Tennessee employers, public and private, are declaring that the state’s “guns in parking lots” law, which took effect July 1, does nothing to change policies prohibiting their employees from bringing weapons onto their property, even if they have a handgun carry permit.
That has prompted Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a leading supporter of the new law, to declare that he will “probably” support an anticipated push to change the law next year to clarify that permit holders cannot be fired solely for having their gun in a locked car in their employers’ parking lots.
That runs counter to the declared wish of Gov. Bill Haslam that gun laws in Tennessee remain at the “status quo” in the 2014 session with no new gunfights.
“I hate that the attorney general has muddied the waters on this,” said Ramsey, who said he has been receiving complaints from employees of Eastman Chemical Co. this summer who were upset that the company’s prohibition on guns in parking lots is unchanged.
He referred a formal legal opinion from Attorney General Bob Cooper in May that says the new law — while forbidding any criminal prosecution of permit holders complying with its provisions — will have no impact on Tennessee law that otherwise generally allows a company to fire an employee “at will,” for any reason or no reason.
(Note: This updates, expands and replaces earlier post)
State attorney general Bob Cooper says a new state law protecting handgun permit holders from criminal prosecution for keeping their guns in locked cars still leaves them vulnerable to being fired by employers who prohibit weapons on their premises.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said the opinion, made public Wednesday, “ignores the clear legislative intent of the law.” (Note: full text of opinion HERE)
John Harris, president of the Tennessee Firearms Association, said Cooper’s analysis is correct and echoes points that Second Amendment advocates raised during legislative debate, only to be ignored by Republican legislative leadership.
The attorney general’s opinion, requested by Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, also addresses four legal questions raised about the so-called “guns in parking lots” law enacted earlier this year.
Two of them were the subject of considerable debate, including amendments offered on the House floor by Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, who had Harris’ help in drafting them.
State Rep. Jeremy Faison says he will sponsor legislation next year to lower the legal standard for a presumption of drunken driving in Tennessee from 0.08 blood alcohol content to 0.05 as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board.
“I think it’s an important thing to do. What we’ve been doing is not working and we have tens of thousands of Americans dying because of drunk driving,” said Faison, R-Cosby.
The NTSB this week recommended that states lower the threshold for a presumption of drunken driving from 0.08 to 0.05, the standard already in place for more than 100 other countries around the world. No state currently has a 0.05 general standard.
Faison said Tennessee was among the last states to lower its DUI standard from 0.10 to 0.08 and being the first to drop the standard to 0.05 would position Tennessee as leader in combating drunken driving instead of a follower.
While there has been “an awful lot of emphasis lately on guns with high-capacity magazines” in crime, Faison said drunken driving causes far more violent death and thus deserves far more attention “if we’re going to champion life.”
The legislator, who serves as vice chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said his personal interest in the subjects dates to the death of his sister, Becky, in an accident caused by a drunken driver a week after her 16th birthday, when he was 14.
“He (the drunken driver) basically got off with probation,” said Faison, who said he would otherwise like to see DUI laws strengthened to include seizure of a first offender’s vehicle. Current law provides for seizure of a vehicle only after multiple convictions.
“If the punishment doesn’t outweigh the pleasure of the crime, people are going to keep on doing it,” he said.
The Legislature earlier this year voted to require for the first time that first DUI convicts be required to obtain an ignition interlock device, which requires the driver to take a breath alcohol test before his or her car will start.
According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Office website, fatalities caused by alcohol-impaired drivers declined by 31.8 percent in Tennessee from 2007 through 2011 — or from 377 to 257 in that period. The preliminary figure for 2012 is 246 fatalities involving an alcohol-impaired driver.
The office also says that Tennessee Highway Patrol arrests for DUI increased by 25.4 percent from 2007 through 2012.
Faison said he will either file a bill lowering the standard to 0.05 next year himself or sign on as a co-sponsor to a more senior member willing to push the measure.
Faison, who is in his second term as a representative, said he that “with the way things work” a veteran lawmaker likely would have a better chance of success with passage of a potentially controversial measure.
After long and contentious debate Monday night, the House joined the Senate in approving legislation that clears the way for a new moonshine distillery in Gatlinburg and a whiskey distillery in Chattanooga.
The bill (SB129) also allows new distilleries to locate in other cities that have approved liquor-by-the-drink and liquor package stores. Under a prior law enacted in 2009, only county governments – not cities – were allowed to authorize distilleries.
Sponsor Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, said the measure originated with Chattanooga officials desire to have a brand called Chattanooga Whiskey, now made in Indiana, manufactured in its namesake city even though Hamilton County has not authorized distilleries.
It was expanded to allow a new moonshine distillery, Sugarlands, to locate in Gatlinburg, even though local officials have turned down its application and make what Carr called “cleanup” revisions to state alcoholic beverage laws. Gatlinburg already has Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery operating near the site of the proposed Sugarlands distillery, which counts Nashville lobbyist David McMahan as a minority investor.
Thirteen amendments were filed on the House floor to change the bill. Only one was adopted, but that will send the bill back to the Senate for concurrence. The adopted amendment, proposed by Carr, says a distillery cannot be located within 2,000 feet of a church or school – unless the local government having jurisdiction decides to set a shorter limit. That is the same rule that now applies to beer sales, Carr said.
One of the rejected amendments, filed by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, would have had the effect of blocking Sugarlands by declaring local governments could reject a distillery application. Faison said the bills was influenced by “high-powered people who have a lot of money” and should not be “dictating” how many distilleries a town can have for “high-powered corn in a jar.”
“This amendment creates a monopoly in a particular part of the state. That’s a fact,” responded Carr, reminding colleagues that the Ole Smoky operators ran a newspaper ad charging that legislators were trying to “sneak through” a bill to curb local control over liquor.
Faison’s amendment was killed on a 55-28 vote. Other rejected amendments included one by Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, that would have prohibited distilleries and wineries from selling their products on Sunday.
The bill itself passed 57-31 with six lawmakers abstaining.
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.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill to prevent businesses, schools and colleges from banning firearms in their parking lots was approved by a House subcommittee after a six-minute hearing on Wednesday.
The measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, would give the state’s 390,343 handgun carry permit holders the ability to store firearms in their vehicles parked on company or school property.
Faison argued that permit holders who undergo background checks and meet training requirements are “worthy of carrying … and keeping a gun.”
Democratic Rep. Sherry Jones of Nashville was the only member of the panel to raise questions about the measure and to convey her opposition when the bill was advanced to the full House Civil Justice Committee on a voice vote .
“So you could go to church, school, drive down to the guy’s house down the block? Any restaurant, any business anywhere?” she asked, referring to those storing firearms in their vehicles.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The main House sponsor of a bill seeking to guarantee handgun permit holders the right to store firearms in their vehicles says he misspoke when he suggested that he routinely breaks the law.
Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby told WPLN-FM (http://bit.ly/XEMKhi) that while he’s never obtained a state-issued permit, he’s “carried a gun all (his) life.”
“One day I’ll probably get caught if I don’t get a permit, and I’ll get in trouble,” he told the public radio station.
Faison told The Associated Press on Monday that what he meant to say was that he transports a gun inside his car, which does not require a permit as long as ammunition is stored separately from the firearm.
“What I was saying is routinely I have a gun in my car, and that’s not illegal in Tennessee,” he said in a phone interview. “It just came out wrong. I have a gun in my car — we weren’t talking about me carrying a gun.”
Faison and Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville are the main sponsors of the bill to prohibit businesses from banning people with handgun carry permits from storing weapons in cars parked on company lots.
The proposal is opposed by the business community on the ground that it interferes with their property rights. The Senate version is scheduled for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon.
Concerned about the prospect of new federal gun restrictions, perhaps by presidential executive order, two East Tennessee legislators have filed a bill that would prohibit the use of any personnel or funds from Tennessee’s state or local governments to enforce any such moves.
“No public funds of this state or any political subdivision of this state shall be allocated to the implementation, regulation or enforcement of any federal law, executive order, rule or regulation that becomes effective on or after January 1, 2013, that adversely affects a United States citizen’s
ability to lawfully possess or carry firearms in this state,” declares HB10/SB40.
A separate sentence of the proposed law says “no personnel or property of this state or any political subdivision” can be used for such purposes unless federal funding is provided to cover the costs.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro signed on as first co-sponsor in the Senate.
Faison said the measure is designed as an assertion of state rights in dealing with the federal government and is patterned after a bill he successfully sponsored last year that forbids state or local funds being used to support a proposed federal regulation putting new restrictions on juveniles working on farms. The child labor bill passed 70-24 in the House, 28-0 in the Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam.
“The founding fathers envisioned the states as the fathers and the federal government as the child,” said Faison in an interview.
“The child has become a brat,” he said. “States need to stand up and take back that power that was derived from the states.”
Faison noted that Vice President Joe Biden is leading an effort to draft new federal gun control legislation, inspired by the murder of 26 people in Connecticut. It is particularly alarming, Faison said, that Biden has raised the possibility of imposing new restrictions on guns through a presidential executive order.
The Tennessee Democratic Party is criticizing Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, for his comments during House floor debate on a bill that amends the state “cyberbullying” law. During the debate, Rep. Jeremy Faison spoke out against the bill, displaying a “boys will be boys” mentality towards bullying, and ignoring the public outcry from parents who have lost children to suicide after years of vicious and intolerable harassment. He then went one step further and said that “I will submit to you today, that they didn’t commit suicide because of somebody bullying them, they committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self esteem came from.”
Faison is apparently blaming the parents of suicide victims for their inability to “instill the proper principles” in their children. What a disgrace. Now, of course a tall and burly Faison doesn’t see any problems with bullying, as he admitted, he was perfectly capable of defending himself or dishing out punishment as he saw fit. But many kids don’t have that ability. That is why laws like these need to be passed.
It is unfortunate that some in the Republican Party have become the protectors of bullies.
See also Steve Hale, who has Faison’s apology: “After reviewing my comments on the House Floor today, I regret what was a poor choice of words. My true intent was to protect children from becoming criminals. Suicide has touched my family, and I would never want a parent or family member to feel they were responsible for such an unimaginable tragedy.”