Tag Archives: Faulk

Court of Judiciary Compromise Moves Along

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.

More Business, Academic Opposition to ‘Guns in Parking Lots’

Hank Hayes reports that a check with Northeast Tennessee’s major employers shows them united against the so-called “guns in parking lots” bill, though they haven’t made the trip to Nashville to say so yet.
“While we respect that most gun owners fully understand the
responsibility and safety measures that accompany legally carrying a
weapon, we are a chemical company and we’re responsible for providing a
safe environment for employees and all people visiting our plant sites,”
Eastman spokeswoman Wanda Valentine said in an e-mail. “This is very
important to us. Eastman has policies that are directed to providing
safe and secure operations at each of its facilities. Carrying of
firearms onto company property is prohibited under these policies. This
bill could prevent Eastman from enforcing a part of the company’s
policies essential to ensuring a safe and secure workplace.”
ETSU Police Chief Jack Cotrel, the school’s associate vice president for
Public Safety, is concerned about any change in state law that would
increase the presence of guns on campus.
“We have joined with the Tennessee Board of Regents, the University of
Tennessee, the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities
Association and the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police in
outlining for our state’s elected leaders the reasons why we are opposed
to the current bills that would result in changes to state law,” Cotrel
said in an e-mailed statement. “First and foremost, we are committed to
providing a safe learning and work environment for students and
employees at ETSU. The possession of firearms on college campuses and
the storing of firearms within employees’ personal vehicles on campuses
are of great concern to the higher education and law enforcement
communities, and we share that view at ETSU.”
Mountain States Health Alliance President and CEO Dennis Vonderfecht
viewed the bill as a ” serious infringement” on property rights.
“(We) fear that its passage would hinder our ability to provide a safe
environment for our patients, visitors and team members,” Vonderfecht
said. “Hospital team members, in particular, are often tasked with
defusing emotionally charged situations. If we are denied the authority
to limit the presence of firearms on our private property, the safety of
all parties involved could be significantly compromised.”

Sen. Mike Faulk Won’t Seek Reelection; Niceley Eyes Seat

(Note: Updates earlier post)
Mike Faulk said Thursday he would not seek reelection to a second term as state senator representing Claiborne, Grainger, Jefferson, Hawkins, Hancock and Union counties.
Faulk, a Republican who lives in Church Hill, said he wants to spend time with his mother, Rosella, 83, who is gravely ill with cancer and devote more time to his solo practice as an attorney specializing in “dram shop” lawsuits against those deemed responsible for accidents involving drunken drivers.
When the Legislature is in session, Faulk said, he works 70 hours a week in Nashville and is 300 miles away from his mother while she is ill. His decision, he said, is simply a matter of putting his attention where it should be.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey hailed Faulk as “a straightforward, level-headed guy who brought a lot of knowledge to the Senate” and who is stepping down “for all the right reasons.”
Faulk said he does not know who may seek to replace him in what has been known as Senate District 4, though now designated Senate District 8 after numbers changed in redistricting earlier this year. The district’s geography remains basically the same.
State Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, who lives in Jefferson County, said he is considering a run for the seat. Niceley ran for the Senate in 1994, losing to then-incumbent Democrat Danny Wallace.
Wallace, in turn was defeated in 1998 by Republican Sen. Michael Williams of Maynardville, who later became an independent and held the seat until defeated in 2008 by Faulk.
Note: News release below

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Compromise on Court of the Judiciary

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.

Faulk Bill on Judicial Discipline Clears First Step

The Senate Government Operations Committee has signed off on a bill by Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, to change the panel that disciplines judges for misconduct, but not as dramatically as a competing proposal by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet.
Faulk’s proposal (SB2671) would continue to allow judicial groups to appoint most members of the panel, which would be renamed the Board of Judicial Conduct. The Beavers’ bill, which she began pushing last year over opposition from judges, would have the House and Senate speakers appointing a majority of members.
The Faulk bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Beavers is chairman and her bill is already pending.

Two NRA-Drafted Bills Filed on Guns in Cars

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.

Faulk Bill Gives Teachers an Evaluation Option

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN) — State Senator Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill) today announced he has filed legislation to allow teachers and principals with superior value added growth data scores to choose to use those scores to comprise 50 percent or more of their evaluations.
Senate Bill 2165 would change the present system where students’ value added growth is 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation score, with another 15 percent tied to another measure agreed upon by the teacher and his/her supervisor to evaluate student achievement. Under Faulk’s proposal, the state Board of Education would adopt standards for high achievement.
The state’s teacher evaluation process was put into place as a result of the First to the Top legislation, proposed by former Governor Phil Bredesen and approved by the Legislature in January 2010. The new teacher evaluation process was designed by teachers and other education practitioners who were integral in constructing the evaluative tools. One of the biggest challenges of the new system has been identifying growth data for subjects where it is more difficult to measure achievement.
“This change in our First to the Top law will incentivize teachers to achieve high student grow – the very thing we want from our school systems,” said Senator Faulk. “High student growth is what we want in Tennessee. High student growth is what we have to have if we’re going to catch up with the rest of the Southeast. An obvious inconsistency in the current system occurs when a teacher has high student growth rates but receives only an average teacher evaluation score.”
“This change rewards results; not method,” added Faulk. “An evaluation system that has a preconceived notion as to a single proper method of teaching has to be carefully scrutinized. I doubt there is only one “right” way to teach.”
“I have listened to teachers and other education stakeholders concerning the new laws and rules on evaluation,” Faulk continued. “I know from talking with them that many are very concerned about the new system and its ability to evaluate them fairly. This legislation should help to ensure that there is fairness; and at the same time, that we still have a good system to measure teacher performance in the classroom.”

Ramsey, Faulk Oppose Cut to Program for Disabled

Emotional appeals were directed Friday at Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state Sen. Mike Faulk to maintain funding for a state program serving home-based family members with severe disabilities, reports Hank Hayes.
About 20 families with disabled loved ones filed into the auditorium at the Kingsport Public Library to testify on behalf of keeping the Family Support Program in the state budget. Last month, Tennessee Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Jim Henry proposed the $7 million program be cut from the state budget for the coming fiscal year.
The program, run in Northeast Tennessee by The Arc of Washington County, provides support services such as respite care, day care, home modifications, equipment, nursing and counseling.
….Blind Kingsport resident Patty Fletcher said that without the program, she had no one to read mail and no way to pay her bills.
“What would you do if you were disabled and needed these services yourself?” she asked the two lawmakers.
The program, which serves 215 families in Northeast Tennessee and more than 4,000 statewide, has been funded the past two years by federal stimulus funds and the state’s Rainy Day Fund, according to advocates.
Maximum allowable direct aid per person is $4,000 each year, and the statewide average aid allocation was $1,387 in the last fiscal year, according to the program.
…Ramsey, R-Blountville, pointed out state lawmakers cut $1.2 billion from last year’s budget and still funded the program.
“If we can’t find a way out of a $30 billion budget to find $7.2 million for you, you ought to send us home,” Ramsey told the families.
Before the meeting started, Ramsey also noted: “From the bottom of my heart, I’m going to make sure we make the least amount of cuts for the most vulnerable. I have meetings with constituent groups, but this is the toughest one. You want to help and do everything you can, but we can’t be like the federal government and borrow yourself into oblivion. We have to balance the budget. We will make those tough choices, but I hope there are no cuts for these people.”
Faulk, R-Church Hill, told the group that the program’s funding goes to help families trying to help themselves.
“That contrasts with a lot of other areas in state government where money is handed out to folks who are not necessarily trying to help themselves…” Faulk said to applause. “We hear you. We heard you before you spoke today because many of you and your problems and needs are near and dear to my heart and the lieutenant governor’s heart. … Republicans are bashed all over the country as being cold-hearted, cruel, mean people because they cut budgets. In Tennessee for three consecutive years, the budgets have been cut because the money has not been there. … We have to reprioritize.”

Aye of the Tiger

After some joking, the Senate approved 32-0 and sent to the House Monday a bill authorizing designated Roane County officials to accompany Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers on their inspection trips to a facility housing tigers, lions, cougars and other large members of the cat family.
SB1192 authorizes the Roane County executive or someone he designates with the county sheriff’s office or the county emergency management agency to join TWRA inspectors in their visits to the Tiger Haven.. TWRA is responsible for overseeing operations of facilities holding exotic animals.
Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, asked sponsor Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, what could be done after the bill passes that could not already be done under current law. Yager’s response was to repeat his explanation of the bill, then add that the bill is “a result of two years of discussion.”
Similar legislation was proposed last year and failed. Yager earlier told a committee that the intent is to address community concerns over operation of the Tiger Haven without interfering with its operations.
The bill inspired joshing during the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee meeting, including Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Kingsport, offering an amendment to declare, “Bengal tigers that are kept or maintained in Campbell, Fentress, Morgan, Rhea, Roane and Scott counties shall be allowed to run at large.” The listed counties comprise Yager’s Senate district.
“What is this?” asked Yager when Faulk offered his joke amendment, which was never put to a vote.
When the bill itself was put to a vote in committee, Sen. Jack Johnson, R-College Grove, said he wanted his ‘aye’ vote recorded as “aye of the Tiger.” He repeated the request when the bill came to the Senate floor, prompting Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey’s one-word reply: “No.”

TN Legislative Notebook: Breastfeeding, Sharia Law, Board Cuts & Funerals

Faulk Upbeat on Breastfeeding Bill
State Sen. Mike Faulk admits his public breast-feeding legislation has made people “a little squeamish,” but he is confident about its passage, reports Hank Hayes.
“It’s not unanimous, but it’s overwhelmingly positive,” Faulk, R-Church Hill, said of the legislative feedback the bill has received. “The e-mails (coming to his legislative e-mail account) are 50 to 1 in favor, and that’s probably on the conservative side. The medical community is in favor of it. … Channel 2 Nashville, it was their lead story (Thursday) night.”
The bill is advancing toward floor votes in the Tennessee House and Senate amid an uneasy discussion in a Senate committee last Wednesday.
Faulk’s bill would allow mothers to publicly breast-feed a child regardless of the child’s age and without the mother being prosecuted for public indecency or indecent exposure.

Sharia Bill Revision in Works
Senator Bill Ketron has met with some of his Muslim constituents about a bill they say will make it a felony to practice their religion, according to WPLN
Ketron and the Muslims both come from Murfreesboro. But this was their first meeting since the senator introduced a bill to outlaw Sharia, which Muslims and religious authorities say is a guide to living – like Jewish Halaka, or the Christian emphasis on the Ten Commandments.
Remziya Suleyman, of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, says the small group of Muslims from Murfreesboro was encouraged.
“We were told that there would be an amendment to the bill that would take away any conversation, or really, notation of, Sharia.” Ketron had previously told reporters he would submit an amendment to simplify the controversial bill. But making the comment to the Muslims may have helped bridge a gap, says Suleyman.

Watson Accepts Haslam Challenge
During this week’s State of the State address, Gov. Bill Haslam gave an unexpected shout-out and challenge to Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, reports Andy Sher.
Watson is chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, which is responsible for the periodic review of state agencies, boards and commissions as well as of administrative rules and regulations.
Haslam asked the General Assembly to begin “reviewing every board and commission. Determine whether 140 boards and commissions are necessary.” Noting Watson’s role as chairman, Haslam said “for 18 months he and his colleagues have been looking at this issue, and they have made progress. We can and should do more.”
Said Watson later: “I like it.” Eliminating more likely will be a challenge though, politically speaking, Watson said.

Pitts on Penalizing Funeral Protests
Clarksville’s state Rep. Joe Pitts is pushing legislation that increases the penalty on those who protest against the nation’s soldiers at Tennessee funerals, reports the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle.
“I want everyone to know they have a constitutional right to protest against our nation and the brave individuals who have fought for all of us, but violating prescribed boundaries and proving disruptive will mean a stiffer penalty than before,” Pitts said in a news release.
A recent Supreme Court ruling upheld the right of free speech relating to certain groups protesting at funerals, but also affirmed that protestors must comply with police guidance on where the picketing can be staged. Under Tennessee law, disorderly conduct within 500 feet of a funeral or funeral procession it a misdemeanor, the release said