Is Tennessee's Cap on Damages Unconstitutional?
Haslam to hold peace talks with school systems threatening lawsuits
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted down a bill that allowed open carry in Tennessee. It also declined to discuss a bill that permitted gun dealers to sell guns to valid handgun permit holders without a background check, and a bill that gave gun carriers the right to take their guns to property used, but not owned, by a school.
The open carry bill advanced further through the committee process last year before failing. Subcommittee Chairman Jim Coley, R-Barlett, said four of the six subcommittee members voted Wednesday against the open carry bill — he called a voice vote as opposed to a roll call vote, so it was difficult to hear how lawmakers voted. LINK
Haslam to hold peace talks with school systems threatening lawsuits
Gov. Bill Haslam says he may meet as early as next week with directors of the state’s four biggest school systems as three of them — in Hamilton, Knox and Shelby counties — actively consider suing the state over education funding.
From the Chattanooga TFP:
“I understand their concerns,” the Republican told reporters Wednesday. “If you remember, the small schools threatened to sue us last year. I’m not certain it’s so much of a large school, small school issue. It’s how we fund education in Tennessee.”
Haslam added that “I would argue we’ve had a good track record of doing that through some tough times.” He said his proposed budget provides $100 million for teacher pay raises and nearly $50 million to keep up with requirements of the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP) funding formula.
Urban schools argue, however, that they, their students and local taxpayers are getting the short end of the funding stick from the formula. An effort that partially addressed their concerns — dubbed BEP 2.0 — was partially implemented in 2007 by then-Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, who pushed a 42-cent-per-pack hike on cigarettes to fund half of it. LINK
Tennessee Gun Control Advocates Score Victories, But Still NervousState lawmakers swatted down several controversial gun proposals yesterday, but gun control advocates say they're not out the woods yet.
The House Civil Justice Subcommittee rejected plans to let Tennesseans carry a gun openly without a permit and to end background checks for some gun purchases. The panel also turned back a proposal that their Senate counterparts approved on Tuesday: letting people carry handguns in places hosting sporting events or other school functions.
Linda McFadyen-Ketchem, state chapter leader for the lobbying group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, said the votes show pressure has been building on lawmakers.
"I believe the people are getting informed about some of these more extreme bills, and they're concerned for their children's safety. And they're starting to speak up."
The votes represented major victories for gun control advocates, but they won't put an end to the gun debate for the year.
For instance, a plan remains alive to allow guns in all local parks, including Nashville's. Both chambers of the state legislature could vote on that measure as soon as next week. LINK
Haslam: Don't Rush Gun Bills Before NRA Meeting in NashvilleGov. Bill Haslam is urging fellow Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly not to let the upcoming convention of the National Rifle Association in Nashville influence their consideration of a slew of bills seeking to loosen state gun laws.
The governor told reporters at the state Capitol on Wednesday that "short-term circumstances are not a good reason to drive long-term policy."
The NRA's annual meeting is scheduled for the weekend beginning April 10 at Nashville's new convention center. Organizers expect more than 75,000 people to attend. LINK
Is Tennessee's Cap on Damages Unconstitutional?A quiet little bomb went off in Hamilton County on Monday night when a judge ruled the state's cap on non-economic damages in lawsuits is unconstitutional.
From J.R. Lind in the Post:
Hamilton County circuit court judge W. Neil Thomas III ruled that the state's 2011 law — a law that Gov. Haslam considers one of his top legislative achievements — capping non-economic awards at $750,000 is an unconstitutional breach of the right to a trial by jury.
The opinion reaches back to legal principles set forth even before Magna Carta — in the Assize of Clarendon of 1166 — and touches on a variety of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, in addition to decisions by the Tennessee Supreme Court and courts in other states and, indeed, early modern period cases in Britain.
Needless to say, Republicans on the Hill are apoplectic. LINK
Protests mark Corker hearing on fight against Islamic StateAmerica's top military officer says that while Iran's support in the fight against Islamic State militants is helpful, the U.S. remains concerned about what happens "after the drums stop beating" and the Islamic State is defeated.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on Wednesday that anything anyone does to counter IS is a "positive thing." But he said there is concern about whether Iran-backed militiamen, who are Shia, will turn against Sunni Iraqis, further destabilizing Iraq.
"We are all concerned about what happens after the drums stop beating and ISIL is defeated, and whether the government of Iraq will remain on a path to provide an inclusive government for all of the various groups within it," Dempsey said, using an acronym for the militant group. "We're very concerned about that."
Dempsey joined Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in testifying at a committee hearing about President Barack Obama's proposal for new war powers to fight the Islamic State. The debate comes amid Democratic worries that the move could lead to a full-scale U.S. ground war in the Mideast and GOP concerns that it should not tie the hands of the commander in chief.
The legislation will set up the first war vote in Congress in 13 years.
"Everyone cares first and foremost that we have a strategy to deal with ISIS that's in line with our national interest," Corker said during the hearing.
He said he hopes the hearing will help start a process where both parties can reach agreement on a new authorization to fight Islamic State militants, who have seized territory across Iraq and Syria. Obama sent his draft to Capitol Hill last month.
"As we have received that authorization for the use of military force, what we have come to understand is that -- and this is not a pejorative statement, it's an observation -- we don't know of a single Democrat in Congress, in the United States Senate, anyway, that supports that authorization for the use of military force," Corker said. LINK
A Year After Pseudoephedrine, Tennessee Could Restrict Another Cold MedicineAnother cold medication may soon be a little bit harder for Tennesseans to get a hold of, after the state Senate voted unanimously Monday to ban sales of certain kinds of cough syrups to minors.
The medicines, which include brands such as Robitussin DM, Mucinex DM and Tanafed DXM, will remain on store shelves. But purchasers will be asked to show ID, especially if they're under 30. LINK
Crockett Policy Institute