Legislature

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

UT gets diversity funding back; legislator waits to see if ‘they’ll clean up their act’

Amid considerable controversy, the Legislature last year diverted $445,882 of University of Tennessee-Knoxville funding from its Office for Diversity and Inclusion and into a minority engineering scholarships fund. But the legislative mandate expires June 30, meaning UT officials could again spend it on promoting racial and cultural diversity on campus.

From a News Sentinel review of the matter:

It’s one of the first major decisions new UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport will have to make on campus and one that state lawmakers, many of whom have voiced opposition to the diversity office in the past, will closely be watching.

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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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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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Ron Ramsey: House members were punished for opposing gas tax hike

Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says there was “some punishment” levied against state House members who opposed Gov. Bill Haslam’s fuel tax increases, reports the Johnson City Press. He spoke at a Transportation Coalition of Tennessee press conference, one of several being held around the state by the group that promoted the fuel tax and hired Ramsey as a consultant.

“I think there is some in the House who would not vote for any kind of, what they perceived as, a tax increase. And that’s just wrong because the overall bill cut taxes,” Ramsey… said. “There was no doubt, in the end, that there was some punishment levied against some House members on funding. Not against the Senate members, but against the House members.”

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Lamar Alexander really likes one bill passed in 2017 legislative session

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, though generally declaring a reluctance to involve himself in matters of state policy despite his status as a former governor, has made an exception in the case of a bill imposing a temporary block on construction of wind-powered electricity generation that was signed into law last week. The measure meshes with his status at the national level as a big opponent generally of wind power and a big proponent of nuclear energy for electricity generation.

The wind energy moratorium bill (HB1021 by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, and Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta) is basically a compromise between Apex Energy, which plans a big wind turbine development near Crossville, and intense opposition to the development from Cumberland County constituents of Sexton and Bailey who would be impacted.

The deal allows the company to continue its preliminary work, though not beginning actual construction while the moratorium runs until next July 1 – basically in accord with company plans. In the meantime, a legislator committee will look at whether the state government should regulate wind turbines and give its recommendations to the General Assembly in January.

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander (belatedly posted)

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 12, 2017 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said Governor Haslam’s signature on legislation approved by the Tennessee General Assembly will give Tennesseans “an opportunity to decide whether we want our landscape littered with unreliable wind turbines over two times as tall as the skyboxes at the University of Tennessee football stadium.”

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New TN ‘Campus Free Speech’ law praised as ‘most comprehensive ‘ in the nation

The Tennessee version of a “Campus Free Speech” bill, signed into law earlier this month by the governor after approval by lopsided margins in the legislature, is getting some national media attention – most recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s roundup of similar legislation across the nation.

It starts like this:

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Legislative mandate on teaching TN history gets 11th hour revival

In the windup of the legislative session, the House and Senate unanimously voted to require teaching of a semester on Tennessee history in public schools, a quick action that followed a long-running debate in and out of the legislative hallways.

 Chalkbeat Tennessee reports the move comes just as the state is poised to poised to adopt new social studies standards that include fewer state-specific history facts.

But the bill (HB1169, as amended and approved) doesn’t specify when the semester of Tennessee history teaching will occur and how it would bit into teaching of other subjects.

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Lawsuit may follow latest get-tough-on-illegal-immigrants legislation

A bill passed late in the legislative session authorizes Tennessee judges to give illegal immigrants longer sentences than citizens when they are convicted of felonies. The Tennessean reports the measure may lead to a lawsuit and courts have struck down similar measures in other states.

Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and Rep. Ron Gant, R-Rossville, SB1260 passed the House 66-17 and the Senate by a 28-3 margin. Final approval came on May 10, last day of the session, with the House signing off on a Senate amendment (67-13).

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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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