News release from House Democratic Caucus
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh was joined today by members of the House Democratic Caucus at a press conference to discuss upcoming amendments to HB118, the ‘Guns in Parking Lots’ bill sponsored by Rep. Faison in the House and Speaker Ramsey in the Senate.
“We know the majority wants to pass this bill and pass it quickly,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “It’s made a mad dash through the Senate and the House, in some cases coming out of committee in less than six minutes. That’s why we’re here today previewing the amendments and laying out our concerns.”
Leader Fitzhugh has introduced seven amendments to the bill. These amendments would protect private property rights and promote public safety while still preserving the rights of handgun permit holders to carry their firearms with them.
A push to limit floor fights at future Republican conventions has failed, reports Politico, despite the efforts of Memphis attorney John Ryder. Romney campaign ally John Ryder, a Tennessee national committeeman, proposed an amendment to the RNC Rules Committee that would require candidates to control the most delegates in at least 10 states, instead of the current five, to officially compete for the nomination.
Though the measure would not have taken effect until 2016, it would drastically raise the bar for candidates like Ron Paul trying to continue their fight through the convention. It would also make it much harder for anyone to ruin an incumbent president’s coronation.
“Everyone recognizes that conventions are television events, and they have to be – just as the nightly news – on a tight schedule,” said Ryder. “We’re long past the days of smoke-filled rooms and unbound delegates. So the results are a foregone conclusion.”
Paul sympathizers on the rules committee spoke out forcefully against the change.
Morton Blackwell, a longtime party activist from Virginia, called it “a choke operation” that would have a chilling effect.
“We have got to, in this party, treat newcomers fairly, to the extent possible,” he said. “This would be taken as a slap in the face to grassroots people.”
When it became clear that Ryder didn’t have the votes, he agreed to keep the threshold at five – as long as candidates could produce written proof that they actually controlled the delegations in each of those states. That change passed.
The practice of state legislators casting votes for absent colleagues is known as “ghost voting,” reports WTVF-TV, and “happens in the House chambers probably a lot more often than you think.” Last year, Tennessee lawmakers passed the controversial voter ID law aimed at eliminating voter fraud.
At the time the legislation was up for consideration, Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, told other House members, “You should be who you say you are when you go vote.”
But when it comes to their own votes, we found House members not only vote for themselves, they also vote for others who are not in their seats. And, sometimes, believe it or not, they even vote for members who are not even there.
Political watchdog and radio talk show host Steve Gill had no idea this was going on.
“I think this is a fraud on the taxpayers,” Gill told NewsChannel 5 Investigates. “I think this is a fraud on the people of Tennessee.
“That’s not what they were sent there to do.”
But Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, insists it’s no big deal.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Ford, “You don’t think this is important?”
“No,” he replied. “This is neither illegal or immoral. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s done all of the time.”
It’s such a common practice in the House, in fact, that many lawmakers have sticks they use to reach each others’ voting buttons.