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New Tennessee laws of 2012

A law requiring a photo ID to vote is among a number of new state laws that went into effect Sunday in Tennessee.
Opponents of the controversial legislation say it will keep some people from voting, while supporters say it will help prevent voter fraud.
“What this is going to do is it’s going to disenfranchise a lot of voters,” said state Rep. Charles Curtiss, who voted against the bill. “Some people aren’t going to go out and get a photo ID. They’re just not going to vote.”
To accommodate what was expected to be heavier traffic to obtain a photo ID, some Tennessee driver service centers have been opening on Saturdays, although the center in McMinnville wasn’t selected as one of those sites.
Since the state began issuing voter IDs on July 1 2011, the McMinnville station has issued 261 identification cards for voting purposes. As of Dec. 31, Tennessee has issued 9,492 voter IDs statewide.
Curtiss said there is still a way for senior citizens to vote without a photo ID.
“If you’re 65 or older, all you have to do is call your election office and request an absentee ballot and they will mail one to your home,” said Curtiss. “You can vote and mail it back and that does not require a photo ID, but a lot of people don’t know about it. That’s why I’m trying to get the word out.”
The phone number for the Warren County Election Commission is 473-5834.
Another law taking effect requires pharmacists to log and monitor every purchase of pseudoephedrine on a state website. The law is intended to curtail the production of meth, which requires over-the-counter cold and allergy medication to manufacture.
Many pharmacies and retailers had been relying on handwritten logbooks to track pseudoephedrine purchases. Criminals learned to circumvent that system by purchasing medication at several different pharmacies that did not communicate.
“We have a state database now and it’s actually really easy to use,” said Don Sullivan, owner of Sullivan’s Hometown Pharmacy. “It takes a minute or two to put all their information in there and then it tells us if it’s OK for them to buy it.”
Sullivan says people can only purchase a set amount of pseudoephedrine per month and it’s based on the number of grams since box size can vary. Lawmakers have said they will revisit the issue if the new law is overly problematic or is ineffective in battling the meth epidemic.
Some people have called for a complete ban of products containing pseudoephedrine. Others say it’s not fair to punish law-abiding citizens who use the cold medicine for its intended purpose.
Another new law that took effect Monday requires all businesses with over 500 workers to ensure new employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.
The law will be phased in gradually and apply to companies with 200 to 499 employees July 1, and companies with six to 199 employees Jan. 1, 2013. Companies with five or fewer employees are exempt. The law pertains to all companies in Tennessee, but could have more impact in Warren County because of the nursery industry.
The law originally required employers to check the status of prospective employees by using the E-Verify program, which can be accessed at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website (www.uscis.gov). But the legislation was modified just before it passed to require all employers to maintain a copy of the employee’s legal status on file if they don’t want to use E-Verify. This requires a valid driver’s license, U.S. passport, permanent resident card, or a few other forms of ID.
Several nursery owners have grumbled that the new legislation is going to be time consuming and make it more difficult for them to find a viable workforce. Supporters say the legislation will crack down on illegal immigration.
Other new state laws will increase penalties against sex offenders, and those involved in gang-related activities, such as drive-by shootings that are becoming more prevalent.


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