The head of a state House subcommittee that handles drunken driving legislation said Tuesday that lowering the legal standard for DUI to 0.05 percent blood alcohol content is probably at least three years away in Tennessee.
Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, and other legislators attending a Mothers Against Drunk Driving news conference said next year’s legislative priority in the area likely will be lowering the blood alcohol standard — perhaps to zero — for those who have taken prescription medications.
“To have success in the Legislature, we need to do things incrementally,” said Shipley, responding to a question.
The .05 standard was recommended recently by the National Transportation Safety Board. State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, has said he intends to propose legislation next year setting that standard. Currently, Tennessee and most other states set 0.08 blood alcohol content as the level that creates a legal presumption of drunken driving.
Shipley said the lower level was “an achievable goal” but speculated it might be “2016 or so” before passage was possible. One consideration, he said, is the cost of jailing offenders convicted at between .05 percent and .08 percent and requiring them to get ignition interlock devices installed on their cars.
The state House overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday night that makes secret virtually all information about Tennessee handgun-carry permit holders except non-identifying statical reports, reports Richard Locker. If the Senate also approves the bill, individuals and media organizations would be unable to identify any of the 370,000 Tennessee residents with the state-issued licenses to carry guns in public. In the previous four years, lawmakers have been expanding the number of public places where permit holders may legally carry guns, including public parks and bars and restaurants serving alcohol.
A bill that passed last month allows permit holders to keep their guns in their cars on virtually any public and private parking lot — including at schools and college campuses — despite the property owner’s objections. One of the arguments advanced by the legislators who sponsored the guns-in-parking lots bill was that employers and others could still determine if their employees have permits to go armed because the permit database is public record. That would no longer be the case with the bill approved by the House Monday.
The bill, House Bill 9, declares that all information and records relating to handgun-carry permits “are confidential, not open or available for public inspection and shall not be released in any manner” except to law enforcement agencies specifically investigating an individual with a permit. It also makes confidential any information regarding the suspension or revocation of a permit.
Before approving the bill 84-10, the House added an amendment recommended by a committee that would allow any person or entity to ask the state Department of Safety to search its permit-holder database to determine if a specific person has a permit as of that date, but only if the requester presents an official government document indicating the named person is not eligible to possess a permit. That would include a court judgment of the individual’s conviction of a crime that makes the person ineligible, a criminal history report, or an order of protection.
Such limitations would prohibit the state from publicly confirming an individual charged with a violent crime, including murder, is licensed to go armed. In fact, the push by gun advocates for closing public access to permit holders’ identities began in early 2009 when real estate investor Harry Ray Coleman was publicly identified as a permit holder when he shot Robert Schwerin Jr. to death during an argument outside a Cordova restaurant.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A National Rifle Association-backed effort to block public access to handgun carry permits goes too far for Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, one of the top gun rights advocates in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Ramsey told The Associated Press that the ability to scrutinize the identities of people with handgun carry permits strengthens arguments that gun enthusiasts are worthy of carrying loaded firearms in public.
“Having the handgun carry records open actually helps the cause of the Second Amendment,” he said in an interview Thursday. “Because people can go look at those and realize that they truly are law-abiding citizens.”
Ramsey added, “I encourage people like the press to look through these to figure out whether there’s something we’re missing. When you don’t shine light on something, that’s when problems are caused.”
Ramsey’s position conflicts with NRA, which has long called for sealing the records so the public and news media cannot see who has the state-issued permits.
“Members of the media have no business possessing personal information of Tennesseans with handgun carry permits,” NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford said in an email.
From The Tennessean’s review of the race in House District 44, a seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Mike McDonald of Portland. Democratic candidate Steve Glaser of Portland and Cottontown Republican William Lamberth say education is on the minds of voters after a much-debated local battle for school funding between the Sumner County Board of Education and the Sumner County Commission in August.
“I don’t think you can spend too much on schools,” said Glaser, an attorney and former Portland city judge. “That’s an investment that comes back around by helping us grow and improve economic development and providing better-paying jobs.”
Glaser said he wants to see the legislature put $333 million of the $563 million that exceeded last year’s in tax revenue estimates toward education. He favors restoring collective bargaining between teachers and school leaders by repealing the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act of 2011.
Lamberth, a Sumner County assistant district attorney, says the key to growing the economy and improving opportunities is placing more emphasis on career and technical education at the high school level. Local industry officials in Sumner County complain of not having enough qualified workers to fill higher-paying, skilled jobs, he said.
…The relatively tame race between the two attorneys took a turn last week when Glaser claimed Lamberth inappropriately accepted campaign donations in March from the family of Portland resident Kenneth Lame, who, in the 2010 shooting of his wife, was charged with second-degree murder but later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide.
Lamberth, assigned to prosecute drunk-driving cases and vehicular crimes, responded by saying he had no involvement in the case nor had he had a single conversation about it with anyone connected to the case.
Glaser further claimed Lamberth inappropriately accepted about $6,000 in donations from local attorneys, whose clients end up under his prosecution, but he admitted he didn’t think his opponent or the district attorney’s office did anything wrong.
For his part, Lamberth has stayed away from the topic of Glaser’s past bankruptcies and financial troubles with the Internal Revenue Service, saying he wanted to avoid a campaign of “mudslinging,” though the state Republican Party recently called on Glaser to suspend his campaign until he had paid his taxes.
Sumner County Assistant District Attorney William Lamberth, who is campaigning for the 44th District seat on the State House of Representatives, is fuming over accusations from opponent Steven Glaser that he exchanged a reduced sentence in the Kenneth Lame murder case for campaign contributions, reports the Portland Leader.
“This is the type of made-up, political mud-slinging that turns people off to politics,” Lamberth said Tuesday evening after learning of a press release Glaser sent out to the media. “An open discussion of the issues that can strenghten our communities — like better, high-paying jobs, schools, and keeping taxes low — those are the things that I want to focus on as a candidate and a member of this community.”
Glaser, who refers to himself as a Judge, even though he is no longer the Judge for the City of Portland, has accused Lamberth of accepting $1,500 from a “convicted killer’s father and attorney before sentencing.”
Glaser states in his press release: “In November 2010, Kenneth Lame was arrested on the charge of shooting his wife on June 10, 2010. His trial was set for April 9, 2012 on charges of second degree murder…..On March 10th and 28th in 2012, donations were made to Mr. Lamberth from both Kenneth’s father and attorney. A week later, on April 5, 2012, the District Attorney’s office agreed to lessen Kenneth’s charge to criminal negligence….After nearly two years of preparing the evidence proving Kenneth’s guilt for second degree murder, the District Attorney’s office decided there was not enough to prove he intended to kill his wife. This was less than one week after a donation of $1,000 from Kenneth’s attorney was made to the Assistant District Attorney, William Lamberth. There is an appearance of impropriety that must be addressed.”
…Kenneth Lame was indicted in Nov. 2010 on charges of second degree murder in the death of his wife, Wendy White Lame, in June 2010; however, in a settlement plea, Lame pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and was sentenced to two years with a minimum of seven months to serve. He is currently serving his sentence in Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg, Tenn.
“I think it’s reprehensible that Steve Glaser tried to score political points from a tragedy that destroyed two families,” Lamberth said. “There are nine assistant district attorneys in our office. I have cases that are assigned to me and I was never involved in the Lame case at any point. Furthermore, ADA Ron Blanton, who was assigned to the case, has no knowledge of who gives to my campaign or the day-to-day workings of my campaign. The two are entirely separate.”
— Note: The article doesn’t mention it, but Lamberth is the Republican nominee; Glaser the Democrat.
William Lamberth, a Sumner County assistant district attorney, formally announced Monday that he will run for the State House 44th District seat now held by Mike McDonald (D-Portland,), according to the Tennessean.
Lamberth, 34, a Republican and resident of Cottontown, said he had contemplated the run for about six months before deciding in the last week to make the commitment. He said he will continue to serve as an assistant DA during his campaign and would resign his position if elected in November 2012.
“While I’m running, I’ll do everything I can to keep my campaign and job separate, although I may take a leave of absence before the primary and before the general election,” said Lamberth, who has been with the Sumner DA’s office for six years.