House kicks guns-in-parks, plazas legislation back to Senate

It took the House 45 seconds to non-concur with legislation that would allow gun carry permit holders to bring their firearms into the Capitol and Legislative Plaza.

In a swift vote without debate, the House voted 74-17 to reject the amendment added by Senator Jeff Yarbro, a Nashville Democrat looking to foil a largely Republican plan to allow guns in parks despite the objections of local governments.

“I would prefer that it go to conference (committee) and iron out some things that I think need to be addressed,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell who said she wants to see the capitol complex taken out of places where guns would be allowed and expects Rep. Jeremy Durham to suggest ironing out language about how close guns can be to parks used by schools.

The legislation, which removes local government’s authority to ban guns in their parks, now moves back to the Senate which approved the amendment 28-0. The upper chamber will likely also vote to non-concur, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris told the Associated Press.

“Well, Gardenhire feels like a sitting duck down there. He needs all the protection he can get,” Norris laughed to Post Politics before the evening's floor session. 

Gov. Bill Haslam, not a fan of the legislation in either form, told reporters Monday he has “major concerns” with the bill but stopped short of staying he would consider a veto.

A Senate vote can come as soon as Thursday but may not happen until Monday, according to the Senate clerk’s office.



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House sides with higher pseudoephedrine thresholds

After debate about meth ruining lives, the state creating hoops for allergy sufferers and the integrity of lawmakers’ loyalty oaths, the House overwhelmingly approved a bill limiting how much of certain cold medicine people can buy.  

Although the measure passed 80-17 in the House, it was not until lawmakers waded through thick debate indicating the chamber is unwilling to accept stricter limits on how much allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine people can buy without a prescription.

The House prefers limits of two 2.88g boxes of medicine like Sudafed and Claritin-D per month and no more than a five-month supply per year without a prescription. The products include pseudophedrine, a drug used to produce meth.

“If someone tries to push that number too much, they risk losing everything we’ve gained,” said Rep. Tony Shipley, who has led the opposition in the House against the governor’s preferred limits which he says are too restrictive for allergy sufferers.

The administration and Senate would prefer tighter restrictions, namely setting the limit at two 2.4g boxes per month and a two and one-half months worth before needing a prescription.

So would Rep. David Hawk, who is running the bill. He had closely aligned to the administration's restrictions before agreeing to the House’s current limits in order to advance the bill in committee. He refused to commit to members on the floor Wednesday that he would stick to his chamber’s limits if the House and Senate are forced to work out their differences in a compromise committee.

“I think both the House and Senate would need to show a little flexibility,” said Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons, who favors stricter limits but added, “Our goal is to get the very best bill that both the Senate and the House will agree upon.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is carrying the bill in the Senate. He told the Nashville Post that gravitating towards the House version will “be an easier sell” if the governor’s office is willing to go with the House version, although he earlier said the debate could turn into an all-or-nothing proposition. Influential Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally said he prefers the governor’s stricter limits but would reserve judgement until the bill makes it into the Senate chamber. The bill has yet to be scheduled for a Senate floor vote.

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The Senate approved a bill forcing a delay on the Memphis school merger:
While Norris said the bill is needed for a planned and orderly transition, Kyle argued that it is a state intrusion into a local issue with major ramifications on taxes and the economic development of the city and county. And Marrero charged that it's a "thinly veiled attempt to set up special school districts" and that the appointed commission will be unbalanced in favor of the suburbs.
Feb 8, 2011 8:00 AM

Messier Memphis

Mark Norris and Brian Kelsey have filed more bills in the MCS=SCS merger brouhaha:
New state legislation filed Tuesday by Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris of Collierville would require a countywide referendum for merging Memphis and Shelby County Schools and allow for a new municipal school district in the county.A separate measure filed by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, would place Memphis schools into a special "achievement school district" if a March 8 referendum to transfer authority over MCS to SCS is approved. Under Kelsey's measure, the new district's three-member board would be appointed by state officials and the district's teachers would lose their right to collective bargaining at the end of their current contract with MCS. The latter provision is a new concept in the merger debate that appears designed to punish city teachers or stoke their opposition to a referendum.
Feb 2, 2011 7:28 AM