With guns virtually certain to be a hot topic in the legislative session that begins next week, Sen. Stacey Campfield has becoming something of a point man on two firearm fronts.
A University of Tennessee official, meanwhile, acknowledged that Knoxville Republican is correct in one of his recent contentions related to the gun debate: A little-noticed provision of state law, enacted decades ago, already allows weapons to be kept by many people in locked cars on campus parking lots.
House Speaker Beth Harwell, after a talk with Campfield, has assigned two Republican legislators — Reps. Steve McManus of Cordova and Judd Matheny of Tullahoma — to lead a study of Campfield’s plans for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” law dealing with employees keeping guns in cars parked on employer premises.
McManus and Matheny met with interested parties on Wednesday. McManus said afterward they came to no conclusions, but plan to meet again next week when they will hopefully have a written copy of the Campfield plan to serve as a working draft in seeking a compromise.
The National Rifle Association unsuccessfully pushed a “guns in parking lots” bill last year. Campfield’s proposal is to generally authorize those who may legally possess guns to bring them onto business or government properties so long as the weapons are locked inside a vehicle, much as the failed NRA proposal did. But he adds provisions.
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.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam says the exclusion of college campuses is key to an agreement on a bill to allow employees to store their firearms in vehicles parked at work.
The governor told reporters after a speech to a Nashville Republican group on Tuesday that he expects lawmakers to craft a compromise on the measure that was the subject of much discord earlier this year.
The business lobby opposed the measure backed by the National Rifle Association on the basis that it intrudes on their property rights. Gun advocates argue that banning guns in company lots effectively prevents workers from being armed during their commute.
Haslam said his administration won’t take a lead on the issue but said it will fight to keep educational institutions out of the final version.
“We will definitely not offer a bill on this,” Haslam said. “It’s not one of the issues of primary importance to us in this session.”
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has announced he will push for an early compromise on the measure in hopes of pushing the contentious issue out of the limelight. Unlike the early drafts of last session’s bill, the new version would apply only to people with state-issued handgun carry permit.
Recent events illustrate that the art of compromise, historically valued in the world of politics, remains a constant in the new normal of Republican rule in Tennessee government. So does the belief that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Gov. Bill Haslam, in his titular head role as overseer of our state’s Republicans, called last year for a one-third reduction in legislative bill filings in 2012. At the outset of the 2012, the governor thereupon introduced a legislative package of 54 bills, compared to his 24-bill package of 2011 — somewhat shy of a 33 percent reduction.
Having thus established his freedom from the hobgoblin of little-mindedness, the governor proceeded to watch as legislators filed a total of 1,725 new bills for the 2012 session, including those introduced at his behest.
This was also somewhat shy of a one-third reduction and amounts to an increase compared to the typical second year of a two-year General Assembly session. In fact, it wasn’t down even a third from the floodgate first year when 2,162 bills were introduced.
Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee State Employees Association both emails letters to state employees today on their negotiated changes to Haslam’s civil service reform bill, (HB2384) known as the TEAM act. First, here’s the Haslam letter:
April 2, 2012
Dear State Employees,
I want to update you on recent developments regarding the TEAM Act, our administration’s proposal to update our employment system so that we are able to recruit, retain and reward dedicated and hard-working state employees.
State government’s job is to provide services that Tennesseans can’t get on their own and to do so in the most customer-focused, effective and efficient way. That’s what Tennessee taxpayers expect, and that’s what they deserve.
Beginning last fall, we held listening sessions with state employees across the state to learn about issues impacting you, our employees, and what we heard about most were challenges created by our employment system.
We also have been listening to and working very closely with state employee groups, especially the Tennessee State Employees Association in recent months on the TEAM Act. Early on in the process, we all agreed that our current system is broken, so it has mostly been a matter of working out some details.
Those discussions have been beneficial and have improved our bill through the legislative process. As I said back in January during the State of the State, this administration is most interested in getting to the right answer, not just our own answer, and I appreciate TSEA’s efforts to work with us on behalf of their membership.
Late last week, the TSEA came to us with their recommendations for final changes to our bill as it nears the finish line. As a result of that cooperation, the TSEA supports our legislation that preserves the key components to fundamentally updating our employment system.
I look forward to working with TSEA and members of the General Assembly on final passage of this bill to put you, our workforce, in a position to better serve Tennesseans. I appreciate the strong support we’ve received from the Legislature on this effort to date and appreciate their continued support in these final weeks of session.
The more comprehensive TSEA letter is below:
After more than a year of debate, compromise legislation that would alter the handling of ethics complaints against state judges passed the Senate Judicial Committee on Tuesday afternoon, reports The Tennessean. The bill, an altered version of legislation once widely opposed by judges, would dissolve the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary and replace it with a “judicial board of conduct.” The board would be able to investigate and punish judges on a broader — yet still private — scale.
Already passed by the House Judiciary Committee last week, the bill must still clear one more House committee and both chambers of the legislature to become law.
Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Chapel Hill, said the bill would be an improvement despite the compromises required for passage. “It solves a lot of problems,” he said.”The ends of justice are served by” the bill.
Under the proposal, the ethics board would be allowed to investigate judges when it finds probable cause with a complaint instead of the “substantial probability” the Court of the Judiciary now requires. That’s a lower standard of proof.
The bill also would keep the Tennessee Supreme Court from appointing judges to the board and would let conferences of judges and House and Senate leaders appoint them instead.
The bill combines legislation from Faulk and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet. Beavers’ legislation, which would have dramatically reformed the ethics board even more than the current legislature, did not have the consent of much of the state’s judiciary branch.
The current bill now has the support of many state judges, according to Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Jeff Bivins.
A newly unveiled amendment to a controversial bill that keeps permanently secret the names of business owners getting taxpayer cash and other incentives still allows the state to keep the owners’ names secret, reports Richard Locker. The bill, sought by Gov. Bill Haslam’s Economic Commissioner Bill Hagerty, is set for floor votes in both the House and Senate this morning. After the secrecy bill ran into stiff opposition from both Democrats and Republicans, Hagerty’s Department of Economic and Community Development drafted a “compromise” amendment released late Wednesday.
The amendment, which would replace the original bill, allows public release of the name of the company or business receiving the taxpayer money, as well as the amount received and the number of jobs to be created and the location.
But it does not allow release of the names of the owners, state Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, said Wednesday night.
“ECD’s amendment does not require disclosure of ownership. This secret secrecy amendment implicitly does what the original bill did explicitly. It makes ownership of these companies secret,” Herron said.
In a Senate floor debate last week, Herron charged that allowing the state to keep secret the names of privately held businesses that receive state cash grants and various other incentives to locate or expand in Tennessee would deny taxpayers the right to know who’s getting their money and could lead to corruption.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that he expects lawmakers to pass a bill this year to force businesses to allow workers to store firearms in vehicles parked on company lots, though he doesn’t expect the measure to be as broad as originally introduced.
Haslam said he’s trying to work out a compromise between gun rights supporters and business groups.
“A lot of government is like that, it’s about getting the balance right,” he told reporters after a speech to the Tennessee Hospitality Association. “This is one of those cases where you have property interests versus gun rights interests — both of which people in my party take very, very seriously.”
Haslam didn’t say what change he would make to the current version of a bill supported by the National Rifle Association that would apply to both private businesses and public institutions.
The measure would also cover any firearm owner, not just those with state-issued handgun carry permits.
Lawmakers are coalescing around a compromise amendment that would eliminate Tennessee’s judicial disciplinary panel — the Court of the Judiciary — and replace it with a new “board of judicial conduct” to investigate ethical complaints against judges and determine discipline.
More from The Tennessean story: The proposal would continue to allow judges to be punished privately in some circumstances, but it would lower the bar for when the investigation of a judge is appropriate. The proposal also would remove all appointment power from the Tennessee Supreme Court, which currently picks 10 of the Court of the Judiciary’s 16 members.
Lawmakers and disgruntled litigants have grown dissatisfied with the Court of the Judiciary in recent years, saying that it dismisses too many complaints without investigating them, keeps too much of its work private and includes too many members who are judges. Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, largely has led the charge and proposed a drastic overhaul of the Court of the Judiciary last year.
Beavers’ proposal would have reduced the commission’s size to 12 members appointed by the speakers of the state House and Senate, and only five would have been judges. State judges balked, and were successful in getting the measure stalled.
(The) competing proposal, sponsored by Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, .. was developed in cooperation with state judges and has attracted far more sponsors, including Lt. Gov Ron Ramsey, the Republican speaker of the state Senate.
Faulk’s bill would have kept the composition of the court — 10 judges, three lawyers and three laypeople — the same but transferred appointment of the judges from the state Supreme Court to the statewide judicial conferences for state and local judges. It also would have lowered the threshold for when a judge should be investigated from when there is a “substantial probability” that an ethical violation has occurred to “probable cause.”
A compromise amendment to Faulk’s bill, drafted Friday, includes elements from both proposals and draws largely on an amendment to Beavers’ bill that already had been presented by Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett. Both Faulk and House Sponsor Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, said they expect the legislation to clear the House and Senate judiciary committees next week. Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Jeff Bivins, said the state’s judges agree to the terms of the amendment.
There would still be 10 judges on the 16-member board, but the compromise would allow those judges to be “current or former” at the insistence of Beavers, who has said she is uncomfortable with sitting judges “judging judges.” Four current or former lower court judges would be appointed by the judicial conferences, while two current or former appellate judges would be selected by the House and Senate speakers from a list of six candidates submitted by the Tennessee Judicial Conference.
“That decision was made in large part because, since the Supreme Court does ultimately review disciplinary action taken by the Court of the Judiciary, everyone, including the Supreme Court, felt that they shouldn’t be appointing its members,” Bivins said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee State Employees Association says it has ended discussions with Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration about legislation that would eliminate most civil service protections for state workers.
Robert O’Connell, the group’s executive director, said Tuesday in prepared statements that several weeks of discussions have ended because the “governor’s people were unwilling to remove or compromise on the provisions most harmful to state employees.”
Haslam’s proposal would eliminate rules that allow bumping and retreating, which association officials say removes seniority as a prime protection for state employees when layoffs are deemed necessary.
The proposal would also strip the right of a person that’s laid off to be called back to work if the economy improves.
The measure is scheduled to be heard this week in the House State and Local Government General Subcommittee. Note: The TSEA news release is below.