Using a cell phone while driving, online ordination and child marriages are some of the things that will officially be prohibited in Tennessee when a slate of new laws takes effect tomorrow.

The laws passed by the Tennessee General Assembly over the last year have been on the books for months, but they will officially become enforceable July 1.

Here’s a look at some of the laws that will take effect tomorrow:


HB 164/SB 173 – Traffic safety

As enacted, prohibits a person from physically holding or supporting, with any part of the person’s body, a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device while operating a motor vehicle; imposes other similar restrictions on activities such as texting; creates certain exceptions.

According to the text of the law, any person over the age of 18 found to be violating this statute may be fined up to $100 and court costs up to $50. The fine may be increased to $200 if the violation results in an accident while on the road. The violation will be considered a Class C misdemeanor

Hands-free mounts on the dashboard or windshield of vehicles are still counted as a permissible use, as long as the usage is kept to “the motion of one swipe or tap of the driver’s finger and does not activate camera, video or gaming features” or any “other non-navigational features” on the device.

The law does not apply to any state, county, city or town law enforcement officers, campus or public safety officers; emergency medical technicians (EMTs), EMT-paramedics, volunteer or career firefighters; or emergency management agency officers in “actual discharge of their official duties.”

It also does not apply to people using a device to call law enforcement or emergency personnel during a “bona fide emergency,” utility employees or contractors within the scope of their work or people who are “lawfully stopped or parked” in their cars.


SB 795/HB 939 – Education

As enacted, enacts the “Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program.”

Beginning tomorrow, eligible students in the state will have education savings accounts (ESA) funded. These ESAs will allow those eligible students to attend a private school that meets all requirements by the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee Board of Education for a “Category I, II or III private school.”

Participating families will be eligible to receive debit cards with up to $7,300 each school year to allow their children to attend an approved private school in the state.

There are restrictions on which schools are considered appropriate under the text of the law, as well as restrictions for parents wishing to have their children attend private schools in this program.

The ESAs are only allowed to be used on certain things, including “tuition, textbooks, certain fees for transportation, computer hardware and school uniforms.” They may also include “fees for the management of the ESA by a private or non-profit financial management organization.”

The fees may also not exceed 2 percent of the funds deposited in a participating’s student’s ESA in any fiscal year.


HB 213/SB 1377 – Marriage

As enacted, prohibits persons receiving online ordinations from solemnizing the rite of matrimony.

Under this law, anyone who previously received their ordination to perform marriage ceremonies online will no longer be legally eligible to perform them beginning July 1. Any marriages solemnized prior to July 1 will still be legal in the state, according to the text of the law.


HB 189/SB 1376 – Marriage

As enacted, clarifies that a marriage license may not be issued for an applicant under 17 years of age; defines “parent” for purposes of parental consent to marriage of a minor; deletes obsolete requirement that marriage license application of a minor be mailed to the minor’s parent and held for three days before issuance of license.

This bill raises the age of prohibition for marriages of a minor, moving from 16 years old to 17 years old.


HB 247/SB 1100 – State government

As enacted, establishes daylight saving time as the standard time in Tennessee, subject to authorization from the United States Congress and certain other conditions being met.

According to the text of the law, this bill will allow Tennessee to observe daylight saving time year-round, so long as the US Congress authorizes states to do so and the commissioner of transportation certifies in writing that authorization to both the Tennessee House of Representatives and Tennessee Senate.

Once that written certification is received, the general assembly must then pass by joint resolution a confirmation of Congressional approval.

Once all three of those conditions are met, the observation of year-round daylight saving time will begin the first Sunday of November in that year.


SB 1257/HB 1029 – Abortion

As enacted, enacts the “Human Life Protection Act,” which bans abortion in this state effective on the 30th day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or passes an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow states to prohibit abortion.

Under this law, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the state will officially ban abortion after 30 days from the overturning of that ruling.

According to the law, abortion is defined as “the use of any instrument, medicine, drug or any other substance or device with intent to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant with intent other than to increase the probability of a live birth, to preserve the life or health of the child after live birth, or to remove a dead fetus.”

The law classifies any person who “performs or attempts to perform an abortion commits the offense of criminal abortion,” and classifies criminal abortion as a Class C felony.

The law does not allow for any abortions to be performed “for any reason relating to her mental health,” although it does carve out exceptions for pregnant women where their life is at risk.

The law also does not subject a pregnant woman who receives an abortion or attempts one to a criminal conviction or penalty.


SB 16/HB 1 – Gambling

As enacted, enacts the “Tennessee Sports Gaming Act.”

This law authorizes local governments allow sports betting “if approved by local election,” as well as sets up a statewide commission to oversee sports wagering. The law also imposts a tax on sports wagering and establishes certain applicable requirements on sports wagering.

According to the text of the bill, any licensed sports gambling entity must pay a monthly 10 percent privilege tax on its adjusted gross income to the department of revenue. That tax will be split three ways: 40 percent to the state general fund; 30 percent to Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges; and 30 percent to each local government, with half of that 30 percent going toward the government’s school system and the other half earmarked for local infrastructure projects.

The bill is anticipated to generate nearly $3 million more for FY20, and almost $6 million each subsequent fiscal year, according to the fiscal note on the bill.