House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart, under attack by the National Rifle Association, has sent out a statement defending her actions on the so-called “guns in parking lots” bill. Her campaign website has a video of her reading the statement HERE. Here’s the text:
Over the past few months, a national second amendment rights group, an organization of which I am a lifetime member, has begun a negative campaign against me in the name of the Second Amendment and my opponent.
This attack against me is based on false information in an effort to bully your elected officials and trample your other Constitutional rights.
During this past General Assembly, a bill came before us related to individuals being able to store their gun in their car. I have a 100% voting record on the Second Amendment and support this idea. There were several problems with this bill and we reached out to this group to try to work the kinks out.
My main concern was that this bill as introduced would have mandated what individuals, not just businesses, must do or allow with their property. I hear complaints every day about Federal Government mandates, yet one was almost forced on you by the state if this group would have gotten their way.
Since this group was not willing to work with us, we suggested that we study the legislation over the summer to see how we could make this a better bill for all Tennesseans. Most Members of the General Assembly would like a bill that respects property rights as well as second amendment rights, as both of these are equally important. Let me be clear. I did not vote against this bill, contrary to what you have been told. You can see for yourself by going to www.capitol.tn.gov and looking at the vote for this piece of legislation.
As a member of House Leadership, blame has been placed at my feet for an attempt at thoughtful governing. We are sent to Nashville to represent you. It is my aim to protect all of your rights, not just the one that this second amendment rights group is promoting.
I hope you will contact me if you have specific questions about this matter that I can resolve. Now that you know the truth, I would appreciate your vote.
— UPDATE Note: The Tennessee Firearms Association, naturally, has fired back. below.
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), April 27, 2012 — The Senate has approved legislation, sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Charles Curtiss (D-Sparta), that revises a law passed last year regarding cyberbullying through the use of electronic devices. Senate Bill 2556 removes the words “frighten, intimidate, or cause emotional distress” to a victim in the state’s current cyberbullying law and replaces them with the word “threaten.”
Ketron said he enlisted the help of Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper and other legal experts in revising the law to meet constitutional muster, while maintaining the focus on deterring bullying through electronic means. The revision limits the offense of harassment by display of an image to cases in which the defendant communicates without legitimate purpose with the intent that it will be viewed by the victim with the malicious intent to threaten them. “It must also be in a manner in which the defendant knows or reasonably should know, would threaten a similarly situated person,” he said.
The Tennessee Democratic Party is criticizing Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, for his comments during House floor debate on a bill that amends the state “cyberbullying” law. During the debate, Rep. Jeremy Faison spoke out against the bill, displaying a “boys will be boys” mentality towards bullying, and ignoring the public outcry from parents who have lost children to suicide after years of vicious and intolerable harassment. He then went one step further and said that “I will submit to you today, that they didn’t commit suicide because of somebody bullying them, they committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self esteem came from.”
Faison is apparently blaming the parents of suicide victims for their inability to “instill the proper principles” in their children. What a disgrace. Now, of course a tall and burly Faison doesn’t see any problems with bullying, as he admitted, he was perfectly capable of defending himself or dishing out punishment as he saw fit. But many kids don’t have that ability. That is why laws like these need to be passed.
It is unfortunate that some in the Republican Party have become the protectors of bullies.
See also Steve Hale, who has Faison’s apology: “After reviewing my comments on the House Floor today, I regret what was a poor choice of words. My true intent was to protect children from becoming criminals. Suicide has touched my family, and I would never want a parent or family member to feel they were responsible for such an unimaginable tragedy.”
Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters Wednesday that he doesn’t think bills dealing with sexual orientation are the best use of lawmakers’ time this session, according to TNReport. Haslam was asked specifically about whether he sees a connection between bills such as one to ban teaching about homosexuality in lower grades and two teen suicides in as many months by Middle Tennessee students who were reportedly bullied for being gay.
“Obviously, that’s not the environment we want to set in Tennessee,” he said. “In terms of legislation, I think there’s better things for us to focus on this year.”
…The topic of much conversation Wednesday was the bill known to critics as the “Right-to-Bully.”
The original version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, and Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, was filed last year but never came to a vote in either chamber. Talking to reporters Wednesday, Family Action Council of Tennessee president David Fowler said the bill’s language had been reworked and that a new version would be filed Thursday. Fowler is a former GOP state senator from Signal Mountain.
Fowler acknowledged the bill’s original language was “apparently not sufficient to communicate what we were trying to do.” The initial bill had drawn national criticism for language that critics said would protect bullying, as long as it was done on religious or political grounds.
But Fowler said the bill’s aim is actually to reduce bullying in public schools — but without infringing on the rights of students’ to engage in free speech and religious expression.
“We have to appreciate that the same First Amendment that is disregarded today to suppress speech you don’t like, is the principle that tomorrow may be used to suppress your speech,” he said. “So, we have to appreciate the First Amendment cuts both ways.”
As for the new version of the bill, Fowler said it would try to define situations that called for action by school administrators.
“Specifically, if a student reports harm to themselves or their property, or the threat of harm to themselves or their property, that in itself should be enough to demand that the administrator investigate that situation, take action, and in our bill what is done would need to be reported to others who can monitor the situation,” he said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Conservative activist David Fowler of Signal Mountain favors legislative efforts to discourage student bullying but his group disagrees with providing special consideration for gay students.
Fowler, a former Republican state senator, is president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee. The group’s December newsletter says it wants “to make sure (the legislation) protects the religious liberty and free speech rights of students who want to express their views on homosexuality.”
Fowler told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that “the purpose is to stop bullying, not create special classes of people who are more important than others” (http://bit.ly/AtE2TD ).
Leaders of the gay rights advocacy group Tennessee Equality Project contend the legislation would give students a “license to bully” by allowing them to hide their irrational biases behind an extreme religious belief.
The Senate sponsor of changes to the bullying law, Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbville, is “reviewing the legislation” and will likely “narrow” the current bill, a Tracy aide said Tuesday.
The bill backed by Fowler says anti-bullying programs and measures can’t use materials or training that “explicitly or implicitly promote a political agenda (and) make the characteristics of the victim the focus rather than the conduct of the person engaged in harassment, intimidation, or bullying.”
In a posting on the Tennessee Equality Project’s website, the group’s president, Jonathan Cole, said things were difficult for gay students last year. He referred to the suicide of Jacob Rogers, a student who experienced years of anti-gay bullying at Cheatham County Central High School in Ashland City.
Cole said the legislation will only increase risks to students.
Fowler said gays are “not the only people who get insulted. The thing we need to concentrate on is not whether the characteristics of the victim justify being protected but on the conduct of the person engaging in the bullying while respecting constitutional rights.”
The House and Senate have approved two bills presented as ways to combat “cyberbullying,” defined as the use of electronic devices to intentionally inflict emotional distress or fear of physical harm.
One of the bills, HB301, amends the state’s general law, which makes harassment or intimidation of another person a misdemeanor, to include electronic communication via email, text messages, website postings and the like. It also declares that law enforcement officers and prosecutors can demand records from operators of social networks and other service providers to determine the origin of an electronic communication.
The bill passed the Senate 29-1 on Thursday after being amended to make a conviction punishable by community service work only. It passed the House earlier 76-18, but now returns to that body for concurrence on the Senate amendment.
The sponsors, Democratic Rep. Charles Curtiss of Sparta and Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, said the measure will help law enforcement officers track down offenders and clarify current law to assure it covers electronically transmitted threats that cause “emotional distress” or a reasonable fear of bodily harm.
Most criticism focused on concerns that the bill is too broad and could interfere with free speech. Among the opponents was Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge.
“I do not think we ought to limit free speech of our citizens just because someone is offended,” he said.
The other bill, HB300, gives school boards the authority to take disciplinary action against students who engage in “cyberbulling” against another student or students, even if the acts in question were committed off a school campus.
It inspired considerably less debate and passed 87-8 in the House, 29-1 in the Senate. The measure, also sponsored by Curtiss and Ketron, now goes to the governor.
(Note: The Senate vote count was initially stated as 30-0 on this post. It has been corrected to 29-1. The sole no vote came from Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville.)