(NASHVILLE) As Tennessee ushers in the new fiscal year on July 1, new Tennessee laws passed by the General Assembly will go into effect. Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston) took a big stride in protecting children by co-sponsoring legislation that allows the death penalty for the crime of child rape and supported his local communities by sponsoring legislation that helps rural Tennessee.

“Protecting our children and supporting our communities are not just legislative duties; they are moral imperatives,” said Yager. “As we embrace new laws this fiscal year, let us remember that safeguarding innocence and nurturing our rural areas are key to fostering a thriving Tennessee.”

On July 1, the new laws sponsored and co-sponsored  by Yager include:

  • Death penalty for child rapists which increases the penalty for rape or aggravated rape of a child to death, life in prison without the possibility of parole, or life in prison. Previous law classified the offense as a Class A felony punishable as either a Range III offense, which carries a sentence of 40-60 years in prison or a Range II offense of 25-40 years in prison. Child rape is one of the worst crimes imaginable, and there are times life imprisonment for the rapist does not go far enough. This legislation gives courts the ability to go after the most severe offenders of child rape with the most severe punishment.
  • Easing the hardship license application process for rural Tennesseans. The law allows Tennesseans who live at least 30 miles from a driver services center to complete classroom training online for a Class H or hardship license.
  • Funding a new state park at the historic Fort Southwest Point in Kingston. As a result of years of advocacy from Yager and local officials, Governor Bill Lee has included $659,000 in his proposed budget to designate Fort Southwest Point as one of eight new state parks. Ft. Southwest Point was constructed in 1797 by federal soldiers to control ongoing boundary disputes between settlers and Cherokees. It overlooks the Clinch River where it enters the Tennessee River.
  • Allowing TWRA marina grants to be administered based on the amount of gasoline sold. It also will ensure that a minimum of twenty-five marinas receive a grant, ensuring that regardless of size, all marinas can participate in the grant program.
  • Increasing availability of SROs  allowing a retired law enforcement officer to be reemployed as a full-time SRO at a Tennessee public school without loss or suspension of the officer’s retirement benefits.  The retired law enforcement officer must be a member of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) or local retirement fund to be eligible for this new law. Currently, over 500 Tennessee schools are without a school resource officer (SRO), even though the state provides grant funding to place an SRO in every Tennessee public school. This new law aims to minimize the safety risk for these schools by helping fill the shortage of SROs.
  • Helping rural utility operations by allowing counties a one-year reprieve from paying depreciation after utility installation, and still keeps the municipality in compliance with accounting standards. This law will help rural counties with utility depreciation. Many rural counties cannot afford to accept block grants because the state’s expectations of depreciation prevent rural municipalities from upgrading their utility systems. Under previous law, the municipality was responsible for paying depreciation immediately, which was costly and burdensome. 
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