By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An effort to seal Tennessee’s handgun carry permit records from public scrutiny would create an exception for political operatives and lobbying groups to still obtain the entire set of names and addresses.
Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that his bill is an effort to block the publication of handgun carry permit records on newspaper websites.
“We’re not trying to keep it where it’s not usable, but we want to keep it from being published,” he said.
Political operatives and advocacy groups want to be able to obtain the names and addresses of all 398,000 handgun carry permit holders so they can target them for fundraising and campaign mailings.
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said he ran into similar issues when he tried to pass similar legislation years ago.
“My biggest resistance came from members of my own party for this provision, who wanted to continue using it for political purposes,” he said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Senate has passed a bill to eliminate hotel allowances for lawmakers who live within 50 miles of the state Capitol.
The proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin was approved on a 28-2 vote on Thursday. The measure would eliminate the $107-per-night hotel payment for Nashville-area legislators, though it would provide for daily mileage allowances instead of weekly ones.
The legislation would continue to provide a $66 daily meals allowance for all lawmakers.
The House approved its version on a 71-15 vote earlier this month, but would have to approve a technical change made by the Senate before the measure could head for the governor’s signature.
Annual savings are projected at more than $250,000.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to eliminate hotel allowances for some Tennessee lawmakers was put on hold Tuesday after a state Senate committee member said the reimbursement rules should be tightened for the entire Legislature.
The original bill filed by Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin would eliminate a $107-per-night hotel payment for the 33 legislators who live within 50 miles of the state Capitol.
The proposal was on the verge of a swift vote in the Senate State and Local Government Committee before fellow Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro proposed adding a requirement for lawmakers who live outside the Nashville area to submit hotel receipts.
“If we’re doing it for those under 50 miles, we should address those over 50 miles who are milking the system,” Ketron said.
Ketron said the change would alter the current practice of automatically paying each lawmaker the full daily allowance, no matter what they actually spend on their accommodations.
“There was a member who is no longer here who took the per diem and slept in his office and showered downstairs. That’s not quite fair,” Ketron said. “Or those who double up and triple up in to a motel room or an apartment.”
Lawmakers receive the hotel allowance for four days a week while the Legislature is in session, though most only stay in Nashville for three nights.
Ketron said he supports Haile’s bill, even though he is among the Nashville-area lawmakers who would lose the daily hotel allowance. The measure would continue to provide a $66 daily meals allowance for all lawmakers.
The original measure applying to just those living close to Nashville would cut an estimated $253,616 in lawmaker expenses per year.
Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman and the committee’s chairman, called for a vote to be delayed so staff could flesh out the language and estimated costs of Ketron’s proposal.
The companion bill sponsored by Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro, was scheduled for a House subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.
(Note: Coincidentally, the $107 reduction in per diem payments is SB107. The daily per diem total is $173. The remaining $66 would continue to be paid to Nashville area lawmakers.)
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE) – State Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) filed legislation today to end expense account payment for lodging for state legislators who live within 50 miles of Tennessee’s State Capitol Building. Haile said Senate Bill 107 is a big step forward in reforming the per diem system through which members receive reimbursement for expenses.
“I should not be reimbursed for a hotel stay if I sleep in my own bed at night,” said Senator Haile. “This legislation would end reimbursement for lodging for those who live within a 50-mile commuting distance to the State Capitol Building.”
“We are accountable to the taxpayers, and we felt it was time to change the system,” Haile added. “This fulfills a promise I made to file this legislation as my first bill of the 2013 legislative session.”
The state law that provides for the reimbursement of legislator expenses is not a permissive statute, meaning reimbursement of the expense account is not optional. If a member chooses to reimburse the state for their expense account payment, they must write a check to the state; however, they still are required to pay taxes on the full amount to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS considers the per diem payment for those living within 50 miles of the State Capitol as income, meaning affected lawmakers must pay federal taxes on it in accordance with their guidelines.
Other Senate sponsors of the bill include Senators Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville), Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Mark Green (R-Clarksville). The bill will be sponsored by Representative Rick Womick (R-Rockvale).
Senator Mae Beavers was ousted from her role as Republican Senate Caucus Treasurer today in leadership elections, according to TNReport. The other Senate GOP caucus elections kept leaders in their roles, including Ron Ramsey, who will be the GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor and Mark Norris as majority leader. (News release posted HERE.) The new treasurer will be Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin.
The caucus treasurer plays a key role, particularly in election years. That person has check-writing authority and can send campaign cash to key members fighting to keep their seats or snatch away Democratic ones.
…The Senate vote, in some ways, mirrors last month’s House Republican leadership vote. The only contested race in that race was for the Speaker Pro Tem, the House’s number two spot. Rep. Judd Matheny lost that race to Rep. Curtis Johnson.
Those losses may pull the curtain back a bit on what has appeared have been a united Republican Party since the GOP won supermajorities in both Houses. Both Beavers and Matheny endorsed Lou Ann Zelenik over incumbent US Rep. Diane Black in the 6th Congressional District race. Black has many friends in the General Assembly, where she served in the House from 1998 to 2005 and in the Senate from 2005 until her Congressional win in 2010.
— Note: Haile was named to replace Black in the Senate on an interim basis when she won the seat in Congress. He did not seek election to a full term until this year, when redistricting left the seat without an incumbent. (Sen. Kerry Roberts found himself in a new district with Sen. Jim Summerville of Dickson.)
After winning a four-way Republican primary in August, retired longtime Gallatin pharmacy owner Ferrell Haile will face former Sumner County Democratic Party Chair and Hendersonville resident Maria Brewer in November for the Senate District 18 seat, observes The Tennessean. For at least two decades, voters in the 18th state Senate district had always seen their incumbent representative on the ballot. But that changed in 2010, and for the second time in less than two years, the 18th is an open seat.
Voters in the district were subjected to a special election in early 2011 after the seat was vacated by former state senator Diane Black following her election to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Then, when the Republican-led Tennessee General Assembly redrew district lines this year, it was the GOP incumbent in the 18th who was the biggest loser: The new maps drew Robertson County into District 25, meaning current state Sen. Kerry Roberts, who lives in Springfield, was suddenly a resident of a district with a seat not up for grabs until 2014. That left the 18th wide open again.
…The two candidates differ on certain aspects of education policy. Haile said he supports the voucher system that is expected to be considered in the upcoming legislative session, arguing such a program would foster competition that would benefit both public education and teachers as a whole.
Brewer, however, does not support vouchers, citing as an example the budget battle between the Sumner County Board of Education and Sumner County Commission that delayed the opening of schools this semester.
“If you start chipping away at that with vouchers, you’re cutting into that broad base of support for public schools,” she said.
Both candidates said they are unhappy with the idea of virtual schools programs allowed under a law passed in 2011.
Republicans’ state Senate redistricting plan unveiled Wednesday appears designed to effectively oust Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle and Republican freshman Sen. Kerry Roberts from office.
The Senate plan was unveiled though an email news release and the posting of a map of the new plan. No senators on the Senate redistricting committee were immediately available for comment and explanation.
Among the highlights as they appear from the information provided:
-Kyle, a Memphis attorney and the Senate’s top Democrat, is thrown into the same district with Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown. Kyle faces re-election this year. Kelsey was re-elected to a new four-year term in 2010. Thus, Kyle, living in Kelsey’s Senate district, lives in a seat that already has an incumbent senator.
John Ryder, a Republican National Committee member and Memphis attorney who advised Republicans on redistricting, said Kelsey could remain in a four-year term in his current district, 31, or opt to seek an entirely new four-year term in the new Senate District 28. He has apparently chosen to run again, colleagues said, and is confident of defeating Kyle in what will be a highly Republican district.
-Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, elected in a special election last year, is paired in new District 25 with Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson. Roberts is up for re-election this year; Summerville’s term runs until 2014. Thus, Roberts will effectively be out of office after the election, since he will live in Summerville’s district.
The news release describes the situaton: “The map pairs four current incumbents into two districts to meet equal population guidelines – three of these four paired incumbents are Republicans, an indication of the fairness of the overall plan.”
-Two new open seats are created in Middle Tennessee.
One is designated as Senate District 33 and includes Maury, Hickman, Lawrence, Wayne and Giles counties.
The other is designated as Senate District 18 and includes all of Sumner County (previously part of Roberts’ district) and Trousdale County and a part of Davidson County.
Sumner County resident Ferrell Haile, who previously held the seat now held by Roberts, recently announced that he will run for the Senate in 2010. He will be a resident of the new District 18 and would not have to oppose Roberts, who lives in Robertson County.
–The plan will have four “majority minority” districts, compared to three under the current plan. The new “majority minority” district, with a majority black population, will include incumbent Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, who is white. Here’s an initial statement from the Senate Democratic Caucus:
“We are reviewing the maps presented to us and are consulting our caucus members regarding the proposed changes,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney said. “This is the first time that our members have seen any official redistricting maps, and the first opportunity to view this specific map. We are committed to an open and public process as this issue greets us at the beginning of a new legislative session, and we will work to resolve any redistricting issues in a fair and timely manner so that we can move forward to the remaining business of the General Assembly.”
(Note: this expands and updates earlier post.) The Republican news release and fact sheet are below.
Gallatin pharmacist Ferrell Haile has announced he will next year seek the Republican nomination for the 18th District state Senate seat now held by fellow Republican Kerry Roberts of Springfield, says the Tennessean. Haile, a lifelong Sumner County resident, co-owner of Perkins Drugs in Gallatin and a cattle farmer, was appointed as interim 18th District state senator by the Sumner County Commission by unanimous vote Nov. 22, 2010 when Diane Black resigned following her election to the U.S. House of Representatives last year.
“I enjoyed serving,” Haile said. “I felt like I was able to do some good and be a positive influence in the process, and I’d like to be able to do that again.”
Haile did not seek the GOP nomination during the 2011 special primary election for Black’s seat. Kerry Roberts of Springfield won the GOP nomination in January and went on to defeat Portland Democrat Ken Wilber by a landslide victory in the special election held in March.