The Senate went along Thursday with the House’s whittled-down version of legislation dealing with the state’s knife laws.
As passed it passed the Senate, SB1015 would have repealed provisions in current law that ban switchblades and, in some circumstances, carrying any knife with a blade more than four inches long. The House scrapped those provisions at the urging of the Tennessee Sheriffs Association and other law enforcement representatives.
What remains is a prohibition against cities and counties enacting any ordinances that contain stronger restrictions on knives than general state law. Senate sponsor Mike Bell, R-Riceville, says several local government have knife ordinances – including Knoxville – that may differ from state law.
“It’s still a good bill,” said Bell in urging colleagues to go along with the changes.
The 27-4 vote to concur in the House amendment sent the bill to the governor for his signature.
Legislation headed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk would prohibit local municipalities from requiring private employers to adopt prevailing wages for employers — thus nullifying a 16-year-old Nashville law that guarantees these rates for contracted workers on city construction projects, reports The Tennessean. The Republican-backed bill (HB501), sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, cleared the Senate by a 24-6 vote Thursday, largely along party lines, with all nay votes coming from the chamber’s handful of Democrats.
Conservative Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville was the lone Democratic senator to vote for the Republican-backed legislation, while newly elected Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, voted present.
A spokesman for the Republican governor said Haslam would review the legislation like he does all bills. Past statements from Haslam have indicated skepticism of so-called “living wage” ordinances but also deference to local governments on whether to adopt them.
…”Living wages are about fairness and stability,” Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry said, adding: “By taking away yet another tool that Metro government has, the legislature is making it more difficult for the building and construction trades to earn a living.”
In addition to targeting wages, the bill would prevent local governments from requiring companies to ensure health insurance benefits and leave policies that are different from state policy. Metro’s ordinance does not require that.
See also the Commercial Appeal story. An excerpt: City officials and Memphis Democratic legislators said the bill is another example of Republicans, from the suburbs and elsewhere, targeting Memphis and to a lesser degree Nashville. The legislature last year overturned a Nashville local ordinance that forbade city contractors from discriminating against employees who are gay, despite the business community’s support for the local law.
“This is another pre-emption bill. If you think a community is smart enough to decide whether they want wine in grocery stores then I think you ought to consider them smart enough to set their wages and contracts,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis, alluding to a separate bill to allow wine sales in grocery stores if approved by local referendums.
Concerned with the prospect of a local government setting up what one leader called a “little people’s republic,” the Legislature’s Republican supermajority is moving on several fronts to assert state authority over cities and counties.
Some Democrats and local government officials decry the trend as an assault on local control and incongruous with Republican criticisms of the federal government for dictating to state governments.
“The level of contempt that this Republican majority has for local governments and working people is simply disgusting,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Old Hickory.
Turner’s remarks came after House approval Thursday of a bill (HB501) that declares local governments cannot put conditions on their contracts with businesses that require the businesses to pay more than minimum wages set by state or federal law, provide insurance or family leave. It also prohibits local governments from enforcing any ordinance on “wage theft,” wherein a company fails to live up to promises to pay a given wage or provide benefits.
The bill was approved 66-27 on a mostly party-line vote — Republicans for it, Democrats against — after a sometimes heated debate. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, may have best summed up the GOP view of such legislation.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean sees “devastating effects” on Metro government if the legislature approves “an ill-thought-out bill giving satellite cities including Forest Hills, Belle Meade and Oak Hill the power to create their own city services,” says Gail Kerr — and she agrees with him. It’s an effort being pushed by three out-of-county state representatives who live miles from Nashville but who suddenly feel the need to dip in our Kool-Aid. Why? The likely motivation is because they want the financial campaign support of rich Republicans in those three areas. The sponsors are Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester, and Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville. Alexander signed on only because the main backer, Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, has hit the limit of bills he can file.
It all started with a codes violation.
A house along Timberwood Road in Forest Hills burned down and neighbors grew frustrated when the owner wouldn’t make repairs. They thought Metro wasn’t cracking down fast enough. So Forest Hills officials decided to create their own court, a violation of the Metro Charter. Metro sued and Forest Hills lost. They are appealing. Officials in those upscale suburbs got together and went to their buddies in the legislature.
Local governments shouldn’t be allowed to play with knives, according to a bill pending before the General Assembly. And there are several pieces of legislation declaring, to one degree or another, that the federal government shouldn’t be trusted to handle guns.
Such measures, it seems, are part of a growing trend in Legislatorland to assert state supremacy. Dangerous devices may be cutting-edge issues in this regard, but it gets into some duller things as well. They might be more significant.
Now, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, has a point in his “knife rights” bill. If a national retailer is afraid to mail a blade longer than 4 inches into Tennessee, fearing criminal prosecution under state law, that law probably does need to be carved into better shape.
And if we allow citizens to possess rifles, shotguns and pistols, well, it doesn’t take piercing intellect to reason that legalizing ownership of a “switchblade” is not really slashing public safety concerns. Bell’s bill slices “4-inch blade” and “switchblade” provisions from current state law.
It also cuts local governments’ ability to enact ordinances that conflict with state knife laws. Bell says that if you leave Knoxville with a knife having a 4-inch blade in the car and drive to Clarksville, that’s fine, legally speaking, until you reach your destination, whereupon you are in violation of a local ordinance banning blades longer than 3 inches.
All good conservatives believe that the government closest to the people governs best, observes Frank Cagle in his weekly column…. except when they don’t. The business lobby is prevailing on the state Legislature to forbid a city raising the minimum wage above $7.25 an hour ($2.13 for people working for tips).
There is also a bill that forbids a city requiring contractors or people doing business in the city to pay a prevailing wage rate or to require that contractors provide health benefits.
…This comes after legislation last session forbidding cities to require their contractors not discriminate against gay people.
Business lobbyists tell legislators they have to have consistency throughout the state and it would be a real problem if regulations and requirements were different in different jurisdictions. We have to have the same laws in Maynardville and Memphis and Mountain City. That’s the argument they use in Washington to “standardize” laws throughout the states.
Legislators often glibly parrot the talking points and seem to have little regard for the impact of their decisions on the average citizen. If business wants consistency, how about requiring that every town and city in the state require a prevailing wage rate over the minimum?
No? So it isn’t about consistency. It’s about using the law to keep local government from asking for better wages from their contractors.
If it makes you mad for your City Council to ask that contractors pay a decent wage, provide health insurance, or not discriminate against employees then you have the option to run for City Council or support someone else. But it’s a local matter and no one in Nashville ought to be telling local governments what they can and can’t do.
Some local school districts are resisting efforts to set up charter schools. The state is already pulling the purse strings. Will a complete state takeover of charter schools be next? Even if you think charter schools are a good idea, shouldn’t you let the local school board decide? If you don’t like the decision, run for the school board or support someone else.
Sen. Mike Bell has proposed what he calls “a complete rewrite of the knife laws in Tennessee,” repealing present provisions that effectively prohibit use of “switchblades” and apparently ban use of knives with blades longer than four inches for self-defense.
Bell’s bill (SB1015) would also override multiple city and county government ordinances that restrict knives. It was approved on a 7-1 vote Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with one member abstaining.
The Riceville Republican said he began looking into knife laws after a judge told him “a couple of years ago” he tried to order a knife from an online retailer and was told the company did not ship to Tennessee because it read state law to ban knives with blades longer than 4 inches.
He has since learned, Bell said, that “thousands of people throughout Tennessee” are violating state law by having “switchblade knives,” which he said are more properly called “spring-loaded knives.”
Bell said the present ban on switchblades, which are useful for people who need to open a knife with one hand in some situations, was banned in Tennessee and many other states after ” hysteria caused by Hollywood movies.”
Actually, he said officials of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation say they are rarely, if ever, used in crime. Further, with only a slight variation in opening procedure, a knife can avoid the switchblade designation and be legal, he said.
The bill repeals several provisions of current law, including those on the crime of carrying a knife “for the purpose of going armed.” The law now forbids having a knife with a blade of more than 4 inches for such purposes, he said, unless it is used in hunting, fishing, camping or “other lawful activity.”
Effectively, Bell said, that means a person cannot carry a knife for self-defense. He said his 18-year-old daughter cannot legally get a handgun carry permit to possess a gun for self-defense and should be able to carry a long-bladed knife instead.
The only no vote on the committee Tuesday came from Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, who said a law enforcement officer had contacted him with concerns about the bill.
Bell said pre-emption of local ordinances is needed to provide statewide uniformity in laws. Clarksville, for example, prohibits knifes with blades longer than 3 inches, shorter than the state standard. Knoxville’s city ordinance, he said, is roughly the same as current state law, though using an array of undefined terms that include “razor, dirk, Bowie knife or other knife of like form” and, in another place, “sword cane” and “ice pick” — if the named items are “for the purpose of going armed.”
Note: There is a national ‘knife rights’ effort, subject of a Mother Jones story. HT/Jeff Woods
State Rep. Joe Carr has proposed a bill that could lead to federal agents being charged with committing a crime if they enforce new federal gun laws in Tennessee. (Previous post HERE.)
He was asked about this in Memphis Thursday, WHBQ-TV reports: “I think there are certain things that are states rights,” the governor said. “I don’t think that, the question earlier was that can we arrest federal agents who come to enforce the law, I personally am not sure we have the power to do that. You know, in terms of what laws get settled on a federal law and which get settled on a state law basis, I will be honest with you I don’t know how that will work out yet.”
Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday his decision against state operation of a healthcare exchange will not make much difference in the extent of state control over the handling mandated medical insurance in Tennessee.
Asked in a Fox News interview whether he had problems “ceding a lot of control” to the federal government, Haslam replied, “I have a lot of problems with that.
“But the decision on the exchange really wasn’t going to make a big difference there one way or the other,” he said. “Our fear, once we got into it, was that the basic exchange didn’t give us a lot more flexibility or latitude than running it with them would or letting them run it would.”
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, states have option of running a healthcare exchange themselves, operating one in partnership with the federal government or leaving all operations to the federal government. Haslam announced Monday that he has decided to leave operation of the insurance clearinghouse to the federal government.