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Another year, another round of new laws

Editorial Board • Jun 20, 2018 at 11:35 AM

A variety of new laws will take effect in Tennessee on July 1. Some are useful, some confusing, and some wanting for further action by the state legislature.

Among new laws long overdue is one that states if you’re trying to get a Tennessee driver’s license by presenting a license from another state that issues licenses to undocumented immigrants, you are now required to either establish proof of citizenship, lawful permanent resident status or gain a specific period of authorized stay. The last qualifier should be eliminated, but Tennessee should ensure that anyone issued a state driver’s license is a citizen.

There’s also a new law that if you’re the parent or legal guardian of a student, local education agencies must provide written notice to you before the student participates in any mental health screening. It’s hard to believe this law wasn’t already on the books.

And local education agencies are now prohibited from entering into non-disclosure agreements during, or as a prerequisite to, settlement for any act of sexual misconduct. It also prohibits employees from assisting others in obtaining employment if the employee knows the person has engaged in sexual misconduct involving minors or students.

The state shouldn’t allow those so convicted to hide that conviction.

Laws should be clear and explicit, but some of our new laws seem somewhat arbitrary. For instance, doctors may now accept barter of goods or services from an uninsured patient as payment for providing health care services in certain circumstances. Sounds on the surface like a good idea, but does it open the door to legal issues?

Another new law is downright puzzling. When you’re in public, you have almost no right to privacy. But this law seeks to establish one “for purposes of the offense of unlawful photographing in violation of privacy.”

It states that anyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy, regardless of the location where a photograph is taken, if the photo is “taken in a manner that a reasonable person would find offensive or embarrassing and depicts areas of the individual’s body, clothed or unclothed, that would not be visible to ordinary observation but for the offensive or embarrassing manner of photography.”

Say what? That one leaves us shaking our heads.

And then we have some new laws that clearly need more work. One states that if you’re a student with a disability and an individualized education plan, you can no longer be paddled, with certain exceptions. Why single out the disabled?

And then there’s a law that states that if you’re a veteran, you must be given hiring preference for a state employment position if you’re on the list of eligible hiring candidates and meet all qualifications.

We owe our veterans much. They put their lives on the line for our freedoms. But neither military service, sex, skin color or any other factor should put someone ahead of others for public employment. That decision should be based entirely on merit.

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