY PLANNING CURRICULUM: This new law requires schools to state that while contraceptives may prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, only abstinence removes all risk. It’s a position already in practice in Tennessee schools, but the law also allows parents and guardians to opt their children out of family planning teaching.

IMMUNIZATION EXEMPTION SIGNS: Schools, nursery schools, preschools, child care facilities, and public institutions of higher education will be required to include information on immunization exemptions when discussing vaccine requirements with students or parents.

LAWMAKERS AND STATE CONTRACTS: Lawmakers will be banned from holding service contracts with the General Assembly while in elected office and six months after. The new law also places restrictions and public disclosure requirements if they contract with the state government.

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CRIMINAL JUSTICE: After pushing for several years, Gov. Bill Lee’s administration was able to pass two measures designed to divert some people away from state prisons and increase resources for those leaving prisons. The new laws will provide alternatives to incarceration for some nonviolent offenders and will also tweak rules that currently require judges to send parolees back to prison for minor violations.

TRUTH IN SENTENCING: Starting Thursday, certain violent or sexual offenders must serve all of their sentence imposed by a judge or jury. Offenders may still be able to earn credits, but only use them to security classification or earn privileges — not reduce sentences.

TANF: This law instructs the state to begin spending down the more than $700 million Tennessee has in reserves from a federal welfare program for families with children. Tennessee raised eyebrows after a conservative think tank released a report revealing that its federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program had the highest reserve in the country. The new law requires that $180 million will be dedicated to pilot programs, $50 million in community grants for organizations that provide services to low-income families; as well as slightly boosting how much families receive in cash assistance.

FOOD AND SALES TAX HOLIDAY: Tennesseans will have see three sales tax holidays under the budget passed by the General Assembly. This includes the traditional three-day weekend for back-to-school supplies between July 31 and Aug. 1, as well as a week-long break on food tax starting July 31 through Aug. 5 and a year-long sales-tax break on gun safety equipment that ends June 30, 2022.

COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT BOARDS: Police oversight board members must now complete hours of citizen police training to retain voting power on the panels. If a majority of the board fails to complete the training over the next year, then the board will be prohibited from taking any action.

CONFUCIOUS INSTITUTE BAN: Confucius Institutes will now be banned from public universities even though Tennessee does not have any active programs. Patterned after the British Council and Alliance Francaise, the Confucius Institutes are unique in that they set up operations directly on U.S. campuses and schools. They have attracted mounting scrutiny from U.S. officials amid increased tensions with China.