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TFA Criticizes Safe Commute Bill as a Trap for Employees

Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; February 13, 2013:

HB0118 is the House version of the Safe Commute law. It was presented by Rep. Faison in House Civil Subcommittee on 2/13. It passed out easily on a voice vote and without any debate from any Republican members of the committee – all of whom had been alerted to the omissions and holes in the bill in advance.

What will surprise some people is that the bill does not protect the employee’s job – it only removes some criminal penalties (there may still be possible criminal charges such as criminal trespass).

Essentially, the law is a Georgia style law because the employers will retain the ability to fire any employee with cause (that is, deny you unemployment benefits) if you are found to be or are even suspected to have a firearm in your car.

See 11 minutes into the video…

http://tnga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=269&clip_id=7054&meta_id=132801

This bill is poorly written, it creates traps for employees.

It also explains why Federal Express, and the other very vocal opponents of the bill are not making the same kind of fuss that they have made the last 4 years to this bill. There is no loud opposition because they have been given the escape clause that they wanted.

We understand that the NRA is supporting this bill.

The bill next goes to the full committee – perhaps as early as next week.

Retiring, Defeated Lawmakers on Taxpayer-Funded Getaway

Updated Aug. 7, 2012: Sen. Roy Herron called and said he had planned to attend the conference but decided against it due to a family emergency.

Six Tennessee legislators leaving the General Assembly this year are expected in Chicago this week on what could amount to a taxpayer-funded junket.

Four retiring legislators and two state reps who lost their bids for re-election in last week’s primary have given the state notice they plan to get reimbursed for attending the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit in the Windy City that began Monday, a trip that could cost as much as than $2,500 in registration, airfare, hotel stay, per diem and cab rides.

They are Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, and Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, who lost their primaries, and retiring lawmakers Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill; Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap; Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden; and Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington.

One of the General Assembly’s highest-ranking Republicans says he trusts that the departing lawmakers have good reasons behind their decisions to make the trip.

“I know it will be beneficial to the others who attend to get the benefit of their wisdom and their years of service,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. “I think discretion is the better part of valor with these things, and obviously they’ve exercised their discretion and think it’s fine to go. I’m not passing judgment on it.”

Legislators are permitted to let taxpayers foot the bill for out-of-state legislative trips, complete with a per diem, travel and lodging expenses. Even outgoing lawmakers are entitled, said Connie Ridley, director of Tennessee’s office of Legislative Affairs.

“Members of the General Assembly serve as a legislator until the general election in November,” Ridley said in an email. “They are no longer eligible for compensation of any form the evening before the November general election.”

Richardson says she may have lost her primary election, but she still has legislative responsibilities to handle at the conference.

“I signed up because I am one of the representatives, there’s just a couple of us, who represent Tennessee on the Health Committee,” she said. “These are working committees where we share what we’ve done, and find out what other states have done and make policy recommendations for states. So, because I represent Tennessee on the health committee, I still need to come to the meeting.”

Attempts to reach Montgomery for comment were unsuccessful.

A handful of retiring lawmakers are also on the trip, including Naifeh and Faulk, according to their offices. Herron and Harmon’s offices did not respond to requests for comment.

Legislators can collect a $173 per diem each of the four days of the conference, for $692 total. Registration to the NCSL event ranges from $549 to $690, depending on when lawmakers registered for the conference online. Guests were encouraged to reserve rooms in downtown Chicago with rates ranging from $199 to $227 a night if locked in prior to Aug. 1. Lawmakers can also be reimbursed for airfare, which runs about $300 roundtrip, and cab rides, which average between $25 to $42 from the airport to the convention site.

If lawmakers decide against splitting hotels and cab fare, the cost to taxpayers could approach almost $2,500 for the four-day, three-night trip.

But no money has left the taxpayers’ pocket yet, Ridley said. Lawmakers will have to submit receipts to have their travel expenses paid for once they return, although the conference’s registration will be billed directly to the state.

While the practice is legal and learning how other state legislatures are tackling difficult policy issues is valuable, sending outgoing lawmakers on an out-of-town trip is still “questionable,” said Dick Williams, chairman of Tennessee Common Cause, a government accountability advocacy group.

“I have mixed feelings about the appropriateness of those going who will not be coming back, whether by the election or their own choice,” he said. “If they’re going to continue to do something in public life, they could make good public use of that.”

Here are the other 22 lawmakers slated to attend, according to the office of Legislative Administration:

House of Representatives

Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge

Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis

Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis

Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley

Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville

Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon

Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge

Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville

House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin

Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar

Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna

Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville

Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis

Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory

Senate

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville

Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis

Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis

Sen. Steve Sutherland, R-Morristown

Sen. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis

Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson

NFIB Picks Favorite Incumbents to Support In August Primary

Press Release from the National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee Chapter; July 6, 2012: 

NFIB Endorses Candidates in 5 Senate, 20 House Primaries

NASHVILLE, July 6, 2012 – The National Federation of Independent Business, Tennessee’s leading small business association, today said it has endorsed candidates in 25 state legislative primary races. The endorsements were made by NFIB/Tennessee SAFE (Save America’s Free Enterprise) Trust, which is comprised exclusively of NFIB members. State primaries are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 2, with early voting beginning July 13 and ending July 28. NFIB expects to announce general election endorsements later this summer. The general election will be held Nov. 6.

“NFIB supports candidates who understand how important it is to reduce burdens on small business,” said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB/Tennessee. “These candidates have consistently supported less taxation and have worked diligently to improve our unemployment and workers’ comp systems.”

Endorsements by Senate and House Districts (NFIB members bolded)

Senate District, Name

2, Doug Overbey

14, Jim Tracy

18, Ferrell Haile

28, Joey Hensley

32, Mark Norris

House District Name

2, Tony Shipley

5, David Hawk

6, Dale Ford

8, Art Swann

10, Don Miller

11, Jeremy Faison

12, Richard Montgomery

20, Bob Ramsey

22, Eric Watson

24, Kevin Brooks

27, Richard Floyd

31, Jim Cobb

45, Debra Maggart

48, Joe Carr

61, Charles Sargent

66, Joshua Evans

71, Vance Dennis

90, John DeBerry

96, Steve McManus

99, Ron Lollar

NFIB’s endorsement is critical to these campaigns. Small business owners and their employees vote in high numbers and are known for actively recruiting friends, family members and acquaintances to go to the polls. NFIB has pledged it will activate its grassroots network on behalf of these campaigns. NFIB’s political support is based on the candidates’ positions and records on small business issues.

Feds’ Decision to Scrap New Child Farmworker Restrictions Welcomed by Ag Interests

Tennessee farmers are breathing a sigh of relief after the Obama administration retreated from a proposal to restrict the kinds of agriculture-related jobs people under the age of 18 can legally perform in America.

Rhedona Rose, executive vice president for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, said rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor last summer seeking to ban, for example, children younger than 16 from being employed to operate certain mechanized farm equipment, like tractors and hay balers, drew significant opposition across Tennessee.

“We received more comments on this issue last fall than anything else we were dealing with,” said Rose. “We were very, very pleased last week when we heard that the president and the U.S. Department of Labor decided to back away from these proposed rules.”

In fact, the U.S. Labor Department acknowledged it was inundated with complaints from across the country’s countrysides. It announced Friday it would no longer pursue the changes, saying the decision was “made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms,” according to a department press release.

“To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration,” the statement read.

Tennessee state Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, sponsored legislation earlier this year that prohibited state and local government entities in Tennessee from facilitating or helping enforce any new federal rules limiting the kind of work kids can do on the farm.

The legislation, HB2669, passed the House 70-24-1 and the Senate 28-0. It was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam April 16.

Faison said Tennessee farmers and legislators who voted in favor of his measure deserve credit for encouraging Washington to rethink a misguided policy.

“I feel like this is one time that government got it right,” said Faison. “Many states, not just ours, and farmers all across America, stood up and said, ‘Listen, this isn’t okay.’”

The proposed rules were backed by organized labor and progressive advocacy groups, which argued some farm work is too dangerous for underage employees, as evidenced by it having the highest rates of injury and death for young people in the workforce.

“Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America,” U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said back in August when the new rules were unveiled. “Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach.”

Reid Maki, coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, a group at the forefront of the push for stricter regulations, blasted the Obama administration for caving to pressure from agriculture groups and hysteria orchestrated by the president’s political opponents. “There was tremendous heat, and I don’t think it helped that it was an election year,” Maki told the Washington Post after the labor department’s decision was announced last week. “A lot of conservatives made a lot of political hay out of this issue.”

Sally Greenberg, co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition, said in a statement Monday that “agriculture is by far the most dangerous industry that large numbers of teens are allowed to work in.”

“Nearly 100 kids are killed on farms each year,” she continued. “The Department of Labor’s sensible recommendations — based on years of research indicating the jobs in which teen injuries and deaths occur — sought to protect these hired farmworkers. Unfortunately, the proposed rules fell victim to misinformation and exaggeration from the farm lobby.”

The Tennessee Farm Bureau’s Rose said that while there’s no doubt farm work can indeed be dangerous, kids who grow up working on farms tend to take lessons about the importance of safety to heart. She said farm-oriented organizations like 4-H and Future Farmers of America are always trying to improve how they teach kids about the fundamental importance of safety around dangerous crop- and livestock-production operations.

“Anytime you’re working around agriculture, you have to be very, very aware of the dangers around you, whether you’re a child or an adult,” Rose said. “But I think most children who grow up on a farm have a better sense of danger, and a better sense of what to be careful around than, oftentimes, children who are not exposed to those types of jobs.”

She added that most people who live and work in rural areas believe the lifestyle builds a strong work ethic and sense of self-reliance that will help a young person become a responsible, capable adult.

“I daresay that most adults today who had an opportunity to work on a farm when they were younger would cite the experiences of working on a farm to building them into the type of person, the type of adult that they are today, and they feel good about those experiences,” said Rose.