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Judicial Appointment Council Sends 3 Names to Haslam for 3rd District Circuit Court Vacancy

Press release from the Administrative Office of the Tennessee Courts; February 11, 2015:

The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments met on February 11, 2015 in Greeneville to hold a public hearing and conduct interviews of candidates for the circuit court vacancy in the 3rd Judicial District, which serves Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, and Hawkins counties.

After interviewing the candidates and conducting a vote, the Commission has submitted the following three as nominees to Gov. Bill Haslam for the vacancy:

Kenneth Newton Bailey, Jr.
Greeneville

Beth Boniface
Morristown

Linda Thomas Woolsey
Greeneville

The vacancy was created by the death of the Honorable Michael Faulk, who died in November.

Faulk Appointed Third District Circuit Court Judge

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; June 27, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Mike Faulk as circuit court judge for the Third Judicial District, replacing Judge Kindall T. Lawson, who retired effective June 1.

“Mike will bring vast experience to the bench,” Haslam said. “He has served his state well in the past, and I know he will serve the citizens of the Third Judicial District well in this new role.”

Faulk, 59, has worked in The Faulk Law Office in Church Hill since 1982. He served as a Tennessee state senator representing Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Union counties in the 106th and 107th Tennessee General Assemblies. While serving as a state senator, he was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, among other duties.

“I am deeply humbled by the Governor’s confidence in me, grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of East Tennessee and privileged to work with the other judges and court personnel of Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins and Hancock counties,” Faulk said.

As an attorney, Faulk has tried hundreds of cases and dozens of jury trials across Tennessee involving a wide range of cases in both state and federal courts, including workers compensation and criminal injury compensation, administrative hearings, real estate closings, probate, criminal defense, malpractice defense, products liability and landlord/tenant relations.

Faulk served on the Tennessee Human Rights Commission from 1985-1991, serving as vice chairman from 1989-1991. He has served as a Hawkins County Juvenile Court referee, town attorney in Mount Carmel and city attorney in Church Hill.

He has written for the Tennessee Bar Journal and the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Magazine and has been a lecturer, including serving as adjunct faculty member at East Tennessee State University.

Faulk received his juris doctorate in 1979 from Memphis State University where he received the Kirby Bowling Labor Law Award as outstanding labor law student for 1979. He received a master’s degree from Memphis State in 1978 and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 1975. Faulk is an 8th generation Tennessean and is the father of two adult children.

McCormick: Lawmakers’ Travel Rules Need Changing

Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pick up the tab for lame-duck lawmakers taking out-of-state trips, says House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick.

But he won’t ask outgoing legislators who traveled to Chicago this week for the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual summit to pay the bill themselves, he told reporters Thursday. The lawmakers are either retiring or have been booted by voters in the primary but still chose to take the publicly-funded trip, TNReport revealed Tuesday.

“I think the rules ought to be changed in the future, though,” McCormick said, although he didn’t say whether he would spearhead revising the practice.

“They’re on the way out. They’re not going to have much time to use their experience to benefit the taxpayers and their constituents,” he said. “But the ones that are there now, they did it under the old rules.”

When asked why the rule hadn’t been changed in the two years Republicans have been running the chamber, he said he “just wasn’t thinking.”

“If I lose a primary two years from now, I will not be going on trips,” he told reporters.

House Speaker Beth Harwell said she allows legislators to be reimbursed for one out-of-state legislative trip per year, and she has no problem sending retiring and outgoing lawmakers to the conference if that is the one they choose to go to.

“I don’t think in any way it was an attempt to misuse the system,” she told TNReport. “That was their one trip, and so that was decided many months ago by my staff. So, I’ll respect their decision as legislators that that’s they way they chose to use their legislative trip.”

The House and Senate speakers gave four retiring lawmakers the green light to get reimbursed for the trip, which could cost as much as $2,500 in registration, airfare, hotel stay, per diem and cab rides.

Those lawmakers are Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill; Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap; and Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington. Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, was also approved to go on the trip, but said he decided against it after family emergency.

Both House Education Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, and Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, were in attendance at the conference, according to legislative staff, although both had lost their bids for re-election less than a week before in the primary.

Outgoing lawmakers can collect payments such as per diem and travel benefits up to the day before the November election. The state constitution outlines that members belong to the Legislature beginning the day they win the general election, and thus stop earning any compensation the close of day the on the eve of the election, said Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.

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

AG Selection Measure Falls Short

A handful of state Senate Republicans jumped ship and joined ranks with Democrats this week to narrowly defeated a GOP-driven measure to change how the state picks its top lawyer.

The proposed constitutional amendment would have stripped away the Supreme Court’s power to appoint the attorney general and given it to the governor and the Legislature. The measure fell short by one vote Monday after three Republicans voted against the bill and another two refused to weigh in.

“This system, whether you agree with it or don’t, has functioned well, and it’s not time to amend it,” said Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, who voted against the measure. “As others have said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and I respectfully submit that’s the best response to proposals that would change our Constitution.”

The attorney general is too far removed from the people — as is the Supreme Court, which handpicks the AG, said Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, the measure’s sponsor. The arrangement makes for a conflict of interest any time the attorney general argues before the state’s highest court, she said.

“I doubt that anyone can say with a straight face that it is fair to have the state’s chief lawyers arguing the most important cases in front of the very members of the court who appointed him,” said Beavers, who chairs the Judiciary Committee.

Republicans in the Senate first turned their attention to the attorney general last year in their frustration over current Attorney General Bob Cooper’s refusal to join a national legal battle against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Cooper contends that hopping on the bandwagon to fight the so-called “individual-mandate” portion of the health system overhaul would have been a waste of time and money because the issue was already headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is expected to announce in June a decision in the suit brought by 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and two individual plaintiffs.

Attempts last year to require the attorney general to be elected never advanced out of legislative committees. This year’s measure, SJR693, called for the attorney general to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature to serve six-year terms. The attorney general currently serves eight-year terms.

The measure failed on a 16-15 vote. It needed 17 votes to stay alive, although it would have needed majority approval in the House and a supermajority, or two-thirds support, vote again before the 2014 election when voters would decide the issue.

Republicans voting against the change were Sens. Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville; Doug Overbey of Maryville; Jim Summerville of Dickson. GOP senators who were present but opted against weighing in were retiring Sen. Mike Faulk of Church Hill and Rusty Crowe of Johnson City.

Gun Rights Bills Advance in Senate

Senate committees sided with gun owners over business owners Tuesday afternoon, moving two pieces of guns-in-lots legislation after weeks of debate and delay on the issue.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB3002, which prohibits employers from banning the storage of firearms in cars on company lots. The Senate’s commerce committee passed a companion bill, SB2992, which prohibits “employment discrimination based on an applicant or current employee’s ownership, storage, transportation or possession of a firearm.” Both bills were brought by Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill.

As expected, SB3002 was amended so that it only covers gun carry permit holders. Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, further amended the bill to include licensed hunters over 21. Another amendment added exemptions for single-family homes, nuclear facilities and United States Department of Energy sites, such as one in Oak Ridge.

Memphis Democrat Beverly Marrero expressed concern about applying the bill to licensed hunters, citing the lower standard of training and expertise required to obtain such a license as opposed to a carry permit. An Associated Press reporter apparently ordered one during the committee’s discussion for $27.

An amendment proposed by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, would have given the directors of K-12 schools and university presidents the authority to make their own decision about whether to allow the storage of firearms in their parking lots. The committee rejected that proposal, 5-3.

Citing the changes to the bill’s scope, Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, requested that the committee hear from representatives from FedEx and other companies, who had previously appeared before the committee to voice their opposition to the legislation. Faulk attempted to placate Ford by asking business representatives in attendance to stand if the amendments changed their position in any way. No one stood.

Moments later, judiciary committee chair Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, denied the request and called a vote on the bill, which passed 6-1. Marrero voted no. Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Collierville, and Ford abstained from the vote.

Faulk’s employment discrimination bill was amended so that it remained consistent with SB3002, but eventually faced more opposition. Sen. Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey, called the bill a “job killer for the state of Tennessee,” and Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, expressed concern that the new age restriction would open the door to discrimination against 18-, 19- and 20-year-old employees who are licensed hunters.

Sen. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis, joined Burks and Stewart in voting against the bill, which passed 6-3.

Unlike the Judiciary Committee, legislators in the commerce committee did hear from business representatives. As Faulk had suggested earlier, their feelings on the matter were unchanged.

Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry lobbyist Bradley Jackson called the bill “the worst bill” that any state had brought forward on the issue. Dan Haskell, a Nashville attorney representing the area Chamber of Commerce, added, “We were against it before. We’re against it now.”

National Rifle Association lobbyist Darren LaSorte said while the group  does not support restricting the bill to carry permit holders, the legislation still has NRA support. He said the bill appropriately respects the rights of those on both sides of the issue.

“We think this is the perfect balance. We think the property rights intersect where the rubber meets the asphalt,” he said. “So as long as that firearm is being kept in that person’s private vehicle, we’re honoring the private property rights of the property owner who owns the parking lot or the business where employees are prohibited from carrying.”

Faulk Refining Guns-in-Lots Bill

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters Wednesday that a long-gestating guns-in-lots proposal would “find a lot more favor” with his administration if it more closely resembled similar legislation in Georgia.

Sen. Mike Faulk’s SB3002 would prohibit employers from enacting policies that ban workers from storing firearms in their cars on company lots. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday delayed action after Faulk referred to a few tweaks he’d be making to the bill.

A companion bill, SB2992, that would prohibit “employment discrimination based on an applicant or current employee’s ownership, storage, transportation or posession of a firearm.” The Senate’s commerce committee delayed action on the legislation Tuesday and it is still awaiting a vote in a House subcommittee.

Faulk told TNReport Wednesday that amendments were finished, but hadn’t been filed.

“Both bills are pared back to cover gun permit carry holders only, so it isn’t nearly as broad in scope as the original bill,” he said. “I believe the second amendment exempts nuclear facilities. Those are the only two I’ve seen, and at this point, the only two I expect to file.”

Representatives from the state attorney general’s office appeared before the committee Tuesday to present the AG’s opinion, stating that the legislation is constitutionally defensible.

“While there is limited case law on this issue and a difference of opinion among commentators, two courts in other jurisdictions have upheld bills similar to SB3002 against constitutional challenges,” the opinion stated.

In Georgia, a similar law contains multiple exceptions, including one allowing for such prohibitions in cases where the employer is also the property owner. The long list of exemptions in the law has lead some to question its true effect.

The Tennessee Firearms Association, which has been a thorn in the side of Republicans throughout the conservative-on-conservative debate, released a statement Wednesday suggesting that further delays and changes to the legislation could lead firearm owners to oppose the bill completely. The release called Faulk’s amendments “nothing but appeasement by these Republican leaders to the “Golden Goose” of corporate money.”

Told of the TFA’s comments, Faulk said he hadn’t seen the comments.

“But, if they’ve not seen my amendments, I would say that’s a little premature,” he said.

Judges, Lawmakers Strike Deal on Ethics Board

Lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed Tuesday to compromise legislation that would revamp the Court of the Judiciary, an ethical watchdog panel charged with probing and punishing judges accused of improper or unprofessional behavior.

Members of the committee found common ground on a list of provisions that will rename and reconstitute the makeup of the body with the intent of emboldening it to more aggressively investigate complaints against judges. The new board would also be required to report on its official inquiries to top House and Senate leaders.

“Nobody is completely happy, and nobody is completely miserable, and I hope that’s the situation we’ve arrived at,” Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, said just prior to the 8-0 judiciary committee vote on Senate Bill 2671.

The key change requires that the board hand the two General Assembly speakers a rundown of statistics on each judge reprimanded more than once. Information on “public reprimands” is already available, but “private reprimands” would be available only to the speakers.

“We’re very satisfied with that,” said Criminal Appeals Judge Jeff Bivins, who worked with the Legislature to broker the deal.

“We think that’s a fair balance because the Legislature has an obligation under their impeachment power to have notice of what’s going on,” he said.

Concern that the Court of the Judiciary lacks independence, transparency and resolve has existed for some time. In September Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Mae Beavers hosted a series of hearings examining purported flaws within the Court of the Judiciary. The key phrase lawmakers like Beavers have used to sum up what they see as the core dysfunction within the Court of the Judiciary is “judges judging judges.”

The Mt. Juliet Republican, who has been the driving force behind judicial ethics reform, offered little in the way of comment to the committee as the sponsor gave her credit for pushing the issue, saying only, “I think you can say I’ve been a lightening rod, and I feel it.”

Senate Bill 2671 would set up a new panel to review ethics complaints against judges, called the Board of Judicial Conduct. It would still be controlled by judges.

Ten current or former judges, appointed by various councils of judges, would sit on the panel. In addition, the governor and chamber speakers would each pick an attorney and a layperson to join the board, for a total of six non-judges.

The bill also requires a subcommittee within the panel to decide whether to trash a complaint or use it to launch an investigation. That group would be required to have at least one non-judge. Currently, the board’s disciplinary counsel decides whether a complaint has merit, not its members.

The last time bill sponsor Sen. Mike Faulk ran a similar measure in the committee, it stalled on a 3-3-3 tie.

Judges and reformers in the Legislature have argued over the bill. The latest reincarnation results from a compromise by the judges. Prior to adding the component sending information to the speakers, the measure faced criticism in the House where some lawmakers argued the new board still lacks public accountability and gives judges too much power to police their own. The House Judiciary Committee still approved the bill, advancing it to another committee.

If the plan passes, it would dissolve the current Court of the Judiciary on June 30 and launch the Board of Judicial Conduct July 1.

Faulk, R-Church Hill, said he expects the full Senate to consider the bill Monday. The House measure faces a vote in the Government Operations Committee Wednesday before it can proceed to the full chamber.

Lawmakers Praise Naifeh Upon Retirement Announcement

As Jimmy Naifeh prepares to hang up his title as one of the longest sitting legislators in the Tennessee General Assembly, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say he leaves behind a legacy of determined leadership.

Naifeh, who presided over the House of Representatives as speaker for 18 years, the longest in the state’s history, announced he would not run for re-election his year.

“Governor McWherter always told me when it was time to go home, I’d know it. After talking with my family and friends, I believe the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of leaders,” he said, admitting he “certainly played hardball, just once or twice,” during his time in office.

“Whatever he told you, you could take it to the bank,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told reporters Thursday, shortly after the 72-year-old Naifeh declared on the House floor it was time for him to pass the torch to fellow Democrats.

“He has really been a fixture that stood for what he believed in, even though lots of times I disagreed with him,” the Blountville Republican continued. “He’ll be missed in this institution. I mean that.”

Naifeh’s announcement drew the attention of not only his House colleagues, but senators, who recessed their chamber to watch his announcement, along with Comptroller Justin Wilson, who watched on bended knee behind Naifeh’s chair in the back of the chamber.

“He was an incredibly strong and powerful speaker, and he knew what he wanted to do and always tried to move very definitively in that way,” Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters Thursday, speaking after a press conference on reducing obesity at the Tennessee Hospital Association headquarters in Nashville. “He was going to do what he said, whether you liked it or not.”

Naifeh’s political biography stretches 38 years to his election in 1974. The Covington Democrat was elected Speaker of the House in 1991. He served uninterrupted under Governors Ned McWherter, Don Sundquist and Phil Bredesen.

“Naifeh used the speakership to say what he thought ought to be done,” said Sen. Doug Henry, D-Nashville, the Legislature’s elder statesman, who began serving in the Senate four years before Naifeh was elected to the House. “He was such a definite individual, that I think that impressed itself on the House primarily, but actually on the entire Legislature.”

In the early 2000s, Naifeh was a vocal advocate for instituting an income tax — a debate that sparked protests on Capitol Hill and what House Speaker Beth Harwell described as “clearly a turning point” leading to the rise of the Republican Party taking over the General Assembly and Naifeh’s loss of the gavel.

“I think yes, it was very helpful to us in obtaining our majority status,” said Harwell, who had allowed Naifeh to preside over the chamber shortly after making his announcement.

“It became a battle cry that helped us ascend,” added Ramsey, who served in the House four years under Naifeh. Ramsey said his appreciation for the hard-nosed Democrat grew considerably once be became Senate Speaker in 2007. “I appreciate leadership styles whether they’re mine or not,” said Ramsey. “His worked well.”

Rep. Debra Maggart said Naifeh’s failed effort to institute an income tax was a clear trigger giving rise to Republican takeover of the Legislature.

“I would say the Republican majority today, that we enjoy, is a direct result of the income tax fight,” said Maggart, the House Republican Caucus chairwoman from Hendersonville. “It took a while to get it here, but it did come, and I do think that certainly had a lot to do with it.”

Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, also announced his retirement from the General Assembly Thursday. He joins nine Democrats who have declared this year will be their last.

Haslam said he originally found it striking that so many lawmakers were calling it quits this year, but says maybe it isn’t so unusual.

“There’s a lot more turnover here than people think there is, and so it’s maybe not all that extraordinary in the bigger picture,” he told reporters.

Alex Harris and Steven Hale contributed to this report.

Republicans in Crossfire: Gun Rights vs. Property Rights

High-ranking GOP lawmakers entered this year’s legislative session vowing to steer clear of confrontations over gun legislation. But two months later a showdown is primed between two constituencies Republicans typically like to try to keep happy: Big business and big fans of the Second Amendment.

Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives who earlier this year said they wanted to disarm any attempts to expand the rights of gun owners are now trying to broker a compromise that does just that. Their turnabout is in no small part due to political sabre-rattling by the Tennessee Firearms Association, which has a long history of holding state lawmakers’ feet to the fire.

The TFA last week described House Republican leaders as an “axis of evil” for “pandering” to businesses interests that oppose the Legislature granting Tennesseans the express legal authority to keep a firearm locked in their vehicle if it is parked on a company’s property.

TFA’s executive director, Nashville attorney John Harris, accused Republicans of being interested first and foremost in trying to “appease the Big Business – big money investors in House leadership.”

“Sadly for conservatives, this support is apparently based more on Chicago-style influence peddling for dollars rather than supporting bills based on conservative and constitutional principles that directly impact the citizens,” Harris wrote in a March 1 TFA member alert.

But even if such language hits the bullseye as far as gun-rights activists are concerned, one of TFA’s favorite lawmakers says it’s off-putting to GOP politicians. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican from Blountville, finds TFA’s penchant for firing off volleys of bombast a bit disagreeable.

“It upsets me some, what he’s said about Republicans and others,” Ramsey said of Harris. “The way he has acted is not the way you win friends and influence people.”

Harris said he respectfully disagrees. Tough political tactics and a take-no-prisoners rhetorical style worked pretty well when Democrats ran the show on Capitol Hill — and there’s no reason to go soft now that the GOP has the reins, he suggested.

“When they put their necks out and do stuff, and we don’t like it, and we tell people about it, they take some offense to it,” Harris told TNReport. “We’re not going to tone it down just because they’re unhappy.”

Harris said there’s a natural tendency for politicians of all stripes to claim they’re friends to this or that issue- or interest-group during campaign season, then ignore the people who got them elected after the ballots are counted. Tennessee gun-rights advocates have become particularly sensitive over the years to seeing bills they favor bottled up in legislative committees even though they’d likely pass if put to a floor vote, he said.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, of Chattanooga, has agreed to assemble a bill that would allow workers to lock guns in their cars under certain circumstances. Meanwhile, Rep. Eddie Bass, D-Prospect, and Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, have a TFA-backed proposal — HB3559 — to allow all gun owners to stow their guns in locked vehicles on employers’ public and private parking lots.

McCormick says his plan to introduce a scaled-back guns in parking lots bill is “an attempt to do it right,” although he said he is still working on an amendment to rewrite HB3660 and declined to provide details about what the legislation would include.

“While we’d rather concentrate on jobs and the economy this year, some of our members would rather talk about guns, and we just want to do it in a responsible way,” he said Thursday.

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and other opponents to the legislation presented their case to a pair of Senate committee Tuesday. The chamber sent a letter to each member of the General Assembly pressing them to drop the plan because it would pose “a major infringement on private property rights.”

“Supporters of this legislation argue that this enhances individual rights, but you cannot expand rights for one person by restricting the rights of another. And you cannot use more government regulation to create less regulation,” read the letter signed by 18 interest groups ranging from chambers of commerce, the Tennessee Retail Association and the Tennessee Business Roundtable.

Last month the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from advocates of granting individuals legal protection to keep a firearm locked in a vehicle parked on an employer’s property.

Harris maintains that appealing to property-rights arguments as justification for prohibiting an employee from keeping a legally owned firearm locked in his or her own car is something of a red herring. “What right does the employer have to regulate what an employee decides they’re going to transport in their vehicle?” he said.

Ramsey says chances are ultimately pretty good that whatever guns-in-parking-lots bill the Legislature ends up passing won’t be altogether satisfying to the Tennessee Firearms Association.

“I can’t tell you where we’re going to end up on this. But in the end, there’s a real possibility that TFA won’t be happy, the NRA won’t be happy, but I think we’ll have reached a compromise that will get 17 and 50 votes,” said the lieutenant governor.

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters after speaking to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning that “Republicans believe in property rights, and they believe in 2nd Amendment rights.”

“We talk a lot about balance,” said the governor. “This is one of those when getting the balance right is important.”

Mark Engler contributed to this report.