The Senate Judiciary killed Thursday a proposal to add a $2 fine on all convictions involving a crime committed with a gun, then use the resulting funds to finance gun “buy-back” programs.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, sponsor of the bill (SB1092) was peppered with critical questions by Republican senators.
Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he was concerned guns destroyed after a buy-back program could have been used in a crime and the possibility of ballistic evidence to solve the crime would be lost. Kyle said that is possible, but the gun was evidence that would not be available without a buy-back program. He also said buy-back programs keep ballistic evidence and serial numbers of destroyed weapons.
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, questioned charging the $2 fee statewide and earmarking for a purpose that may be used only in limited areas. Memphis has had gun buy-back programs recently.
And Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, said the proposal raise the “question of whether guns really are a problem with public safety. I tend to think they are not.”
The bill got only three yes votes while six senators voted no.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., will hit the television airwaves in his re-election bid next week, reports Action Andy. Voters will see the first two of four ads in a projected $2.5 million ad buy throughout the campaign. The Corker campaign says the first two 60-second spots are intended to put a spotlight on the former Chattanooga mayor’s “path to public service, his frustration with Washington, and his determination to solve the country’s most pressing problems.”
The ads are running in advance of the Aug. 2 Republican primary. Another 30-second spot is planned later in the primary. The fourth ad, a 30-second commercial, will run in the fall general election campaign in rotation with the other ads.
In one of the two first ads, Corker, speaking directly to the camera, talks about how in the past he found “something was missing” from his life despite a successful business career. That led him to join a church mission to Haiti and eventually led him to public service.
The other ad features his wife, Elizabeth, narrating the lawmaker’s trek from construction company owner, through the mission trip, to a growing interest in public service that led to his term as Chattanooga mayor and, in 2006, election to the U.S. Senate.
She notes Corker “got elected mayor, built an entire new waterfront in 35 months. And went on to help recruit Volkswagen to our state. Says the Senate is harder. Too much party first, not enough America first.”
— Note: The Corker campaign news release, with links to the two ads, is below.
Corrections Corporation of America has expressed interest in buying a state-owned prison southwest of Nashville as part of a strategy it’s pitching to most state governments as a partial cure to their budget shortfalls, according to The Tennessean. The private prison operator has set aside $250 million to embark on the national effort. In informal conversations with state corrections officials in Tennessee in recent weeks, Nashville-based CCA cited South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tenn., as a possible target.
“(State) officials have been intrigued and want to learn more, but that has been the extent of the conversation so far,” said Tony Grande, chief development officer with CCA.
Last month, the company sent letters to 48 states informing them of the initiative. In the letter, CCA said it’s trying to replicate what it considers a successful deal last year involving the 1,798-bed Lake Erie Correctional Facility in Conneaut, Ohio, which CCA acquired in exchange for a 20-year contract to manage that prison plus other guarantees.
Steve Owen, a CCA spokesman, said the company plans to follow up with other states to make them aware of the company’s new program and possible cost savings.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The head of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is asking lawmakers for money to buy drugs.
TBI Director Mark Gwyn told the House Finance Committee on Monday that his agency has done without its “confidential fund” since it was cut from the budget in 2009. The TBI uses the money to set up sting operations on drug dealers.
Gwyn told the panel that the lack of funding means the TBI can’t act on tips or requests for assistance from local law enforcement agencies.
“There’s no doubt that that has affected public safety in this state,” he said. “We get calls that people tell us, ‘Look, I can buy drugs from this person, or we want to start a drug operation,’ and we simply don’t have the money.”
Gwyn told reporters after the hearing that he would like to see $500,000 appropriated to get the program going again. There is no money in Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to fund the program.
“We need that money back, so we can go back to buying drugs in this state,” Gwyn said.
Gwyn was asked by Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, what his agency is doing to fight gangs in Tennessee. Gwyn responded that he doesn’t have enough agents or resources to start a gang unit, but noted that his proposal to ramp up anti-drug efforts would help.
“If we can do that, then that’s going to help with the gang problem,” he said. “Because a lot of gangs are into trafficking drugs.”