bill haslam

Haslam signs controversial gun bill

Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law Friday a bill (HB508) that requires city and county governments to install new security measures at public buildings where firearms are banned and makes them subject to paying triple lawyer fees of individuals or organizations that successfully sue local governments over gun issues.

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Haslam on calls for veto of gun bill: ‘Probably wasting your breath’

Questioned about the most controversial gun bill approved by the legislature this year, Gov. Bill Haslam says there’s no point in vetoing a measure that passed by lopsided majorities.

The bill (HB508) makes it easier – perhaps even profitable – for gunowners and groups such as the National Rifle Association to sue cities and counties over any restrictions imposed on carrying firearms by persons with a concealed carry permit. A successful plaintiff, under the bill, could get triple the attorney fees paid in a legal challenge to a local ordinance.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and several groups have urged Haslam to veto the measure. Asked if he will, Haslam said he’s still officially reviewing the measure, then added (as quoted by WPLN):

“You can veto it, but if something passes two-to-one, you’re probably wasting your breath,” Haslam says. “So you’re better off to try to work on the front end to try to get the bill in as good a shape as it can be.”

In Tennessee, lawmakers can override a governor’s veto with a simple majority.

The bill passed the House 70-24. The Senate vote was 26-6. It also came back to the House for concurrence on a Senate amendment and that vote was 71-14. The bill reached his desk on May 18, according to the legislative website. Under the state constitution, he has 10 days from that date — excluding Sundays — to make a decision (which, it appears, would actually fall on Memorial Day).  Besides signing the bill or vetoing it, the governor can let it become law without his signature

Haslam: I’ll be thinking about school bus seat belts for a year or so

While he didn’t support mandatory school seat belt legislation this year, Gov. Bill Haslam says he’ll be thinking about doing so maybe next year, reports the Times Free Press.

Failing in the 2017 legislative session was a bill by Rep. JoAnn Favors, D-Chattanooga, to require that new buses put into service starting in 2919. Approved was a measure backed by the governor that calls for more training of school bus drivers and sets some new standards for the job.

“We’re going to continue to do work to say, ‘Are they the right answer today?'” the governor said last week to reporters. “And if they are, then we’ll figure out the financial piece. But as you know, there’s quite a bit of disagreement about whether seat belts were the right thing to do just from a safety standpoint.”

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Former Democratic Rep. Shepard named UT trustee; one of 186 newly-listed Haslam appointees

Maybe the most notable name on Gov. Bill Haslam’s latest listing of new appointments to state boards and commissions – well, at least from a political junkie perspective – is former Democratic Rep. David Shepard of Dickson.

Shepard, who did not seek reelection to the House in 2016 after 16 years in office, was named by Haslam to a seat on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees.

The listing also includes Haslam’s April appointment of Kenton pharmacist Richard Skiles to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission. A previous post on the Skiles appointment at the time (HERE) noted that a then-pending bill in the Legislature would let House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Randy McNally each make an appointment to the ABC board as well.

That bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this year, but later died in the House State Government Committee with no member making the necessary seconding motion. The result was pretty much the same as occurred in the 2016 session, where a similar bill passed the Senate and was killed in the House State Government Subcommittee. (This time, it at least got out of the sub.) Thus, the ABC remains a three-member board with the governor making all appointments.

Here’s the governor’s news release and listing of all 186 appointment to 68 boards and commissions.

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Haslam, Alexander defend Insurance Commissioner McPeak

Gov. Bill Haslam has come to the defense of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak, reports WTVF-TV, which earlier aired a report on her extensive travel on the job – 120 trips since Haslam appointed her to the position in 2011 with expenses paid by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

U.S.  Sen. Lamar Alexander also issued a statement supporting McPeak. Some of her travel has been to Washington, where she met with congressmen and testified before committees – including one chaired by Alexander.

From WTVF:

“Julie’s worked for me for six years. I am very convinced of her professional approach to this in terms of looking out for what’s the best interests of the state,” Haslam explained.

…The governor said someone in his office reviews all travel requests from commissioners. So someone there knew just how many trips McPeak was taking.

Said Alexander in a statement emailed by his staff:

“Julie McPeak has been very effective in working with Congress to solve a real emergency for nearly 200,000 vulnerable Tennesseans as she works to give them options next year and beyond. Unless Congress acts, these Tennesseans who have federal subsidies to purchase insurance in the individual market may have zero options for insurance next year. I’ve invited her to meet with me in Nashville, and at my invitation, she testified before the Senate health committee and again to brief senators.”

Note: Previous post HERE. The station reported McPeak was out of her office on trips for 117 days in 2015, 120 days in 2016.

Broadband bill gets ceremonial signing treatment

News release from the governor’s office

BROWNSVILLE – Before a meeting of the Governor’s Rural Development Task Force at H&R Agri-Power, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam held a ceremonial signing of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, the governor’s legislation to increase broadband access to Tennessee’s unserved citizens.

The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act permits Tennessee’s private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to provide retail broadband service, and it provides $45 million over three years in grants and tax credits for service providers to assist in making broadband available to unserved homes and businesses. In addition, the plan makes grant funding available to the state’s local libraries to help residents improve their digital literacy skills and maximize the benefits of broadband.
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Haslam signs bill that, he says, is NOT a ’20-week abortion ban’

Gov. Bill Haslam today signed into law the latest bill restricting abortion in Tennessee, despite some calls for a veto. Here’s the gubernatorial statement sent to media:

“I have reviewed the final language of SB 1180/HB 1189 and its potential impact.

“The Tennessee Infants Protection Act prohibits purposely performing post-viability abortions, except when a physician determines in his or her good faith medical judgment that either the unborn child is not viable or that the procedure is necessary to prevent serious risk to the mother.  Rather than being a “20-week abortion ban,” as some have described it, the bill requires physicians to assess viability beginning at 20 weeks gestational age, absent a medical emergency.

 “The Tennessee Attorney General has said he would defend this law, and the United States Supreme Court has not yet decided the mental health exception issue discussed in the Attorney General’s opinion. For those reasons, I have signed this legislation into law.”

UPDATE/Note: Here are a couple of contrasting press release reactions:

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Zero bids for Fall Creek Falls Park privatization

In a stinging setback to its privatization effort for Fall Creek Falls State Park, the Haslam administration’s proposed contract to outsource hospitality services has failed to draw a single bid from would-be operators, reports the Times Free Press.

Kim Schofinski, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, confirmed Wednesday there were no bidders for the request for proposals.

She said the department, meanwhile, is thankful the governor and state lawmakers “allocated funding to enhance the user experience at Fall Creek Falls, and we will evaluate how to best manage those resources as we move forward.”

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Haslam lauds legislature for passing latest free tuition expansion

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today thanked the General Assembly for its partnership in making Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer all citizens – both high school graduates and adults – the chance to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate free of tuition and fees and at no cost to taxpayers.

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Haslam lists highway projects to be completed in next three years

News release from Department of Transportation

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer today released TDOT’s annual three year transportation program, featuring approximately $2.6 billion in infrastructure investments for 101 individual project phases in 40 counties, as well as 15 statewide programs.

The three-year program is more robust than previous years, due to funding increases through the IMPROVE Act, which is projected to raise an additional $150 million to meet the state’s infrastructure needs in FY 2018. This increase, combined with $120 million repayment to the highway fund, provides the necessary funds to move several backlogged and new transportation projects forward in the first year of the program. Those include:

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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