NASHVILLE, TN (WLAF) – The 111th Tennessee General Assembly session saw a number of new laws minted. Among those are 12 of note that go into effect this month.

While there has been much publicity regarding the handheld cell phone ban, there are others the public should be aware of:

Handheld phone ban while driving

This law will prohibit drivers 18 and older from holding or physically supporting a cellphone with any part of one’s body while driving. Now instead of talking on the phone while driving drivers must use an “earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct a voice-based communication.” Drivers could be fined up to $200. Younger drivers already are prohibited from using phones while driving.

Child abuse cases

The law extends the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases, giving victims more time to pursue legal action. It also revises and tightens the penalties for persons who intentionally fail to report cases.

Death penalty appeals

The Sgt. Daniel Baker Act is named for Dickson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Daniel Baker, who was fatally shot in 2018. The suspects in the crime have trials set for August, with prosecutors seeking the death penalty. The new law would expedite the death penalty appeals process by sending death penalty cases to the Tennessee Supreme Court and removing a Court of Criminal Appeals step.

Criminal Justice Reform

After taking effect, a $180 fee will be removed for individuals petitioning the court for expunctions of certain criminal offenses and remove a $350 fee for a defendant applying for expunction of an offense after they complete a diversion program. The new law is part of an ongoing criminal justice reform effort.

Indecent exposure bill

The law will redefine a “public place” to prohibit indecent exposure in restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms or showers designated for multi-person, single-sex use.

Child marriages

This law clarifies that a marriage license cannot be issued for an applicant who is under the age of 17 and defines “parent” for purposes of parental consent to marriage of a minor. The legislation also would delete the “obsolete requirement” that a minor’s marriage license application be mailed to the parent of the minor and held for three days before the license is issued. This comes after a law signed by former Gov. Bill Haslam in 2018 that outlawed anyone under 17 from marrying in Tennessee.

Cock fighting

This law would make possession, owning, selling, transferring or manufacturing cock fighting paraphernalia with intent that the items will be utilized in promoting, facilitating, training for or furthering cock fighting a Class A misdemeanor.

Sports betting

On July 1, the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act will take effect. It will allow online sports gambling but continue to prohibit gambling in physical locations.


This law will exempt a person who engages in hair braiding from the requirements of a cosmetologist licensure if certain requirements are met. Hair braiding is defined in the legislation as techniques resulting in “tension on hair strands, such as twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding of the hair, by hand or mechanical appliances for compensation, without cutting, coloring, relaxing, removing, chemically treating, or using other preparations to straighten, curl, or alter the structure of the hair.”

Businesses operated by minors

The new law stops a county or municipality from requiring a license, fee, permit or any other kind of regulation for a business that is solely operated by a person under 18, is located on private property with the owner’s consent and grosses $3,000 or less in a year.

Drone drops

The new law prohibits dropping items or substances from an unmanned aircraft into an “open-air event venue” in which 100 or more people are gathered for a ticketed event.

Traffic safety

A new law would prohibit a person from loitering or “conducting any commercial activity” in or close to the median of a state highway. The act will lead to Class C misdemeanor offense that requires a warning citation for a first offense.  (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 07/01/2019-6AM)