Schools across Scott County are heading back into session this week after the Christmas break, and as students return to school, drivers on their cell phones should pay extra attention to those flashing warning lights in school zones.

A new law, which took effect Monday, implements a $50 fine for motorists who are talking on a cell phone while driving through a school zone while the warning lights are active.

The law, Senate Bill 0954, passed the Tennessee General Assembly by overwhelming margins last year. The Senate vote was 26-1, with only Mae Beavers voting no. In the House of Representatives, the bill passed by a 68-11 margin. Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, was among the 11 who voted against the bill.

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The bill creates a Class C misdemeanor for motorists who talk on their cell phones while driving through an active school zone.

The new law is one of 16 that took in Tennessee with the ringing in of the new year on Monday. A separate new law requires that new bus drivers be at least 25 years old before they can get a license to drive a school bus, and also requires that new bus drivers complete a training program.

Another law that will impact many local motorists prohibits vehicles from having forward-facing lights that are any color other than white or amber, regardless if they are steady or flashing. There are exemptions for emergency vehicles, school buses, mail carriers and law enforcement vehicles. The previous law prohibited flashing colored lights but permitted steady burning lights. The new law prohibits those, as well.

House Bill 1291 took effect Monday, removing the Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s jurisdiction over enforcement of criminal offenses involving marijuana. Jurisdiction instead rests with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Senate Bill 0723, now law, recognizes students’ right of free speech on college campuses by stipulating that colleges and universities cannot bar guest speakers invited to campus by students or faculty just because the speaker’s speech might be considered offensive, while also directing that colleges and universities cannot deny student activity fees to student organizations based on the viewpoints of the organization.

Senate Bill 0032 changes a law that prohibited barbers from performing services inside a client’s home. Previous law allowed a barber to cut hair inside a client’s home only if that person were ill. Now barbers can cut hair inside anyone’s home — but must obtain a residential barber certification.

Finally, House Bill 0689 allows citizens to obtain a handgun carry permit without completing the firing range portion of the training requirement if they can prove they successfully passed small arms training or combat pistol training in the U.S. military.

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