A barometer of conservative trends in the General Assembly

→ Posted on Apr 29, 2011 - 10:35 AM

The 107th General Assembly represents the first time since perhaps the Civil War that the office of Governor and both houses of the General Assembly have been under complete Republican control. As firearms owners, voters, and generally conservatives, members of the Tennessee Firearms Association have looked forward to this year as one in which clarifying reforms to Tennessee’s laws would flow smoothly through the General Assembly.  We have looked forward to changes in the laws which would remove infringements on personal liberties and freedoms, which would reduce the size of government, which would restore individual rights and return the balance of government to civilian stewardship.  Some might conclude that practically none of this has in fact been the hallmark of the work of government under Republican control so far.

Looking at the 61 bills which we have been tracking so far this year, the one bill which was “promised” more than any other was a small change in the law which would protect permit holders who commute to and from work from being criminally prosecuted or losing their jobs if they left their defensive weapon stored in their personal vehicle (which is a location protected to individual rights under the current version of Tennessee’s “Castle Doctrine”).  There are a couple versions of that bill which was introdued.  One has a Democrat sponsor and likely is dead simply because of that fact. 

The Republican incarnation of the employee parking lot bill is SB2061 (Campfield) / HB2021 (Evans).  HB2021 was filed in good shape.  However, in the House Judiciary it was gutted to remove any protections for the individual and was rewritten to provide immunities for businesses, sadly a trend we have seen in many other bills this year.  We understand that the bill has had practically no NRA support, that few TFA members have been involved with it but that as many as 15 business lobbyists have been fighting it.  That bill made it to the House floor with the “pro-businesss” amendment on it this week. 

Once HB2021 was on the House floor on Wed April 27, Rep. Eddie Bass (D), who has been a consistent supporter of individual rights particularly for firearms owners, offered an amendment that would have restored the bill to protect the rights of individuals as originally intended.  A motion was made to “table” Rep. Bass’ proposed amendment.  A tabling motion is a motion to kill a proposed amendment.  That tabling motion failed by a vote of 35 to 51 which was a strong indication that the amendment would in fact pass on the floor.  Immediately upon the failure of the tabling motion, Rep. Evans (R), the bill’s sponsor, moved it back to the Judiciary committee from whence it came and to which it will likely die at the hands of Republicans. 

Given the promises of so many Republicans to support Tennessee’s firearms owners, it is interesting to look at those who voted “Aye” on the tabling motion (Republicans are in bold):

      Present and not voting…....................5

      Representatives voting aye were: Brooks H, Brooks K, Butt, Carr, Casada, Coley, Dennis, Dunn, Eldridge, Ford, Harrison, Haynes, Hurley, Keisling, Kernell, Lundberg, Marsh, Matlock, McCormick, McManus, Miller D, Montgomery, Odom, Powers, Ramsey, Roach, Sargent, Sexton, Shipley, Sparks, Weaver, Williams R, Wirgau, Womick, Madam Speaker Harwell—35.

      Representatives voting no were: Alexander, Armstrong, Bass, Brown, Camper, Cobb, Cooper, Curtiss, Dean, DeBerry J, Favors, Fitzhugh, Floyd, Forgety, Gotto, Halford, Hardaway, Harmon, Hensley, Holt, Johnson C, Johnson P, Jones, Lollar, Matheny, McDaniel, McDonald, Miller L, Moore, Naifeh, Niceley, Parkinson, Pitts, Pody, Rich, Richardson, Sanderson, Shaw, Shepard, Sontany, Stewart, Swann, Tidwell, Tindell, Todd, Towns, Turner J, Turner M, Watson, Williams K, Windle—51.
      Representatives present and not voting were: Campbell, Faison, Gilmore, Hill, Ragan—5.

33 of the 35 votes to table the Bass amendment that would have protected handgun permit holders as they commute to and from work were REPUBLICANS.  It is also interesting to note that many of those voting not to table the amendment are individuals such as Jimmy Naifeh who typically do not support removal of restrictions on Tennessee’s handgun permit holders so it could be hard to get a good read on what this vote meant.

What it means to Tennessee’s firearms owners and hunters, however, is that the promises made by Republicans to support Tennessee’s firearms owners are being diluted by apparent stronger allegiances to business interests than to individual rights.

It is critical that Tennessee’s firearms owners get active and wear the phone and emails out in the next few days in order to send all elected officials a reminder that we are the voters who put them in office and we are not pleased with the direction in which they are headed.

Contact information for all legislators is available at the Legislative Directories for Senate and House Members.

In addition, you can contact legislators through the TFA’s Action Center.

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