Reversing an earlier vote, the Senate Thursday concurred with a House amendment to a bill that clears the way for more liquor distilleries to open in Tennessee cities.
With approval of the House amendment, the bill (SB129) now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature. Two cities immediately impacted will be Chattanooga, where plans are afoot to build a whiskey distillery, and Gatlinburg, which will get a second moonshine distillery despite earlier disapproval of city officials.
Both chambers had approved the bill earlier, but the House had added an amendment that was rejected by the Senate.
Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said Thursday that he had not explained the amendment well prior to the earlier vote on “a bill that has been confusing from the get-go.” The amendment basically corrects a mistake in the Senate and assured that local governments can require distilleries to be located at some distance from churches and schools. It has nothing to do with allowing sales of alcoholic beverages on Sunday, as some thought previously, he said.
The vote to concur with the House amendment was 23-6.
The House gave final approval Monday to a proposed amendment to the Tennessee constitution that would prohibit a state income tax if approved by voters in a statewide referendum next year.
The House vote was 88-8 after brief debate with two Democrats, Reps. Mike Stewart of Nashville and Larry Miller of Memphis, speaking against the amendment and House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada defending it. The measure (SJR1) was approved 27-4 by the Senate on Feb. 14.
Stewart recalled that former Republican Gov. Don Sunquist had championed a state income tax in 2002 because he “felt that our business and sales tax had essentially reached a peak.” While unpopular now, he said the idea remains “within the solar system of policies” that could be considered in the future as well.
“I think by eliminating this level of flexibility we going down the wrong road… (toward) inflexibility in our tax system,” said Stewart.
Miller said the state constitution is “a sacred document” that “you don’t play politics with.” If voters approve the ban on an income tax, he said, ” It could take another 50 years before we realize the mistake we made.”
“The income tax – that’s the mistake,” replied Casada, contending that a state income tax is a “terrible policy” that deserves special treatment via a constitutional prohibition.
Voters will now have at least three constitutional amendments to consider on the November, 2014, ballot. Legislators have previously approved a proposed amendment setting up a new system for appointing the state’s top judges and another pushed by anti-abortion activists.
The House gave final approval Monday to a statewide referendum in November, 2014, on amending the Tennessee constitution to allow the governor to directly appoint judges of the Supreme Court and courts of appeal, subject to confirmation of the Legislature.
The constitutional amendment proposed in SJR2 would also provide for a yes-no retention election for the appointed judges when they seek a new term every eight years. In that respect, it is similar to the system now in place.
But the present system requires the governor to appoint the state’s top judges from a list of nominees submitted by a special nominating commission. The commission is eliminated under the proposal and instead the nominees would face confirmation by both the state House and Senate, though if there is no legislative vote on confirmation within 60 days, it is automatically confirmed.
The measure, sponsored in the House by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, was approved on a 74-14 vote, well above the two-thirds majority required to send the amendment to voters. On the House floor, there was no debate or discussion beyond Lundberg’s brief description of the measure.
The Senate approved the amendment 29-2 on Feb. 21.
The proposal is the second constitutional amendment to be proposed for the statewide ballot next year. Already approved was a proposal to insert into the constitution a provision intended to reverse a 2000 state Supreme Court ruling that says women have greater rights to an abortion in Tennessee than granted in the U.S. Constitution.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The House on Thursday voted to send to the governor a contentious bill that would allow the state’s nearly 400,000 handgun carry permit holders to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked.
Before the vote, Speaker Beth Harwell assured Republican colleagues that the measure is endorsed by the National Rifle Association and that members of the business community are “holding their noses” about its passage.
The chamber voted 72-22 to pass the measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, after rejecting a series of Democratic proposals to maintain business owners’ rights to ban weapons on their property and to create exceptions for schools and colleges.
“We have just under 400,000 law abiding citizens who have gone through the necessary process to obtain a handgun carry permit and have proved their worth to carry a gun,” Faison said. “The least we can do is allow them to keep this gun locked in their car as they go to work and carry in their daily lives.”
A state task force charged with devising an ideal plan allowing parents to enroll their students in private schools on the taxpayer’s dime is still largely divided on the best way to go about it, reports The City Paper. At the group’s highly anticipated final meeting, the Opportunity Scholarship Task Force struggled to agree on the specifics of a program it plans to recommend to Gov. Bill Haslam to consider pitching to lawmakers next year.
“It’s not a question of if we have more time, then we’re going to come up with the perfect solution,” said Kevin Huffman, commissioner of the state Department of Education.
“It’s a question of there are different potential options and there are pros and cons to all of them, and ultimately the General Assembly and the governor have to decide what they think,” he said.
Huffman declined to say whether or not the state should pursue a voucher program, which allows parents to send their students to private school using public tax dollars. Huffman said his job is to lay out the options and would not offer the governor further recommendations than what is in the report.
Kyle, DeBerry, Hardaway Win Democratic Shelby Battles
Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis defeated fellow Democratic Sen. Beverly Marrero in a closely watched race Thursday after the two were placed in the same district in this year’s legislative remapping…And in Memphis’ two state House races where four incumbent Democrats were paired off against each other, Rep. John DeBerry defeated Rep. Jeanne Richardson and financial consultant Ian Randolph in House District 90, while Rep. G.A. Hardaway ended Rep. Mike Kernell’s 38-year tenure in the legislature in their District 93 race. HERE. Cobb Loses in Squeaker
In a lively Republican primary for the House District 31, Ron Travis, a Dayton businessman, beat Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, in the recently redrawn district that cut out Hamilton County, and now includes Rhea, Sequatchie, Bledsoe and part of Roane counties. Travis, 57, squeaked out a win, pulling 51 percent of the vote to Cobb’s 49 percent, but he lost in his home county of Rhea. HERE. Hill Tops in House District 3
Blountville businessman Timothy Hill’s second attempt at winning Tennessee’s 3rd House District GOP primary was successful Thursday. Hill defeated former Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons and Bluff City Republicans Karen Greene Morrell and Thomas White. Hill garnered 2,851 votes compared to 1,544 for Parsons, 876 for Morrell, and 85 for White. In forums across the district, Hill insisted he was the conservative choice in the race. HERE. Van Huss Unseats Ford
Republican newcomer Micah Van Huss entered the political arena for the first time Thursday and promptly knocked incumbent state Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, out of the running for a chance at a fourth term. Van Huss will now face Democrat Michael Clark in the Nov. 6 election for the right to serve in Nashville as the 6th District House representative. Van Huss garnered 3,150 votes (53.8 percent) to Ford’s 2,699 (46.1 percent). HERE.
Calfee Beats Hurley
Challenger Kent Calfee beat incumbent Julia Hurley in Thursday’s Republican primary for the 32nd state House District. In November, Calfee will face Democrat Jack McNew for the seat. He held 59 percent of the vote over Hurley in unofficial returns late Thursday from the Roane County Election Commission. A grassroots campaign aided his win, according to Calfee. “The word-of-mouth thing,” the former Roane County commissioner said. “People would ask their friends about me and they know me and they knew I’d do a good job.” HERE. Hensley Wins Senate GOP Nod
State Rep. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald clinched the Republican Primary race for State Senate District 28 Thursday, earning 12,586 — 76 percent — of the votes from the six-county district, according to preliminary state election data. Hensley will now go on to face Democratic candidate Ty Cobb — a Columbia firefighter and former member of the state House of Representatives — for the seat, which represents Maury, Giles, Lawrence, Lewis, Perry and Wayne counties. HERE. Favors Favored Over Brown
One thing is certain after Thursday night’s election — Rep. Tommie Brown won’t be returning to the state House in January. JoAnne Favors carried Thursday night’s election with 72.2 percent of the vote in a newly drawn district that pitted two black Democratic stalwarts against one another in a bruising primary. HERE.
The following is a list of bills recently signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, as provided by his communications office 5/23/12. It apparently completes the signing of legislation generated by the 107th General Assembly.
Senate Bill No. 239 (Norris)
This Bill extends the time period for the Historic Collierville new specialty earmarked license plate to meet applicable initial issuance requirement to July 1, 2013.
(Passed House 89-0; Passed Senate 33-0; Senate concurred in House amendment)
Senate Bill No. 420 (Massey)
This Bill creates a two-year pilot program in Knox County for a maximum of 10 mental health patients to receive a court ordered assisted outpatient treatment when certain conditions are met.
(Passed Senate 29-0; Amended Bill passed House 85-0; Senate concurred in House amendments)
Senate Bill 1325 (Johnson)
This is the SAVE bill that requires every state government entity and local health department to verify that a person is a U.S. citizen or lawfully present in the United States when the person is eighteen (18) years or older and applies for a federal, state, or local public benefit.
(Passed Senate as Amended 30-2; Passed House as Amended 71-19; Senate Refused to Concur in House Amendments; House Refused to Recede from its Noncurrence; Conference Committee Report Adopted by the Senate 29-1; Conference Committee Reported Adopted by the House 64-18)
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to overhaul state civil service rules headed to him Thursday to become law despite opposition from some lawmakers whose constituents are uncomfortable with parts of the legislation.
The proposal passed the Senate 30-3 on Thursday, a day after being approved 74-19 in the House.
The measure would make it easier for executive branch employees to be hired and fired, and would allow for merit raises for high-performing workers — and pay decreases for poor ones.
Other elements of the bill would require written performance standards and annual evaluations, set a minimum of three candidates to be interviewed for openings, and reduce the minimum layoff notice from three months to 30 days.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would allow public buildings to display such “historically significant documents” as the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence is headed to the governor for his consideration.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville was unanimously approved 30-0 by the Senate on Monday evening. The companion bill unanimously passed the House 93-0 last week.
The proposal would allow the documents to be displayed in the form of statues, monuments, memorials, tablets or in any other way that in the words of the legislation “respects the dignity and solemnity of such documents.”
From Division of Elections website: Republican presiential preference primary:
Michele Bachmann 1,874
Newt Gingrich 132,017
Jon Huntsman 1,219
Gary Johnson 564
Ron Paul 49,740
Rick Perry 1,938
Charles “Buddy” Roemer 876
Mitt Romney 153,372
Rick Santorum 204,333 Democratic presidential primary:
Barack Obama 78,979 Note: County-by-county returns are HERE.