NASHVILLE — Since beginning his term as governor by ordering a 45-day freeze on implementation of any new state government rules and facing questions about one frozen proposal, Gov. Bill Haslam has used less direct means of impacting the bureaucratic regulatory process.
In the state Legislature, which under state law must give its approval to all new rules, an effort is afoot among members of the Republican supermajority to end the practice of rubber-stamping the plans promulgated by state departments, boards and commissions, says Sen. Mike Bell, who chairs a committee reviewing all rules.
Tennessee’s bureaucracy has continued to generate scores of new rules since Haslam’s freeze ended, but there have been 33 rules repealed — recent examples include the Department of Agriculture’s elimination of requirements that makers of milk and ice cream keep extensive records of the prices they charge and a whole system for certifying tomato, broccoli, cabbage and pepper plants.
Also eliminated — with approval of a legislative committee last week — were rules dealing with strawberry plants, Irish potatoes and a quarantine on bringing camellia flowers into Tennessee from some areas.
A controversy over the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s move to ban restaurants from soaking fruits and the like in booze to create a mixed drink (previous post HERE) is getting more attention… and may be left for legislators to resolve.
From WPLN: The issue centers on who’s allowed to make infusions–where an ingredient like fruit soaks in alcohol to flavor it, often for several days. Tennessee’s ABC says in looking back at a law from 2006, it found that in some cases, making infusions requires a distiller’s license, which restaurants can’t get.
In an email, the commission says despite what some people fear, the rule does not apply to drinks like margaritas or sangria. But Nashville lawyer Will Cheek warns restaurants that infuse liquors don’t want to risk having their license pulled.
“If you’ve got pineapple and fruit sitting in a vat of vodka, you need to be pulling that stuff out–it needs to be gone by July 1st.”
When the Tennessee Hospitality Association sent a letter arguing the commission is misinterpreting the rule, Cheek signed on, representing a couple major restaurant chains. If the commission won’t budge, Cheek says the matter could end up before state lawmakers next year.
And this excerpt from Cari Wade Gervin’s thorough review of the dispute, its history and ramifications: Bell says he’d be fine with a law change–he says he’s encouraging people to look at newly passed legislation in Iowa that better regulates “Mixed Drinks or Cocktails Not For Immediate Consumption.” But according to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Division, that law requires pre-mixed batches of drinks to be disposed of within 72 hours if not consumed. Bars are also required to keep records–for three years–detailing when each and every batch is made and disposed of, along with the recipe, the ingredients, and the names of the person who made the batch and the person who disposed of it.
We asked Sohn if this seemed like a practical solution. She laughed loudly.
“Yeah, no,” Sohn says. “It would be very wasteful. … If they changed it to that, we probably still wouldn’t bother with infusions.”
Scanlan says he hopes TABC will reconsider its actions, but Bell doesn’t seem inclined to do so.
“I’m going to have to apply the law as it is right now,” Bell says. “I’m pretty certain we’ll start issuing citations sometime in the next few weeks.”
See also a Chattanooga Free Press editorial, opining that “the fun police are back, and this time they have their sights set on making sure that you won’t be able to sit back and enjoy a house-infused liquor at your favorite restaurant or neighborhood bar.”
Amid questions brewing for months over bias and accuracy in student textbooks in Williamson County, state lawmakers are beginning to mull whether they should tweak how a state panel reviews textbooks, reports the City Paper. The Tennessee Textbook Commission is now overwhelmed with the volume of the task at hand, and lawmakers are hoping to hold hearings in the fall to consider how to address the problem.
“Am I concerned about what I think is bias in the textbooks and factual errors in the textbooks? Yes,” said Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), the chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. “My biggest concern is that we get somebody in this process who is specifically looking for factual errors and bias, but there are many more problems besides that.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed the Textbook Commission is overwhelmed during a joint Government Operations subcommittee hearing Wednesday. Bell said he plans for lawmakers to come back in the fall to consider methods of alleviating that stress.
“It’s not just this textbook,” said Laurie Cardoza-Moore, a Williamson County parent has been vocal calling that question and others like it “blatant anti-Semitic rhetoric.” She provided the legislative committee with 17 additional titles of textbooks used in Tennessee with what she described showed similar biases.
— Note: See also the News Sentinel story, which ran a day later, HERE.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son, Prince Edward, visited Tennessee on Thursday to promote one of the British royal family’s charities, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
The prince presided over an awards ceremony at the governor’s mansion for the first batch of young Tennesseans to participate in the leadership and character program.
“Most of you are — how should I put this — guinea pigs? The first ones to go through the award,” the prince said. “So you’re leading the way here.”
About 80 youths received the award by participating in community service, skills development, physical fitness and adventurous journeys through the Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, LEAD Academy, Montgomery Bell Academy or the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Organization.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a self-development program for people between the ages of 14 and 25 that aims to instill confidence and skills. More than 8 million people in more than 140 countries have participated since it was founded in 1956 by the queen’s husband, Prince Philip.
The Senate went along Thursday with the House’s whittled-down version of legislation dealing with the state’s knife laws.
As passed it passed the Senate, SB1015 would have repealed provisions in current law that ban switchblades and, in some circumstances, carrying any knife with a blade more than four inches long. The House scrapped those provisions at the urging of the Tennessee Sheriffs Association and other law enforcement representatives.
What remains is a prohibition against cities and counties enacting any ordinances that contain stronger restrictions on knives than general state law. Senate sponsor Mike Bell, R-Riceville, says several local government have knife ordinances – including Knoxville – that may differ from state law.
“It’s still a good bill,” said Bell in urging colleagues to go along with the changes.
The 27-4 vote to concur in the House amendment sent the bill to the governor for his signature.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to do away with the state’s motorcycle helmet law passed a Senate panel on Wednesday despite Gov. Bill Haslam’s opposition.
The proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville was approved 6-3 in the Senate Transportation Committee.
Thirty-one states allow riding without a helmet, Bell said.
Under his proposal, a person would be required to have $25,000 in additional medical coverage, a minimum two-year motorcycle license, have taken a motorcycle riding course, and be at least 25 years old.
The purchase of a $50 sticker to go on the helmet would also be required. Forty dollars of that would go to trauma centers.
Supporters have questioned the safety benefits of helmets and argued that ending the law would boost motorcycle tourism to Tennessee.
Opponents say not wearing a helmet will lead to more deaths and higher costs to trauma hospitals.
Sen. Todd Gardenhire testified before the committee and said his district has one of the top trauma hospitals in the state and that it would be among those affected if the proposal becomes law.
“Even with helmets on, there’s an enormous cost to the trauma centers that have to pay indigent care,” said the Chattanooga Republican, who wore a motorcycle helmet during his testimony. “And that’s just not fair.”
The measure is one of at least 22 bills Haslam has given so-called “philosophical flags,” stating that an administration representative will seek a meeting with the lawmaker for discussion.
Bell said after the vote that he’s received flag letters from the Republican governor before.
“I understand the governor doesn’t like the bill,” Bell said. “But this bill has passed the Senate at least on two prior occasions, and I expect it’s got a good chance to pass the Senate again.”
A similar proposal was withdrawn from the legislative process last year.
At the time, a legislative analysis of the measure projected that changing the law would lead to an increase in traumatic brain injuries, carrying a $1.1 million price tag for TennCare, the state’s expanded Medicaid program.
Legislation making it a crime for United Nations representatives to observe elections in Tennessee has suffered a setback in the House while a bill banning all noncitizens from polling places has won approval in the Senate.
Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, said he introduced HB589 after learning the U.N. sent observers to Nashville for last November’s election to monitor for “human rights violations.” It makes election observation by a U.N. representative punishable as a misdemeanor.
News reports indicate a total of 44 U.N. observers were dispatched to the United States last fall, partly out of concern over laws requiring a photo ID for voting. One of those sent to Nashville was from France and the other from Armenia.
Van Huss’ bill had cleared the House Local Government Committee by voice vote after about 10 minutes of discussion with Democrats questioning the idea and Republicans generally praising it.
“The United Nations has no business in our polling places telling us anything,” declared Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga.
“If they’re looking for human rights violations, they’ve got hundreds of countries they can go to instead of America.”
But when the bill got to the House Calendar Committee, which routinely approves bills for the House floor with little discussion, Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, said he has “constitutional questions” about the measure. He made a motion to refer the measure to the House Civil Justice Committee, which Lundberg chairs.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Thompson’s Station and Rep. Matthew Hill, chairman of the Local Government Committee, both objected to the move. Casada said “this is kind of unprecedented” and Hill said the bill had already been “fully vetted” in his committee and a subcommittee.
But Calendar Committee Chairman Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, said he believed there was “no ill will” on Lundberg’s part and it was appropriate to resolve any questions before a measure is sent to the floor. Lundberg’s motion carried and the bill goes to his committee this week.
The Senate, also last week, approved 24-3 a bill by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, (SB549) that prohibits people who are not citizens of the United States from entering a polling place in Tennessee.
The House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, is up in the House Local Government Subcommittee later this week.
The United Nations wasn’t mentioned in Senate debate.
Bell said the bill was motivated by his belief in “American exceptionalism” and protecting the integrity of the ballot box. The bill includes a provision saying a noncitizen may enter a polling place to “provide assistance” to a qualified voter, which Bell said could include an interpreter or someone helping a voter with a disability.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, asked Bell if the bill would ban people from other countries observing elections to learn about democracy and how it works.
Bell said it would, though he said such people could still observe political campaigns and visit election facilities before voting day.
Van Huss was asked a similar question by Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, in the House Local Government Committee. Van Huss said he agreed with Ronald Reagan that “America is a shining city on a hill” for the rest of the world and his bill would not impact such observers because it is “specifically directed at the United Nations.”
The Senate has approved and sent to the House a bill rewriting Tennessee’s knife laws to eliminate a prohibition against switchblades and to assure that knives with blades longer than four inches can be carried for self-protection.
Current law makes possession of a switchblade a misdemeanor crime. Carrying a knife with a blade over four inches in length can be a felony if “for the purpose of going armed.”
Sen. Mike Bell, sponsor of SB1015, says that carrying a knife for self-defense meets that definition, though current law also says a longer knife can be legally used while hunting, fishing, camping and for “other lawful activity,” a phrase not legally defined. The bill repeals that provision and basically says all knives are legal in Tennessee.
The bill also prohibits city and county governments from enacting knife ordinances that would conflict with the new state knife statute. There are many local knife laws now and they widely from place to place, Bell said.
The overall result, Bell said, is confusion that has led national retailers to refuse to send knives with blades longer than four inches through the mail to Tennesseans, concerned that “a UPS deliveryman could be charged with carrying a knife for the purpose of going armed.”
Sen. Mike Bell has proposed what he calls “a complete rewrite of the knife laws in Tennessee,” repealing present provisions that effectively prohibit use of “switchblades” and apparently ban use of knives with blades longer than four inches for self-defense.
Bell’s bill (SB1015) would also override multiple city and county government ordinances that restrict knives. It was approved on a 7-1 vote Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with one member abstaining.
The Riceville Republican said he began looking into knife laws after a judge told him “a couple of years ago” he tried to order a knife from an online retailer and was told the company did not ship to Tennessee because it read state law to ban knives with blades longer than 4 inches.
He has since learned, Bell said, that “thousands of people throughout Tennessee” are violating state law by having “switchblade knives,” which he said are more properly called “spring-loaded knives.”
Bell said the present ban on switchblades, which are useful for people who need to open a knife with one hand in some situations, was banned in Tennessee and many other states after ” hysteria caused by Hollywood movies.”
Actually, he said officials of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation say they are rarely, if ever, used in crime. Further, with only a slight variation in opening procedure, a knife can avoid the switchblade designation and be legal, he said.
The bill repeals several provisions of current law, including those on the crime of carrying a knife “for the purpose of going armed.” The law now forbids having a knife with a blade of more than 4 inches for such purposes, he said, unless it is used in hunting, fishing, camping or “other lawful activity.”
Effectively, Bell said, that means a person cannot carry a knife for self-defense. He said his 18-year-old daughter cannot legally get a handgun carry permit to possess a gun for self-defense and should be able to carry a long-bladed knife instead.
The only no vote on the committee Tuesday came from Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, who said a law enforcement officer had contacted him with concerns about the bill.
Bell said pre-emption of local ordinances is needed to provide statewide uniformity in laws. Clarksville, for example, prohibits knifes with blades longer than 3 inches, shorter than the state standard. Knoxville’s city ordinance, he said, is roughly the same as current state law, though using an array of undefined terms that include “razor, dirk, Bowie knife or other knife of like form” and, in another place, “sword cane” and “ice pick” — if the named items are “for the purpose of going armed.”
Note: There is a national ‘knife rights’ effort, subject of a Mother Jones story. HT/Jeff Woods
The maximum fine for committing bigamy would be doubled – from $2,500 to $5,000 – under legislation approved by the Senate and awaiting a House committee vote.
As originally filed by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, the legislation (SB542) would have elevated bigamy from a misdemeanor to a felony. That provision was dropped after legislative staff estimated that there are 18 convictions of bigamy per year in Tennessee and that the cost to the state for incarcerating them as felons would total more than $368,000 per year.
The bill also changes current law to allow prosecution for bigamy for a longer period after a person already married maries again. Under the current “statute of limitations,” a bigamist can be prosecuted for two years after the second marriage takes place.
In some cases, Bell said, the spouse of a bigamist does not discover the previous marriage, with no divorce, until “several years later.” With the change of law, he said, bigamy is treated as “a continuing offense” so the statute of limitations does not begin until the prior marriage is discovered “so even if it’s discovered later, it can be prosecuted.”