Tag Archives: local

Knox mayors unhappy with bill to allow guns in local parks

The mayors of Knoxville and Knox County say the state should leave it to municipalities to choose whether people can legally take guns to parks, according to the News Sentinel.

“It’s best left up to local control,” Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett told the News Sentinel on Thursday “I don’t like Nashville telling me what to do. I trust my commissioners.”

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said that the city’s ban on guns in parks is a local decision and should remain that way.

“In 2009, the Knoxville City Council voted overwhelmingly to retain its long-standing prohibition against guns in parks,” Rogero, who was in Washington, D.C. Thursday, said in an emailed statement. “At that time the state General Assembly had passed legislation allowing Knoxville and other cities to decide what was best for their residents regarding this matter.”

Comments from both mayors came in reaction to a proposed bill by state Sen. Stacey Campfield that would prohibit municipalities across the state from regulating firearm possession in public parks and open spaces.

Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, said that his proposal would clear an issue with the Tennessee Constitution. He also said that the 2009 law allowing local jurisdictions to decide whether people can have guns in parks has resulted in inconsistent rules across the state.

“The constitution says the state regulates the wearing of arms. I question whether we can delegate that to local governments,” Campfield said, adding that the law has resulted in “a patchwork of laws from one city to another, one park to another and even, literally, one step to another.”

The proposed legislation, SB1496, is on notice for a vote Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Campfield’s proposal has been met with opposition since its introduction from other elected officials across the state.

Mayors from Memphis and Nashville have spoken out against the bill in media reports. (Note: See, for example, prior post HERE.)

TN GOP’s ‘Red to the Roots’ Program Targets Local Offices

With state-level elective offices firmly in its control, the state Republican Party is now ready to move on to local-level offices with a new “Red to the Roots” program, says Tennessee Republican Chairman Chris Devaney.
The idea is to encourage county Republican parties to designate nominees for city and county elective offices where they can. Currently, most cities and counties have nonpartisan elections for local office, though state law generally allows county parties to designate party nominees if they wish — exceptions including cases in which a city or county charter specifies bipartisan elections.
“We’ve had a lot of success with our state-level candidates,” Devaney said, referring to the GOP supermajority in the Legislature and Republicans holding the governor’s office, both U.S. Senate seats and seven of nine U.S. House seats. “Now, we’re ready to look at the local offices — county mayors, sheriffs and maybe a few judgeships.”
“These are places where Democrats still have a hold,” he said. “It’s their bench” for candidates who could in the future seek a state-level office. With local-level partisan campaigns he said, “We can build our bench.”

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Yes, the Supermajority Did Raise Taxes — and Most Didn’t Notice

(Note: This is an unedited version of a column written for Knoxville Business Journal. The edited version is HERE.)
Most folks didn’t notice, but the Tennessee General Assembly imposed a new tax on some Tennessee businesses during its recently-completed 2013 session and raised taxes on others.
Gov. Bill Haslam, through his Department of Revenue, spearheaded a bill that did both under the title “Uniformity and Small Business Relief Act of 2013′ (SB183, as amended). An increased tax on companies producing solar energy products was accomplished through SB1000.
Yes, while legislators uniformly announced in post-session news releases they had cut taxes, they had also raised them.
The ballyhooed cuts were a reduction the state sales tax on grocery food from 5.25 percent to 5 percent and the exemption of more people over age 65 from paying the Hall income tax. (The exemption level was increase from $26,200 to $33,000 for single filers and from $37,000 to $59,000 for joint filers.)

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Whittled-down Knife Bill Goes to Gov

The Senate went along Thursday with the House’s whittled-down version of legislation dealing with the state’s knife laws.
As passed it passed the Senate, SB1015 would have repealed provisions in current law that ban switchblades and, in some circumstances, carrying any knife with a blade more than four inches long. The House scrapped those provisions at the urging of the Tennessee Sheriffs Association and other law enforcement representatives.
What remains is a prohibition against cities and counties enacting any ordinances that contain stronger restrictions on knives than general state law. Senate sponsor Mike Bell, R-Riceville, says several local government have knife ordinances – including Knoxville – that may differ from state law.
“It’s still a good bill,” said Bell in urging colleagues to go along with the changes.
The 27-4 vote to concur in the House amendment sent the bill to the governor for his signature.

House Approves Whittled-down Knife Bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state House has passed a watered down version of a bill that originally would have lifted a ban on switchblades and knives with blades longer than 4 inches.
As amended under a bill passed 77-18 on Tuesday, the measure does away with those two provisions, but it still removes the power of local governments to make their own knife regulations.
Currently, local governments can pass their own ordinances restricting knives, although the maximum penalty they can impose is a fine of up to $50. The bill gives the state legislators the sole power to decide rules for the possession, transfer and transportation of knives.
Some representatives on Tuesday expressed concern that the bill removes local control of the issue.
“We need to just put this to bed about local control,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin. “We argue for it on one and then against it on the next one. Let’s get a little consistency.”
Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, said he is usually “all for local control,” but this case is an exception.
“Any law that allows you to travel from one county to the next without breaking the law is good,” he said.
Rep. Vance Dennis is the House sponsor. The Savannah Republican said he expects the Senate to conform to the House version.
Speaking in favor of the original bill in March, sponsoring Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said that citizens should have a right to carry switchblades and long knives.

GOP Legislators Waging Political War Against Nashville?

Andrea Zelinski has a thoughtful article on the Republican Legislature’s focus Nashville. An excerpt:
Some say the conflict is political, the product of Republican majorities trying to dismantle one of the state’s last institutions of Democratic power. Others say it’s the result of a shift in values reflected in a legislature that is more conservative than the city it does business in. Some go further, saying the city has developed so much power and influence that a clearer focus is needed to ensure the success of the state as a whole.
The one thing everybody agrees on? Don’t expect the attention on Nashville to let up.
…”I think they view it as the last bastion they have to beat down,” said Rep. Mike Turner, an Old Hickory Democrat and the party’s caucus chairman, who characterized the situation as “open season on Nashville.
“Basically all the things they don’t like with America, they see it in Nashville,” he said. “And I think all the things that’s good about America is represented in Nashville. I think they have some issues with it.”
…(W)hen lawmakers sent a bill to the governor that would undo the city’s rules ensuring prevailing wage standards for contractors doing city business…Gov. Bill Haslam said he’s prepared to sign, although added it’s a tricky issue.
“That’s a very fine line for me,” said Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor who adds that he’s sensitive to preserving local authority. The difference here, he said, is lawmakers have made the case to him that Metro’s current practice has effects beyond Davidson County.
That bill came at the hands of Rep. Glen Casada, a high-ranking House Republican leader from Franklin. The point of the bill was to standardize laws across the state, he said, and Metro Nashville mandating a standard wage in Davidson County could force unaffordable costs on companies doing business across the Tennessee.
“They are expanding their reach in areas they don’t belong,” said Casada about Metro’s government. “So a lot of legislators say, ‘city of Nashville, you can’t tell business that they have to pay a certain wage to do business with you in your town. We want all laws to be the same all across the state.’
“We look at it from a macro sense, the whole state, all 95 counties. The city of Nashville and the city of Memphis are looking at it from their perspective only. But their actions have ripple effects across the state, and so I think you’re seeing a butting of wills on direction.”
It amounts to a turf war, he said, and it seems to be more intense this year.
“The cities are just becoming very influential nationwide,” he said, “and so, Nashville is doing what they think is best. The problem is what they think is best, it flexes and comes up upon what state business is.”
“They’re expanding. They’re reaching areas they don’t belong,” he added.

Bill Would Impose Statewide Moratorium on Annexation Until 2015

A statewide moratorium on annexation of new areas into cities would be in place until June 30, 2015, under legislation approved by a Senate committee Tuesday, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
That’s intended to give provide a “time out” while officials do a comprehensive study of the issue.
Senate State and Local Government Committee members unanimously approved the compromise, which would halt all current annexation efforts by ordinance as of April 1. It now goes to the Calendar Committee where it will be scheduled for the Senate floor.
Senate sponsor Bo Watson, R-Hixson, later acknowledged, “I don’t have the votes to get this for cities will be studied by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. The moratorium was put into the bill out of concerns cities were jumping in to annex territory now out of fears lawmakers would soon make it next to impossible except in cases of where property owners ask to be annexed.

No More Local Control Over Wages, Benefits in Construction Projects

Legislation headed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk would prohibit local municipalities from requiring private employers to adopt prevailing wages for employers — thus nullifying a 16-year-old Nashville law that guarantees these rates for contracted workers on city construction projects, reports The Tennessean.
The Republican-backed bill (HB501), sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, and Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, cleared the Senate by a 24-6 vote Thursday, largely along party lines, with all nay votes coming from the chamber’s handful of Democrats.
Conservative Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville was the lone Democratic senator to vote for the Republican-backed legislation, while newly elected Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, voted present.
A spokesman for the Republican governor said Haslam would review the legislation like he does all bills. Past statements from Haslam have indicated skepticism of so-called “living wage” ordinances but also deference to local governments on whether to adopt them.
…”Living wages are about fairness and stability,” Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry said, adding: “By taking away yet another tool that Metro government has, the legislature is making it more difficult for the building and construction trades to earn a living.”
In addition to targeting wages, the bill would prevent local governments from requiring companies to ensure health insurance benefits and leave policies that are different from state policy. Metro’s ordinance does not require that.

See also the Commercial Appeal story. An excerpt:
City officials and Memphis Democratic legislators said the bill is another example of Republicans, from the suburbs and elsewhere, targeting Memphis and to a lesser degree Nashville. The legislature last year overturned a Nashville local ordinance that forbade city contractors from discriminating against employees who are gay, despite the business community’s support for the local law.
“This is another pre-emption bill. If you think a community is smart enough to decide whether they want wine in grocery stores then I think you ought to consider them smart enough to set their wages and contracts,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis, alluding to a separate bill to allow wine sales in grocery stores if approved by local referendums.

Supermajority Controlling ‘Little People’s Republic’ Local Government

Concerned with the prospect of a local government setting up what one leader called a “little people’s republic,” the Legislature’s Republican supermajority is moving on several fronts to assert state authority over cities and counties.
Some Democrats and local government officials decry the trend as an assault on local control and incongruous with Republican criticisms of the federal government for dictating to state governments.
“The level of contempt that this Republican majority has for local governments and working people is simply disgusting,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Old Hickory.
Turner’s remarks came after House approval Thursday of a bill (HB501) that declares local governments cannot put conditions on their contracts with businesses that require the businesses to pay more than minimum wages set by state or federal law, provide insurance or family leave. It also prohibits local governments from enforcing any ordinance on “wage theft,” wherein a company fails to live up to promises to pay a given wage or provide benefits.
The bill was approved 66-27 on a mostly party-line vote — Republicans for it, Democrats against — after a sometimes heated debate. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, may have best summed up the GOP view of such legislation.

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Bill Blocking Local Governments from Renaming Parks Goes to Gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to bar local governments from renaming parks or monuments honoring Tennessee’s military figures is headed to the governor for his consideration.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro was approved 26-3 by the Senate on Thursday. The companion bill passed the house 69-22 last month.
Sponsors say the legislation is aimed at preventing shifting views and changing “demographics” from erasing memorials to historical figures from the Civil War and other conflicts.
The bill would allow local governments seeking to change the names of parks to seek permission from the Tennessee Historical Commission.
Critics say it should be left to local governments to decide the naming of parks.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to review the legislation once it reaches his desk.