By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A measure that allows people with handgun carry permits to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked is among a number of new state laws that take effect Monday.
The gun law will go into effect despite questions about what it means for employment law in Tennessee — the measure allows workers to store guns in cars while parked in their employers’ parking lots.
The state attorney general said in a legal opinion released in May that under the law, employers would still be allowed to fire workers who violate gun bans.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey disagreed with the opinion, saying in a statement that the “General Assembly created a clear statutory right allowing permit holders to lawfully keep a firearm stored in their car while at work.”
“Any employer explicitly terminating a permit holder for keeping a gun locked in his car would violate the state’s clear public policy, opening himself or herself up to legal action,” the Blountville Republican said.
Other measures taking effect include a law that allows school districts to let people with police training be armed in schools, and one that would require incoming students at public higher education institutions to show proof they’ve had meningitis shots.
(Note: Full list of laws taking effect today is HERE.)
A bunch of new laws enacted by the General Assembly take effect on July 1. The full list, with the official “caption” description of each, is posted on the legislative website HERE.
A list compiled by Darlene Schlicher of the Senate Republican Caucus – not all-inclusive but pretty close – has more detailed descriptions in many cases. It is HERE.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — An Athens man, who was pardoned by President Barack Obama of a petty crime committed more than a half-century ago still can’t own handguns.
Roy Grimes received word on March 1 that the president had pardoned him for altering a $41 money order in December 1960 and depositing it. The 72-year-old Grimes had asked for the pardon, partly because he likes classic Western heroes and wanted to collect the weapons they used.
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/11gwE0r), Grimes’ attorney, Patrick Noel, checked with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and was told there is no provision for restoring the handgun ownership rights of someone convicted of a crime. Not even a presidential pardon changes that.
The TBI said the Tennessee Code Annotated, 39-17-1307(c)(1), states “A person commits an offense who possesses a handgun and has been convicted of a felony.”
The statute says nothing about restoring gun ownership rights, by pardon or by any other means.
There is disagreement on the issue.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Walter Dellinger wrote on the same issue in 1995 that a state cannot deny someone’s right to own a firearm if the president has pardoned that person. Dellinger wrote that the U.S. Constitution allows presidents the right to pardon people who have been convicted and the Supremacy Clause declares states cannot override the federal government.
The TBI, however, cites a state statute passed in 2008 — 26-0 in the Senate and 87-3 in the House — that opposes the opinion.
“The state law changed since the opinion was rendered in 1995,” TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm wrote in an email. “Mr. Grimes received his pardon after that law was passed.”
The conclusion astounded Margaret Love, the U.S. pardon attorney from 1990-97.
“How could that possibly make any difference?” Love asked. “The holding of the opinion is that a presidential pardon removes automatic disabilities imposed by state law based on the pardoned conviction. Period.”
A similar case id now before the Tennessee Court of Appeals. It involves the 1989 conviction in Georgia of David Blackwell on three felony drug offenses. He was later pardoned by a Georgia governor and moved to Tennessee, where he also found he couldn’t get a handgun.
Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper weighed in with a 2009 opinion that a felon can’t have a handgun in Tennessee, pardon or not.
Blackwell’s attorney, David Raybin, asks what’s the point of a pardon?
“They’re saying it’s worthless,” Raybin said. “They’re saying it’s just a piece of paper. That’s it.”
Legislation declaring that new federal laws and executive orders on firearms are invalid in Tennessee has been killed in a House subcommittee.
The bill (HB42) by Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, also would have made attempts at enforcement of federal gun laws and executive orders a misdemeanor crime within the state. It would have applied to measures taking effect after Jan. 1, 2013, thus covering executive orders on gun regulations issued recently by President Barack Obama and any gun laws enacted by Congress this year.
“I understand that we’re pushing the envelope a little bit here,” Carr told the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. “But it’s our intent to do this in some respects.”
He told the panel that “we are seeing a tyranny coming from Washington” and the bill is “seeking to assert the sovereignty of this state as defined in the Second Amendment.”
Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, told Carr he disagreed with the bill as “throwing a wrench in these 200-year-old gears” at the federal level. But otherwise there was little debate or discussion before the subcommittee’s chairman, Republican Rep. Jim Coley of Memphis, called for a vote.
The bill was killed on voice vote. Only two members of the eight-member panel — Republican Reps. Mike Carter of Ooltewah and Jon Lundberg of Bristol — asked that they be recorded as favoring the bill.
Concerned about the prospect of new federal gun restrictions, perhaps by presidential executive order, two East Tennessee legislators have filed a bill that would prohibit the use of any personnel or funds from Tennessee’s state or local governments to enforce any such moves.
“No public funds of this state or any political subdivision of this state shall be allocated to the implementation, regulation or enforcement of any federal law, executive order, rule or regulation that becomes effective on or after January 1, 2013, that adversely affects a United States citizen’s
ability to lawfully possess or carry firearms in this state,” declares HB10/SB40.
A separate sentence of the proposed law says “no personnel or property of this state or any political subdivision” can be used for such purposes unless federal funding is provided to cover the costs.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro signed on as first co-sponsor in the Senate.
Faison said the measure is designed as an assertion of state rights in dealing with the federal government and is patterned after a bill he successfully sponsored last year that forbids state or local funds being used to support a proposed federal regulation putting new restrictions on juveniles working on farms. The child labor bill passed 70-24 in the House, 28-0 in the Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam.
“The founding fathers envisioned the states as the fathers and the federal government as the child,” said Faison in an interview.
“The child has become a brat,” he said. “States need to stand up and take back that power that was derived from the states.”
Faison noted that Vice President Joe Biden is leading an effort to draft new federal gun control legislation, inspired by the murder of 26 people in Connecticut. It is particularly alarming, Faison said, that Biden has raised the possibility of imposing new restrictions on guns through a presidential executive order.
News release from state comptroller’s office:
Methamphetamine production continues in small laboratories in Tennessee and elsewhere around the country in spite of new laws regulating and tracking the sale of pharmacy products used to manufacture the illegal drug.
That is one of the findings of a report released today by the Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability about attempts to control access to legal products sold at pharmacies which are later used to create methamphetamine. Pseudoephedrine, the most common of the so-called “precursor” products used in manufacturing the drug, is an ingredient in many over-the-counter cold and allergy remedies. The report cautions that the relatively short history of precursor control policies and the limitations of available crime and drug use data make it difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of particular precursor control laws on the production of methamphetamine in small labs.
Following is a list of state laws taking effect on Jan. 1, 2013, as compiled by Legislative Information Services. The first number is the “public chapter” number of the new law, followed by the bill number as it appeared during the legislative session, the subject and then the description. (Below the LIS list is a listing compiled by the Senate Republican Caucus that contains more description in some cases.)
1020 SB3341 Teachers, Principals and School Personnel – As enacted, specifies
that a teacher may not teach a course in which an end of course
examination is required for students to satisfy graduation
requirements set by the state board of education, if the teacher’s
license does not carry a subject specific endorsement for the
subject area of the course, unless the teacher demonstrates
sufficient content knowledge in the course material by taking, at the
teacher’s own expense, and passing a standardized or criterion-
referenced test for the content area. – Amends TCA Title 49,
1030 SB2923 Workers Compensation – As enacted, clarifies that either party in a
workers compensation dispute may bring suit in the county in which
the employee resided at the time of the injury when issues remain
after the benefit review conference; reduces from $100 to $50.00 the
maximum amount that the secretary of state may charge for certain
fees concerning construction service providers and workers
compensation. – Amends TCA Title 50.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new law requiring Tennessee residents 60 years of age or older to have a photo on their driver’s license is among those that take effect on Tuesday, though its sponsor says those who don’t already have them won’t be required to go get them.
Sen. Jim Tracy, the legislation’s sponsor, said for some reason those individuals were exempted when the law was passed years ago requiring photos on driver’s licenses.
“We went back and researched the law and could not find a reason why they were exempted, so we decided to close the gap and make it the same for everyone,” said the Shelbyville Republican.
He said those seniors who don’t have a photo on their license before Tuesday won’t be required to get one.
“They can keep it the same; we didn’t want to inconvenience them,” Tracy said.
However, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis said the new requirement does pose an inconvenience to seniors with mobility issues, or those in rural areas, who may be unable to get to the proper location to make the change.
Kyle said they were exempted when the measure requiring photos on driver’s licenses first passed because the legislation was aimed at preventing teenagers from using fake identification to purchase alcohol.
“That’s what drove that issue,” he said. “Someone who is 60 years old is not going to look younger than 21 in order to purchase alcohol.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A measure to require drug testing as a condition for receiving welfare and the reduction of the sales tax on groceries are among new laws taking effect Sunday in Tennessee.
The welfare legislation — which passed the Senate 24-9 and 73-17 in the House — requires new welfare applicants to undergo a special screening process. If suspicion is raised after the screening, then the applicant will be drug tested.
The proposal differs from an original version that would have required blanket testing.
An opinion from the state’s attorney general said that approach would violate applicants’ rights not to be drug tested unless there is suspicion they are using drugs.
Gov. Bill Haslam has said he’s comfortable with the legislation because the Department of Human Services will develop the rules for the testing, and the state attorney general must make sure the process is constitutional.
As part of an in-depth look at drunken driving in Tennessee, Natalie Alund has a review of DUI legislation that passed the General Assembly earlier this year….and more to come next year. This past session, lawmakers continued their efforts to keep serial drunken
drivers from climbing behind the wheel.
Prosecutors say many repeat DUI offenders are such pros, they know that if they violate the implied consent law they can still apply for a restricted license.
So lawmakers passed a bill (HB2749) that empowers judges to order an ignition interlock device on vehicles of people who violate the implied consent law as a condition for issuance of a restricted license.
“Research shows that ignition interlock devices are one of the most effective ways to keep drunken drivers from continuing to drive drunk,” said Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “Unfortunately, they’re underused across the state.”
Lawmakers also beefed up a current DUI law that requires people to serve a mandatory 30 days in jail if they drive drunk with a passenger under age 18 in the vehicle. Under HB 2751, the 30 days will be consecutively tacked on to any sentence received for an alcohol-related offense. A judge can’t make the sentences run at the same time.
Another bill, HB2752, authorizes a police officer to get a court order or a search warrant to force a person who has refused to submit to a blood alcohol test.
…And lawmakers say they are the start of many more to come.
“We’re getting the launching pad set for next year,” said Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, who sponsored HB2749, HB2751 and HB2752.
Shipley said that in the next legislative session lawmakers will address HB942, which if approved, would make it a DUI for those caught driving with a nonprescription schedule 1 or schedule 2 substance in their blood, regardless of the amount in their system.
“We ran into a few philosophical issues with it this session,” Shipley said. “I took it off notice until we can spend time researching it a little more. It’s better to fold that one up and work on it over the next year to see if we can make it work. Some defense attorneys in the Legislature were concerned the presence of a controlled substance or its metabolites in the blood could not be proven to be the proximate cause of an offense.”
…Another bill Shipley plans to push for next session is HB139. Currently, DUI defendants with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher who apply for a restricted license must have an ignition interlock installed on their vehicle if they want a restricted license. Under HB139, Shipley wants to reduce the 0.15 BAC to 0.08 percent.
“You’re going to grab a whole lot more people because more defendants get caught driving with a 0.08 to 0.15 BAC than with a 0.15 and higher,” Shipley said.
Although he has high hopes for the bill, he decided not push for it this past session because of funding.
Shipley, backed by Overbey, also said he’d like Tennessee to join the other 16 states in mandating ignition interlocks on vehicles for all convicted first-time DUI offenders.
— Note: The bill numbers are those for the 107th General Assembly. If re-introduced next year, of course, they’ll likely have different numbers.