Sen. Beavers: Key laws to take effect July 1

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Several key laws sponsored by State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) will take effect on July 1 as Tennessee's new fiscal year begins.

The July 1 enactments include legislation to protect citizens from unwarranted surveillance by drones, a new law to curb drunk driving, a measure to combat the use of synthetic drugs and reduction of the state's sales tax on food.

"I am very pleased these bills will be enacted," said Senator Beavers. "They will benefit our citizens in many ways."

Beavers said the drone legislation will help ensure compliance of the unmanned planes with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The new law defines "drones" and requires a search warrant to be issued by a judge before one can be used in Tennessee.

"There has been a massive assault on our personal and constitutional rights in recent years with much of this information finally being made public over the past several weeks," said Senator Beavers. "We need to take every step possible to protect citizens from unwarranted surveillance. This legislation is a good step in the right direction."

The Federal Aviation Administration predicts 10,000 commercial drones could be in the skies by 2020. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. The new law does provide for exceptions to prevent imminent danger to life, including when law enforcement authorities are countering a high risk of a terrorist attack.

Another key law sponsored by Beavers that is set to take effect July 1 adds to the list of synthetic cannabinoids that are currently prohibited within the state of Tennessee. The measure clarifies the definition of a controlled substance analogue to ensure that any substance that differs by no more than two atoms qualifies. By expanding the definition, it prohibits a DUI offender from using the defense that he or she was lawfully using the illegal drug.

Also set to take effect as the 2013 fiscal year begins is a new law sponsored by Senator Beavers requiring the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. The latest state highway safety statistics report 27% of all traffic fatalities in the state are alcohol-related crashes.

"Ignition interlocks are critical to eliminating drunk driving, as 50% to 75% of convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license," said Senator Beavers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, requiring interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers saves lives and is effective in reducing drunk driving recidivism by 67%. Beavers said the average first offender has been intoxicated behind the wheel of a vehicle 80 times before their first arrest. 

Finally, Beavers said July 1 marks implementation of the state's newly enacted law reducing Tennessee's sales tax on food from 5.2% to 5.0% which she co-sponsored. It is Beavers' third time to sponsor or co-sponsor food tax relief legislation.

"We have made important progress in providing food tax relief," said Senator Beavers. "This is a very important matter to those on a fixed income, including our senior citizens. I want to continue to see this tax reduced until it is phased out."


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