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House Republicans Running Rally-Round-the-Incumbents Campaign

Tennessee Republicans are looking to tighten their grip on state government in the Nov. 6 general election by winning an even larger legislative majority than they’ve enjoyed the last two years.

But party leaders, particularly in the House, say a first priority is to ensure that members of their caucus survive challenges in the Aug. 2 primary.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart both say incumbents winning primaries is a prime concern. In McCormick’s words, incumbents deserve to be “rewarded on election day” for responsibly governing since they began dominating state politics two years ago.

“Certainly, we want our incumbents to win,” said the Chattanooga Republican. “We think everyone, or close to everyone, is going to win. And then we feel like we can pick some seats up this November as a result of our staying focused on the issues voters care about.”

Maggart sees it as her unwavering responsibility to ensure sitting lawmakers get their jobs back next year. And she faces her own tough re-election challenge against Courtney Rogers of Goodlettsville, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel.

Supporting a candidate can mean everything from political donations from individual lawmakers or the well-funded House GOP Caucus, appearances from high-ranking lawmakers such as Speaker Beth Harwell and even coming out to knock on doors or work political fundraisers.

“My job is to bring the incumbents back,” Maggart told TNReport. “That’s our job — my job — as the caucus leader.”

But while GOP legislative leaders say they see it as their rightful role to protect the already-in crowd, some prominent outsiders who speak for constituencies typically seen as leaning Republican argue that in reality, principles ought to take precedence over the power of incumbency.

The automatic impulse to protect incumbents is rarely the answer — and more often likely part of the problem, argues Ben Cunningham, spokesman of Tennessee Tax Revolt and a founder of the Nashville Tea Party.

“People tend to stay in office far too long and have a sense of entitlement about being re-elected, and that tends to be reinforced by the reality,” Cunningham told TNReport this week.

He said anytime voters can get candidate variety and real ballot-booth choices, it is rarely a bad thing.

“I think that’s one thing most Tea Party people have in common — that we tend to be skeptical of the sense of entitlement that comes with long-term incumbency,” Cunningham said. “I simply don’t feel any loyalty to someone because they’re an incumbent.”

In the primary election this summer, 21 House Republican incumbents face off against GOP challengers who say they better represent the party’s values or are better suited for the job than the sitting state rep. Four GOP state senators have primary opponents.

“Part of the problem is that some incumbents have become addicted to power,” said John Harris, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Firearms Association, which lost a long-fought battle with Republicans this year over allowing gun owners to stow their weapon in their locked car at work. The TFA supports Maggart’s opponent, Rogers, as a result of GOP leaders stonewalling the bill instead of allowing debate and an up-or-down vote on the House floor, where Harris says the legislation would likely have won approval.

His squabble with Maggart over gun rights is “merely a symptom of a much deeper problem with the personal agenda of incumbents and the caucus within the General Assembly, primarily the House of Representatives, to raise funds to retain power and their offices rather than to demonstrate by their actions that they can be trusted with a return to office,” Harris said.

“The question citizens need answered is, Who controls such a system?” Harris said. “It is not the citizens. It is elected officials who are seeking re-election. It is the caucus. It is a product called ‘incumbent protection’ even from members of their own partisan parties.”

The state Republican Party wouldn’t comment specifically on how they balance supporting incumbents versus ensuring those elected sport solid Republican values. But it tipped its hat to the current GOP powers that be in the Legislature for lowering taxes and reducing spending.

“We work very hard to recruit solid, conservative candidates to run for office, and encourage voters to listen to all the candidates and what they stand for when selecting our party’s nominees,” said TNGOP Chris Devaney.

Press Releases

TFA: GOP Needs to Make TN ‘Citizen Friendly,’ Focus Less on ‘Big Business’

Statement from the Tennessee Firearms Association; May 7, 2012: 

News Reports Indicating Tennessee Republican Legislature being “Big Business” First Confirms Concerns of TFA

As news reports start to surface that the Tennessee Republican controlled Legislature passes legislation that is oriented toward big business and passed little if any laws to restore or strengthen the constitutional rights of citizens, we see confirmation of what TFA has been concerned with for the last 2 years.  The Republican leadership in the General Assembly has taken constitutional issues and core constitutional interest groups for granted and is instead pandering to Big Business primarily for money.

Why money?  Several reasons.  First, big businesses cannot vote.  They can however “invest” money in campaigns and into the businesses of legislators (for those who have careers or jobs).  Small business owners can vote but they do not have a lot of “political” money  or slush funds.

Second, when legislators pass legislation that companies like FedEx, AT&T, Bridgestone, Nissan, Volkswagon and Amazon demand, then the legislators claim that the legislation is about “jobs, jobs, jobs” which is code talk for pro-Big Business and cheap labor.  Almost none of the “business” legislation helps small businesses, family farms or people who work for themselves or small family businesses.

The Knoxville news posted this article on Monday discussing how the Republican controlled legislature turned its back on citizens and the constitution and spent its time on Big Business legislative items:

Actions of the 107th General Assembly, recently adjourned, establish that businesses generally have reached a new peak of political power in our state.

Probably the most prominent illustration came when the business lobby locked horns with the Second Amendment lobby over whether employees should be able to keep guns in their locked cars in the company parking lot, even if the company prohibits firearms on premises.

The “Safe Commute Act,” as the National Rifle Association and the Tennessee Firearms Association called it, was the subject of a vigorous and intense push – including a TFA threat to politically crucify those voting no. The business lobby pushed back with less rhetorical bombast but equal vigor.

Maybe the whole thing – pitting individual gun rights against business property rights — was largely symbolic. But legislators took it seriously and business won.

Beyond the symbolic, examples abound of legislators in the Republican majority making Tennessee, already rated at the top of business-friendly lists, even more business friendly.

A sampler:

– Complaints about unwarranted collection of unemployment benefits led to the Unemployment Insurance Accountability Act of 2012, which creates stricter rules for qualifying, requires more verification that recipients are looking for work, makes recipients subject to random enforcement audits, makes those getting severance pay ineligible for unemployment checks while the severance is still being paid, and requires recipients to take jobs at lower pay than their lost job. (SB3658)

– The inheritance tax was repealed, providing substantial savings for those who want to pass their business on to heirs. The exemption level, now covering estates valued up to $1 million, will be raised in steps between now and 2015. (HB3760)

– Having enacted a major tort reform bill last year by limiting noneconomic damages in successful lawsuits, legislators followed up this year with lesser measures with a similar goal. Perhaps most notable is a bill that requires the person filing a lawsuit to pay the defendant’s attorney fees up to $10,000 if the lawsuit is ruled groundless by a judge on a motion to dismiss. (HB3124)

– The state’s FastTrack support of new and expanding businesses will now include $80 million of direct cash grants in addition to previous incentives to cover infrastructure improvements, job training or tax credits. (HB2344)

– Bills that could be characterized as a tax increase were shot down. Examples include the proposed repeal of a property tax break now enjoyed by solar installations (HB3296), deemed too broad by the state comptroller’s office, and a bill that could have increased local government collections of hotel-motel taxes (HB3319).

– While legislators in the past have approved multiple mandates requiring health insurance to cover various things (hearing aids for children last year), this year no such efforts were successful. An example was legislation that would have required insurance companies to pay for orally administered anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs. That bill was defeated despite an appeal by Republican Rep. Curry Todd, who revealed that he suffers from cancer. (HB1087)

– State departments and agencies would give more advance notice — at least 45 days — to those holding state professional licenses, certifications or registrations that would be impacted by any pending fee increases or regulation changes. (HB3688)

– The “Tennessee Works Act” makes companies eligible for state grants (largely using federal money) for training of previously unemployed workers they hire. (SB2129)

One is hard pressed to find legislation approved in this year’s session that could be deemed as unfriendly to businesses.

A possible example, at least for some big companies, is a bill that requires advance approval from the Department of Revenue when claiming deductions from the state excise tax for payments made to affiliated companies. (SB2234).

The department estimates the measure, which was part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative package, will translate into $12.5 million in increased revenue. That’s based on the proposition that companies will be deterred from even trying to take debatable deductions and, if they try, will be turned down in many cases.

As things stand now, Revenue Commissioner Richard Roberts told a Senate committee, that about 100 companies are “in various stages of audits” to determine whether deductions previously claimed are appropriate.

Of course, the commissioner also saw the bill as business friendly. The companies will now know on the front end whether their deductions pass muster, he reasons, and thus avoid the hassle of an audit.

And, to paraphrase Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s comments on businesses fighting the gun bills, if that’s the biggest worry businesses have in Tennessee’s Legislature, business people are very fortunate folks indeed.

Certainly, Tennessee’s Republican leaders can claim Tennessee is “business friendly”.  That is not the question.

The question is whether Tennessee is “citizen friendly” under the control of the Republican leadership.  One must seriously consider that question as we see in the last few years the infringement of the citizens’ right of self defense, the citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights, the citizens’ right to a trial by jury as to all factual issues (which includes damages),  the attack on citizens’ access to the courts through the chilling adoption of progressively liberal  ‘English Rule’ when “loser pays” in civil actions, medical malpractice reform designed to discourage attorneys from brining smaller but justifiable cases, reductions in workers compensation benefits, reductions in unemployment benefits, and the list goes on.

The evidence suggests that whenever an issue arises that involves “Big Business” then the money bet for the gambler is on “Big Business” to win the legislative battle because the trend is that Big Business always wins even if the opposition is the Constitution or the fundamental rights if citizens.

Press Releases

TFA Still Itching for House GOP to Call ‘Guns-in-Parking-Lots’ Bill to Floor

Press Release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; April 24, 2012: 

House Calendar Improperly Sends Safe Commute to Summer Study

On a vote of 15 to 8, the House Calendar Committee has sent the Safe Commute bill (HB3560) to “summer study” which kills it unless the House Floor votes with a 2/3 margin to recall the bill. Once again, House Leadership trying to kill the bill with minimal recorded votes.

This is an outrage because this committee has no, none, jurisdiction over the merits of the bill. It has one job, to move a bill in an orderly fashion to the floor.

It is important to understand that the defeat of this important legislation is at the hands of the House Republican leadership and, from news reports, working with the cooperation of Senate Republican leadership and at the insistence of Gov. Haslam.

However, it is equally important to understand that the House Republican leadership serves at all times at the pleasure of the House Republican caucus. The caucus, as a whole, therefore holds the blame for failing to adequately demand that House Republican leadership bring this bill to the floor for a vote on the merits.

The House Republican caucus can still address this failure on its part by making a recall motion (Rule 53) on the floor of the House this week. It will be interesting to see if they have the will to do so.

Press Releases

TFA: GOP Willing to Let Gun Rights be ‘Bargained, Sold’ by Leadership

Newsletter from the Tennessee Firearms Association; April 9, 2012:

What is wrong with this picture?

For years the Republicans were in the minority in state Government. That had been the case largely since the Civil War. In that minority status, they would champion almost any conservative, grassroots topic including lower taxes, smaller government, right to life, strong immigration standards, education reform and others. Three specific areas claimed as the principle domain of Republicans while they were in the minority were the Bible, the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment. God, Country and Guns – in that order.

Now, keep in mind that political parties in the minority seldom are flush with money from Big Business, Big Insurance and Big Medicine because, frankly, those interests are not aligned with core constitutional, Biblical or conservative issues. Those interests, one may infer, invest them time and money in legislative races for one reason – to purchase the laws and regulations that most benefit their business interests and in some instances the personal interests of a handful in charge at the very top. The “Biggies” do not have the right to vote. However, the “Biggies” do have the money that it takes to buy what votes cannot deliver – access to legislators and the commitment from legislators to do whatever the “Biggies” require. Votes to not overload campaign accounts (particularly at the leadership level). Votes do not pay for trips or vacations disguised as “learning” trips. Votes do not purchase support from peers in the legislature when its time to decide on leaders. Money from the “Biggies” either facilitate or control these activities.

We have seen this drama play out over the last 2 years in the battle over the right of self-defense versus what the “Biggies” have called their “real property rights.” As an aside, ask yourself when is the last time the “Biggies” spent this much time advocating for laws that primarily protected the real property rights of homeowner/voters?

The Employee Safe Commute law is law in at least 16 states. It has been filed as legislation in at least the last 4 legislative years and has been a topic of discussion for at least 10 years. Lt. Gov. Ramsey himself promised TFA in 2010 that “they” would pass the Employee Safe Commute law in 2011 if TFA “stood down” so that the Republicans could work on other issues since they now had “the power” that comes with majority status.

Perhaps Lt. Gov. Ramsey spoke before he knew to what extent the “Biggies” seriously opposed to the safe commute of their employees to and from work. As the minions of the “Biggies” have plied their trade in the halls of the Legislature (although probably more commonly at expensive “functions” and private events outside of the openness of the cameras in the halls and chambers of the legislature), we have seen an increasing resistance from Republicans who love to tought themselves as “good” on the 2nd Amendment. Perhaps what they meant was that they were “good” on the 2nd Amendment so long as the “Biggies” and their money were not too opposed to the idea.

This past week, for example, it is reported that several in leadership, including Lt. Gov. Ramsey and Sen. Ketron were quite upset with the fact that the Senate Judiciary had voted favorably on SB3002 (by Faulk). That report, from several sources, might be confirmed by 2 additional facts. First, Lt. Gov. Ramsey telling that he opposed the amendment by Sen. Campfield and approved by the Senate Judiciary that hunters could be trusted to securely store their hunting firearms in their personal vehicles during those times when they might want to hunt before or after work (like the present turkey season). That should make Tennessee’s licensed hunters feel like they have a strong friend right there, yes sir. The second hint was another a video taped comment by Speaker Beth Harwell that the parking lot bill is dead according to statements made to her by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.

It was interesting that this admission by Harwell came at the end of the week where reports were released from House members that the “Bass” version of the Employee Safe Commute bill would be shotgunned through a House subcommittee and full committee on Tuesday of this week. Perhaps that was allowed by Leadership once it was determined that the Senate version was “dead” and that therefore allowing the House version of the bill to move would be polticially useful for some legislators in an election year and that no harm could come from allowing an already dead Senate bill to move forward pointlessly in a House committee.

What the last 2 years have shown is that Republican leadership is not committed to protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of citizens if “Big Business” dangles the money that it controls. What the last 2 years are also showing is that too many caucus members are willing to let 2nd Amendment rights be bargained and sold by Leadership when convenient or politically necessary. Since the voters will not out spend the “Biggies”, voters must use what they have – the vote – the deal with those who have misplaced priorities to money rather than the Constitutional rights of citizens.

Call to Action – NOW!

Please call your legislators. Their office numbers and email addresses are listed on the House and Senate directories which also contain lookup tools to find your specific legislators.

We also still have the TFA Action Center email campaign operational. With it you can send an email to your House member, your Senate member, each member of each involved Committee and the Governor. Note: If you use the TFA Action Center campaign, please edit the subject and body of the message to customize it for your personal use. It will send it to your specific legislators based on your street address.

It is time to flood the offices of the legislature with our demands. Even if you have already sent a message or made a call, the work to protect our rights and remove infringements sometimes requires that we do more than a single email or phone call.

Also, these events make it important that we raise funds for the TFA PAC so that we can help to financially support not only the campaigns of those who have stood firm, particularly against the mandates of leadership, but also to support those who would challenge these “conservatives in name only” during election cycles. As with Speaker Naifeh, we might not defeat Speaker Harwell in an election but we can certainly defeat enough of those in the caucus who would return her to power.

The TFA website has been updated so that you can make your PAC contributions online and on an automatically recurring basis. We do not anticipate that we will raise the money that Federal Express, Brigestone, Nissan and others have invested to infringe your rights. We do know, however, that we can raise money to defeat some of those rank and file members who have shown a willingness to support the House Republican leadership that are working non-stop to appease Big Business and destroy your rights. It is how we stopped Jimmy Naifeh and it is how we can stop those legislators who are willing to ignore your 2nd Amendment rights whenever the green cash of Big Business is dangled like a carrot ahead of them.

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.”

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

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.

Press Releases

TN Chamber’s Statement of Opposition to ‘Guns in Workplace’ Bill

Letter to Tennessee General Assembly Lawmakers, 1 March 2012; Distributed by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry:

Members of the 107th General Assembly Tennessee State Capitol

Dear Senator/ Representative:

Supporters of the right to keep and bear arms have long recognized the value of firearms to protect life, liberty and property. But in Tennessee, proposals before the Legislature use the 2nd Amendment to produce the opposite effect: The cause of gun rights is being used to attack property rights.

Tennessee has enacted legislation that wisely affirms personal freedom by letting law-abiding citizens obtain permits to carry handguns. But this year, that privilege is being used to attack the rights of private property owners. SB2992/HB 3559 and SB3002/HB 3560 are both aimed at curtailing the rights of private property owners by forcing them to allow firearms to be carried onto their premises — even if the property owner objects. The bills even go farther, allowing a person to have a weapon on private property even when the person does not have the right to be on the premises.

The proposed “guns in the parking lot” bills actually have a much broader reach – pulling in any business entity, owner/manager/possessor of real property or public or private employer. It makes it illegal for them to have or enforce a policy restricting firearms in vehicles parked on their private property.

Under current law, private property owners and employers have the authority to make the rules on their own premises. But when it comes to guns, this legislation would take away that freedom. If an employer or property owner – from a retail store to a factory to a daycare center to a hospital to an educational institution – wishes to prohibit individuals or employees from bringing firearms on their property, they should have the right to do so.

This proposed law is a major infringement on private property rights. There is no right in the state or federal Constitution to have a gun on someone else’s property. This is not a place where the government should substitute its judgment for that of the property owners. Decisions about their own safety, as well as that of their customers and employees, should be the property owner’s to make.

This is a year in which both lawmakers and citizens are calling for government to stop the excessive regulation of our lives and our businesses. 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.

We urge you to oppose SB 2992/HB 3559 and SB 3002/HB 3560.


Associated Builders and Contractors,
Children’s Hospital Alliance of Tennessee,
Hospital Alliance of Tennessee,
Knoxville Chamber of Commerce,
Tennessee Association of Air Carrier Airports,
Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police,
Tennessee Bankers Association,
Tennessee Business Roundtable,
Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry,
Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation,
Tennessee Hospital Association,
Tennessee Hospitality Association,
Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities,
Association Tennessee Paper Council,
Tennessee Petroleum Council,
Tennessee Public and Teaching Hospital,
Association Tennessee Railroads Inc.,
Tennessee Retail Association,

Press Releases

TFA: Action on Gun Rights Could Be Worse Under Harwell, Haslam Than Naifeh

Alert from Tennessee Firearms Association; Jan. 11, 2012:

Tennessee’s General Assembly is back in session

January 2012 brings the Tennessee Legislature officially back in session. This is the second half of the two year 107th General Assembly. It is also an election year where all House members are up for re-election and one-half of the Senate members are up for election.

The House remains under the leadership of Speaker Beth Harwell and some of her lieutenants. The Senate remains under the control of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. Harwell has a clear and consistent voting history that lacks support for 2nd Amendment issues. On the other hand, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has a fairly consistent voting record in support of 2nd Amendment issues.

Its common knowledge that the House now has 64 Republicans of the 99 total House members. Only 50 are required to pass any law. Republicans, as a group, have a 14 vote margin to allow for those Republicans who will not vote to support 2nd Amendment issues. That is significant because the Speaker, Beth Harwell, would historically fit within that 14 vote minority. Nevertheless, it was anticipated by many that with Republicans taking control and all the grandstanding about how good Republicans are on the 2nd Amendment that noteable progress on firearms and 2nd Amendment issues would have occurred in 2011. It did not and that can be largely placed as as the consequence of the preferences of Beth Harwell and perhaps even Debra Maggart.

The complete lack of material progess on 2nd Amendment issues did not miss the attention of the news media, the NRA, TFA, or others. Apparently, there was enough questions raised and complaints made that the House Republican leadership felt it was important to respond to publicly.

On July 13, 2011, Rep. Gerald McCormick released a letter to House Republican caucus members in which he announced the creation of the “Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force” (for the House of Representatives). That letter provided (with some emphasis added)

Fellow Caucus Members:
I hope that this letter finds you well. I am very proud of the great things we accomplished together during this past legislative session, and confident that we will continue that positive momentum when we return in January. In order to accomplish that goal, it is vital that we devote time during recess to study important issues that impact all those that live across our great state.
With that in mind, I am writing this letter to advise you that I am appointing a Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force. The rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment are sacred to many citizens, and we must ensure we craft responsible legislation to protect those rights. This task force will be responsible for studying current state laws to identify if any changes may need to be made. In addition, it will meet with outside groups to gain a better understanding of these issues. The task force will report back to members of the Republican Caucus with results of their study.
The Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force will consist of the following members:
Rep. Curry Todd, Chairman
Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny
Rep. Joshua Evans
Rep. Andy Holt
Rep. Barrett Rich
Rep. Glen Casada
Rep. John Forgety
Please feel free to contact members of this task force if you have any additional questions about this important issue.

On July 14, 2011, TFA sent an email to all members of the Republican caucus task force as well as to House leaders and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. No material acknowledgement much less response was made. So, looking at the events from Rep. McCormick’s July 2011 letter to the present, what has happened? Nothing of material notice on this declaration that there was a vital need to review current laws to identify changes that “need” to be made and to meet with outside groups to better under these issues. Was that mere political “huggy – kissy” addressed to 2nd Amendment supporters or was it said with genuine determination to address these issues? As of August 2011, nothing had happened or been announced. As of mid-September, another TFALAC report noted that nothing had happened but that “word had it” that a meeting would take place in late October – although there was no written announcement to confirm it from the Task Force.

In mid-October, the chair of the Task Force, Rep. Curry Todd was arrested in Nashville on DUI charges. Statements reported in the Times Free Press on October 13, and attributed to Rep. Gerald McCormick suggest that the House Republican Caucus would focus its attention in 2012 on issues other than Second Amendment topics and that it will not “push” the 2nd Amendment issues in 2012. McCormick’s statement, viewed in light of what the House Republican Caucus did in the 2011 legislative cycle, could be construed to mean that the House Republican leadership saw no importance in legislatively addressing the 2nd Amendment, the existing unconstitutional laws, or addressing the other concerns of Tennessee’s firearms owners. According to the news report,

The future of the task force itself is in limbo with House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who created the panel, saying he will make a decision about it by next week.

McCormick said Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, voluntarily resigned his task force chairmanship during a conversation with him earlier today. McCormick emphasized Todd still remains chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee.

“I just said thank you, I think that would be the best thing,” McCormick said of Todd’s offer.

Meanwhile, the next meeting of the firearms task force, which McCormick created, has been postponed. McCormick said the task force could be disbanded.

“I was really hoping the economy would be roaring back by now, and it’s not,” McCormick said of his reasoning. “I think people want us to focus more on economic development and jobs and leave some of the other issues to the side for the time being.

“This is a timely opportunity to do that with the gun task force,” McCormick said. “I don’t think we need to push those issues right now.”

Then, on Monday, October 17, paper reported that House Speaker Pro Tempore, Judd Matheny, who was vice-chairing the task force had expressed a desire to continue with the task force notwithstanding what McCormick has said. The Times Free Press reported:

Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he decided the group, which is looking at expansion of Tennessee’s handgun-carry permit laws, would go on after House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, who is the panel’s vice chair, voiced interest in taking over as chairman.

“I just decided to keep it going,” said McCormick, who weighed over the weekend whether to disband the panel in order to focus more on job-related issues. “I still say it’s not going to be a top legislative priority by any means.”

The former chairman, Rep. Curry Todd, R-Memphis, resigned from the post after his arrest.

McCormick said Todd’s situation also shouldn’t interfere with legislative discussions about expanding places that permit holders can carry their weapons.

Following those events, the caucus did meet on the Monday following Thanksgiving. No notice was given to TFA (despite repeated emails to all task force members) that the meeting was to be had and it turned out that only a handful of people were altered at the last minute of its meeting. No report has been issued or released to the public. No subsequent meetings have been publicly held or announced.

Its now January 2012. At this time, news reports consistently quote Harwell, Haslam and others on the 2012 legislative agenda. There is no mention of the Task Force, any report from the Task Force, or any 2nd Amendment issues that are included in any of this agenda. To the contrary, reports are just the opposite that House Leadership, noteably Harwell and Maggart, are communicating to members that the House leadership not only does not want to pursue 2nd Amendment issues but that it wants to minimize or prevent any such bills from being offered or advanced.

Reviewing comments by Harwell, its clear her support for 2nd Amendment issues is no greater than if not less than the support that we saw from Jimmy Naifeh (D.) in the last few years of his service as Speaker. Certainly, that is the message that Speaker Harwell has sent. In a comment to the Tennessean on these issues, she claimed – some might conclude falsely – that the caucus is 100% committed to gun rights. Certainly, that assertion has to be constrasted against her prior votes since she generally votes against 2nd Amendment legislation and there are some “left of center” Republicans who go right along with her on those issues.

Harwell’s statements to the news media clearly reflect that that, at least for her, the issues pertaining to gun rights are just another topic to be taken up in rotation – if at all:

Harwell, whose candidacy for speaker was opposed by many gun rights groups, is viewed with particular skepticism. She said critics should remember the banner years enjoyed by gun rights groups in 2009 and 2010, when Republicans pushed through more permissive gun laws.

“They know that our Republican caucus is 100 percent committed to gun rights,” she said.

Harwell does not defend her own voting record but references passage of bills that she voted against.

In comments that Harwell made to the Nashville City Paper, she goes further and makes clear that she, as Speaker, had no intent of spending any time at all on firearms issues in 2011 and similar if not worse is now foreseen for 2012.

Even Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, an unabashed gun advocate, has admitted to reporters that he discouraged new gun bills to avoid media coverage that might make it appear that the legislature was distracted. The new House speaker, Nashville’s Beth Harwell, dismissed outright any need for new gun laws.

“We addressed a good number of gun bills last session,” Harwell told reporters shortly after Republicans nominated her late last year to preside over the House. “I feel that clearly we received a mandate from the public that we need to be focused on jobs and education and the economy this session.” (emphasis added)

If these hints are accurate, and they certainly seem to be, what should firearms owners and 2nd Amendment supporters expect from the General Assembly in 2012 —— nothing, nothing at all. Since 1995, legislative progress on firearms issues could prove ultimately to be worse with a Republican governor and Beth Harwell as speaker of the House (and those in the caucus who support her) than in any year in which the House was controlled by Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and Democratic leadership. One needs only a barely functional memory to recall the shenigans that occurred under Speaker Naifeh and his battalion of shadow operatives who were apparently instructed to stall or kill as much 2nd Amendment (particularly NRA requested) legislation as possible. Despite that, many Democrats including Eddie Bass, John Mark Windle, Ben West, Doug Jackson and others stood up for 2nd Amendment rights.

Even with Harwell in control by what is rumored to be a 1 or 2 vote margin in the caucus, there are certainly House Republican members who are willing to support 2nd Amendment issues and all concede that if the bills get to floor for a full vote that almost any 2nd Amendment legislation will pass – including perhaps even what is commonly referred to as Constitutional Carry. One must wonder to what extent the pro-2nd Amendment legislators are being suppressed by “suggestions” of future consequences coming from the Speaker’s office.

It is important to make clear, however, that we are not suggesting that the Legislature needs to totally focus on 2nd Amendment issues. Looking at 2011, one must examine not whether a few specific bills were passed but the overall tone of the legislative session which involved passage of 510 public acts, 32 private acts, and way over 1000 resolutions.

Would paying some meaningful attention to constitutional rights and 2nd Amendment issues really have the effect of totalling derailing everything else that the Republican leadership and Governor want to accomplish? That is a silly question and a foolish assertion. There is plenty of time to pay attention to other issues, as shown by 2011’s actions, yet still allocate a small but reasonable amount of time to address some 2nd Amendment issues. This suggests that its not an issue of time. Its not an issue of expenses. But that raises the question of why then play this game with voters across the state? One might consider that its nothing more than partisan politics in an election cycle where “leadership” desires to avoid news reports of 2nd Amendment issues and preclude Democratic opponents (or even primary challengers) from referencing 2nd Amendment topics. It does not appear that such leadership has given any material consideration to the backlash that can and should arise against them and those that support them from Tennessee’s firearms owners. Why? Well, as one House leader has stated, its because Tennessee’s gun owners really do not have a choice but to support Republicans because Republicans are the “best friends” that gun owners (and presumably conservatives in general) have. Looking at 2011 and what can be expected in 2012, that assertion raises the question of “Really?”

Pay close attention in 2012. Tennessee conservatives, firearms owners, 2nd Amendment supporters are now faced with vetting out the disingenuous and making sure that their actions are recalled when its time to raise money, campaign and vote. In particular, Harwell and a few others in leadership may be hard to defeat in an election but those in the caucus who voted to put them in power and who support them in power may be much easier targets….

Press Releases

TFA: Citizens Wonder What Happened To GOP Campaign Promises

Newsletter from the Tennessee Firearms Association; Dec. 27, 2011: 

For years, Republican leadership in the State of Tennessee has touted the Republican party in general as the best friend of Tennessee firearms owners, hunters, collectors, and dealers.  That pattern may have been genuine for some who fall under the Republican umbrella but it certainly cannot be rejected at this point that for others it was nothing more than an empty campaign slogan to obtain votes at a time when Democratic leadership was highlighted by Jimmy Naifeh and his vendetta with the NRA and thus Tennessee’s firearms owners.

Despite these and other often repeated assurances to Tennessee’s conservatives, constitutionalists and advocates of individual freedoms, very little has materialized as reality once the Republicans gained total control of the Governor’s office, Senate and House in 2011.  Compared with the benefits and attention paid to “big business” such as AT&T and Amazon, Tennessee’s rank and file citizen voters have been left wondering what happened to the promises that they were made on issues like smaller government, tax reductions, illegal immigration reform (prosecution), opposition to an ever expanding federal government, resistence to federalized mandates, and removal of the infringements on 2nd Amendment rights.

On the eve of the 2012 session, we see public announcements from the House leadership that Speaker Beth Harwell (who has never had an acceptable voting record on firearms issues) has assembled is the word that the House does not plan to spend time working on 2nd Amendment issues.  This was easily predicted knowing that Beth Harwell was speaker and in light of the 2011 legislative session.

Channel 4 News in Nashville reports:


Lawmakers won’t waste any time before tackling some controversial issues when they come back to town next month.

When they come back in a matter of weeks, one of the first things they’ll take up could be one of the most controversial.

They will unveil the lines they’ve drawn for legislative and congressional districts.

“We’ll be prepared and ready to move the first week in session,” said House Speaker Rep. Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.

Every year the only thing lawmakers have to do is balance a budget, so obviously that will be a priority.

Following the governor’s formation of a task force on vouchers, lawmakers plan to slow down on that issue.

While the Senate wants to pursue a bill to allow carry permit holders to leave their guns in their workplace parking lots, House leaders said guns won’t be a priority.

“I think our focus will not be on gun issues, it will be on economic development and jobs, job creation,” said Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.

So what can you expect?

Expect to see some changes to the unemployment system and worker compensation.

Lawmakers also favor drug testing those who receive state benefits as long as it’s financially feasible.

“We want to make sure that the people that benefit from the state are living up to their part of the deal,” said Harwell. “We have to weigh the cost factor there. How costly will it be to drug test the recipients.”

Perhaps state lawmakers’ biggest goal doesn’t have anything to do with legislation at all. They are hoping to get out of session early, targeting the end of April.

Last week, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, floated the idea of a special session on health care reform.

Harwell said no one wants a special session. She understands it’s difficult to vote on a health care program when an election or Supreme Court ruling could change everything.

House Republicans can learn, and perhaps already have, that it was a mistake from the perspective of constitutionalists and conservatives to select Beth Harwell as speaker and to allow her unchecked discretion in the appointment of substantially all leadership positions in the House.  As to the other caucus leadership seats which are filled by vote of the caucus, some of the rank and file may now be better aware as to whether those seats were filled with the best conservatives for the tasks.

Now certainly, there are big issues of government which require attention other than firearms issues.  These include the budget, the 10th Amendment sovereignty of the state, illegal immigration, political corruption, fair and logical redistricting for similar communities, a cost-effective education system, and other functions which are properly the venue of state government.

But does this mean that constitutionally recognized and protected rights deserve no attention?  Does this mean that promises to repeal infringements can be placed at most on a back burner?  Does this mean that pet projects and “big business” demands (greased with financial support and perks) should take a priority?

When the primary mission is partisan politics, the constitution, the role of government and the rights of the citizen take a second seat to re-election and making decisions based primarily on the political perception thereof for campaign enhancements.

If Tennessee’s firearms owners and other conservative groups want to see a government that functions with priority on constitutional and conservative standards as the litmus test of proposed legislation rather than “how can this be used against a Republican in the next election” then perhaps Tennesseans need to elect and demand leadership who can put those priorities of stewardship first.

Press Releases

TFA Demands GOP Allow Guns at Workplace Parking Lots

Press Release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; April 18, 2011:

Tennessee Firearms Association, Inc. Legislative Action Committee

Tennesseans have pushed for a change in the existing laws for many years so that individuals who have handgun carry permits can commute to and from work without fear of losing their job simply because the want to be capable of providing for their own defense in the event of an emergency while commuting.

For years, big business has opposed this change in the law and have used its money and resources to defeat this change in the law.

For years, Republicans have asserted to Tennessee’s conservatives and particularly its firearms owners “give us control in the General Assembly and we will fix these problems.” Well, the Republicans now have control – complete control. Tennessee’s conservatives, the people, have put the Republicans in office. Now it is time to demand that the Republicans honor their promises to the citizens and remove infringements on our rights to keep, bear and wear arms under Article 1, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution. To date, there is no clear sign that these promises are being kept – much less remembered.

What is evident is that those who are in power are once again dancing to the carrot stick of big business as evidenced by the amendment to House Bill 2021. It is time, therefore, that we remind them that it was citizen voters – not big business – that elected them to office! To borrow a phrase from Bill Cosby, “”You know, I brought you in this world, and I can take you out….” If Tennessee voters do not fully understand and agree that conservatives are now in power, then those who are in power but failing in their promises can be removed and others can take their place.

Go to the TFA’s action alert system and send them a message that they are being held accountable for their “campaign promises.” Call to Action Email Alert – Send your own Message

Forward this message and this call to action to every firearms owner, to every conservative, to every Tea Party member you know.