NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Legislation to allow wine to be sold in Tennessee supermarkets and convenience stores isn’t quite dead yet.
A tie vote in the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday morning initially indicated that bill had failed for the year. But a spokesman confirmed later in the day that Democratic Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville, who abstained on that vote now wants to vote in favor of the measure after receiving assurances that it would no longer include a provision allowing Sunday liquor sales.
Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has said he wants to the measure to clear all of his chamber’s committees this year. But he has said he would keep it from receiving a full floor vote unless the House version that failed in committee is revived this year or next.
A bill from Sen. Todd Gardenhire that would let for-profit companies run and manage public charter schools failed to make the grade in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, reports the Chattanooga TFP. The bill failed, getting just two votes, including the Chattanooga Republican lawmaker’s own vote, while one colleague said no and three others abstained.
Gardenhire earlier told the panel the bill is intended to help charter schools, which are run by nonprofit groups but funded with tax dollars. Often, they are started by parents, teachers, churches or other groups.
“As you all know, when the charter school starts up, the hardest year is the first year and sometimes it’s not easy to get competent administrators or people who know how to do the mechanics of starting a school,” Gardenhire explained. “This would allow well-meaning people who set up a charter school to go outside and hire people to manage it. That’s not to say everybody’s not competent.”
While charter schools can contract out some services like cleaning or food service to for-profit vendors, they currently are not allowed to contract out management services to them.
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.
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.
NASHVILLE – A bill clearing the way for sale of wine and grocery stores was killed in a House committee Tuesday, shattering hopes of proponents who had thought they were on the verge of breaking a six-year run of defeats.
Eight members of the House Local Government Committee voted against HB610 while just seven voted for it. The sponsor, Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, had asked that the vote be postponed a week, but his request was rejected after Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, said members “should hear it and make a decision today.”
The bill, in a change from most versions of the bill in prior years, did not directly allow wine in grocery stores. Instead, it let any city council or county commission – where liquor-by-the-drink is now legal – to schedule hold a local referendum on whether to expand wine sales to convenience stores and supermarkets.
Currently, only liquor stores can sell wine and they are forbidden to sell anything other than alcoholic beverages. Multiple amendments had been filed – 10 in the House committee – and most would have granted new rights to liquor stores faced with new competition. The amendments included proposals to allow sale of other products in liquor stores, to allow them to open on Sundays and holidays and to allow the same person to own more than one liquor store.
A House committee voted Tuesday to create a new nine-member board and give it authority to override local school boards statewide in deciding where charter schools can be established.
The bill approved by the House Education Committee (HB702) drew strident criticism from some Democrats. House Democratic Chairman Mike Turner said the new board would be “a death panel for public schools” and Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, called said the vote is “the most extraordinary power grab I’ve ever seen in the Legislature.”
A version of the bill approved earlier in subcommittee would have given override authority on establishing schools to the existing State Board of Education and would have applied only in Shelby and Davidson counteis. The revised measure applies statewide – “so we’re not singling anyone out,” said sponsor Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis – and gives charter approval authority to a new panel.
The new panel would have nine members – three each appointed by the governor, the speaker of the House and the speaker of the Senate. If it approved a charter school over objections of a local school board, the local school system would still have to provide funding to the charter operation.
After an hour of impassioned debate over whether state legislatures can overrule federal statutes or U.S. Supreme Court decisions, legislation calling for Tennessee nullification of federal firearms laws failed on a 4-4 tie vote Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
State Attorney General Bob Cooper had issued a formal legal opinion declaring the bill (SB250) was unconstitutional because of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. But sponsor Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, brought in witnesses to counter Cooper’s opinion.
Most notable was a woman calling herself “Publius Huldah,” who refused to give her real name. She operates a blog under that name that promotes nullification as a valid constitutional principle.
“When the federal government makes a clearly ursurpatious law, such as restricting firearms, it is the duty of the state” to nullify that law, she said.
The committee chairman, Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown, said the bill is unconstitutional and could lead to Tennessee sheriffs and their deputies “going out and using deadly force, potentially to shoot and kill federal authorities, for enforcing the federal laws.”
The bill, as filed declares the federal agents trying to enforce a law deemed void by the Legislature would be subject to felony prosecution. An amendment added Wednesday at Beavers’ request dropped the crime rating to a misdemeanor, which she said would mean federal agents could be issued a citation rather than being arrested and taken into custody by state law enforcement officers.
A legislative liaison for Gov. Bill Haslam was asked the governor’s view on the bill. Samuel Arnold told the committee the administration has “significant concerns about the constitutionality” of the bill and there is “a good chance he (Haslam) is not going to sign it.” Without an actual veto, however, the bill would become law without the governor’s signature.
The final 4-4 vote came with one member of the panel, Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, absent. Those voting for the bill were Sens. Mike Bell, R-Riceville; Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville; Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga; and Mark Green, R-Clarksville. Voting no were Sens. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson; Kelsey; Doug Overbey, R-Maryville; and John Stevens, R-Huntingdon.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A proposal to allow wine to be sold in Tennessee supermarkets and convenience stores scored its first legislative victory on Tuesday after years of frustration.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 5-4 to advance the bill that would allow cities and counties to hold referendums next year to decide whether to expand wine sales beyond the state’s nearly 600 licensed liquor stores.
Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro and the bill’s main sponsor, stressed that the wine votes would only be allowed in communities that have previously passed referendums to allow sales of liquor by the drink and retail package stores.
“Both of which wouldn’t be in your city or county if it did not get there by referendum,” he said. “All we’re doing with this bill is asking the same opportunity: Let your people vote.”
The measure would have to be approved by the Senate Finance Committee before heading for a full floor vote. The House began hearings on the measure on Tuesday, but a first vote had not yet been scheduled.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers are poised to decide this week whether a proposal to allow supermarket wine sales moves ahead or withers on the vine.
The bill to overhaul the current system that prevents shoppers from buying wine alongside groceries faces votes in both House and Senate committees this week, where as little as a single vote could decide the bill’s fate after months of lobbying.
“It could fall either way at this point,” said Republican Sen. Ken Yager of Harriman, chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee.
Yager’s committee meets Monday to hear from both sides of the bill, which seeks to allow cities and counties to hold referendums on whether to do away with liquor stores’ exclusive license to sell wine. The nine-member panel is scheduled to vote the following day.
Yager, who opposes of the bill on the basis that the change would hurt existing package stores in his district, said the measure could come down to a 5-4 vote.
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.