By Don Jones

Staff writer

There were 133 new laws that were passed by the legislature in their last session which went into effect on July 1st.  As is normally the case, many of these laws will serve little notice to the general public but there are a few of these laws that everyone needs to be familiar with.

One that you may begin to notice as you travel in more rural areas involves the color purple being painted on trees. Property owners can now use purple paint on trees or fence posts as an alternative to posting “no trespassing” signs. The property owner must post at least one sign at a major point that specifies that the use of purple paint signifies “no trespassing” is allowed on posted property.

Another new law attempts to grant consumers more protection from unscrupulous telemarketers and others who have learned to bypass caller identification by using familiar and local phone numbers to induce a response from consumers.

The caller ID feature is sometimes manipulated by “spoofers” who masquerade as representatives of banks, creditors, insurance companies, or even the government. An amendment has added tougher punishments for those manipulating caller identification or text messages. It makes “spoofing” a Class A misdemeanor.

The last year or so has seen many cases where protesters have blocked public streets, even the interstate highways and in doing so have brought traffic to a standstill. It has often led  to physical confrontation between protesters and drivers. A new law directly addresses this issue as it makes blocking public highways and streets in an area that restricts emergency vehicle access a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by a fine of $200.

Another new law bans abortions in Tennessee after 20 weeks if a doctor determines the fetus is viable through required tests. The legislation that subjects doctors to felony penalties doesn’t apply if the mother faces risks of death or serious damage to a major bodily function.

Under a new law that took effect July 1, a homeowner’s association can’t enforce rules that prohibit displaying the flag of the United States of America or an official or replica flag of any branch of the United States armed forces on the property owner’s property.

An amendment increased the punishment for intentionally desecrating a place of worship or cemetery. This new law increases the punishment for such acts from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony.

Finally, in what seems another blow to consumers, a law passed which increases the maximum annual interest rate that a bank may charge on credit card accounts from 21 percent to 30 percent.

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