Business and Economy Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Ramsey Against Guns-In-Lots Protections for Hunters

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Thursday he believes the advancing guns-in-lots legislation goes “too far” as it’s currently written.

He spoke to reporters at his weekly media availability about Sen. Mike Faulk’s bill, SB3002, which moved out of a Senate committee earlier this week and is headed to the Senate floor. The bill, which would allow employees to store firearms in their cars parked on company lots, was amended so that it applied only to gun carry permit holders and licensed hunters aged 21 or older.

“I do think they go too far, and I’m as big of a Second Amendment rights person that’s ever lived,” Ramsey said. “But I think expanding it to hunting licenses — even though I can see why they did that — but that’s something that doesn’t need to be done. It needs to be gun carry permit holders only.”

Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, and others at the committee meeting Tuesday questioned the level of training and expertise necessary for a person to obtain a hunter’s license. While the meeting was going on, an Associated Press reporter purchased a license online for $27.

Ramsey said he’s never had a “philosophical struggle” like the current one, between property rights and Second Amendment rights, both of which are traditional pillars of the Republican party.

“The [National Rifle Association] and I are on different sides on this, right now,” he said. “That’s highly unusual for me, of course, but they want to go much further than I do.”

Still, he said he believes differences among legislators will be worked out and that he expects to see amendments proposed on the Senate floor.


Lawmakers OK Legislation Allowing Ayes, Nays Via Video at School Board Meetings

Local school board members can attend meetings digitally, so long as there is a physical quorum, under a plan that has passed both chambers of the Legislature.

The House on Thursday passed HB2883, which allows local school districts to adopt a policy, outlined in the bill, allowing members to attend meetings and vote via video conferencing technology. The bill states that such a policy would only allow members to participate digitally if they are out of the county for work, a family emergency or military service.

The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney, passed two weeks ago by a vote of 26-6.

On the House floor Thursday, the bill provoked a lengthy debate between legislators, with several saying it started the state down a “slippery slope” when it comes to allowing elected officials to shirk their duties.

House sponsor and Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said the bill’s intent is not to give officials a way to avoid their obligations, but rather to fulfill them.

“It’s sort of gotten to the negative sense that what we’re trying to do is give excuses to those that have been elected to school boards not to show up,” he said. “It is just the opposite. It is a situation where, for instance, some member of a school board has a sick mother in Chattanooga and is faced with being at her side rather than at the meeting of the school board. It gives them the opportunity to do their duty.”

Still, some legislators said the bill would allow officials to avoid controversial issues and difficult votes.

“There’s probably nothing more contentious on the local level than a school board meeting because we’re talking about issues that affect our children,” said Rep. Mark White, R-Germantown. “So, if an issue comes up, this could be construed or used in a way where a member doesn’t want to show and face his [constituents] and use this as an excuse.”

Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, also raised a concern about the potentially slippery slope and asked Fitzhugh if he would favor allowing such a policy in the future for state legislators.

“I would not,” Fitzhugh responded. “But, you know, I think at one point, this video thing will be so refined that we may be able to have a session whereby we are in our home counties. I’m not advocating that. I won’t live that long. But, I think possibly, someday we might.”

While legislators are required to vote in person, it is not uncommon to see a member leave the chamber and ask his neighbor on the floor to vote for him. Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, rose to support the bill and suggested that members were contradicting themselves by engaging in such activity, while insisting that other elected officials should not be allowed to participate in meetings electronically.

“I think what we have to remember is, to some extent, we do this every day,” he said, admitting that he was guilty of the same. “When we’re not under the rule, we ask our voting partners to vote us while we step out and go get a Coke or whatever we do. In many cases we do the very same thing that we’re now saying we don’t want to allow [anybody] else to do.”

The bill eventually passed, 58-35, with Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, present but not voting.

After the measure passed, Rep. Jim Gotto, R-Hermitage, who opposed the bill, told TNReport he didn’t think Shaw’s criticism was accurate.

“Even if we get up and walk outside, I wear a hearing device, and so I’m always hearing what’s going on,” he said. “Sometimes a constituent will actually come and ask for us to step out and speak to them, and we’ll do that. That’s a whole lot different than me sitting at home, to where constituents can’t get to me.”

An amendment to the bill exempted Davidson County, in which Gotto serves. But still, he said, despite understanding Fitzhugh’s intentions, he was disappointed to see the bill pass.

“Everything the local governments do is under authority that’s given to them by the state,” said Gotto, who has also served as a member of Nashville’s Metro Council. “This is one of those cases where as a state legislator, I don’t believe it’s appropriate to give that kind of power to the locals to be able to do that, because quite frankly, I think their constituents need to have full and total access to them.”

The bill, which Fitzhugh said the state’s school board association requested and supports, leaves much of the details of such a policy up to local school districts, outlining only the circumstances in which a member would be allowed to participate digitally. An additional amendment added a requirement for the board’s chairperson to visually identify any members participating by way of video technology. The Senate now has to OK the amendment before the measure can head to the governor for approval.

At a media avail Thursday afternoon, Gov. Bill Haslam said he didn’t know about the bill, but that good government was about “the relational piece of being there in person to do it.”

“I participate in board meetings, sometimes, over video and you’re at a little bit of a disadvantage in terms of understanding the context of what’s happening.”


Liberty and Justice Tax and Budget Transparency and Elections

Subcommittee Passes Drug-Testing Requirement for Gov’t Aid Recipients

Tennesseans applying for welfare would have to submit to, and pay for, drug testing before receiving financial assistance, under legislation slowly advancing in both chambers of the legislature.

After a lengthy debate Tuesday night, on various aspects of the bill, that left members on both sides of the issue visibly irritated, the House Health and Human Resources Subcommittee passed HB2725, sponsored by Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City. The Senate version of the bill, SB2580, sponsored by Knoxville Republican Stacey Campfield, passed the Senate’s health committee last week and is currently awaiting action in the Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

In an opinion rendered March 20, state Attorney General Robert Cooper said “the Social Security Act, the TennCare waiver and the federal Food Stamp program do not permit a state to condition eligibility on substance abuse testing or consent to such testing.” He also concluded that such suspicionless drug testing constituted an unconstitutional search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

When asked by Chairman Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, how that affected her legislation, Hurley said it did not. The AG was comparing “apples to oranges,” she said, grouping in her bill with legislation from other states that she didn’t consider to be the same. As a result, she said she didn’t consider it to be a “validated opinion.”

Information on similar proposals around the country are summed up here, by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

An amendment adopted in the Senate committee narrowed the measure so that only people convicted of a drug felony or arrested on drug charges in the previous five years would be tested. Hurley initially introduced the amendment to the House committee, but appeared displeased with the change.

When pressed by members for her feelings on the matter, she said only that she “accepted” the amendment. Eventually, Hill asked Hurley directly if she wanted the committee to consider the amendment. Hurley said no and the amendment was withdrawn.

The House committee did adopt an amendment stating that laid-off workers, who took a drug test for their former employer in the previous 45 days, would not have to be tested again and providing protections for children’s assistance, in the event that their parent(s) test positive. Parents can designate a relative or other individual to handle their children’s benefits.

Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, raised the issue of whether or not said designated individual should be tested, as well. When Hurley offered him the chance to propose such an amendment, Armstrong said that if he were making a proposal, it would be to table the bill until next year.

General Counsel for the Department of Human Services, Bill Russell, told the committee the department didn’t have a problem with the “general concept” of the legislation, but couldn’t ignore the AG’s opinion. He also expressed concerned with forcing applicants to pay for the drug test – which he said cost around $26 in Florida when that state passed similar legislation – and the potential cost of litigation, which he said should be expected if the bill becomes law.

A federal judge last year issued a temporary injunction to stop Florida from drug-testing welfare recipients and the law is currently being contested in court.

Russell also said, if applicants test positive, there should be rehabilitation assistance available to them, to get them off drugs and back to work “since that’s the point of the program.” Hurley responded by claiming that the program would create $1 million in savings, which could be used to provide such rehab, if the department wanted to do so. When challenged on that claim by several members of the committee, Hurley repeatedly referred them to the bill’s fiscal note, inviting them to read it for themselves.

The note, provided by the Fiscal Review Committee which estimates a bill’s impact in dollars and cents, states that “the total decrease in recurring state expenditures” as a result of the new welfare eligibility requirement is estimated at $1,280,040. However, the DHS reports that the department has hit the cap for allowable administrative costs. As a result, the note says, “any cost avoidance resulting from this bill would be used to serve [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] eligible clients, resulting in an equal increase in state expenditures, for a net impact of zero on TANF funds.”

The estimated decrease in state expenditures comes from the 2,551 welfare applicants the DHS expects to sanction as a result of failed drug tests. Paul Lefkowitz, family assistance policy director for DHS, told the committee that the department based that estimate off of a CDC study into drug use amongst welfare recipients.

The fiscal note also estimates a cost of $100,000 for litigation resulting from the program, a dollar amount some committee members found dubious, as well.

Democratic House Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said he was concerned with the amount of “unanswered questions” about the bill. He also took issue with the message he said it sends to Tennesseans who are already down on their luck.

“We kind of indicate by doing this, that everyone on food stamps is possibly a drug addict. We put a stigma to it,” he said. “We’re kind of pointing a finger at them. It had to be embarrassing enough for a lot of people to do it. It would be embarrassing for me to go on food stamps if I had to, but I would to feed my family. That’s what concerns me about this bill.”

Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, put the focus on legislators – recipients of public money, themselves – and addressed Hurley directly. She asked the sponsor if she thought the bill was compassionate. When Hurley said she thought the bill was “fair,” Favors responded with a lengthy statement.

“Listen,” she said. “As a mother, a female, as a relative, most of us have had some experience, with relatives and friends, who have been substance abusers. As a compassionate individual and a mother, I would think that most of us would be concerned about interventions and preventions first, rather than initiating and enacting a bill like this. Now there are some of us who exhibit some bizarre behavior as elected officials, but nobody has requested that we undergo drug screening or the same type of psychological exam that police officers undergo.”

She went on, “But I can assure you that some of the behavior that has been exhibited by some of the elected officials in this Tennessee General Assembly do merit having some psychological exam based on my medical background.”

Favors is accurate when it comes to drug testing state legislators and other state workers, for that matter. Despite the push for drug testing of welfare recipients, supported by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, and state programs rewarding business for testing workers, Tennessee state government is not a ‘drug-free workplace.’

Education Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Bill to Thwart ‘All Comers’ Policies Moves Forward

Religious student organizations in Tennessee would be free to require that their leaders, or members, hold certain beliefs under legislation passed unanimously by the Senate Education Committee.

The bill, SB3597 brought by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, comes in response to a controversial Vanderbilt University nondiscrimination policy. The “all comers” rule mandates that groups must allow anyone to join and that all members be eligible for leadership roles.

As amended by the committee, Beavers’ bill would prohibit the state’s Board of Regents or any school in the University of Tennessee system from implementing such a policy.

Another amendment, proposed by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Collierville, would have applied the bill to any school participating in the lottery scholarship program, including private institutions, and punished nonconforming institutions by making them ineligible for those funds. The proposal drew strong opposition from outgoing Chattanooga Democrat Sen. Andy Berke, who said it would prevent him from supporting the bill. Eventually, Kelsey withdrew the amendment.

Beavers’ bill now heads to the Senate floor. The House version, sponsored by Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, is on the House Education Committee’s calendar next week.

Business and Economy Liberty and Justice

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.”

Education NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Legislation Preventing Public Disclosure of Teacher Eval Scoring Headed to Governor

Parents and taxpayers would not have access to teacher scoring data under a bill that has passed both chambers of the Tennessee Legislature.

The Senate gave its unanimous support to SB3024 Monday, requiring that estimates of teacher effectiveness gleaned from student’s TCAP tests, be kept confidential. The House version of the bill passed that chamber last week by a vote of 95-0.

The bill’s sponsor, Senate Education Committee chairwoman Dolores Gresham, said that schools and state government will be able to use the information to “hone the curriculum such that it serves students better.”

Gresham said it’s “too early to tell” if disclosing that information to the public would have a negative effect.

“Perhaps once teachers are confident in the evaluation process,” she said. “It’s too new, right now, for some folks, although I think we’re going in the right direction. I think perhaps, later on, when teachers have more confidence, that they’ll be able to support that.”

The state’s new evaluation system has been met with mixed reviews from the education community and the public and is currently being evaluated by the State Collaborative for Reforming Education (SCORE) at the request of Gov. Bill Haslam. A report from the group is due June 1.

The Department of Education’s evaluation team has met with over 6,200 educators across Tennessee, gathering feedback on the new system, according to a report given earlier Monday to a joint subcommittee. The feedback will be included in the department’s own report, which will be submitted to the legislature by July 15.

Teachers appreciate the feedback and knowing where they can improve, said Emily Barton, the department’s assistant commissioner for curriculum and instruction, but they also want to be sure the evaluation model is fair.

Under the scoring system, teachers are rated 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. Fifty percent of the score is based on observations, 35 percent is based on a measure called value-added of how much students learn year over year, and 15 percent comes from student achievement information. The teacher rating system is being used for the first time this school year and stems from the state’s winning $501 million in the federal Race to the Top competition two years ago.

As for whether or not the evaluations should be made public, Barton said there are educators on both sides of the issue but declined to venture a guess as to which way the majority leans.

“Teachers have strong opinions about this, on both fronts, actually,” she said. “We and the governor support the legislation to maintain privacy with that information at this time.”

Though some educators may differ, the Tennessee Education Association is unwavering in its position.

“We generally support transparency, the public’s right to know. But the problem with this situation is, that would be putting a great deal more credibility on these teacher evaluations than we think it deserves,” said Jerry Winters, the chief lobbyist for the state’s largest teachers’ union.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions about it. What you’re doing is ranking teachers 1 to 5 with a system that has a lack of confidence by the vast majority of teachers in the state. So that’s our problem with putting it out on the front page of newspapers, when we think it’s not accurate information.”

Open government advocates and media outlets have come out for disclosure, arguing that concealing the scores defeats the purpose of evaluating employees paid with taxpayer dollars.


Business and Economy Environment and Natural Resources Featured Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Firearms Group Excluded from Negotiations on Guns-in-Lots Bill

House Speaker Beth Harwell told reporters Thursday that Republican leadership was continuing to work with “all interested parties” on guns-in-lots legislation, a group she says does not include the consistently boisterous Tennessee Firearms Association.

Speaking at her weekly press conference, the Nashville Republican said her caucus is still searching for the fine line between two of the party’s primary concerns.

“This caucus is dedicated to gun rights, the Second Amendment,” she said. “We are also dedicated to property rights. And we’re going to merge those until we get to a point where we’re satisfied, or we will not. We’ll continue to work.”

Throughout the ongoing debate over the legislation, which would allow workers to store guns in their cars on company lots, the TFA has appeared to be a player, throwing grenades via press release and testifying before a House committee in support of the bill. But Harwell said they’re not in the loop on negotiations about the details of the bill.

“As far as I know, the association that reflects the Second Amendment rights in this state is the National Rifle Association, and we have had ongoing discussions with them,” she said.

The NRA’s chief lobbyist in Tennessee was not available for comment at press time.

The executive director of the TFA, John Harris, told TNReport his association is working with other organizations, including tea party groups in the state, whom he says have made the issue a top priority. He said the TFA has been in contact with the NRA and is working with their lobbyist on the issue. But when it comes to the ongoing negotiations with legislators, Harris confirms that TFA is on the outside.

“The legislature has decided they’re not going to talk to TFA, which is the only state organization to have a presence in this issue for 15 years,” he said. “There are a significant amount of legislators talking to us off the record, because they’ve been threatened by leadership not to talk to us.”

Harris balked at the suggestion that the association’s frequently aggressive rhetoric might be the reason for legislators giving them the cold shoulder. He said they’re just “playing games.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, said Wednesday he expected to file two amendments to the bill before calling for a vote in a House committee next week. One, he said, would narrow the bill’s scope so that it applied only to gun carry permit holders, a limitation that Harwell said would make party leadership “more comfortable.” The second would create an exemption for nuclear facilities.

On Wednesday, a release from the TFA called the amendments “nothing but appeasement by these Republican leaders to the ‘Golden Goose’ of corporate money.”

Harris said Thursday the TFA is open to looking at the amendments once they’re filed. But if the bill strays too close to similar legislation in Georgia, which includes a long list of exemptions, he said the association will work to kill the amendment and possibly the bill itself.

For the most part, Democrats have been on the sidelines for what has been an in-house debate amongst Republicans. But during a press availability Thursday, Democratic House Caucus Chairman Mike Turner gave reporters his take.

“I’m a member of the NRA, OK? I believe in the Second Amendment,” he said. “But it’s been broadly interpreted here, lately, what that means. I think next thing you know, we get guns in parking lots, we’ll be carrying guns in the factory cafeteria. They keep reaching, reaching, reaching on issues. I think we’ve got enough gun laws on the books now.”

Education Featured Liberty and Justice News NewsTracker

Prayer-Around-the-Flagpole Bill Passes Senate

Tennessee senators gave nearly unanimous support Thursday to legislation allowing teachers to participate in student-initiated religious activities on school grounds before or after the instructional day.

The House version of the bill passed several weeks ago with all ayes. Now it heads to the governor’s desk.

Dickson Republican Jim Summerville, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said the bill is probably redundant, adding “superfluous language” to the code, and that it simply affirms teachers’ First Amendment rights.

Rep. Phillip Johnson, R-Pegram, brought the bill in response to restrictions imposed by the Cheatham County Board of Education after it reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. In its lawsuit, the ACLU said a planned prayer had taken place at a graduation ceremony and that Gideons International had been allowed to distribute Bibles during classes.

An attorney who represented the school board in that case has said that this bill, and others like it, would change nothing about that agreement.

In the Senate Thursday, the lone nay came from Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis. Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, was in the chamber but declined to vote either way. Whether the bill makes any significant change to the current law, Marrero said her vote was a matter of principle.

“I really do believe that we should take our children to the religious institution of our choice on Sunday and that we should guide them in religious instruction in their home,” she said. “But I don’t think that our teachers should be involved in religious instruction of our children.”

Marrero also expressed concern for students who might feel left out if  teachers aligns themselves with students of a certain denomination or religion.

ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg told TNReport in an email that the bill was “unnecessary, overreaching and irresponsible.”

“County school boards are charged with ensuring that students from all faiths can make religious decisions with their families and faith communities, free from fear of coercion by school officials,” she said. “Under the First Amendment, public school staff already have the right to practice their religion, so long as they do it in a way that does not influence students. Therefore, the only purpose for this bill is to open a door to allow school personnel to practice religion in a way that does influence students.”

Weinberg also cited another Tennessee case, Doe v. Wilson County School System, in which Judge Robert Echols wrote, of a National Day of Prayer event, that “young students and their parents understandably could have thought that the teachers and school principal were present as representatives of the school and as such their actions were an endorsement of the religious event.”

Summerville, however, reiterated the bill’s language, which states that such activities must be initiated by students and must not conflict with the “responsibilities or assignments” of school personnel.

Business and Economy Environment and Natural Resources Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

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.

NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

TN Gets ‘C’ on Anti-Corruption Report Card

When it comes to integrity and openness in state governments, Tennessee is among the tallest of the leprechauns.

The state earned a 76, good enough for a C in a new national study gauging each state’s risk of corruption conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and two other nonprofit groups. Not one state earned an A. But despite the report’s criticism of the state for a weak ethics commission and secretive budget talks, Tennessee still ranked 8th among the 50 states.

The study measured the states in various categories relating to “transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms.”

“High scores for Tennessee’s pension fund and auditing process are offset by weak campaign finance laws, a toothless ethics commission, and a secret redistricting process,” according to a summary of the state’s score.

The state received an F for lack of openness in redistricting and a D- for Ethics Enforcement Agencies — a problem that TNReport explored in August.

The report notes the push for more stringent ethics legislation after the FBI’s Tennessee Waltz sting operation in 2005, but questions the effectiveness of the Tennessee Ethics Commission created as a result.

The report also gives special attention to the debate about judicial accountability and corporate money in politics.