Roy Exum: Yellow Lights & Switchblades

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

A bevy of new state laws went into effect in Tennessee this week and there are at least two that make you wonder what the legislature is thinking. The new “yellow light” law makes it legal to take a risk as long as the vehicle’s front tires cross the stop line painted on the pavement before the traffic light actually turns red. I’ve always held the belief the yellow warning was when a driver should gladly stop but this new ruling will probably get somebody killed, knowing the way some of my associates are prone to challenge lights.

The second rule makes it legal to carry a switchblade knife and I can guarantee from experience that’s trouble. When I was in junior high we used to order what we’d call “flicks” from the back of magazines and carry them around. Trust me, all it takes is bumping into something or somebody to trigger a cut pants pocket. Or much worse. But now the legislature has decreed you can carry, own, transport, sell or transfer “automatic” blades of all sizes and – this I know -- somebody is going to bleed, so help me.

People don’t whittle with switchblades and smarter people know better than to play around with any spring-loaded piece of surgical steel. My brothers and I kept the Johnson & Johnson bandage division in business for years but for as long as Bobby Darin would sing about “Mack The Knife,” we felt we had to have a “flick knife” in the event some cat named Louie Miller did something rash.

Other new laws include new limits on the allergy medication pseudoephedrine, which is effective for fighting common colds and “cooking” horrendous methamphetamine. Under the state’s new but woefully inadequate law, a resident of Tennessee can purchase no more than 24 pills per month or 120 all-day pills a year. Last year 1,700 meth labs were seized in Tennessee.

Nobody is real clear what will happen on the rest of the days one is forbidden to buy a drug liker Sudafed so the trick is to switch to some other medicine that doesn’t require the controversial ingredient. (And, for goodness sake, never buy any for some “new friend” you just met at the drug counter.)

The “Merry Christmas” bill will allow schools to resume teaching “the history of Christmas” along with other “traditional winter celebrations” and, yes, people can again say “Merry Christmas” to one another. The other education law is one that requires both the state’s Department of Education and the Department of Children’s Services to educate children about sexual abuse.

State judges have just been equipped with a law where they can demand both offenders and parolees must wear electronic monitoring devices and transdermal patches after they are released. The patches can sense if alcohol is being used by people who are released from prison and parole can be revoked.

The most unfair law? The ridiculous compromise that will allow municipalities to vote on allowing wine in grocery store in 2016. As part of the trade-off, liquor stores have already started selling beer, snacks, corkscrews ice and other welcoming convenience items – all with no public vote – while the grocery stores must pass a public vote in each municipality and still wait until 2016. How would you like the guy who drew this one up to be your divorce attorney? shameful, especially when all the general public wants is to buy vino with their French bread.

National observers are aghast that Tennessee voted to restore the electric chair as a death device in capital crimes but what the law really says is Ol’ Sparky will only be used when lethal injection is unconstitutional or proper drugs cannot be obtained. Legal minds say there would be a volley of law suits if the state actually planned to electrocute anybody and that the law is mostly for show.

An equally silly law is one that charges any mother of an unborn child if she is caught taking drugs and not seeking treatment. A health provider is not required to turn such a person in and the enforcement is going to be hazy but the truth is there are a number of babies now being born with addictions. Give the legislature credit for trying but the law will need to be tweaked before its effective as it needs to be.

Three new employee laws have been signed. The negligent hiring and retention law encourages business to hire ex-convicts who have been rehabilitated while the other now in effect limits the amount of liability and damages in discrimination cases. The third, a social media law that goes into effect in January of 2015, prevents an employer from asking a worker for passwords to social media sites. It also safeguards an employee’s list of contacts.

Existing state laws include such things as it is illegal for students to hold hands at school, a crime to share your Netflix password, that ministers are to be dedicated to God and therefore are not eligible to hold a seat in either House of the Legislature. People involved in a duel are also forbidden from the legislature.

It is illegal to gather or consume road-kill, “crimes against nature” are prohibited, hollow logs cannot be sold, and any wild game other than whales cannot be shot from a moving car.  Stealing a horse is punishable by hanging and no Christian parent may require their children to pick up trash on the highway on Easter Day.

Tennessee has a law that says eight or more women mot not live in the same house because that would constitute a brothel, that the definition of “dumb animal” includes every living creature, interracial marriages are illegal, and skunks may not be carried into the state.

And, yes, in Tennessee it is still illegal to post images online that cause “emotional  distress” without legitimate purpose!

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