WIGS, guns-on-campus among laws taking effect July 1 (with list)

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Wine will be available in Tennessee supermarkets, professors will be allowed to carry guns on public college campuses, and drivers will be subject to stricter penalties for texting on the road, under new laws taking effect Friday.

Many bills passed by lawmakers this year took effect upon being signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, but others were linked to the start of the new budget year, which starts July 1.

The campus-carry bill was the result of heavy negotiations between gun-rights advocates and higher-education officials who opposed allowing more weapons on campus.

The law keeps gun bans in place for stadiums or gymnasiums during school-sponsored events; meetings where disciplinary or tenure issues are being discussed; hospitals or offices where medical or mental health services are provided; and any location prohibited by another law, such as at day care centers or elementary schools located on campus.

Those changes made the bill more palatable to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

“I was not in favor of that law to begin with, because whoever controls any piece of property should be able to decide what happens on that piece of property,” the governor told reporters this week.

“But that being said, I think there were enough limits put around that,” he said.

Other laws going into effect Friday include:

WINE IN SUPERMARKETS: Shoppers will be able to pick up a bottle of wine along with the groceries. It’s a change that’s been a long time coming under a 2014 law that first called for referendums to be held around the state and then delayed the effective date to give liquor stores time to prepare for the new marketplace. Under the state’s old law, supermarkets couldn’t sell any alcohol stronger than beer. As of last week, more than 430 stores had been approved to start stocking wine. A companion measure to allow supermarkets to sell high-alcohol beer goes into effect in January.

TEXTING WHILE DRIVING: The penalty for texting and driving is being upped from a non-moving infraction to a moving violation, meaning that judges will be able to deduct points from driver’s licenses and order offenders to attend traffic safety school.

ONLINE VOTER REGISTRATION: Tennesseans will be able to register to vote online, with the Safety Department matching electronically submitted forms with their state-issued IDs. The deadline for implementing the news system is July 1, 2017.

SLOWPOKE LANE: This new law bans slower vehicles from traveling in the left lane of three-lane highways. The measure authorizes the Tennessee Department of Transportation to remind drivers of the law on overhead electronic billboards, and violators can be fined up to $50.

HIGHER EDUCATION: This measure launches the transition period for six public universities that will be spun off of the Tennessee Board of Regents system and create their own boards. The move is part of Haslam’s efforts to have the Board of Regents concentrate on two-year schools, where the governor has created a free tuition program for any high school graduate.

Note: A list of all bills taking effect July 1, 2016, is available by clicking on this link (pdf): effective7-1-2016 (1)