Gov. Bill Haslam equates the legislative push to override local government gun bans in parks as a property matter rather than a constitutional one.
“City councils and county commissions have said, ‘OK, our taxpayers have paid for that park,’ and their elected representatives, I think, should get to decide what happens in the parks,” he told reporters after making a jobs announcement in Dickson. "To me, it’s not a Second Amendment right. It’s the same right anybody should have with a property they control."
Haslam stopped short of saying he'd veto the bill. In noting that the measure is now on the move in the House, he said, “We’ll have to see once it winds its way to me.”
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee advanced the bill this week, despite the governor's “major concerns” expressed earlier this year. Those concerns also didn’t stop the Senate, which voted last month 26-7 to allow handgun-carry permit holders to bring their gun with them into parks, regardless whether local municipalities have banned them.
While House Speaker Beth Harwell has said she sees a guns-in-parks bill passing this year, she has said she wants to make the bill more “palatable” to local governments. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has also weighed in by asking members of the legislature to leave local authority to ban guns in municipal parks alone.
Speaker Harwell said narrowing a school voucher program ultimately to the bottom 10 percent of schools was the only way it would get out of committee, and she's OK with that. Gov's office says Haslam will continue pushing to focus program on low-income students in their lowest-performing schools.
A key commissioner has headed off House Local Government Committee Chairman Matthew Hill's push for a vote on a bill that would have required the administration to give the legislature a heads up when it lays off state workers.
In a letter dated March 4, Human Resources Commissioner Rebecca Hunter promised the legislature her department in the future will call individual lawmakers in counties affected by any state layoffs.
“No one thought to do it,” Hunter told reporters, adding that some agencies already may inform members but up until now there was no administration-wide standard. “Our preference is any time we can do something by policy, it’s much easier to fine tune it and make it better. It’s a policy, it’s really easy to do that versus when it’s in state code.”
The change in state policy comes after weeks of negotiation with Hill on his bill that started off asking for General Assembly approval for more than 10 layoffs that had not already been run by the legislature. He revised it Tuesday, requiring the administration inform chairs of the House and Senate Government Operations committees any time more than 50 employees are unexpectedly laid off.
Hill pulled his bill after Hunter told the House State Government Committee her agency would change its policies and now inform individual legislators when more than 25 state workers are laid off.
“It’s a 100 percent victory. I got what I wanted,” he said.
The legislation was one in a string of bills pushing for more legislative authority from the executive branch, including wanting the legislature to have greater say on who sits on various boards and commissions and wanting direct approval of expanding any Medicaid expansion proposed by the governor's office.