Legislation that would exclude newer cars and trucks from annual emissions testing sounds good to vehicle owners and to state lawmakers, who whisked it through a Senate committee and House subcommittee last week, reports Andy Sher. But state regulators and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry are nearly choking over the potential impact on existing and future businesses in six affected counties including Hamilton County, home to Volkswagen’s assembly plant.
In addition to Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties, and Memphis, require vehicles to pass annual emissions tests to get tags.
The county and city governments adopted the tests and other measures to comply with 2009 federal ozone standards aimed at improving air quality and health.
Receiving a “non-attainment” designation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can impact existing businesses or scare off new companies that might have to install costly pollution control equipment.
“We are opposed to the bill,” Wayne Scharber, the Tennessee Chamber’s vice president for environment and taxation, said last week.
The bill to exempt vehicles in the three most recent model years raised a dust storm in the House Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Senate Transportation Committee last week.
“I understand that Volkswagen is under very stringent restrictions to stay within a certain [level] that EPA has put on them,” said Rep. Curtis Halford, R-Dyer.
“If we stop doing this, is that going to put that particular facility in danger of being over the level that the EPA has given them … and consequently will that cause them large expenditures to get back underneath their limit there?”
Officials with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation outlined a chain of circumstances they said could affect Volkswagen and other companies in the six counties and Memphis.
Barry Stephens, director of the state’s Air Pollution Control Division, said the state runs a complex model on sources of ozone emissions. The EPA awards credits for certain actions to keep down the emissions.
“If you remove certain model years [of vehicles], then they reduce the amount of credits you get for the reduction,” Stephens said. “So if you remove three years, then we’ve got to find those tons [of emissions] somewhere else.”
That could come by requiring heavier vehicles now exempt from emissions testing, he said, or from requiring “stationary” source of emissions — power plants, heavy industry and petrochemical manufacturers — to cut back.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House has unanimously approved a bill to do away with a leash law for dogs and cats while being transported in Tennessee.
Several members howled like dogs in jest as the chamber voted 96-0 on Thursday to pass the bill (HB440) sponsored by Republican Rep. Pat Marsh of Shelbyville.
The measure would whittle down the little-known law requiring a leash or restraint for any dog or cat in transport to only apply to animals that might have rabies.
The Senate had previously passed its version of the bill on 30-0 vote, meaning the bill now heads for the governor’s desk.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill to allow Tennesseans with handgun carry permits to store loaded firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked cleared its final legislative committee Wednesday before a full House vote.
The House Civil Justice Committee approved the measure on a voice vote. Supporters argued that companies still could prohibit employees from bringing weapons on their property, but the bill would eliminate criminal charges against violators.
“We’re not setting a policy of how a business deals with its employees,” said Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, the bill’s main sponsor in the House.
Legislative attorney Thomas Tigue said the bill would not alter company policies.
“If your employee manual says you can’t drink at work, and you’re over 21 and it’s legal for you to drink, you can still suffer employment consequences,” he said. “This bill does not affect what does happen or does not happen.”
The Senate approved its version 28-5 earlier this month as GOP leaders have sought to avoid a repeat of last year’s drawn-out fight between gun advocates and the business community.
A House panel on Wednesday quickly advanced a bill that would block employers, businesses, colleges and churches’ ability to bar handgun-carry permit holders from storing firearms in vehicles parked on their property, reports the Chattanooga TFP. But the bill’s sponsor acknowledges that nothing in the measure would prevent employers from legally firing permit-holding workers who keep guns in their vehicles while on the job.
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said the Senate-passed bill doesn’t protect permit holders from Tennessee’s existing “at will” employment law.
That law allows employers to fire, suspend or discipline workers for any reason, good or bad, or for no reason at all.
“We are not going to dictate policy-setting at a business,” Faison said in response to a question posed to him during the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.
Faison said “if a business decides to fire someone or to reprimand someone, that is their rule. … You can fire, this is an at-will state and they’ll still be able to do whatever they want with a person who has a gun in their car.”
Speaking to reporters later, Faison said, “I would discourage [businesses firing workers] and I hope that businesses won’t go that way. I would say if there was an uprising in the state and you started seeing people being fired left and right I wouldn’t be surprised if the Legislature revisited it.”
But he said, “I don’t know of any company who’s just eager to go fire their employees. They already know who has guns” and don’t do it now.
Legislation granting handgun permit holders the right to take their weapons anywhere they wish – so long as the guns are kept inside a motor vehicle – may also put a new restriction on persons who lack a permit, Gov. Bill Haslam and others suggest.
The bill sponsored by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (SB142) is virtually assured of passage on the Senate floor Monday evening and House Speaker Beth Harwell has predicted it will be approved by the House as well. The House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, faces its first committee vote on Tuesday.
The measure applies to permit holders whose weapons are “kept from ordinary observation and locked within the trunk, glove box, or interior of the person’s privately owned motor vehicle or a container securely affixed to such vehicle if the permit holder is not in the vehicle.”
In that situation, the bill basically lets the permit holder – there are 371,800 of them in Tennessee, according to the preamble of the legislation – park his or her car anywhere with the gun inside. This includes the parking lot of businesses where guns are prohibited by company policy as well as schools and university campuses.
The legislation also grants businesses immunity from lawsuits resulting from death or injury to someone because of a gun kept inside a vehicle in accordance with the proposed law’s provisions.
It is Ramsey’s attempt at compromise on what he calls “guns in cars” legislation that strirred considerable controversy last year. A bill pushed then by the National Rifle Association was broader, covering all gunowners – not just those with carry permits. The bill failed with the business lobby ardently opposed and Second Amendment ardently supporting it.
The language of the bill says the new law will apply “notwithstanding” various laws now on the books. One of those is a law that generally prohibits possession of guns on school grounds and university campuses. But there’s an exception in the current law for a “non-student adult” who keeps his or her weapon locked in a car.
Thus, as Haslam noted in an appearance before the Tennessee Press Association last week, current law already allows most citizens – so long as they’re not a student or a school employee covered by an employment agreement – to keep a gun in their car on a campus.
The governor has declined to take a position on the bill, but has repeatedly declared his key concern is assuring “safety on campus.” A consideration in deciding whether he will sign the bill, Haslam said, is the possibility that “it actually is more restrictive than the law is now.”
In other words, the “notwithstanding” provision giving permit holders the right to take guns on campus appears at the same time to be repealing the present law allowing a “non-student adult” to keep a gun in his or her car. Some university officials said in interviews they believe that to be the case as well.
Charging stations for electric vehicles are sprouting up across the region, but good luck finding a car plugged into one, observes the Chattanooga TFP. Tennessee Department of Revenue officials estimate that at least 530 electric vehicles have been registered in Tennessee in the past two years, based on the number of buyers seeking a tax rebate. Spokesman Billy Trout said the department has issued about $1.35 million in rebates so far.
…There are about 700 public charging stations across Tennessee to cater to cars such as the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi i, Smart Electric, Tesla S and Roadster.
…Most electrics cost $30,000 to $40,000, but some soar as high as $100,000 or more. The Chevrolet Volt, an “extended range” car, has a gasoline engine that recharges the battery but does not power the wheels. The Volt goes about 35 miles before needing a charge, while cars like the Leaf can go about 70, officials said.
Potential customers are encouraged with a $2,500 to $7,500 federal tax credit and a $2,500 rebate in Tennessee.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state Sen. Stacey Campfield are both proposing what they view as compromises in a legislative controversy over keeping guns in cars — even in the parking lots of businesses that ban weapons on their premises.
One stark difference: Ramsey’s proposal, as outlined to reporters last week, would apply only to those with a handgun carry permit. Knoxville Republican Campfield’s plan, which he calls “don’t ask, don’t tell for guns,” would apply to those who may legally possess firearms.
In the last legislative session, a bill drafted by the National Rifle Association stirred a long-running dispute between Second Amendment advocates and business lobbyists. The proposal, which failed to pass, would have declared that Tennesseans can keep guns in their locked cars, even if the vehicle is parked on property where the owner prohibits guns.
Ramsey said he is drafting legislation — with an intent to push for passage early in the 2013 legislative session — that would allow handgun permit holders to keep their guns in cars at all times and in all places. But in “a secured area” where a business prohibits guns, the permit holder employee would have to provide a letter to his or her employer stating that “there may be a gun in the car,” Ramsey said.
Lapdogs in cars could mean trips to court under legislation that appears headed for passage after gaining approval of a committee that killed a similar bill last year.
Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, won approval of SB3110 in the Senate Transportation Committee on a 5-2 vote.
Last year, the committee killed a bill by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, that had the same goal, though slightly different language.
This year’s bill creates a new misdemeanor offense for having an animal in the lap while driving. It also covers an animal being between the driver and the driver’s door.
Yager won the committee’s approval after reading a letter from a constituent in Oliver Springs who said he has twice barely avoided a serious accident because of other drivers with dogs in their laps.
Both the and the House sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Cobb, said passage of the bill should make highways safer. Cobb said statistics show about 30,000 accidents per year nationwide caused by drivers distracted by dogs or cats in their vehicles.
The House version of the bill is scheduled for a floor vote tonight.
From the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action:
The Tennessee General Assembly is now in session and multiple bills that are crucial to law-abiding gun owners have been introduced. On January 25, Senate Bill 2992 and Senate Bill 3002 were introduced in the Tennessee Senate. The House companion bills, House Bill 3559 and House Bill 3560, were filed on the following day.
These NRA-drafted bills would prevent employers from discriminating and enforcing policies against the storage of lawfully-owned firearms in employees’ locked private motor vehicles while parked at work.
Introduced by state Senator Mike Faulk (R-4), SB 3002 would recognize that hard-working Tennesseans’ right to self-defense does not end when they drive onto their employer’s property or into publicly accessible parking lots. It would allow firearms to be stored out of sight in a locked vehicle. Senate Bill 3002 has been assigned to the state Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. State Representative Eddie Bass (D-65) introduced HB 3560, the House companion of SB 3002.
SB 2992, also introduced by state Senator Mike Faulk (R-4), is a Firearm Discrimination Prevention bill that would protect law-abiding gun owners from anti-gun policies by employers across the state, including forced firearm registration, random vehicle firearm searches, and “gun zone” parking lots for gun owning employees. The state Senate Commerce, Labor & Agriculture will first consider SB 2992. HB 3560, the House companion of SB 2992, was also introduced by state Representative Bass.
Link to full news release HERE.
(Note: Updates, expands earlier post)
SPRING HILL, Tenn. (AP) — General Motors announced Monday it will start building the Chevrolet Equinox at its idled Tennessee plant and will also make midsized vehicles there in the future.
Monday’s announcement of a total $244 million investment over two phases is projected to create nearly 1,900 jobs at the former Saturn plant outside Nashville.
The automaker said it initially will invest $61 million and create nearly about 700 jobs to begin making the Equinox by the second half of 2012. Sales of the crossover are up 45 percent this year to more than 162,000, according to Autodata Corp.
An additional $183 million to make unspecified midsized vehicles for the 2015 model year is projected to create another 1,200 jobs. GM officials wouldn’t divulge more specifics.
“We don’t like to tip our hand to the competition,” said Cathy Clegg, GM’s vice president for labor relations.