NASHVILLE -- Two new laws sponsored by the state senator representing Marshall County took effect on Friday.
The new laws are to: protect workers' right to a secret ballot; and strengthen Tennessee's anti-terrorism statutes. A new law to curb methamphetamine production was co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro).
The laws took effect on Friday because July 1 is the first day of the fiscal year. Much of the state's new legislation relates to spending and revenue.
The "Secret Ballot Protection Act" makes denial of secret-ballot elections illegal under Tennessee law, subject to a Class C misdemeanor offense. The law applies to elections conducted at businesses when the question is whether the shop should be unionized. Ketron said it is a "counter measure to dangerous federal card check legislation that has been proposed in Congress."
"The right to a secret ballot is sacred whether it is in the voting booth or in the workplace," Ketron said. "The card check system is not only undemocratic and un-American, but could hamper our ability to attract new business or drive those who are already here out of the state. We are working diligently to bring jobs to Tennessee by creating a business-friendly environment. This legislation aims to counter any future proposal that would subject employees to intimidation by allowing unions to organize simply by persuading a majority of employees to sign a union representation card."
The anti-terrorism law updates Tennessee's Terrorism Prevention Act, passed shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks to make the provision of "material support" a Class A felony. The law defers to designations already made by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Department of the Treasury.
It "helps to close the prevention gap left by the 2002 statute," Ketron said. "It should be a priority of ours to protect the citizens of our great state - there will be no prosperity without security.
"The law we passed provides a fair and even-handed approach that gets to problem of material support on the front end and provides our local law enforcement authorities with more tools to fight homegrown terrorism."
Public safety is also the impetus behind a separate measure that stiffens penalties for making methamphetamine in the presence of a child and implements a statewide electronic tracking system to curb meth production in the state. The system, called NPLEx (National Precursor Log Exchange), will monitor and block illegal purchases of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE), a key ingredient in methamphetamine production, although pharmacies have until January 1, 2012 to comply with reporting provisions of the new law. The new law also sets amounts of pseudoephedrine that can be purchased and strengthens penalties against those convicted of smurfing, or shopping for the product in multiple locations.
"This legislation is a big step in attacking the meth problem that is sweeping many communities in Tennessee," Ketron said. "This was a collaborative effort between many parties, including law enforcement officials, pharmacists, and others."