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.
By Erik Schelzg, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state Senate on Monday passed a bill to give people with handgun carry permits the right to store their loaded firearms in their vehicles wherever they are parked, brushing aside concerns raised by businesses and higher education administrators in Tennessee.
The chamber voted 28-5 to approve the bill sponsored by Republican Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville after rejecting Democratic efforts to add potential exclusions for businesses if they were approved by the state Department of Safety.
“If you allow people to come onto your parking lot then they have the right to have that firearm in the car,” Ramsey told reporters before the vote.
Ramsey has been pushing for the quick adoption of the bill to avoid a repeat of a drawn out fight last year between gun advocates and the business lobby.
The failure of last year’s bill ended up costing House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart her legislative seat when the National Rifle Association and other gun advocates later bankrolled her primary opponent.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Senate on Friday passed its version of Gov. Bill Haslam’s more than $31 billion spending plan, making nearly $60 million in cuts to a number of programs and projects.
The chamber voted 32-1 to pass the bill that was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville. The House passed its version 66-30 Thursday.
The two chambers will have to reconcile differences on projects before the measure can head for Haslam’s signature. The difference in reduced funding between the two proposals is about $23 million.
The largest cut in the Senate plan is more than $12 million to the Memphis Regional Megasite.
Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters earlier this week that cutting funding to the megasite is a bad idea.
“We still have to make some more investment to get there, still a lot of infrastructure has to get there in terms of water lines and sewer lines, predominantly,” Haslam said. “The state has a big investment there and for us to really be able to market it, I think we’re going to complete that.”
Other items in the Senate version to receive cuts include:
— Radnor Lake land acquisition, $1 million
— Metro Sports Authority Debt Service, $481,000
— National Civil Rights Museum, $300,000
— Sickle Cell Foundation, $75,000
— Folk Festival 2012, $50,000
Both budget plans include closure of the Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County. State officials say closing the 90-year-old facility will save the state about $8.5 million.
The debate on the Senate floor to keep the center open wasn’t more than an hour long as in the House on Wednesday, but it was almost as spirited.
Sen. Eric Stewart, whose district includes the center, said it houses some of the state’s toughest juveniles that other youth centers would probably have trouble handling.
Stewart, D-Belvidere, compared closing the center to shutting down Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, and sending those inmates to other facilities.
“Let’s send the meanest of the mean to other facilities,” he said. “Taft is the Riverbend of the juvenile justice center.”
Haslam in January presented his spending proposal that called for raises for state employees, more spending on construction on college campuses and tax cuts on food and estates.
Both budget proposals include funding for reducing the sales tax on groceries from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent, increasing the exemption for the inheritance tax from $1 million to $1.25 million and enhanced penalties for gang and gun crimes.
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), April 27, 2012 — The Senate has approved legislation, sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Charles Curtiss (D-Sparta), that revises a law passed last year regarding cyberbullying through the use of electronic devices. Senate Bill 2556 removes the words “frighten, intimidate, or cause emotional distress” to a victim in the state’s current cyberbullying law and replaces them with the word “threaten.”
Ketron said he enlisted the help of Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper and other legal experts in revising the law to meet constitutional muster, while maintaining the focus on deterring bullying through electronic means. The revision limits the offense of harassment by display of an image to cases in which the defendant communicates without legitimate purpose with the intent that it will be viewed by the victim with the malicious intent to threaten them. “It must also be in a manner in which the defendant knows or reasonably should know, would threaten a similarly situated person,” he said.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Republican bill to move up the cutoff date to meet kindergarten age requirements passed the House Wednesday over Democrats’ arguments that the measure is aimed at laying off teachers and denying early childhood learning opportunities.
The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin was approved on a 68-30 vote after a spirited debate lasting more than an hour. The companion bill is awaiting a Senate vote.
Currently children must be 5 years old by Sept. 30 to enroll in kindergarten. The measure would move that cutoff date to Aug. 31 in the school year beginning in 2013, and to Aug. 15 the following year.
“There are an element in education that want to get children a universal education from the cradle to the grave,” Casada said. “I strongly disagree with that.
“We want those young people at home with their family for the first several years of their life,” he said. “That’s where the most learning is and that’s where the foundation sits.”
After more than two hours of debate, the House voted 58-38 Tuesday for a “loser pays” lawsuit system that Democrats contended will intimidate average citizens from going to court against big corporations.
Under HB3124, if a judge grants a defendant’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit as having “no basis in fact or law,” the plaintiff who brought the lawsuit would have to pay the defendant’s attorney fees of up to $10,000.
Sponsor Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, said the bill would help “small businessmen and farmers trying to defend against frivolous, bogus lawsuits” and who otherwise would have to pay their own lawyers “thousands of dollars.”
Critics such as Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, said the real effect would be to make people of modest means fearful of going to court when there was any chance of losing. Stewart said the “chilling effect” of a $10,000 penalty on average citizens would, in contrast, be inconsequential to wealthy corporations and insurance companies.
The state House of Representatives approved a bill allowing homicide and assault prosecutions for the death of embryos in the earliest stages of development, in a vote tinged by the decades-long fight over abortion, reports the Tennessean.
House lawmakers voted 80-18 for a measure that would extend criminal punishments for killing a fetus to the first eight weeks of pregnancy.
Supporters said the bill would clarify a law passed last year that made it easier to prosecute people for harming fetuses. Opponents said charges of harming an embryo will be difficult to prove because many pregnancies end naturally at that stage.
They suggested the measure really is meant to set up future battles over abortion. Tennessee law has long allowed prosecutors to bring two charges when a person kills or assaults a pregnant woman. A charge of harming a fetus can be brought only as a second charge to harming the pregnant woman as well.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that seeks to amend the state constitution to change the way appeals judges are selected passed the Senate on Monday night.
The resolution sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville was approved 21-9. It would give voters three options for selecting judges: contested elections, a federal-style plan, or a plan similar to the current one.
Under the current Tennessee judicial selection method, a commission nominates judges, the governor appoints them and voters cast ballots either for or against keeping them on the bench.
Norris said some type of plan is necessary because the current plan is scheduled to “sunset,” or end, and “this is the last opportunity Tennesseans have to get this on the ballot in 2014.”
However, opponents say the legislation is unnecessary.
“I think this is doing something that we can already do,” said Democratic Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga. “The current constitution authorizes us to have the Tennessee plan.”
Added Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis: “What we have is folks going around the edges saying I don’t like this or I don’t like that.”
Another proposal advancing in the Legislature would impose a federal-style system of having the governor make nominations to the Tennessee Supreme Court, and then giving lawmakers the power to confirm or reject them.
That measure was slightly amended on the Senate floor Monday and could be up for a vote later this week.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The House on Wednesday approved Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to overhaul state civil service rules after agreeing to changes needed to bring the Tennessee State Employees Association on board.
The measure that passed on a 74-19 vote would make it easier for the executive branch employees to be hired and fired, and would allow for merit raises for high-performing workers — and pay decreases for poor ones.
Republican Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville, who carried the House bill on behalf of the Haslam administration, noted that negotiations with the TSEA had resulted in about 20 changes to the original bill, including that seniority will remain a factor in making decisions on staffing changes.
Dunn said the goal of the measure is “to reform and modernize the civil service system — the outdated employment system we have needs to be changed.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House has approved Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to overhaul state civil service rules after agreeing to changes needed to bring the Tennessee State Employees Association on board.
The measure (HB2384) passed 74-19 on Wednesday would make it easier for the executive branch employees to be hired and fired, and would allow for more targeted merit raises for high performing workers. (Note: All 64 House Republicans voted for the bill, joined by nine Democrats and independent Rep. Kent Williams.)
Republican Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville, who carried the House bill on behalf of the Haslam administration, noted that negotiations with the TSEA had resulted in about 20 changes to the original bill — including that seniority will still be a factor in making decisions on staffing changes.
The companion bill was scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Thursday.