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VOL. 41 | NO. 26 | Friday, June 30, 2017

Gas tax up, grocery tax down: 133 Tennessee laws take effect

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Rising and declining taxes, an abortion ban and an option to use metal detectors or allow arms in public places are among the many new laws taking effect in Tennessee on Saturday.

The new laws were passed by the Republican-led General Assembly during the most recent legislative session, which ran from January to May. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed all 524 measures sent his way for approval this session, from the $37 billion state budget to allowing tougher sentences for immigrants convicted of crimes while they are in the country illegally. Some of those laws took effect immediately or at some other time before July. The remaining 133 take effect Saturday, July 1.

Among the laws taking effect Saturday:

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TAXES

The governor's push to boost road and bridge funding brings higher taxes for drivers to fill up their tanks this year: 4 more cents per gallon for both gasoline and diesel fuel.

The state's first gas-tax increase since 1989 will be used to cut into more than $10 billion of backlogged road and bridge projects. Vehicle registration fees are also going up by another $5.

By 2019, the roads-funding law will hike the gas tax another 2 cents and the diesel tax another 6 cents.

Tax declines contained in the law more than balance out the extra cost at the pump, Haslam and other proponents have said. There will be a reduction from 5 percent to 4 percent in the sales tax on groceries, a $113 million cut in corporate taxes paid by manufacturers and a 1 percent reduction in the tax on earnings from stocks and bonds.

Property tax relief for disabled veterans will also increase to up to $175,000 in property value, from the current $100,000.

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GUNS

Cities and counties now have to decide whether to pay for metal detectors and security personnel at many facilities or allow guns on the premises.

The NRA-backed law drew backlash from Nashville and Knoxville officials, who said they've been offered two bad choices.

Knoxville, for one, will have to let people with handgun permits carry guns at its bus station, on buses and at its public works center, said Jesse Mayshark, spokesman for Mayor Madeline Rogero.

Under the law, the NRA and similar groups could sue and recover triple attorney's fees if they believe a local government wrongly limited someone's gun rights.

Another gun law taking effect would let people carry guns on their boats.

A third measure dubbed the "Tennessee Hearing Protection Act" would let people use silencers because lawmakers contended it would protect sportsmen's ears from the sound of gunfire.

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ABORTION

The law would leave doctors susceptible to felony charges if they perform abortions after 20 weeks after determining the fetus is viable through tests. If they don't perform the tests, doctors could be hit with misdemeanor charges.

The ban wouldn't apply if the mother faces risks of death or serious damage to a major bodily function.

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IMMIGRANT SENTENCING

This law allows a judge to consider tougher sentencing for someone who was in the country illegally when they committed a crime. The governor said he's very confident the law is constitutional, despite criticism from the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition.

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PROTESTS-EMERGENCY VEHICLES

Punishes protesters and anyone else who obstructs passage of emergency vehicles with a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $200.

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BUDGET

Authorizes state's $37 billion spending plan for 2017-18, including $150 million for road improvements, $250 million in tax cuts, $127 million in spending cuts and $132 million more for rainy day reserves.

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