There’s good and bad to be found in new laws that took effect in Tennessee and Virginia on Jan. 1 based largely on whether lawmakers acted in the best interests of all or in the best interest of a special interest group.
Among the bad is a law that allows corrections officers who are members of the state retirement system to retire after 25 years. So if they’re hired at age 21, they may retire at age 46 while most other state residents will work until they’re 65, or older, to pay for that retirement. Yes, corrections officers have a tough and sometimes dangerous job, but so do a number of other state employees.
Another new law is a bit of a head scratcher.
The state says domestic violence is on the rise, so it is now requiring some who need a state license to undergo training on domestic violence. This includes barbers, cosmetologists and hair stylists only because they have control over them. But a barber or cosmetologist needing domestic violence training? Absolutely absurd. Put that training where it will do some good, please.
Other new Tennessee laws: absentee ballots must include a watermark to help prevent fraud; teachers are given more authority over disruptive students; and a new law adds chiropractic services to TennCare coverage.
In Virginia, new laws of public benefit include allowing armed officers in private schools, a reckless driving charge for failing to move over if able when there’s a stationary emergency vehicle, and a $250 fine for holding a cellphone while driving in a highway work zone.
Where previously an animal had to die, now the state may punish anyone with two to 10 years in jail and up to a $100,000 fine for torturing an animal. Also, pet owners must now provide shade in hot weather and a windbreak and bedding in cold weather.
Another good law prevents police from using minor infractions, while still illegal, as the primary reason they can stop you while you’re driving. These include certain defective equipment, objects dangling from your rear view mirror, loud exhaust, tinted windows and smelling marijuana to name a few.
Among new bad laws in Virginia is one where courts can no longer suspend a driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and costs. As well, more than 627,000 people who had a suspended license because of unpaid court costs will have their licenses reinstated. The end result of this law is that more residents won’t pay their fines.
Virginia’s minimum wage increases from $9.50 to $11 per hour, a step toward reaching $15 per hour by January 2026. And that simply means that thousands of part-time workers will lose their jobs and those who keep their jobs will have to pick up the slack. Advocates don’t seem to understand this simple concept.
And, as of the start of July, local governments across Virginia will officially have the authority to remove Confederate monuments on their town, city or county property.
Perhaps the day will come when technology will allow residents of any state to instantly approve or reject proposed new laws.