Tag Archives: veto

Harwell, Ramsey would be surprised by any more vetoes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The speakers of the Tennessee House and Senate say they don’t expect any more vetoes from fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

Sen. Ron Ramsey and Rep. Beth Harwell told reporters on Thursday that they hadn’t heard any indication from the governor that he might reject any more bills awaiting his consideration after a trip to Asia.

The governor has 10 days excluding Sundays to decide whether to sign, veto or allow bills to become law without his signature.

Among the measures Haslam has yet to decide on are legislation seeking to phase out the state’s Hall income tax on income from stocks and bonds, requiring a lawsuit to be filed over the federal government’s refugee resettlement program and stripping funding from the diversity office at the University of Tennessee.

Ramsey, as quoted in the Times-Free Press: “Before we left over whether to have a veto override session or not I got the strong hint we wouldn’t need one. But at the same time did i ask specifically about bills? No, I didn’t. So that’s the reason I don’t think he will. But whether he signs them or not is a whole different story.”

Harwell, as quoted by the Commercial Appeal: “He (Haslam) indicated toward the end (of the legislative session) that he didn’t see anything that would cause us to need an override session, so I’m anticipating that means he’s going to sign them. Or at least allow them to become law without his signature.”

Note: According to the legislative website, the refugee resolution (SJR467) and the UT diversity bill (HB2248) were sent to the governor on May 9. He has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign bills once they reach his office. The Hall tax bill (SB47) apparently hasn’t been officially transmitted to the governor yet.

Sunday column: Politics makes veto of Hall repeal unlikely

After decades of justified bipartisan bragging on Tennessee’s fiscally conservative status, our state legislators enthusiastically embraced deficit spending this year on a somewhat bipartisan basis, blowing a $300 million-plus hole in budgets of state and local governments for the sake of political popularity.

For the same reason, Gov. Bill Haslam is highly unlikely to veto the bill repealing the Hall tax on investment income, even though he has repeatedly preached on the fiscal irresponsibility of taking such an action without a plan to replace the lost revenue.

There is no such plan, of course. On the last day of the session, legislators basically said to state and local governments that the tax will disappear in six years, so deal with it. The governor sent his two top aides, Finance Commissioner Larry Martin and Deputy Governor Jim Henry, to politely tell lawmakers late in the session that the amended version of SB47 was basically a fiscally stupid idea.

As the final week of the session began, the administration and legislative leadership had reached a somewhat complicated agreement on the Hall: The 6 percent levy would be cut to 5 percent in the coming year and, in future years, a “legislative intent” was declared to repeal another percentage point each year — if state revenue increases otherwise by 3 percent or more in that year.

This year, the state enjoyed a $600 million budget surplus. The first year of the tax cut could thus be easily absorbed, it was reasonably argued, and the language left wiggle room to accommodate unforeseen future fiscal and political realities.

Martin said the 3 percent trigger did not seem very wise. It would mean that, regardless of what happens, cutting the Hall would have priority over all other things that a 3 percent revenue bump could go toward — increasing teacher pay, for example, or the predictable annual increase in other education needs as enrollment goes up, the annual increases in medical costs that send TennCare spending up every year, a costly lawsuit — two are pending that could conceivably add multiple millions to education spending — or, well, any number of things we cannot imagine today.

But for the sake of political expediency, the administration was ready to ignore such concerns and go along, leaving the possibility of changing “legislative intent” to arguments in future years when further Hall reductions could be pitted against other priorities. That wasn’t good enough.

The final version says the tax will be fully repealed, come hell or high water, in six years, barring the unimaginable possibility that legislators in the future will vote to repeal the tax cut now mandated and be accused of voting for a tax increase.

The governor, a billionaire in Forbes magazine’s estimation, presumably is way up toward the top of the 200,000 Tennesseans paying the Hall tax — probably well into six figures as opposed to the statewide average annual payment of $266. But as a policy matter, he has set aside personal financial interest to oppose the plan as fiscally irresponsible for the businesslike operation of government.

Setting aside political interest, though, is another matter. A veto, which would stand since the Legislature has adjourned without an override session scheduled, would provide ammunition for opponents in any future political endeavor — a U.S. Senate race, maybe? — and would lead to a highly-publicized effort to pass the bill again next year that would doubtless succeed, even as he contemplates pushing a gas tax increase.

Two right-wing groups, Americans for Prosperity and Beacon Center of Tennessee, both claimed to have gotten more than a million views on sponsored videos against the Hall tax and to have contacted thousands of voters otherwise. With some justification, they claimed credit for putting the legislative train on track.

Only two Republicans — Reps. Bill Dunn of Knoxville and Steve McDaniel of Parkers Crossroads — had the political courage to vote against the bill, though a dozen or so dodged a vote one way or the other. Several Democrats voted for it; a couple dodged.

The governor has a dodge opportunity as well. He can let the bill become law without his signature, which would indicate that he does, indeed, have future political plans that outweigh pragmatic policy considerations. A veto would indicate he does not and stands on principle.

Four (or 5?) post-session veto possibilities

Gov. Bill Haslam is apparently considering veto of at least four bills passed late in the legislative session, reports the Times-Free Press. If he does veto one or more, the Legislature will have no opportunity to override, having adjourned with no plan to return.

Under the Tennessee Constitution, a governor has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to decide whether to sign, veto or allow a measure to become law without his signature. The count begins on the day the bill reaches his office. The time it takes to get a bill formally processed and sent to the governor can vary widely – and the flood of legislation at the end of session usually slows things down.

Potential veto targets listed by the TFP (with a bit of added info) are:

* A controversial bill that would allow mental health counselors and therapists to reject LBGT clients based on their “sincerely held beliefs,” provided they refer the patients to other professionals. (It’s HB1840, transmitted to the governor on April 15. Recent post on governor’s comments, HERE.)

* A bill enshrining the elimination of Tennessee’s Hall Income Tax on stock dividends and certain types of interest in 2022. (SB47, approved on April 22 by the legislature. The legislative website indicates it has not yet been officially sent to Haslam. Post on passage HERE.)

* A bill allowing full-time faculty and staff at public colleges and universities to go armed on campus, provided they have a state-issued handgun carry permit. (SB2376, sent to the governor April 25.)

* A resolution ordering the state to file suit against the Obama administration over the federal government’s refugee resettlement program here. If the state attorney general refuses, the resolution directs the lawsuit be handled by a conservative out-of-state group. (SJR467, given final legislative approval April 19. The legislative website indicates it has not yet been sent to the governor.Post on passage HERE.)

Note: Might add another possibility: SB1912, which cuts funding to the University of Tennessee Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It got final approval on April 21 – post HERE — and has not yet been transmitted to the governor, the website indicates.

Governor not ruling out post-session vetoes

Gov. Bill Haslam says he is not ruling out vetoes of bills that reach his desk after adjournment of the 2016 legislative session – including a phased-in repeal of the Hall tax on investment income approved on the last day.

Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, led an effort to set up a special veto override session on Friday, but failed. That means that the 109th General Assembly is officially over and cannot return to override any vetoes issued by the governor. During debate on Holt’s proposal, some legislators suggested Haslam has offered assurances that no vetoes are anticipated.

But in a post-session news conference, Haslam made no commitments.

Excerpt from The Tennessean’s report:

“They have a constitutional responsibility and we do too,” Haslam said…

Haslam said he’s had conversations with several legislators about a variety of bills, adding, “I wouldn’t give everybody a blanket assurance we’re not going to have any vetoes, you know, take that to the bank.”

…He was then asked whether his office has the authority to veto a resolution that would require the state to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement.

“We’re under the assumption that we do have the power to do that,” Haslam said, conceding that he can only veto the resolution if it is over a substantive matter, which he said he believed it was.

Several groups are pressuring Haslam to veto the resolution, as well as other bills, including one that allows counselors to refuse to treat patients.

…Haslam reiterated his concerns about the latest version of the Hall income tax bill that lawmakers passed.

“I would have been much more comfortable with having something that just did it this year where we know what the state’s fiscal situation is,” he said, without indicating whether or not he would veto the legislation.

Ramsey cool toward House move on veto override session

With the end of the legislative session in sight, some House Republicans are making preparations to allow themselves to come back to Nashville in the event that Gov. Bill Haslam overrides any other bills this year, according to The Tennessean.

“I feel like there’s a need for us to go ahead and go through the process of collecting signatures,” Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, told The Tennessean on Thursday.

…There are two ways lawmakers can return for a veto override session: They can either have two-thirds of the members of each chamber petition the speakers or wait for Haslam to call them back in.

Holt opted to take the more proactive approach.

“We’re trying to make preparations to let our leadership know that there is potentially a necessity for this reorganization, maybe 30 days after we adjourn,” he said.

While handing over a sheet of signatures to an assistant to the House clerk, Holt said he had already obtained the “magic number” required.

Holt said the collection of signatures has been a “team effort” that even included involvement from a portion of the chamber’s leadership.

Although Holt did not offer many specifics about which bills he thought could be potential veto candidates, he conceded that he was worried about Haslam vetoing the bill to defund the University of Tennessee’s diversity program and a measure to allow guns on campuses, which Holt sponsored.

…Holt said he was unsure whether anyone in the Senate was collecting signatures but added, “There is obvious tension regarding some of the legislation that’s been passed.”

Despite the House’s efforts, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey on Thursday said he did not see the need for a potential veto override session.

“I’ve spoken with the governor and everything, and I feel relatively comfortable where we are right now,” he said. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

Ramsey said Haslam reassured him “several days ago” if there was anything on his mind that could potentially be vetoed the governor would give him an advanced warning.

House upholds Haslam’s veto of Bible bill

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has a state reptile, a state rock and a state song in the moonshine-themed “Rocky Top.” For now, though, the Bible will not be its official state book.

Gov. Bill Haslam had vetoed a bill that would elevate the holy book’s status, and lawmakers trying to override that veto fell seven votes short of the 50 they needed in the House on Wednesday. Only 43 members voted in favor of the bill after two hours of spirited — and spiritual — debate.

The Republican governor last week turned back the bill over constitutional concerns and because of concerns the measure “trivializes” what he considers a sacred text.

Supporters argued that the measure seeks to honor the economic and historical impact of the Bible in Tennessee history, rather than a state endorsement of religion.

Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton, a former Baptist minister who was the main House sponsor of the measure, urged colleagues to follow what he called the “will of the people” in rejecting the veto.

“It doesn’t force anyone to read it, it doesn’t force anyone to buy it, it doesn’t force anyone to believe it,” said Sexton, a former Baptist minister. “It’s simply symbolic.”

Six Republicans and five Democrats who voted for the bill when it passed last year did not support the override on Wednesday. They included Democratic Rep. Johnny Shaw, a Baptist pastor.
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A bit of recent TN veto history

Prior to Thursday’s rejection of a bill declaring the Holy Bible as Tennessee’s offical state book, Gov. Bill Haslam has issued three previous vetoes in his five years as governor. They were:

In 2012, a bill that would have outlawed Vanderbilt University’s “all-comers” policy, which required all student organizations receiving university funding to be open to all Vanderbilt students — a policy that angered some many conservatives. But the governor noted that Vanderbilt is a private university and the state should not interfere with its internal operations as long as they are otherwise.

In 2013, the “Ag-Gag” bill, which would have required anyone who records — by photograph, digital image, video or similar medium — “for the purposes of documenting” abuse of livestock to turn over the the unedited recordings to local law enforcement within 48 hours or face a criminal charge.

Animal protection groups call the bill an effort to prevent the kind of undercover documentation of animal abuse that made national headlines when the Humane Society of the United States released videos of beatings and other abusive practices against horses at a Fayette County trainer’s stables in 2011. The state attorney general called the bill “constitutionally suspect.”

In 2014, a bill Thursday that its sponsor said was aimed at preventing “flash mobs”that vandalize property in Tennessee and increasing the penalty for polluting retail products. But Haslam said that a legal review found the bill had the unintended consequence of reducing criminal penalties for some types of polluting in Tennessee, including illegal dumping in rural areas.

The Legislature did not attempt to override any of the three.

The last time the Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto was in 2010 when a Republican majority overrode Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s veto of a bill that allows people with handgun carry permits to take their weapons into businesses selling alcoholic beverages.

The sponsors plan an override attempt next week, triggering this observation in the Times-Free Press:

If Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, and Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, are successful, it would be the first time in Tennessee history — or at least since post-Civil War Reconstruction — that a Republican-controlled General Assembly will have overridden a Republican governor.

Haslam vetoes Bible as TN official state book

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday vetoed a bill seeking to make Tennessee the first state to designate the Bible as its official book.

Haslam, who as a college graduate considered going to seminary before deciding to join the family truck stop business, said in his veto message that the bill “trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text.”

The bill had narrowly passed both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly after sponsors said it aimed at honoring the significance of the Bible in the state’s history and economy, as opposed to a government endorsement of religion.

Lawmakers passed the bill despite the state attorney general’s warning that the bill would violate both the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions. The bill made many lawmakers uneasy by placing the Scripture alongside other official symbols like the state salamander, agricultural insect or rock.

“If we believe that the Bible is the word of God, then we shouldn’t be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance,” Haslam said.

Republican Sen. Steve Southerland, an ordained minister and one of the bill’s main sponsors, filed notice of a bid to override the veto on Monday or Tuesday.

It only takes a majority in both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly to override the governor’s veto. Haslam has previously vetoed three bills since taking office in 2011, and none has been turned back by lawmakers.

Note: A copy of the governor’s veto message is available HERE.

Haslam vetoes ‘retail vandalism’ bill for ‘unintended consequence’ of helping polluters

Gov. Bill Haslam Thursday vetoed a bill that would have created the new crime of “retail vandalism” in Tennessee, saying it had the “unintended consequence” of reducing criminal penalties for some types of pollution.

The bill, drafted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden. During intense and lengthy House floor debate, Holt described the overall intent as protecting retail stores from “flash mobs,” allowing criminal prosecution of those organizing such events when property is vandalized.

Flash mobs typically involve a group of people — frequently teenagers — suddenly converging in one place, generally for entertainment or celebration of some event in response to social media postings.

Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, had pointed out the pollution provision during debate before the bill was approved on a 63-31 House vote — mostly along party lines with Republicans for, Democrats against. On Thursday, Stewart praised Haslam for the veto of “mislabeled legislation.”

“Hopefully, this is the last time we will be asked to vote for bills that would actually cut the penalties for criminal polluters who profit by ruining their neighbors’ land,” Stewart said in a news release.

Said Haslam in a statement:

“The original intent of this bill was to define and penalize retail vandalism. In a review of the amended legislation, it has been determined that the bill had the unintended consequence of reducing the criminal penalties for certain types of polluting in Tennessee.
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TN Hospitality Association urges veto of bill amended to require faster payments to liquor wholesalers

The Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association is urging Gov. Bill Haslam to veto a bill that was amended late in the legislative session to require businesses selling liquor-by-the-drink to pay wholesalers “upon delivery of the product,” repealing a current law that allows a 10-day delay.

The bill (HB2027) was sponsored by Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, and was generally discussed as allowing wineries to sell their products by the glass at their main place of business and at up to two satellite locations. Current law allows wineries to sell only a full bottle.

The amendment in question was sponsored by Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, and first approved on the House floor. The Senate concurred with the amendment on Wednesday, a day before adjournment of the 2014 session.

“The passage of this amendment will completely change the landscape of relations between wholesalers and retailers with a grand total of 15 seconds of debate on the House floor,” wrote Greg Adkins. President and CEO of the association in a memo to members urging they contact the governor’s office and urge a veto.

“Since the creation of the three tier system, restaurants and hotels have had a ten day window by which to pay invoices to the wholesalers. This ten day window is critical to the industry and especially to smaller operators with limited purchasing power. This bill huts small businesses that are the backbone of the TN economy,” the memo says.