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As passed it passed the Senate, SB1015 would have repealed provisions in current law that ban switchblades and, in some circumstances, carrying any knife with a blade more than four inches long.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.
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.
City annexations across most of Tennessee would be stopped dead in their tracks for up to 27 months under bills scheduled for final consideration this week in the General Assembly, reports the Chattanooga TFP. The bills are a compromise from initial plans by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, to require voter consent before cities could annex territory.
After cities and their lobbyists objected fiercely to the original bill, the legislation now blocks annexations of unwilling property owners while a comprehensive study of Tennessee annexation laws is conducted by June 30, 2015.
The bill’s effects are back-dated to April 1 to block cities such as Collegedale, which in February began annexing dozens of properties in response to the original bill.
…Watson’s bill is up for consideration this afternoon on the Senate floor. He said he’s not sure whether he will move on it or wait to see what happens to Carter’s bill in the Calendar and Rules Committee, the last hurdle before hitting the House floor.
Carter, a freshman lawmaker, has been driving the legislation, adjusting it to accommodate legislative critics.
“Things look good,” said Carter, an attorney who was a top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s deputy.
“Things look good,” said Carter, an attorney who was a top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s deputy.
“I think we’re going to make it to the floor, and I think we’re going to win the vote on the floor,” he said, adding that little differences in the House and Senate bills would need ironing out.
Carter’s amended bill includes the moratorium but only for residential and farm properties, not commercial properties. The study would be conducted by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
The bill has its origins in Chattanooga’s recent annexation efforts. Carter said he and Ramsey managed to stop three annexations by Mayor Ron Littlefield, but seven others went through.
All were within Chattanooga’s urban growth boundary created under a 1998 state law aimed at providing for orderly growth rather than simply revenue-snatching land grabs.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After defeating several attempts by Democrats to dial back the proposal, the House on Thursday approved Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill to change the way the state considers injured workers’ claims.
The chamber voted 68-24, almost entirely along party lines, to approve the bill (SB200). The Senate would have to agree to minor changes before the measure can head for the governor’s signature.
A major feature of the measure is that it would remove workers’ compensation cases from the state’s trial courts and instead create special panels appointed by the governor to hear claims and appeals.
Democrats noted that the bill would grant all the power over the system to the executive branch without input or oversight from the Legislature.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville derided the new system as a “Tennessee kangaroo court,” and offered a symbolic amendment to simply do away with the state’s workers’ compensation program altogether. It failed overwhelmingly.
Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, said the changes will jumpstart workers claims, removing uncertainty from both them and their employers.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s health policy specialists are probing into what Arkansas is doing with respect to increasing Medicaid coverage as part of federal Affordable Care Act reform initiatives, according to TNReport. During a press conference last week in Nashville, Tennessee’s Republican chief executive said his administration is “learning some things” from policies being pursued under Obamacare by Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat.
Beebe appears to have secured approval from the Obama administration to funnel federal dollars earmarked for Medicaid expansions into private insurance for those eligible. According to the Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” today, other states considering such an approach are Florida, Ohio, Louisiana and Maine and perhaps even Texas.
…Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature are divided between those who want to inoculate Tennessee against Obamacare to the greatest extent possible, and those who’re inclined to defer to Gov. Haslam to prescribe policy treatments that best suit the state’s unique conditions.
“Nobody likes the idea of just a sort of blanket Obamacare expansion, but that’s not what the governor is looking at,” said Mark Norris, the Tennessee Senate majority leader. “He’s real curious about what is happening in Arkansas, with their initiative to use Medicaid dollars for private insurance.”
Norris said he doesn’t anticipate Haslam making any decisions that could potentially put state government over a financial barrel. “He’s doing his due diligence. He’s doing what a good governor ought to do,” said the Republican from Collierville.
Norris added, “I have enough respect for the separation of powers and the three branches of government, and this particular governor, to wait and let him reach his own decision before we jump in and try to preempt something that he may never do anyway.”
And from the Commercial Appeal:
Shelby County’s Mayor Mark Luttrell has encouraged Gov. Bill Haslam to pursue expansion of Tennessee’s Medicaid program, saying in a letter that the benefits of extending health coverage to 60,000 to 80,000 additional low-income Shelby County residents outweigh the concerns.
The mayor, like Haslam a Republican, also said the impacts of not participating in the Medicaid expansion authorized by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act “would be damaging to The Med, if not devastating.”
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.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to do away with the state’s motorcycle helmet law passed a Senate panel on Wednesday despite Gov. Bill Haslam’s opposition.
The proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville was approved 6-3 in the Senate Transportation Committee.
Thirty-one states allow riding without a helmet, Bell said.
Under his proposal, a person would be required to have $25,000 in additional medical coverage, a minimum two-year motorcycle license, have taken a motorcycle riding course, and be at least 25 years old.
The purchase of a $50 sticker to go on the helmet would also be required. Forty dollars of that would go to trauma centers.
Supporters have questioned the safety benefits of helmets and argued that ending the law would boost motorcycle tourism to Tennessee.
Opponents say not wearing a helmet will lead to more deaths and higher costs to trauma hospitals.
Sen. Todd Gardenhire testified before the committee and said his district has one of the top trauma hospitals in the state and that it would be among those affected if the proposal becomes law.
“Even with helmets on, there’s an enormous cost to the trauma centers that have to pay indigent care,” said the Chattanooga Republican, who wore a motorcycle helmet during his testimony. “And that’s just not fair.”
The measure is one of at least 22 bills Haslam has given so-called “philosophical flags,” stating that an administration representative will seek a meeting with the lawmaker for discussion.
Bell said after the vote that he’s received flag letters from the Republican governor before.
“I understand the governor doesn’t like the bill,” Bell said. “But this bill has passed the Senate at least on two prior occasions, and I expect it’s got a good chance to pass the Senate again.”
A similar proposal was withdrawn from the legislative process last year.
At the time, a legislative analysis of the measure projected that changing the law would lead to an increase in traumatic brain injuries, carrying a $1.1 million price tag for TennCare, the state’s expanded Medicaid program.
Legislation making it a crime for United Nations representatives to observe elections in Tennessee has suffered a setback in the House while a bill banning all noncitizens from polling places has won approval in the Senate.
Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, said he introduced HB589 after learning the U.N. sent observers to Nashville for last November’s election to monitor for “human rights violations.” It makes election observation by a U.N. representative punishable as a misdemeanor.
News reports indicate a total of 44 U.N. observers were dispatched to the United States last fall, partly out of concern over laws requiring a photo ID for voting. One of those sent to Nashville was from France and the other from Armenia.
Van Huss’ bill had cleared the House Local Government Committee by voice vote after about 10 minutes of discussion with Democrats questioning the idea and Republicans generally praising it.
“The United Nations has no business in our polling places telling us anything,” declared Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga.
“If they’re looking for human rights violations, they’ve got hundreds of countries they can go to instead of America.”
But when the bill got to the House Calendar Committee, which routinely approves bills for the House floor with little discussion, Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, said he has “constitutional questions” about the measure. He made a motion to refer the measure to the House Civil Justice Committee, which Lundberg chairs.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Thompson’s Station and Rep. Matthew Hill, chairman of the Local Government Committee, both objected to the move. Casada said “this is kind of unprecedented” and Hill said the bill had already been “fully vetted” in his committee and a subcommittee.
But Calendar Committee Chairman Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, said he believed there was “no ill will” on Lundberg’s part and it was appropriate to resolve any questions before a measure is sent to the floor. Lundberg’s motion carried and the bill goes to his committee this week.
The Senate, also last week, approved 24-3 a bill by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, (SB549) that prohibits people who are not citizens of the United States from entering a polling place in Tennessee.
The House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, is up in the House Local Government Subcommittee later this week.
The United Nations wasn’t mentioned in Senate debate.
Bell said the bill was motivated by his belief in “American exceptionalism” and protecting the integrity of the ballot box. The bill includes a provision saying a noncitizen may enter a polling place to “provide assistance” to a qualified voter, which Bell said could include an interpreter or someone helping a voter with a disability.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, asked Bell if the bill would ban people from other countries observing elections to learn about democracy and how it works.
Bell said it would, though he said such people could still observe political campaigns and visit election facilities before voting day.
Van Huss was asked a similar question by Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, in the House Local Government Committee. Van Huss said he agreed with Ronald Reagan that “America is a shining city on a hill” for the rest of the world and his bill would not impact such observers because it is “specifically directed at the United Nations.”
If state legislators agree to expand the charter school and voucher systems in Tennessee, property owners in Williamson County will likely see a decline in the value of their home, according to the director of the county school system via The Tennessean.
At a Thursday evening event hosted by the Williamson County Democratic Party, Mike Looney, superintendent of Williamson County Schools, emphasized the relationship between home values and a thriving public school system.
If taxpayer dollars are diverted from the district in support of charter schools, suggested Looney, a suffering school district will be suffered by homeowners.
“Your home values and my home value will decline,” Looney said. “In Williamson County, your home values are directly correlated to the value of public schools. People move to Williamson County because of the quality of public schools, and that is fragile.”
By simply relocating his office space at the Tennessee State Capitol, state Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, learned a whole new side to local history regarding Civil War spy DeWitt Smith Jobe, reports the Daily News Journal. “I asked (Speaker Beth Hartwell) for a new office overlooking the Capitol and the Sam Davis Monument because Sam Davis kind of represents Smyrna,” Sparks said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to do a little research on the Coleman Scouts and I came across (an article) about DeWitt Smith Jobe.”
Sparks, along with several local Civil War aficionados, convened Saturday at Giles Baptist Church on Rocky Fork Road for a program honoring the heroic life of Jobe, who was a member of the infamous Confederate spies known as the Coleman Scouts. About 50 people attended the presentation. Guest speakers included James Patterson, adjutant of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Greg Tucker, Rutherford County historian, and John Moore, a descendant of Jobe.
“Here I was, born and raised in Smyrna and I didn’t really know what all (Jobe) went through,” Sparks said, adding that he also discovered John Bridges’ book, “Three Cousins from Mechanicsville,” chronicling the heroic life of Jobe and his two relatives.
Jobe worked alongside fellow Coleman Scout Sam Davis, who is well-known for having hanged after refusing to betray his source. Sparks compared the scouts’ tenacity to that of the modern-day “A-Team.”
….”He was as much a hero as Sam Davis. He just didn’t have the publicity Sam Davis had,” Bridges said.
Jobe met a much more gruesome fate. Right before being captured by Union troops in August 1864, Jobe destroyed information he was carrying — he swallowed it — and refused to divulge the message. He was brutalized for days. Eventually, his tongue was severed and he died after being dragged by a galloping horse.