Tag Archives: Brian Kelsey

Kelsey seeks legal ammo against gun show ban

Press release via Senate Republican Caucus
(NASHVILLE) — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) requested an opinion today from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery regarding the legality of banning gun shows from publicly owned fairgrounds. The Nashville Metropolitan Fair Commissioners Board recently voted to ban gun shows at the city’s publicly owned fairgrounds. Kelsey said the action potentially runs afoul of local, state, and federal laws.

“Tennessee law is clear that local governments cannot regulate the sale of arms,” said Senator Kelsey. “The Metro Fair Board action is a thinly disguised effort to impose a liberal gun control agenda and deny citizens their Second Amendment rights.”

The Tennessee preemption statute prevents localities from enacting any new laws regulating the use, purchase, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, carrying, sale, acquisition, gift, devise, licensing, registration, storage, and transportation of firearms and ammunition. The statute also preempts any existing local law, ordinance, or regulation concerning firearms, ammunition or their components.

Kelsey said the action to prohibit gun shows at the fairgrounds also raises constitutional questions. Generally, if a local government opens a venue for rent by private parties, it cannot pick and choose which parties it allows to rent the space simply because it disagrees with the viewpoint of those parties.

“The decision by the board tramples on the free speech of those who want to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” added Kelsey.
Reports seem to indicate that the Fair Board’s members overwhelmingly made their decision based on their desire to implement gun control measures.

Finally, the board action also appears to violate Metro’s own charter. The 2011 amendment to the charter for Metro Nashville provides that existing fairgrounds activities, “including, but not limited to, the Tennessee State Fair, expo center events, flea markets, and auto racing, shall be continued on the same site.” Gun shows have been operating at the fairgrounds since the 1970s.

Metro Councilman Steve Glover, who filed a resolution last week asking the fairgrounds board to overturn their decision banning gun shows, reacted positively to Sen. Kelsey’s request: “I’m pleased that the state as well as Metro is looking at this. I look forward to receiving the legal opinions. I feel certain that what’s been done will be overturned.”

Further from The Tennessean:
The fair board’s 3-0 vote, with one abstention, was not to ban gun shows, per se. Instead, the board voted to cease renting space for gun shows at fairgrounds until gun show operators agree to safety and other event rules that satisfy the board. The motion made was to fulfill existing contracts that exist with gun show operators.

These could include signage that states gun sales require background checks, additional police security in parking lots and liability coverage paid by vendors that protects the city. Bill Goodman’s Gun and Knife Shows, the main gun show operator at the fairgrounds, has opposed many of these proposals.

Kelsey isn’t the only one who has asked for a legal opinion on this issue. Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, who has said she respects decision-making of local boards and supports safer facilities, asked the Metro Department of Law to review the legality of the action as well.

Kelsey has a carjacking bill

News release from Sen. Brian Kelsey, via Senate Republican Caucus
NASHVILLE – State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) said today he is introducing legislation to crack down on carjackings in Tennessee. Sen. Kelsey’s announcement comes amid a recent spate of carjackings in the Memphis area. At least six carjackings have been reported in the area in the last three weeks.

Kelsey said his bill aims to keep Tennesseans safer by ensuring that carjackers serve more time behind bars.

“Tennesseans should not have to worry about being held at gunpoint while driving in our communities,” said Sen. Kelsey. “A red light is meant to keep you safe from other drivers, not put you in danger of being carjacked,” he continued. “It is a travesty that carjackers only have to serve 30% of their sentence.”
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Kelsey prepares for another try at bringing vouchers to TN

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The co-sponsor of a Senate proposal to create a school voucher program in Tennessee said Monday that lawmakers will try again to pass the measure in the next legislative session — despite failures in the last three.

The proposal, or “opportunity scholarship,” would let parents move a child from a failing public school in Tennessee to a private school with funding from the state.

Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown told reporters on Monday following a Senate Education Committee hearing on vouchers that he’s optimistic the Legislature starting in January could be the one to finally pass a school voucher proposal.

He said one reason is that the chairman of the House Education Subcommittee where the companion bill got stuck in the last session is also a co-sponsor of the legislation he’s supporting.

“I’ve had positive conversations with members of the House,” Kelsey said. “I think the House simply needs a chance to vote on this.”
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On the Hall income tax and revenue

Most local government officials oppose repeal of the state’s Hall tax on stock dividends and interest, reports Richard Locker in a story that includes some new figures on money collected and distributed through the tax — much of it to local governments.

During the fiscal year that ended June 30, the income tax generated $303 million in total revenue, with about $189 million flowing to the state’s general fund and the remaining $114 million distributed to local governments across the state.

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said last week he will try again in 2016 to abolish the tax, effective with the 2017 calendar year. Kelsey said the legislature should reimburse cities and counties for their revenue loss but neither the bill nor an amendment he filed last week provides for continuing the revenue stream to local governments.

Memphis is the largest single recipient of Hall tax proceeds — $14.8 million during fiscal year 2015, according to new figures from the state Department of Revenue. Nashville is second at $14.6 million, followed by Knoxville with $10 million. Knox County is seventh with $3.3 million, followed by Germantown with nearly $3.1 million.

…Kelsey said last week that the Hall tax “especially hurts our seniors and those who have saved for their retirement, as almost half of those who pay the tax are 65 or older. Not only that, nearly 9 of 10 individuals who pay the tax have less than $34,000 per year in investment income.”

According to statistics from the Revenue Department, 45 percent of the individuals who filed Hall tax returns in 2013, the last year for which complete figures are available, were over age 65. But that percentage may decrease due to higher overall income thresholds the legislature has enacted for people 65 and older to be subject to the tax.

For tax year 2015, taxpayers 65 and up are exempt from the Hall tax if their total income from all sources is $68,000 or less for joint filers and $37,000 or less for single filers, under legislation sponsored by Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) and Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) and signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam in April. That’s up from $59,000 and $33,000 in tax year 2013, and from the $27,000 and $16,200 income thresholds in tax year 2000.

In addition, the first $1,250 in taxable dividend and interest earnings for single filers and the first $2,500 for joint filers is tax exempt. The state tax levies a 6 percent rate on taxable dividends and interest, but exempts interest earned on savings accounts, certificates of deposit, government bonds, credit unions, bank money market accounts and dividends from bank stock, insurance companies, credit unions and other sources.

The Revenue Department says just over 89 percent of the 166,723 Hall tax returns filed for tax year 2013 had Hall tax liability of $2,000 or less and another 6 percent had Hall tax liability of $2,000 to $3,999.

Note: The link in this post is to the Commercial Appeal story. Locker had a separate version, with more emphasis on Knoxville area, in the News Sentinel HERE.

Haslam: No Hall repeal with ‘one-time money’

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that if lawmakers want to abolish the state tax on income from stocks and bonds, they should say what programs they’ll cut to make up the $300 million loss in tax revenue.

Further from Richard Locker:

“I’ve always said it’s easy to say let’s do away with this. It’s a lot harder to say what are you going to do about that revenue going away,” he said.

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said last week he’ll try to repeal the income tax on stock dividends and certain interest income when the Legislature convenes in January. “This is a bad tax and it needs to go. It especially hurts our seniors and those who have saved for retirement,” he said.

Kelsey and others have filed bills for several years to repeal the “Hall income tax,” without success. He cited the $606 million in revenue above budgeted estimates that the state its ended fiscal year with on June 30 as a reason to abolish the tax now.

The income tax generated $303 million during the same fiscal year but only $189 million is retained by the state; the rest goes to local governments where the taxpayer resides. Kelsey’s bill doesn’t explicitly require it but he said the state should make up the revenue loss to local governments — effectively costing state government the full $303 million.

Haslam distinguished between “one-time money” like the budget surplus and recurring revenue from the Hall tax. “Those are two very different things. I certainly wouldn’t want to appropriate one-time money assuming it’s always going to be there,” he said.

The governor also said that the state has needs for the revenue, including education, TennCare, higher pay for teachers and correctional officers and more front-line children’s services workers.

“I’ve always said I don’t like the Hall tax either but if we’re going to do away with it, we have to figure out what we’re going to do with that revenue. … That’s part of the budget balancing thing that we have to do.”

Sen. Kelsey: Use state surplus to repeal of Hall Income Tax

News release from Sen. Brian Kelsey
NASHVILLE — Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today filed legislation which would repeal the Hall income tax next year. The Hall tax is a 6% tax on interest and dividends. Previously, Sen. Kelsey proposed phasing out the tax over three years, but this amendment to the original bill would abolish the tax next year.

“This is a bad tax, and it needs to go,” stated Sen. Kelsey. “It especially hurts our seniors and those who have saved for their retirement.”

Almost half of those who pay the Hall tax are 65 or older. Nearly 9 of 10 individuals who pay the tax have less than $34,000 per year in investment income.

Repeal of the tax has stalled in past sessions because critics claimed there was not enough state revenue to pay for the tax cut. This year Tennessee has a $600 million surplus in over-collections. The Hall tax costs only $167 million in state revenue to repeal. Economists now project that this money will be available in next year’s budget without any cuts necessary.
Economist Dr. John Gnuschke of the University of Memphis stated, “While substantial budget fluctuations occur, the natural growth of state tax collections should exceed $300 million. Over collections could exceed $300 million as long as state spending is held in check.”

Sen. Kelsey added, “Lawmakers who believe in limited government should commit to giving this money back to the taxpayers before it gets spent on pet projects.”

An additional $90 million in Hall Tax revenue is shared with the municipality or county in which the taxpayer resides.

According to Sen. Kelsey, “If cities will decide amongst themselves how to distribute their share of the revenue, the state should send that money back to cities. We can afford repeal of the Hall Tax next year without cutting one dime from state or local government.”

The General Assembly can consider legislation when it reconvenes in January. A copy of the amendment filed today with the Senate Finance Committee is attached. A similar measure by Sen. Mark Green (R-Clarksville) passed the Senate Finance Committee this year and awaits a vote on the Senate floor.

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Note: The Kelsey proposal is filed as an amendment rewriting SB2, the bill filed last year to phase out the Hall over a period of years. The amendment text calls for the repeal to take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

UPDATE: Here’s a responsive news release from Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris:

NASHVILLE – Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris released the following statement on a proposal to cut taxes on stock dividends for the wealthiest Tennesseans:

“School systems across the state have waited, waited and waited for full funding,” Sen. Harris said. “Now they’re supposed to wait a little longer so we can give a tax cut to a small number of Tennessee families, when many of them are already wealthy. Some might call this the “Wait a Little Longer” bill. Let’s try to do something bigger, more transformative, that benefits all of us, during this time of budget surpluses.”

A recent analysis by the non-partisan Institue on Taxation and Economic Policy found that the average cut for the top 1% of Tennesseans would be $4,153, while the vast majority would see a cut of less than $15.

Kelsey joins Hardaway in pushing TBI investigation of TN police shootings

Emailed statement from Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown:
The recent shooting death of Darrius Stewart by a Memphis police officer has brought the national debate about the reliability of investigating officer-involved deaths close to home.

I am joining Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) to propose legislation on the issue. Our bill will require the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to conduct investigations every time a person is critically injured or killed in a situation involving a law enforcement officer.

This legislation will promote public confidence in the quality and integrity of these types of investigations. It will also prevent conflicts of interest, in which police departments must investigate their own officers.

A recent Harvard University study found that 66% of black Americans aged 18-29 have “not much” or “no” confidence in the legal system’s fairness, and a 2014 Gallup study found that only 37% of blacks have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police. While a lack of confidence in law enforcement is no excuse to resist arrest or assault a police officer, it is important to acknowledge that public perceptions matter.

The bill will allow disclosure of the results of TBI investigations, adding further transparency to the process. Under current law, if a prosecutor decides not to prosecute a case, the entire investigation must remain confidential. That lack of information does not engender confidence in the decision.

As always, I am eager to hear from you about this or any legislation before the General Assembly. It is a privilege to serve as senator of the 31st district.

Note: Previous post HERE.

When will you vote on next TN Supreme Court justice? ‘Unclear at this time’

There seems to be confusion over when the successor to state Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade will face a retention vote in a statewide election after he or she is appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam, reports Richard Locker. (Note: It might be 2016; it might be never.)

Prior to last November’s ratification of a new judicial amendment to the state constitution, the answer was clear: The governor’s appointee to a vacancy on the state Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or the Court of Criminal Appeals would appear on the ballot at the next statewide August election for a “retain” or “replace” vote by the public. The appointee could serve no more than two years without a direct public vote.

But the new amendment altered the judicial selection process, and opponents of the amendment criticized the new wording as vague and confusing regarding the timing of retention elections for appointees filling vacancies on the court.

…The governor’s office said Monday that “it’s unclear at this time” when a retention election will occur. “We anticipate the General Assembly will address the question when they reconvene early next year,” said Laura Herzog, the governor’s deputy director of communications.

The chief legislative drafter of last year’s Amendment 2, state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said Monday, in an email response to questions regarding the upcoming appointment, that Wade’s successor will not be subject to a retention election until 2022, the end of the current eight-year judicial term. That would give the successor nearly seven years on the state’s high court bench without a direct vote by Tennesseans. (Note: And, of course, under that scenario, if the judge decides not to seek another term, he or she would thus never face a vote.)

But at least twice before last November’s constitutional referendum, Kelsey publicly said that an appointee filling a vacancy on the court would be subject to a retention election at the next August statewide election.

During the campaign for the constitutional amendment last fall, Kelsey appeared at a Sept. 20 forum in Nashville and said, in response to a question from Amendment 2 critic John Jay Hooker: “As Mr. Hooker knows full well, there are two other sections of our state constitution that talk about the election of judges … so if it’s a vacancy, the retention election would occur at the following, at the next even-year August election. If it’s a full term, the retention election would occur at the end of the eight-year term.”

And in a Senate floor debate on Feb. 21, 2013, on the resolution that put Amendment 2 on the ballot, Kelsey said in response to a question about the timing of retention elections asked by then-Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville:

“At the end of the eight-year term for a full term or at the next August election for a vacancy, there would be a retention election under the language of this constitutional amendment.”

…John Avery Emison, who helped run last year’s Vote No on 2 campaign against the judicial amendment, said Monday he hopes the “governor will make the right decision” and declare that his appointee is subject to a retention election in August 2016.

Emison, who lives in Crockett County, cited an email he received last Oct. 11, just before the referendum, from prominent Nashville lawyer Lee Barfield, in response to Emison’s questions to Haslam about retention elections for appointees filling judicial vacancies if Amendment 2 passed.

Barfield, who played a lead role in the Yes on 2 campaign in support of the judicial amendment, said in that email: “ If Amendment 2 is adopted by the voters, a person appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy must stand for retention election by the voters at the next biennial election unless the vacancy occurred less than 30 days prior to the biennial election, in which case the judge will face a retention election in the second biennial election after the vacancy occurred.”

Five legislators back Zachary in House special election

Five current Republican state legislators helped Jason Zachary report raising almost three times as much in political contributions as Karen Carson in the initial financial disclosures filed for the special election in the state’s 14th House District.

Zachary, a businessman who won almost 40 percent of the vote in losing to U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. in last year’s 2nd Congressional District Republican primary, and Knox County school board member Carson are the only candidates qualifying for election to the seat previously held by Ryan Haynes, who resigned in April to become chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

The winner of the Aug. 12 GOP primary is thus virtually assured of winning the seat, since no Democrat is running in the Sept. 20 general election for the seat that represents portions of West Knox County and the city of Farragut.

The initial reports filed with the Registry of Election Finance cover only the first weeks of the campaign, which officially began with Gov. Bill Haslam issuing a “writ of election” on June 14. The reports, filed Friday, end on June 30.

In that period, Zachary reported raising $16,741. That includes $2,500 each from political action committees operated by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Thompson Station and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey of Germantown.

State Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, added another $1,500, while state Reps. Tillman Goins, R-Morristown, and Mary Littleton, R-Dickson, contributed $250 each, the reports show. Littleton was runnerup to Haynes in the state Republican Executive Committee’s voting on a new state GOP chair.
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Some legislators join UT in defending $16M purchase of West TN farm

Top University of Tennessee officials and some state legislators vigorously defended the university’s planned $16 million purchase of a 1,200-acre Hardeman County farm and its improvements at a hearing, reports Richard Locker. UT plans to use the property as a regional 4-H camp and conference center.

The purchase has generated some criticism because the price is more than three times the $4.6 million the county’s tax assessor had valued the farm for property tax purposes. That figure is in line with an independent appraisal conducted for the state and the owner, although that appraisal also drew some questioning because it included among its analysis of comparable sales two properties near Nashville, where property is much higher-priced than in rural West Tennessee.

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, wrote to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, in January that “the state may be on the verge of substantially overpaying” for the property. On Wednesday, during the Senate Education Committee’s higher-education budget hearing, Kelsey questioned UT President Joe DiPietro, Dean of UT Extension Tim Cross and Robbie Stivers, who heads capital projects for the UT system, on the purchase.

“Is that a wise use of University of Tennessee funds?” Kelsey asked.

“Yes, I think it’s a very wise use of University of Tennessee funds,” DiPietro said. “We really feel the appraisal is lower than what the property is actually worth or valued at based on the improvements.”

The owner is Memphis developer Scott Ledbetter, founder of LEDIC Management Group and active for years in civic projects, including chairman of the Pyramid reuse committee. He told the Commercial Appeal last month the state is getting a great deal on his Lone Oaks Farm and that he’s selling only because it will be used for 4-H. Out of 32 parcels he bought since 1998 to assemble the farm, he’s selling 27, or 1,200 acres, and keeping the rest.

He’s built 11 houses, lodges and cabins, along with a barn, cattle-handling facility, horse stable, event center and tool museum — a total of 25 structures. The property has lakes, ponds and streams and about 15 miles of trails. The private appraisal says he spent about $30.3 million on the land and improvements.

Cross, whose UT Extension Service sponsors 4-H programs for youth statewide, and DiPietro, who headed the UT Institute of Agriculture before the university system’s presidency, said those features make it perfect for the 4-H campers and also for non-4-H conferences, workshops and retreats year-round for which UT will charge fees that will help maintain the farm.