NASHVILLE, TN. (WLAF)- A series of new laws went into effect last week in Tennessee. Among them are:

-A new law that will help Local Education Agencies (LEAs) fund a “Grow Your Own” scholarship program. The program helps train high school students and non-teaching staff to become certified teachers in a three-year program at a higher education institution. Last year, there were 1,123 teacher vacancies reported in Tennessee. The new statute authorizes the commissioner of education to grant a waiver to a requesting LEA exempting the agency from the average class size standards to assist the LEA in funding a Grow Your Own Program.

– As of last week there is now a law to ensure license revocation for teachers convicted of certain crimes against children. Those convicted will have their license revoked by the Tennessee State Board of Education. The criminal offenses that apply include communicating a threat concerning a school employee, arson, aggravated arson, burglary, child abuse, child neglect, child endangerment, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, aggravated child endangerment, providing handguns to juveniles, sexual offenses and violent sexual offenses. In addition, it includes teachers or administrators whose name is placed on the state’s Vulnerable Persons Registry or the state’s Sex Offender Registry, or those identified by the Department of Children’s Services as having committed child abuse, severe child abuse, child sexual abuse, or child neglect.

– Penalties against child sex offenders have been strengthened. Legislation was passed this year tightening Tennessee’s statutes against the “worst of the worst” child sex offenders. Currently, sex offenders can be charged with aggravated rape of a child if their victim is zero to three years old. Beginning July 1, the new law raises that age range to zero to eight years old.

-Legislation banning convicted animal abusers from owning pets in certain cases was given final approval. The law bans some convicted animal abusers from ever owning any pets again. The new law prohibits individuals convicted of some of the worst offenses against animals from owning companion animals for at least two years from the date of conviction and may impose a lifetime prohibition. Upon a subsequent offense, the court shall prohibit the individual from having custody of any companion animal for the person’s lifetime. The measure builds on a 2015 law that created the Tennessee Animal Abuse Registry, the first-ever animal abuse registry in the nation.

– A new law enhances penalties for those who flee arrest. The law requires an offender to evade arrest to pay restitution if he or she recklessly damages government property.

– GIVE ACT / Vocational Education —Under the new statute, a student’s acceptance of a GIVE Dual Enrollment grant would not take away from his or her eligibility for the HOPE Scholarship or TN Promise. Funding for GIVE Dual Enrollment grants is through excess lottery funds after HOPE, Promise, and Reconnect are all fully funded. The GIVE Dual Enrollment Grant will provide additional money to fully fund the third and fourth courses for students dual-enrolled in a TCAT or Community College teaching a high-skill, high-demand trade, as determined by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) Board of Directors.

– Tennessee is joining 42 other states in an interstate Driver License Compact. The compact is used by states to exchange information regarding driver license revocations or suspensions due to major traffic violations by non-residents. The offenses are then forwarded to the home state where the person is licensed. The measure requires the state to report convictions to an offender’s home state when it involves manslaughter, negligent homicide, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and failure to stop and render aid when a motor vehicle accident results in the death or serious injury of another. It also applies to offenders with felony convictions when a motor vehicle is used in the commission of a crime

– Legislation was approved this year extending the state’s “slow poke” law to divided highways with two or more lanes in each direction. Current law requires cars to stay out of the left lane of interstate highways with at least three lanes, except in the case of passing other vehicles or while the road is under construction or repair, with violators facing a $50 fine. Many traffic safety experts believe that driving too slow in the passing lane is at least as dangerous as driving too fast, resulting in a number of highway accidents.

– A law to extend where local elected officials with valid handgun carry permits are allowed to carry a firearm in the discharge of their official duties was passed by the General Assembly. The new law allows any elected official of a county or municipality, not just a commissioner, to carry a firearm inside a building in which judicial proceedings are in progress, but not in the room where judicial proceedings are taking place. It also applies to county attorneys. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED -07/06/2020- 6AM)