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Wine In Grocery Stores And 12 Other Tennessee Laws Going Into Effect Today

Trader Joe's grocery store in Nashville has been counting down the days until it could start selling wine.
Tony Gonazalez
WPLN (File photo)
Trader Joe's grocery store in Nashville has been counting down the days until it could start selling wine.
Trader Joe's grocery store in Nashville has been counting down the days until it could start selling wine.
Credit Tony Gonazalez / WPLN (File photo)
WPLN (File photo)
Trader Joe's grocery store in Nashville has been counting down the days until it could start selling wine.

At long last, grocery stores will be able to sell wine in Tennessee today.

After a more than two-year run-up, the change in state law finally goes into effect at 8 a.m. It’s one of several new measures.

Others include tougher penalties for repeat DUI offenders and sex traffickers, a requirement that the state release most of the questions on standardized tests taken by Tennessee schoolchildren, and fines for driving too slowly in the left lane.

Meanwhile, public universities will have to open their campuses to gun owners. College employees with a state license will be allowed to carry while on school grounds, if they first alert campus police.

July 1 is the traditional start date for many Tennessee laws. Here are several you should know about:

* Drunken driving/carjacking/marijuana. People convicted of their sixth DUI could receive three to 15 years in prison, up from one to six years. The same law also requires people convicted of carjacking to serve at least 75 percent of their sentence, up from the current minimum of 30 percent, and it reduces simple possession of marijuana to a misdemeanor.

* Sex trafficking. The penalties for promoting prostitution have been increased. The definition of "promotion" has also been clarified so that it doesn't include prostitutes who promote themselves, for instance by placing an online ad.

* Guns on campus. Full-time employees of public colleges and universities will be allowed to carry in most circumstances, if they have a state handgun permit. They have to inform campus security they plan to carry, but their identities are otherwise confidential.

* Horse racing. The state is establishing an advisory committee to study whether to allow betting on horse races. Previous attempts to restart horse racing in Tennessee have foundered.

* Standardized tests. The state Department of Education will have to release at least 70 percent of the questions used on standardized tests. Previously, test questions were kept confidential so they could be reused in future years. The policy change followed complaints from parents and teachers that they couldn't help students address their weaknesses if they didn't know what questions they'd missed.

* Consent for fetal tissue donations. The consent requirements for donating fetal tissue after abortion procedures are being clarified. The move comes after sting videos last year showed abortion providers discussing transfers of fetal tissue with anti-abortion activists posing as researchers and their representatives.

* Tennessee Board of Regents. The state is splitting up one of is two systems of higher education by spinning off six universities — Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, East Tennessee State and the University of Memphis — and turning them over to independent boards. This is meant to let TBR focus on the state's 13 community colleges and 27 tech centers.

* Autonomous cars. Self-driving cars, which are being developed by Silicon Valley companies such as Google, can legally drive (by themselves) on Tennessee roads. Until now, they'd been allowed only in Texas and California.

* Fantasy sports. The state is setting up a commission to oversee online fantasy sports. Regulators in many states have cracked down on fantasy sports, particularly after the rise of daily games that critics say amount to wagering.

* Slow pokes. Drivers can be fined $50 if they impede traffic by going slowly in the left lane and refuse to get over.

* Hospitals. Birthing centers, obstetricians, rehabilitation programs and many several other services no longer have to file a "certificate of need" before closing. The certificates gave state regulators a chance to review these closures beforehand. The certificates also won't be needed when setting up or expanding an MRI service in the state's five biggest counties.

* Online voter registration. Tennesseans will be able to sign up online to vote if they already have a state driver's license or ID card. Thirty-seven states already allow online voter registration.

* Wine in grocery stores. Grocery stores can sell wine — previously the exclusive domain of liquor stores. But they won't be able to sell on Sundays, when liquor stores are closed, or some holidays, including July 4.

Copyright 2016 WPLN News

Chas joined WPLN in 2015 after eight years with The Tennessean, including more than five years as the newspaper's statehouse reporter.Chas has also covered communities, politics and business in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Chas grew up in South Carolina and attended Columbia University in New York, where he studied economics and journalism. Outside of work, he's a dedicated distance runner, having completed a dozen marathons