‘Petland bill’ passes Senate, fails in House
A bill setting state standards for pet store operations while restricting their regulation by local governments was approved by the Senate but then failed on the House floor Monday evening after extensive debate.
The final House vote was 45 yes, 47 no with two present and not voting. Fifty votes are required for passage. The measure known as “the Petland bill” (SB519) had passed the Senate 19-11.
Much of the debate in both chambers came over amendments to exempt various counties and cities from being covered the bill sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville.
All such efforts failed in the Senate, but the House approved three of 13 such efforts – applying to Blount County, Sumner County and the City of Hendersonville. All the amendment votes were close – ties in two cases.
Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, who sponsored the Blount County exemption amendment, said the legislature in recent years has adopted 40 laws taking authority away from local governments in one way or another and “this is another loss of self-government.”
Rep. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville, who failed in an effort to exempt Knox County, declared “we are neutering our locals.”
Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, said he disagrees with many past efforts to strip authority from local governments but the bill goes beyond those efforts because the legislature is complying with the wishes of one individual from out of state – a reference to a businessman seeking to expand Petand franchises within Tennessee.
“We’re allowing an outsider to come into our state and tell our cities what they can do or what they can’t do,” Parkinson said.
Marsh said the bill is not for one company and there are about 10 pet store companies, all in favor the legislation.
Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, said legislators have been misled about the bill in lobbying by the Humane Society of the United States, which he called a “radical animal rights group” that has the ultimate goal of forbidding ownership of animals.
In one part of the bill, as amended by the Senate, the measure states that any local governments cannot enact or enforce any ordinances dealing with pet stores. In another place, however, it says that locals retain the right to act on animal cruelty, enforce zoning restrictions and other named activities.
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, called that situation confusing and House Majority Leader Glen Casada at one point tried – and failed – to have the measure sent back to committee for further study of the Senate amendment.
Marsh said the upshot was that the only thing that locals could not do was ban the pet stores – as has occurred elsewhere in the nation.
Under House rules, Marsh can bring the bill back to the floor for another try later in the session.
UPDATE/Note: See also the Nashville Post report, HERE.