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Mr. Summerville Goes to Nashville

Even in this year of the Republican rout, the idea that a political nobody would unseat one of the state’s most prominent conservative rural Democrats would’ve seemed pretty far-fetched on election eve.

But Senator-elect Jim Summerville is a nobody no more. He pulled off what was arguably the biggest upset of the 2010 elections in Tennessee, knocking off Dickson Democratic state Sen. Doug Jackson by just under 1,000 votes.

Perhaps even more surprising is that to Summerville the outcome wasn’t all that big a surprise — although he did cop to being “kind of stunned” when he woke up last Wednesday.

In fact, though, the handwriting was on the wall after the Aug. 5 primary for all who cared to deconstruct it, said Summerville, an Austin Peay State University English instructor. Once all the primary election votes were tallied — 13,735 for Summerville, 12,542 for Jackson — he  started suspecting in earnest that his odds of winning weren’t as long as conventional wisdom would have put them.

In the following months, he ran a $2,400 campaign — compared to the incumbent senator who spent $13,000 in that same period of time, but ultimately headed into election day with $28,500 still in the bank.

Final score on Nov. 2: Summerville  21,436 votes, Jackson 20,528 — 51 percent to 49 percent.

But not only did Summerville catch his Democratic opponent flat-footed, the Republican Party didn’t take his chances of winning seriously, said Summerville, who emphasizes that he sees himself as a “citizen legislator” and regards the tea-party movement as a base of support.

“I do know that the (Republican) party apparatus did not work to recruit me and looked kind of askance at me, as like ‘Who are you?’” Summerville told TNReport at the Capitol in Nashville on Tuesday.

Republicans failed to realize the district’s potential for change, he said — and probably for good reason. “Sen. Jackson remains a popular man,” said Summerville. “He represented the district for a long time. Lots of friends, lots of contacts, lots of people, so I had an uphill fight, no question about it, but I could see it was doable.”

Voters to Decide if ‘Personal Right’ to Hunt & Fish is Reasonable

The term “reasonable” doesn’t appear in the U.S. or Tennessee Constitutions, except for proscriptions against the government carrying out “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

But the Tennessee Wildlife Federation — with the endorsement of all but three members of the state Legislature — wants to add that word, and 59 or so others, in the form of a constitutional amendment that would place hunting and fishing on the list of legally protected rights enjoyed by Tennesseans.

The amendment, which if passed would be added to the section of the Tennessee Constitution that grants state government the authority “to enact laws for the protection and preservation of game and fish,” reads as follows:

“The citizens of this state shall have the personal right to hunt and fish, subject to reasonable regulations and restrictions prescribed by law. The recognition of this right does not abrogate any private or public property rights, nor does it limit the state’s power to regulate commercial activity. Traditional manners and means may be used to take non-threatened species.”

The process of getting the measure before voters has been years in the making. Conceived in 2004, the language has twice been approved by the General Assembly — most recently, this past legislative session — and must now attract “yes” votes from a majority of voters participating in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

Critics of the amendment suggest that a change to the Constitution is unnecessary and excessive.

Argues the state’s largest metropolitan newspaper, “a simple resolution would have sufficed to send the message that hunting and fishing is here to stay.” Furthermore, the use of the word “reasonable” is “vague and open to interpretation.” It could, for example, embolden litigious malcontents to challenge licensing and fee requirements placed upon sportsmen by the Tennessee Department of Fish and Wildlife and thus jeopardize “a crucial revenue source,” the Tennessean editorial board worries.

Those concerns, however, don’t appear to be shared by state government wildlife managers.

Nat Johnson, TWRA assistant executive director of staff operations, said the term “reasonable” sounds reasonable enough to officials and attorneys with the department, although he noted that the agency cannot by law take a formal stance of support or opposition on the measure.

Officials do, however, offer that they in no way see the language of the amendment as hindering “the responsibilities of the agency to set manner and means” for taking fish and wildlife, said Johnson, who also serves as TWRA’s legislative liaison to the Tennessee General Assembly.

“Legal staff has looked at this, and they have not seen it become an issue in any other states,” he said. “They haven’t seen that it provided any avenues for people to challenge a state’s ability to regulate and set reasonable rules and regulations.”

More than a dozen other states have guarantees of hunters’ rights written into their constitutions, and others are considering measures.

Tennessee Wildlife Federation CEO Michael Butler told TNReport his group consulted closely with state wildlife officials, constitutional attorneys and the chief legislative sponsors of the amendment, Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, and Rep. Joe McCord, R-Maryville, to ensure that the amendment language enumerates the desired right without undermining state government fish and wildlife management authority.

“Most people already think they have a right to hunt and fish. So for most people, this amendment is just confirming what they already thought,” Butler said. “They can’t really imagine not being able to do it.”

However, the whole point of the amendment, he said, is to add a layer of legal defense against political activists and pressure groups that believe hunting and fishing not only aren’t “rights,” but probably shouldn’t even be tolerated by government.

Constitutionally speaking, “all it would take now to get rid of a hunting or fishing season is a vote by the Legislature,” Butler said.

Johnson confirmed that the department advised the wildlife federation on the amendment “almost since its inception.”

“We worked to achieve a comfort level that we thought everybody could live with,” he said.

Vanderbilt constitutional law professor James Blumstein noted that although the term “reasonable” isn’t one you’ll find in constitutional language, it “permeates our law.”

While a subjective interpretation might at times be “fairly debatable,” Blumstein said, judges generally approach it from the standpoint of asking if government has “a rational basis for doing something, and that it meets a reasonableness test.”

“There will be some deference to the regulation, but the regulations have to be reasonable,” he said. In situations where hunting rights conflict with public safety, private property or species management goals, Blumstein said he believes the amendment leaves the government “ample authority to regulate.”

“But what the government cannot do is to simply say we’re against hunting, on the grounds of policy, or that we think that is immoral or that it’s inappropriate in some way, and just have a flat-out ban,” Blumstein said. “Most rights in the Constitution are not absolute rights, and this is recognizing that the right to hunt may exist, but it is not absolute.”

Senate Overrides Bredesen’s Guns-in-Bars Veto

Sen. Doug Jackson went on an uninterrupted 16-minute speaking spree on the Senate floor Thursday, during which he unloaded a magazine’s worth of withering criticism at advocates of restricting the right to carry firearms for self defense.

“The problem is not law-abiding citizens with guns, the problem is criminals with guns,” said Jackson, a Democrat from Dickson. “The problem is not the gun, it is who has the gun.”

The issue at hand was the guns-in-bars legislation the Tennessee General Assembly spent much of the 2010 session reloading after a Nashville judge trigger-locked last year’s version. Gov. Phil Bredesen vetoed the latest legislation a week ago, and as expected, the Senate overrode his veto in decisive fashion Thursday, 22-10. A similar result is likely in the House, as the governor has himself said he expects.

But Jackson took the opportunity of the vote to declare the issues at stake in the debate are much broader than just the guns-in-bars matter, per se, or the governor’s veto of it.

“Can we call ourselves ‘free’ if government attempts to arbitrarily dictate how, when, where — or even if — citizens can defend themselves? Should not government have to at least establish a compelling interest to restrict fundamental rights?” Jackson asked at one point. “If not, if your answer to that question is no, then can you call it a right?”

As for the veto itself, Jackson asserted that Bredesen basically ignored the political reality that one way or another the General Assembly was again going to pass legislation allowing guns in places where people consume alcohol. He suggested the governor essentially abdicated his place at the negotiation table on the issue in favor of maintaining a dead-end public posture of intransigence.

“For two years I have asked the administration to work with us on all provisions of this bill,” Jackson said. “This session I asked the deputy governor and the director of legislative affairs to communicate with the bill sponsors and the committees on safeguards the governor referenced last year in his veto announcement.”

“I directly asked the governor personally to work with us and communicate with us what he would like to see in this legislation,” Jackson added. “To date, I have had no communication whatsoever from the administration — none about what provisions this bill should or should not have in the view of the executive branch.”

The governor’s spokeswoman, Lydia Lenker, defended her boss following Jackson’s remarks in an email to TNReport: “The Governor has clearly communicated his concerns with this legislation with the members of the General Assembly, through his public statements and through his veto messages to the House and Senate Speakers. He believes this bill violates the fundamental principle that alcohol and guns don’t mix.”

Judging by the quiet aftermath of Jackson’s take-no-prisoners rhetorical rampage, he must’ve hit some of his targets — or at least aimed true enough to startle them into hunkering down — as there wasn’t a man standing to try rebutting or deflecting any of Jackson’s hail of words.

The only Senator to even attempt returning fire was Beverly Marrero. The Memphis Democrat indicated she and the constituents for whom she speaks had taken up positions against Jackson’s bill as a result of their agreement with the notion “that it is not a good idea to have guns in bars, and places that predominately serve alcohol.”

“I think that most of my constituents agree with that premise,” said Marrero. She asked that Jackson “respect (her) right to disagree.”

During the course of his barrage, Jackson accused the governor — and others who staunchly opposed the bill — of resorting to “emotion and fear” and employing platitudes like “guns and alcohol don’t mix” in place of legitimate policy discussion rooted in facts, evidence and historical experience. He blasted his foes for cleaving to their “fundamental principle” that firearms and booze-serving establishments are incompatible with one another while ignoring that Tennesseans enjoy the “fundamental right” to defend themselves with a gun if they so choose.

They also disregarded provisions that make it illegal for a gun-carrier to consume “one drop of alcohol,” he said.

“The right of self-defense is the right that transcends any constitution and any law,” Jackson said. “So I ask, what evidence exists to justify governmental restriction on this issue? You will not find the answer to that in the veto message of the administration.”

Bredesen’s veto message, dated May 18, did contain a passage stating that while he “value(s) the constitutional right that allows me to protect my home and family…this fundamental right has long been exercised within common-sense, reasonable rules.”

“These rules don’t diminish our collective freedom, but instead ensure that this fundamental right is exercised in a manner that ensures the survival of the right itself,” Bredesen wrote.

The governor also noted that the Volunteer State has “long prohibited the possession of firearms in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.” Bredesen proclaimed that the bill passed last year by the General Assembly was “reckless and lacking in basic safeguards to public safety.”

Rather than taking a “more responsible approach” after last year’s law was ruled unconstitutional, Bredesen continued, lawmakers “re-passed last year’s legislation in an even more expansive and dangerous form.”

He went on to urge the Legislature to “rethink the issue.”

Jackson did indeed give some indication that he’d been mulling the bill a bit lately, and the governor’s veto — along with the attached notice, which Jackson assured the Senate he’d read “very carefully.”

“Frankly, the veto notice contains clichés and conclusions, but I ask the members to look at it closely for what you do not see,” he said. “The veto notice is totally void of facts, data, statistics or information of any kind to substantiate the position of the executive branch. It shares no evidence that supports his decision to veto. ”

“The governor has asked the legislature to re-think the issue,” Jackson concluded. “I respectfully ask the executive branch to ‘think’ the issue, and I ask for your support.”

Sen. Jackson’s Guns-in-Bars Veto Override Speech

Transcript of Remarks by Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, May 27, 2010:

“Today, I rise for the second time to ask this Senate to override the veto of legislation that provides law-abiding citizens the right and ability to protect themselves in establishments across the state.

“Let me begin by saying, I respect the governor of the state of Tennessee. I respect the office that he holds, and the office which the people of Tennessee have allowed him to hold. I appreciate his good and accomplished service, and his accomplishments are considerable. However, on this issue, I respectfully submit the governor is wrong.

“In his veto notice, the governor says that Senate Bill 3012 lacks ‘basic safeguards for public safety.’ What are the safeguards to which the governor refers? It remains a mystery to all lawmakers.

“For two years, I have asked the administration to work with us on the provisions of this bill. This session, I asked the deputy governor and the director of legislative affairs to communicate with the bill sponsors and the committees on safeguards that the governor referenced last year in his veto announcement, safeguards that the executive branch would like to see contained within this bill. I directly asked the governor, personally, to work with us and communicate with us about what he would like to see in this legislation. To date, I have had no communication whatsoever with the administration about what provisions this bill should or should not have in the view of the executive branch.

“If the governor believes the legislation poses a threat to public safety, then I believe we could all agree that communication should have occurred between the executive branch and the legislative branch, as it has on hundreds of other issues this session, many of which dealt with issues far less important than public safety.

“Since the only communication from the executive branch has been the veto notice that was disseminated to the public and the media and to each of us, I have taken the time to read it very carefully. Frankly, the veto notice contains clichés and conclusions, but I ask the members to look at it closely for what you do not see, because the veto notice is totally void of facts, data, statistics or information of any kind to substantiate the position of the executive branch. It shares no evidence that supports his decision to veto.

“For example, the veto notice states that ‘Guns and alcohol do not mix.’ A truism. I completely agree, as does every member of this Senate, which is why Senate Bill 3012 makes it a crime for a permit holder to consume a single drop of alcohol and for enhanced consequences should a permit holder fall under the influence of alcohol. If the governor submits that a permit holder having dinner in a restaurant that serves alcohol results in more gun crime, then should he not share the evidence of that with this Senate and the House? We have asked for some information; it has not been produced.

“The veto notice implies the bill lacks ‘common sense.’ Ladies and gentlemen, the ‘common sense’ argument is usually employed when the evidence is best ignored. And when the evidence in favor of Senate Bill 3012 is so compelling, I can understand why critics would choose to ignore that evidence. This General Assembly examined the evidence very carefully and very thoroughly. And based on evidence, not emotion, the legislation has passed the House and the Senate with bipartisan, super-majority votes last year and this year.

“The veto letter attempts to fuel emotion and fear by describing the legislation as reckless and dangerous. Again, there is no evidence to support such inflammatory descriptions, which I submit is intended only to fuel opposition to the bill and create fear within the public.

“In 1997, the General Assembly passed a law requiring the issuance of a permit to any citizen who completes a training course, passes a practical and written test, submits an application under oath with a photograph and fingerprints, and then passes a criminal background check. Those who were in the legislature at that time can remember the outcry from critics of the legislation, including many in the news media, who characterized the legislation as the ‘Wild West Bill’ and predicted bloodshed in the street and great harm to public safety. They described that bill as reckless and lacking in common sense. Today, we know that those critics were wrong. With over 300,000 permits now issued or processed in the state of Tennessee, and that number increasing by approximately 5,000 a month, with a 40 percent increase in Davidson County in the last two years, we have a clear record of safety and responsibility that is irrefutable – a record that goes back 13 years. Tennessee’s good experience is shared by the millions of permit holders in 45 states which issue permits. Now, those states extend from Vermont to Alaska, Texas to Minnesota, California – every state surrounding the state of Tennessee but one allows permit holders to carry in establishments that serve alcohol.

“And yet, the experience in those states has not been bad. The experience has been very positive. Law-abiding citizens have now proven that they can be trusted, that the problem is not law-abiding citizens with guns; the problem is criminals with guns. The problem is not the gun. It’s who has the gun.

“Since 1997, Tennessee’s permit holders have been allowed to be armed in most places such as streets, sidewalks, office buildings, grocery stores and markets, malls and most restaurants. You can go to Shoney’s, Cracker Barrel, McDonald’s, Burger King or just your favorite diner out in the country. Permit holders have been dining with our constituents for many, many years, and I bet your experience has been the same as mine. I have never had a complaint from a single citizen because a permit holder made them feel uncomfortable. Not a one.

“In 1980, only about 6 states were shall-issue permit states. Today, that number is about 45. As those permit laws were debated over the years, critics, the media and some criminologists often claimed that good citizens could not be trusted, and that more crime would result from such laws. Over time, the debate among criminologists has narrowed. I challenge the news media to show me differently. The debate today is not whether permit laws result in an increase in crime. The debate is whether they have no effect on rates crime, or they reduce rates of crime. It’s between no effect and good effect. No one argues that the permit laws across the country have resulted in more crime, because as millions of permits have been issued, we have seen the crime rate in this country plummet. Sort of a remarkable idea, isn’t it? You let law-abiding people defend themselves when they feel the need for that, and crime levels fall.

“This legislation will allow permit holders to lawfully enter establishments that serve alcohol, such as O’Charley’s or Ruby Tuesday, provided the owner has not posted the property and provided the permit holder not consume a single drop of alcohol. Again, lawmakers have looked at the evidence before voting on the legislation. The facts reveal that in the 40 or so states that allow permit holders to enter establishments that serve alcohol, the laws in those states have not resulted in an increased rate of violent crime. To assume that permit holders will suddenly become lawbreakers when they enter an establishment where alcohol is served not only defies common sense, but it defies clear evidence provided by the real-world experience of most states in this country over many, many years. By the way, every state bordering Tennessee except North Carolina allows permit holders to enter establishments where alcohol is served. Florida, while not a bordering state, has allowed this for 22 years. The evidence is available, the experience is clear.

“Critics have gone so far as to claim that this law will tarnish our economy, that it will drive tourism away from the state of Tennessee. Well, where will it go? Most states have a law in place that is the same or similar to what is being proposed in Tennessee. Tennessee is not leading the way on this issue. Tennessee is one of the last states to follow.

“No one is advocating that everyone should carry a gun. But I do advocate that every good, honest, law-abiding citizen should have the choice to do so. The right to self-defense is a right that transcends any Constitution or any law. Can we call ourselves free if government attempts to arbitrarily dictate how, when, where or even if citizens can defend themselves? Should not government have to establish a compelling reason to restrict fundamental rights? If not, if your answer to that question is no, then can you call it a right? So I ask: What evidence exists to justify governmental restriction on this issue? You will not find the answer to that in the veto answer from the administration.

“Every day, as we watch the news and hear about terrible crimes – murders, rapes, assaults, home invasions – we sometimes forget about the victims and the victims’ families. In many neighborhoods, gangs and violent crimes are pervasive. They’re a part of neighborhood life. Remember: Many good and honest citizens must live next to criminals and thugs and drug dealers and gangs. They’ve got to go to work in the dark and they return home in the dark, and they’ve got to secure themselves behind barred windows and security doors. Why would we tolerate any law that makes it more difficult for good citizens to carry a defensive weapon, if a good citizen believes it’s necessary for their defense or defense of family?

“Crime can occur anywhere. Does it matter to critics of this legislation that a woman is 2.5 times less likely to be injured or killed when confronted with violence if that woman is armed? Does it matter that an armed citizen is almost never harmed or killed when forced by dire circumstance to display a firearm when confronted by violent crime? The evidence shows that the criminal stops aggressing. Why would we keep laws in place that require good citizens to disarm, increasing their chances of becoming a victim?

“Senate Bill 3012 is about defending a fundamental right under the state and federal Constitution, the citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. It is about trust of law-abiding citizens. It is about individual choice and responsibility. It is about respecting the good citizen’s right of self-defense. It is about acknowledging that laws only apply to the citizens who obey the laws, not the criminals. In spite of the excellent record of safety and responsibility established by good, honest citizens across this country and across this state, the veto message of the Governor says, ’I do not trust you, and I do not need evidence to support my position. I simply don’t trust you. I veto this because I can.’

“The Governor has asked the legislature to re-think the issue. I respectfully ask the executive branch to ‘think’ the issue, and I ask for your support on Senate Bill 3012.”

Lawmakers Blast Bredesen’s Guns-in-Bars Veto

Both barrels of the General Assembly are loading up and aimed at overriding Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s veto of legislation allowing firearm permit-holders to pack heat in any Tennessee establishments that sells beer or firewater.

Under the legislation, SB 3012, any bar or restaurant could post signs banning guns. If the owners do not, permit carriers would be allowed to enter with their pieces — so long as they don’t partake in drinking alcoholic beverages.

The vote on the final 2010 version of the bill in the House was 66-31. In the Senate, it passed on a vote of 23-9.

But the prohibition alone against booze consumption while possessing a weapon isn’t good enough for the governor. In his veto message released Tuesday afternoon, Bredesen indicated he believes allowing citizens to even bring guns into an establishment that serves wine, beer or liquor violates the general rule of thumb that “guns and alcohol don’t mix.”

Bredesen, who says he is a gun owner himself, observed in his veto statement that the legislation passed by both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly this year is little different than the legislation passed in 2009. That law was later was ruled unconstitutional by a Nashville judge, who said the provisions of the measure dictating where patrons could or couldn’t legally carry were too confusing for the average citizen to understand or figure out on their own.

Bredesen said he values “the constitutional right that allows me to protect my home and family.” But the governor indicated he believes the bill violates “common-sense.”

Referring to government-imposed bans on guns in places that serve alcohol, the governor wrote, “These rules don’t diminish our collective freedom, but ensure that this fundamental right is exercised in a common-sense manner that ensures the survival of the right itself.”

Legislators of both partisan stripes however promise that it’s the governor’s veto that won’t ultimately survive.

Dickson Democrat Doug Jackson, the chief Senate sponsor of the legislation this year and last, said the governor’s veto “was expected,” and that he recognizes the issue is an emotional one.

Jackson added, though, that he hopes people who believe in the democratic process will take solace in the assurance that “supermajorities” of Tennessee’s elected representatives “have looked at this very carefully,” and determined the general public has little to fear.

“During the time that the law was in effect, I didn’t hear one complaint from restaurant owners or patrons,” Jackson said. “The concerns perpetuated by opponents of this legislation were unfounded, and they will be proven so again.”

The House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Curry Todd, a Collierville Republican, was unavailable for comment, but in a press release issued by the House Republican Caucus he said, “This bill passed by two-thirds in both bodies, indicating that there is strong support for this measure.”

In a telephone interview with TNReport.com, House Republican leader Jason Mumpower of Bristol, said, “I think we will probably override it faster than a speeding bullet.”

Mumpower said he believes the vote on the override in the House will come next week. That is likely the same time the Senate will vote on the matter, since that chamber is not meeting in session this week.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey weighed in as well, saying he is “confident we will override his veto, just as we did last year.”

“The legislation simply expands the ability of law-abiding permit holders to defend themselves and others in establishments which serve alcohol,” Ramsey said of the guns-in-bars bill. “It also allows owners to ban all weapons from their establishments and prohibits permit holders from consuming alcohol. Tennessee citizens who undergo the education and training required to obtain a permit should not be forced to relinquish their right to self-defense and the defense of their loved ones.”

Legislators Move Toward Rewriting DUI Law

A bill that advanced in the state Senate this week would give some DUI offenders more driving options after a conviction.

Under an amendment to SB2965 brought by sponsor Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, some first-time, non-aggravated offenders would be given a choice of whether to get a restricted license or have an interlock device installed on their vehicle in order to legally drive.

Right now, such offenders can only get a restricted license, which places geographic restrictions on a where a person can drive, like just to and from work, school, and church. But if a person convicted of a DUI offense chooses to get an interlock rather than a restricted license, the offender would no longer face such driving restrictions.

The amendment would also require that the interlock be installed on only one vehicle operated by an offender, rather than on all vehicles owned or operated by an offender, as current law stipulates.

One goal of the bill, according to proponents, is to encourage more offenders to use interlock devices. In addition to making the streets safer, they say, funds from the increased use of breath-activated ignition devices would go to offset their costs to those whom the court has deemed indigent.

Offenders with multiple DUI violations, or first-time offenders who are considered “aggravated” — which includes getting caught with a blood-alcohol content of at least .15, driving drunk with a child in the vehicle, driving drunk and being involved in an accident, or violating the implied consent law — would still be required to have an interlock device.

In 2008, there were 21,033 DUI convictions in Tennessee, according to Roger Hutto, a representative from the Department of Safety. He said 13,000 were first-time offenders, and 3,877 of those eligible for a restricted license obtained one.

Some lawmakers on the committee indicated that the low number of people getting restricted licenses shows the current law is already hard to enforce and that there may not be much of an increase in the number of interlock users.

“The cost of a DUI is very, very high,” said Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson. “A lot of these people are just working people who haven’t got two nickels to rub together. The cost and consequence of a DUI are beyond their means.”

“You know what they are doing?” he continued. “They’re getting a restricted license – they’re driving anyway. People are going to do what they are going to do. Some of these people…it’s just an unfortunate circumstance they find themselves in and they’ve got kids to feed and a mortgage to pay.”

“It’s all on the honor system, anyway,” he added.

Beavers countered that people would choose to have the interlock device rather than a restricted license because of the fewer restrictions of having an interlock device under her amendment.

“I think that’s going to be an incentive for people to get the interlock, and we’re going to be safer on our streets,” she said. “The Department of Safety has told us this (legislation) will save 200-300 lives a year, and I think we have to ask ourselves, ‘What are those lives worth?’”

Beavers also downplayed the cost DUI offenders face after conviction.

“How much are these people spending on alcohol (already)?” she asked rhetorically. “What are they taking away from their families right now with the amount they have to drink every day to get up to a .15 (blood alcohol content)?”

Jackson said while that might be true for some people, “some just get caught coming home from the family reunion.”

Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, said the fees for the devices vary greatly because of the lack of a competitive market in the state, allowing some vendors to charge “what they want to charge.”

“There isn’t competition…until there’s a market presence by more than one vendor, and we’ve not been shown any proof to that effect,” he said. “While there are people who are in the business, there are people in the business with 20 locations, and there are people in the business with just one or two locations.”

Since current law requires that vendors charge a “reasonable” fee, Kyle suggested a cap or a fee structure.

In response, the committee adopted an amendment by Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, that would limit installation fees at $70 and monthly fees at $100.

That may be revisited by the Senate Finance Committee, where the bill is headed next, after Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, suggested the Legislature give the Department of Safety the authority to set the fees so the Legislature does not need to revisit the fees every year.

Action on the companion bill in the House was deferred by a subcommittee Wednesday morning.

Sen. Jackson Wants Tougher Penalties for Crimes Against Women, Kids

Press Release from Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, 23 Feb. 2010:

Bill would make murderers of pregnant women eligible for death penalty

NASHVILLE – Sen. Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) will present two bills in a Senate committee Tuesday afternoon that enforce harsher penalties for crimes committed against pregnant women and young children.

“We have a duty to protect those who are vulnerable, and pregnant women and children are the ultimate examples,” Jackson said. “Criminals who commit heinous acts against these groups deserve punishments that fit the crimes.”

Under Senate Bill 2392, a killer convicted of first-degree murder for knowingly killing a pregnant woman automatically would become eligible for the death penalty or life without parole. The bill will give a jury the opportunity to impose an appropriate punishment against a murderer of a pregnant woman, thereby assuring justice for society and the victim’s family.

“A premeditated murder against a pregnant woman is repugnant to society,” Jackson said. “The tragic loss of a mother-to-be is particularly shocking and harmful to a family. The family loses much more than a wife and a mother.”

Senate Bill 2388 requires convicted child rapists who complete their prison sentences to be supervised by an officer of the state of Tennessee for the rest of their lives.

During his time in the legislature, Sen. Jackson has sponsored bills that made the sex offender registry public and accessible via the Internet, as well as the legislation that required state lifetime supervision of sex offenders. Child rapists would be added to that list under SB2388.

“I have led the charge against sex offenders in Tennessee,” Jackson said. “Child rapists should serve long sentences without parole, and once they have completed every day of their sentences, they should never be released back into our communities without active supervision by a state officer.”

Both bills are scheduled to be discussed during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday in LP12.

Senator Doug Jackson represents Dickson, Giles, Hickman, Humphreys, Lawrence, and Lewis Counties. Contact him at sen.doug.jackson@capitol.tn.gov or (615) 741-4499 or 302 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243-0025.