The state gives legislators thousands of dollars each year to cover the costs of communicating with constituents, and Sen. Stacey Campfield is the first to use that money to air "legislative updates" on cable TV, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.
The money — $6,832 annually for state senators and $2,016 for reps — is typically used on postage and printing costs. Lawmakers tend to stockpile those dollars and either use them on mailers shortly before the elections or transfer funds to fellow legislators. While the state prohibits lawmakers from including political references or postmarking the communications fewer than 30 days from the election, critics argue the communications give incumbents an edge over political challengers. The Dean has more on who gave, who received, and how sitting legislators are spending that money.
The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill repealing a key compromise built into the 2009 so-called guns-in-parks law, although the House is planning to soften the measure before sending it to the floor.
The upper chamber voted 26-7 Thursday in favor of a bill sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, that would repeal local government’s ability to ban guns in their parks, essentially allowing gun possession by handgun carry permit holders in any park in the state.
The vote landed largely along party lines, although Memphis Democrat Ophelia Ford voted in favor of the bill and East Tennessee Republican Doug Overbey voted against.
Overbey told the Republican Caucus before the vote he’d vote “no,” pointing out the state permits discretion for private businesses to ban guns in their establishments but would refuse that power to local governments.
“To say a city can’t do that doesn’t make any sense to me,” he told the members.
The House version of the bill was taken off notice earlier this month, a moved designed to take a timeout to make the language “a little more palatable to our local governments,” House Speaker Beth Harwell told reporters after the Senate vote.
“We believe in Second Amendment rights. We want to be sensitive of that. We also want to be very sensitive of the fact that local governments have their place to play as well. These are local parks financed by our local government, patrolled by our local governments, so I think they should have some say,” she said.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean wrote a letter last month asking lawmakers to reject the bill. Guns are currently banned in Metro's 121 parks and 19 greenways, per a vote by the Metro Council.
Gov. Bill Haslam has expressed “major concerns” over taking authority away from local governments earlier this year. Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey together told newspaper reporters and editors last week they see the issue making it to the floor in both chambers.
Stacey Campfield has a bill.
“This stops all these silly lawsuits that say you can’t say ‘merry Christmas’ or ‘happy Hanukkah’ or have a Christmas tree,” said Campfield, R-Knoxville, who has pre-filed SB1425 for consideration by the General Assembly in 2014.
While unaware of a specific case where Christmas has become an issue in Tennessee schools, the senator said he knows of people “afraid of lawsuits” and passage of the bill would provide them with reassurance.
“The ACLU is always freaking out about that stuff,” Campfield said.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU in Tennessee, said the ACLU is interested in the subject but the senator’s concerns are greatly exaggerated and she cannot recall any legal action involving a Tennessee school’s holiday activities or even a case of the “blatant religious proselytizing” in schools that would trigger ACLU concern.
Richard Briggs' campaign to unseat Stacey Campfield is off to sputtering start.
Briggs comes into the senate race with many built-in advantages:
He’s a pillar of his community. He’s happily married. He’s a respected cardiac surgeon. He’s a veteran and, indeed, a war hero. He has given his time to work in disaster areas and among the medically underserved. He has been a responsive, responsible member of County Commission who has served with far more distinction than controversy. And he is demonstrating considerable fundraising prowess in his senate run.
Campfield, on the other hand, is a fame-seeking, serial embarrassment to mainstream Republicans. When Briggs announced early this year, he seemed a cinch to take Campfield out.
But so far, Briggs has stumbled over an embarrassing series of piddly gaffes that have given Campfield enough “free” media to cancel out his lack of cash: a silly robo-call glitch by an independent pollster associated with Briggs, taking money from former Mayor Mike “lobster-to-go” Ragsdale, engaging the services of uber-insider Tom Ingram. All of this handed the controversial incumbent enough ammunition to stand his ground against an opponent who should be wiping the floor with him.
And the hits just keep on coming.
Craig Leuthold’s father, Frank Leuthold, a longtime and highly-respected former county commissioner, is also Briggs’ campaign treasurer. Perhaps out of loyalty to Frank, Briggs did himself no favors last week when he nominated and voted for Craig for trustee. This is not to say that the younger Leuthold is a bad person, or even a bad choice.
The KNS with more.
Stacey Campfield wants to make it possible for a candidate to run as a multi-party candidate:
Campfield said his proposal is based on current practices in New York. "It just allows that if a third party wants to stay on the ballot, they can," he said.
Kyle said his proposal is aimed at giving a voice to people interested in smaller parties' platforms, and not forcing them to side with Democrats or Republicans.
"We shouldn't be pigeonholing people," Kyle said. "I think this is a fair and reasonable way."
Kyle said he won't try to stand in the way of Campfield's proposal.
"It seems rather complicated, but if the Senate adopts it, I'm fine with it," he said.
Fun, partially related fact: Charles Plympton Smith, uncle of Haslam flack Dave Smith, served in the Vermont House of Representatives having been nominated by Democrats and Republicans.
The Dean's column on how far is too far for Republican lawmakers presents this little dichotomy:
An example is Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron's resolution calling for a legislative study committee to meet this year and come back next year with recommendations on Tennessee setting up its own currency system, so as to be ready for the "likely" collapse of the Federal Reserve System.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey was asked about that one and replied he was not familiar with the proposal, but "I can't imagine we're anywhere close to that." Since the lieutenant governor has a pretty good sense of Republican mood, we may assume that one goes a bit too far.
On the other hand, Ramsey said he thinks a proposal by state Sen. Stacey Campfield to establish a legislative committee to recommend federal laws that should be nullified by Tennessee is "an excellent idea." So that one is not necessarily past the line of going too far in the conservative states' rights agenda.
Perhaps Sen. Campfield is anticipating a slate of drug legalization laws that would put us in conflict with the Federal Government, or maybe he's preparing for enforcement of some consumer protection laws, I'm not sure...
Betsy Phillips notes a couple of dog-related bills proposed by Stacey Campfield:
The second piece of dog-specific legislation Campfield has filed would make it illegal for a dog to be in the driver's seat of a vehicle while unrestrained (SB0621). No person shall operate a motor vehicle with an unrestrained animal in the front driver seat. For the purposes of this section, a restrained animal means an animal secured in a harness or vehicle seat, confined in a box, or hard or soft sided travel crate, or being held by a person in the front passenger seat or in a rear seat. Now, I'm not a lawyer, but this wording is confusing. Can I have my dog in the driver's seat as long as she's wearing a seatbelt? They don't appear to make car seats big enough for my dog, so is it okay if she just sits in the back seat? Or does someone have to be holding her? And it's still cool if she drives, right?
POSTDATA: WARRANTY DEEDS