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.
Rep. Vance Dennis told fellow lawmakers that his bill to rewrite Tennessee knife laws has “drawn some sharp criticism” from law enforcement officers, so he proposed an amendment “to strip out the language sheriffs think is too pointed.”
Members of the House Finance Committee agreed and cut the bill (HB581) down to the size approved by the Tennessee Sheriffs Association and other law enforcement groups.
As passed by the Senate 27-3 last month, the bill repealed most of current state law on knives – including portions that now ban ownership of switchblades and, in some circumstances, carrying knives with blades longer than four inches.
Those provisions were slashed from the bill by Dennis’ amendment. All that remains is a section that says no local government can adopt an ordinance regulating knives that is more stringent than state law.
The revised bill, containing only the “state preemption” provision, was approved by the committee and sent toward a House floor vote. Dennis told the committee he will oppose any attempts to change the bill back into the form approved by the Senate.
Terry Ashe, executive director of the Tennessee Sheriffs Association, said the Senate-passsed bill is “a real officer safety issue” as he could personally testify “having been up against a switchblade” while serving as sheriff of Wilson County.
Ashe said law enforcement officers were “uniformly” against the bill in its original form, once they had heard about it, and believe that leaving only the preemption provision is “a pretty good compromise.”
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said current state law effectively prohibits carrying a knife for self-defense purposes and the original bill would have allowed that.
In the House committee, Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, R-Ripley, at one point proposed an amendment to give brass knuckles equal footing with knives, but withdrew the idea after Dennis’ proposed his revision of the bill.
Despite being told that Gov. Bill Haslam is now flatly opposed to a bill that would cut welfare benefits to parents of children failing in school, Republican legislators unanimously backed the measure in a House committee on Tuesday.
Luke Ashley, a Haslam legislative liaison, told members of the House Government Operations Committee that the governor “disagrees with the legislation and would consider vetoing it if it comes to his desk.”
Haslam’s new position marks a change of heart for his administration, which had previously declared itself neutral on the bill (HB261) through the Department of Human Services after it was revised with amendments.
The amendments, worked out with sponsors and DHS officials, say the reduction in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits can be restored if a parent signs a failing child up for tutoring, attends two parent-teacher conferences, attends an eight-hour parenting class or attends a special summer school session.
Ashley said Haslam now has “philosophical differences” with the bill, even as amended. He said the governor officially informed staff of the position change on Monday, the same day Haslam told reporters he has misgivings about the measure.
NASHVILLE – Legislation tying parents’ welfare benefits to their children’s performance in school advanced another step Wednesday despite contentions that it amounts to a “mean-spirited” attack against vulnerable families.
The House Health Committee approved the bill (HB261) on a 10-8 vote after extended debate, including testimony from spokeswomen from a social workers organization and a group advocating for domestic violence victims.
Both opposed the measure, which would cut benefits of parents of a child failing in school by 30 percent in some circumstances.
The measure is scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor Thursday. (UPDATE Note: The vote was postpone for a week, until next Thursday.)
The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, said the bill as amended would apply only to the “worst of the worst” parents. The bill does not apply when a child has a learning disability or a physical handicap. As amended, it also allows the penalty to be avoided if the parent attends two parent teacher conferences, an eight-hour parenting class, arranges tutoring or enrolls the child in summer school.
“What I keep hearing from teachers and educators is that we need to do whatever we can to make parents more accountable,” said Dennis. “This bill does just that.”
But critics argued the bill effectively makes a child responsible for a family’s financial well-being, increasing stress on the youths.
Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, a teacher, said some children could even face physical threats.
“I know it will be putting some of my kids in danger if their grades go down (and benefit checks go down because of it),” she said.
Similar concerns were voiced by Kathy Walsh, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. She envisioned situations with a mother leaving an abusive situation, causing stress on her children that causes their school performance to plummet – then seeing family income cut to create still more stress.
“It’s just mean-spirited,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville.
But Dennis and some other Republicans on the committee said any pressure will be on parents, who need prodding to help their children get an education.
“I think we’re putting the burden squarely on the shoulders of the parents,” said Rep. Barrett Rich, R-Somerville.
Rep. Barry Doss, R-Leoma, rejected contentions that the bill could leave some children hungry.
“I’m more worried about a child starving for a lifetime (because of not getting an education) rather than for a few days,” Doss said.
All Democrats on the commtttee voted against the bill, joined by two Republicans. All 10 yes votes came from Republicans.
Gov. Bill Haslam, meanwhile, has told reporters he has misgivings about the bill — enough that he would consider vetoing it should the legislation reach his desk.
“Listen, I believe in incentives for the right type of thing,” the governor said. “I’m not sure you have the direct connection there between children’s grades and parents receiving benefits. There’s too many things that can be a disconnect there.”
Legislation to cut welfare benefits of parents with children performing poorly in school has cleared committees of both the House and Senate after being revised to give the parents several ways to avoid the reductions.
The state Department of Human Services, which worked with Republican sponsors to draft the changes, withdrew its previous opposition to SB132. But the measure was still criticized by Democrats, including Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. It calls for a 30 percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to parents whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school.
As amended, it would not apply when a child has a handicap or learning disability or when the parent takes steps to try improving the youngster’s school performance — such as signing up for a “parenting class,” arranging a tutoring program or attending a parent-teacher conference.
Dennis told the House Health Subcommittee the measure now only applies to “parents who do nothing.” He described the measure as “a carrot and stick approach.”
Johnson, a teacher, said the bill will still put “the burden of the family budget on children’s performance in school” and that would mean a “huge stress on a young person who is trying to do what he can.”
Tennessee insurance companies would be prohibited from participating in the state’s federal health care exchange that will provide federally-subsidized medical insurance under a bill approved Wednesday by a House subcommittee.
Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, said he had found “the Achilles heel of Obamacare” with his bill (HB476) and, once Tennessee approves it, other states are likely to follow and doom the federal health care program.
“With this bill, I bring you the opportunity for your children and grandchildren and my children and grandchildren to save billions and billions of dollars of money being borrowed against them by the federal government,” said Dennis.
The “Achilles heel,” Dennis said, is that the federal law still allows states to control insurance companies. Thus, by declaring a state’s insurance companies cannot use the health care exchanges set up under Obamacare, the law can be negated, he said.
Dennis also contended that Obamacare would take business away from state insurance agencies writing policies for private insurance that is not subsidized by Obamacare.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — House Speaker Beth Harwell’s attempt to reel in the number of bills introduced each legislative session was met with resistance among some of her Republican colleagues as the legislative session got under way on Tuesday.
Harwell has proposed a cap of 10 bills per lawmaker each year. There are no current limits on the number legislative proposals that can be introduced each year, and Harwell said the annual flood of legislative proposals is expensive and inefficient.
“This is not what Republicans stand for,” she told colleagues at a Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol. “We believe in less government.”
The proposal would limit House members to about 1,000 bills per session — about half the annual average filed in recent years. Harwell said most other state legislatures file far fewer bills and that several have bill limits in place.
“I’m not making up a problem, OK?” she said.
But several Republican members raised concerns about whether they would be able to adequately serve their constituents’ needs if they could only file 10 bills per year, and Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah said he’s against the proposal in its entirety.
NASHVILLE, TN – Today, the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee, acting in its role as the state primary board voted to uphold the primary election results in State House District 71 and Congressional District 9.
Election contests from Shirley Curry in State House District 71 and Charlotte Bergmann in Congressional District 9 were reviewed by a state primary board subcommittee which was appointed by Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.
(Note: Curry lost to Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, by four votes, according to unofficial returns. Bergmann lost to George Flinn by about 7,000 votes.)
The subcommittee unanimously recommended to the full committee that both election contests be dismissed based on their review of the election contests.
“I appreciate the hard work and diligence of the state primary board subcommittee in reviewing these contests thoroughly and fairly,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.
“This review process proved that our procedures work when it comes to ensuring that we maintain the integrity of our electoral process. We are all united in our goal to defeat President Obama and Tennessee Democrats as we head toward November,” concluded Devaney.
The Jackson Sun has some details on arguments presented by Shirley Curry to a subcommittee of the state Republican Executive Committee in challenging her four-vote primary loss to state Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. One involves supposedly false campaign advertising. A decision on the challenge is still pending. Curry, who is a member of the committee, says a number of factors, including Dennis allegedly misleading voters and voter confusion over redistricting, contributed to her loss in the primary.
Dennis disputes Curry’s claims, though he does not want to address Curry’s specific arguments while the issue is pending before the committee.
“It is unfortunate that the loser in this race is asking a group, of which she is a part, to overturn the will of the voters,” said Dennis, of Savannah. “But I am confident the board will see this election contest was hard fought but fair in every way.”
In Curry’s written arguments, she said Dennis sent a piece of mail to voters in Wayne, Lewis and Lawrence counties that said he was “your representative,” even though Dennis did not represent those counties when the legislature was in session.
The counties have been added to the district through redistricting and will be represented by the winner of the election when the legislature reconvenes. Curry, of Waynesboro, also said Dennis illegally franked the campaign mailing with the state seal.
Another piece of mail displayed photos of Dennis, state Rep. Joey Hensley and Gov. Bill Haslam, calling them the “Lewis and Lawrence Counties’ Team!”
According to Curry, Hensley did not know his name was used until he received the mailing.
Hensley’s cousin put up Dennis signs until Hensley talked to him, Curry said.
Two people told Hensley that they voted for Dennis because they thought Dennis was Hensley’s choice, she said.
Hensley confirmed the accounts. He said he did not want to speak on the race publicly, but when asked privately, he told people he was voting for Curry.
“When Vance sent this mail piece out, it really was disconcerting to me that he would do that when I had told him that I did not want to publicly endorse either one of them,” Hensley said. “… It made it appear I was endorsing Vance when that really wasn’t the truth.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A special panel of members of the state Republican Party’s executive committee is meeting behind closed doors to consider an election challenge in a legislative primary race.
The six-member subcommittee appointed by Chairman Chris Devaney was scheduled to meet in Nashville on Thursday morning to evaluate the challenge brought by Shirley Curry, who wants to overturn her four-vote loss in the House District 71 primary.
Adam Nickas, the executive director of the party, wouldn’t say why the public wouldn’t be allowed to follow the hearing and declined to elaborate on the basis for Curry’s challenge.
The special panel will make recommendations to the full executive committee on Sept. 5.
Messages seeking comment from Curry and Dennis were not immediately returned on Wednesday.
— Note: The six members of the subcommittee are Rob Ailey of Seymour, chairman; Betty Cannon of Nashville; Beth Campbell of Nashville, Kurt Holbert of Decaturville; Paula Sedgewick of Arlington and Ken Gross of Knoxville.