Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, May 14, 2019:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks will celebrate National Trails Day with free guided hikes at all 56 state parks on Saturday, June 1.

This will be the third of the state parks’ signature hikes this year, following First Day Hikes in January and Spring Hikes in March. Thus far, 4,787 park visitors have participated in the hikes.

“This is an opportunity for people to feel connected to nature and to learn about a Tennessee State Park at the same time with the guidance of a park ranger,” said Anne Marshall, acting deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Whether you’re interested in a park’s history, seeing incredible views or taking a challenging trek, our parks give everyone that feeling that you can’t get anywhere else.”

The American Hiking Society designates the first Saturday in June as National Trails Day as a day of public events aimed at advocacy and trail service. Last year, 108,947 people participated in 1,203 events across 50 states.

Tennessee State Parks are offering a variety of ranger led hikes, night hikes, history hikes, nature hikes or trail clean-up hikes. With more than 1,000 miles of trails, ranging from easy paved trails to rugged backcountry trails to scenic waterways, the state parks have something for everyone.

For more information about the hikes visit: https://tnstateparks.com/about/special-events/national-trails-day-hikes/.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, May 13, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/commerce/news/2019/5/13/tdci-commissioner-mcpeak-announces-departure-for-private-sector.html

TDCI Commissioner McPeak Announces Departure for Private Sector; Governor Bill Lee Names Deputy Commissioner Carter Lawrence as Interim Commissioner

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak announces today she is leaving Tennessee state government in order to pursue career opportunities in the private sector. Her last day as commissioner will be June 14, 2019. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has named TDCI Deputy Commissioner Carter Lawrence to serve as the Department’s Interim Commissioner until a permanent commissioner is selected.

“We thank Julie Mix McPeak for her over eight years of service and her tireless commitment to her Department and to Tennessee. We wish her the best in her future endeavors,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. “Carter Lawrence has ably served as Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Commerce and Insurance, and I look forward to serving alongside him as he steps into the role of Interim Commissioner.”

McPeak, who was first appointed commissioner by Governor Bill Haslam in 2011, is the immediate past president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The former executive director of the Kentucky Office of Insurance, McPeak is the first woman to serve as chief insurance regulator in more than one state.

“Tennessee is a special place, and it has been a distinct privilege and honor to have served the Volunteer State,” McPeak said. “It’s been an amazing journey. At the end of the day, I’m enormously proud of our accomplishments on behalf of Tennesseans. I believe the Department has helped play a role in transforming Tennessee into a national and international destination for families and businesses. I am excited about the next chapter of my life and my career in Nashville – and I’m equally excited about what’s in store for Tennessee.”

Under McPeak’s leadership, the Department’s multiple divisions undertook numerous initiatives and programs that have improved Tennessee, including:

  • Accreditation of the Department by the NAIC. As part of the NAIC’s accreditation program, state insurance departments must undergo comprehensive, independent review every five years to ensure they meet financial solvency oversight standards. States that maintain their accredited status demonstrate that the current means of regulatory monitoring is intact and continues to work effectively.
  • Creating and implementing the “Get Alarmed, Tennessee!” free smoke alarm program. Since its inception in 2012, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office and its Tennessee fire service partners have distributed over 198,000 smoke alarms statewide. Smoke alarms installed through the program are credited with saving 265 Tennesseans from fire danger, so far.
  • Modernizing Tennessee’s captive insurance laws, resulting in Tennessee domestic captive insurance companies exceeding $1 billion in written premiums in 2017 for the first time. Its efforts resulted in Tennessee being named Domicile of The Year (Less Than 200 Captives) at the 2018 U.S. Captive Review Awards for its achievements.
  • Streamlining the process of issuing professional licenses, enabling Tennessee professionals to obtain their license in a more timely and efficient manner.

A full bio and photo of McPeak can be found here.

Lawrence previously served as TDCI’s Deputy Commissioner overseeing the Department’s administration as well as the Division of Regulatory Boards. While managing the Division of Regulatory Boards, he oversaw nearly 40 fee reductions across the division’s 27 program areas, benefitting many of the more than 250,000 licensees across the Volunteer State.

A native of Williamson County, Lawrence is an attorney and studied law at the University of Tennessee, where he also obtained a Master of Business Administration. For undergraduate studies, Carter obtained a Bachelor of Arts at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill). He and his wife, Amy, are the proud parents of two boys and are members of Church of the Redeemer, where he serves as a vestryman.

Said Lawrence: “Commissioner McPeak leaves a legacy of sound management practices and continually challenging the Department’s executive staff and our team members to strive for their best as they serve the public. Following her example, I will champion Governor Lee’s vision for Tennessee during my service as Interim Commissioner. I thank Governor Lee for the opportunity to serve Tennessee in this role.”

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Justin P. Wilson, May 13, 2019:

An investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, has resulted in the federal indictment of Patrick Martin, the former executive director of the Community Prevention Coalition of Jackson County.

The coalition was a 501(c)3 not-for-profit with a stated mission to reduce underage drinking and tobacco use and increase the capacity for prevention in Jackson County. Its primary funding came from grants from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Investigators determined that Martin stole at least $46,335 from the coalition between January 2014 and December 2015.

Martin’s schemes included:

  • Using coalition funds to reimburse himself for personal purchases such as hunting supplies, a crossbow, and payment of his personal electric bill.
  • Using coalition funds to reimburse himself for coalition expenses that had already been paid with coalition checks. For example, Martin paid a coalition electric bill totaling $1,607.28 with a coalition check on April 24, 2014; however, he had already written himself a check for that exact same amount three weeks earlier with the memo “electric.”
  • Martin used $4,000 of coalition money to purchase a 1987 Ford Mustang that he gave to friend.
  • Martin wrote several coalition checks to himself indicating they were for repayment of coalition loans; however, the proceeds were used for Martin’s own benefit. In one instance, a $7,500 coalition check was used for a $6,400 payment on his personal mortgage. The remaining $1,100 was deposited into his personal bank account.
  • Martin issued himself 10 extra paychecks.

Approximately seven days after the Comptroller’s investigation began, certain invoices and other financial records were apparently destroyed in a fire while in Martin’s custody. Because these records were unavailable for examination, there is an extraordinarily high risk that additional coalition funds were misappropriated or misused by Martin.

The board of directors of the Community Prevention Coalition of Jackson County elected to cease operations in July 2017 following this investigation.

Subsequent to this investigation, Comptroller investigators joined with federal investigators and expanded the scope of the inquiry. In May 2019, Patrick Martin was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, on a 48-count indictment, including two counts of theft, 30 counts of wire fraud, and one count of destruction of records.

“Theft is difficult to detect when one person prepares all of the checks and board members do not take time to review bank statements or other financial information,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “This organization had a number of inadequate financial practices that provided an opportunity for fraud.”

To view the investigation, go to: https://comptroller.tn.gov/office-functions/investigations/find.html

Press Release from the Office of Republican Tennessee Congressman John Rose, May 10, 2019:

Rose Fights for Small Businesses in Rural Communities

Link: https://johnrose.house.gov/media/press-releases/rose-fights-small-businesses-rural-communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wednesday, marking the midpoint of National Small Business Week, Congressman John Rose (TN-6) advocated for the proud small business owners in rural communities of Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District at the House Financial Services Committee meeting. He strongly encouraged his fellow committee members to support his proposed legislation that would allow entrepreneurs in rural communities to receive the capital formation technical assistance available to many other small businesses across the state and nation.

“Small businesses are truly the engine of growth in rural communities,” said Rose. “The vast majority of the 19 counties in Tennessee’s Sixth District are rural, and the workforces in these communities depend on job opportunities provided by entrepreneurs who build their businesses from the ground up. The men and women who operate and work for these enterprises are some of the hardest working people I have met. Startups, family businesses, and local companies in rural communities are often overlooked. Yet, their challenges deserve the same attention other innovators and job creators would receive. This is commonsense reform and a great step toward empowering entrepreneurs by leveling the playing field for small businesses in all types of communities across the United States.”

The legislation, H.R.2409, adds rural small businesses to the mission of the Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation and will require the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to consider any adverse effects of regulations on rural small businesses. It was introduced on April 30, 2019 and reported favorably out of the House Financial Services Committee on May 8, 2019. Congressman Rose introduced the legislation with Reps. Cynthia Axne (IA-3), Alex Mooney (WV-2), Nydia Velázquez (NY-7), Chris Pappas (NH-1), and Denver Riggleman (VA-5). The Senate companion bill was introduced by Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Doug Jones (D-AL).

Congressman John Rose represents Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District and resides in Cookeville with his wife, Chelsea, and their son, Guy. The Sixth District includes Cannon, Clay, Coffee, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, White, and Wilson counties as well as portions of Cheatham and Van Buren counties.

Press Release from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, May 8, 2019:

Link: https://www.dgliteracy.org/about-us/

Goodlettsville, Tenn. – May 8, 2019—The Dollar General Literacy Foundation awarded more than $1.8 million in literacy grants to middle Tennessee schools, nonprofits and literacy organizations today at the Nashville Public Library.

“In keeping with Dollar General’s mission of Serving Others, we are excited to provide grants to support literacy and education initiatives in the communities we proudly call home,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO and Dollar General Literacy Foundation board member. “Each year, funds provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation make a real difference by providing the tools that students, adults and families need to pursue new opportunities and accomplish their goals. We believe these programs empower the communities we serve, and we are honored to play a role in their success.”

According to Metro Nashville Public Schools, two out of three Nashville third graders currently read below grade level, and the Nashville Adult Literacy Council estimates that one in eight Nashville adults lack basic literacy skills. Recipients of today’s grant announcements plan to use Dollar General Literacy Foundation funds to help adults learn to read, prepare for the high school equivalency exam, promote childhood summer reading or learn English.

A complete list of grant recipients may be found online at www.dgliteracy.org.

“Education has the ability to level the playing fields in life,” said Denine Torr, Dollar General’s senior director of community initiatives. “Through these grants, we are helping expand access to educational programs and enhancing literacy instruction for adults, families and youth. We are excited to invest in programs across our hometown communities that are uplifting and empowering others to have a brighter future.”

In addition to the literacy grants announced today, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation is also currently accepting applications for youth literacy grants through Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 10 p.m. CT. Youth literacy grants provide funding to schools, public libraries and nonprofit organizations to help students below grade level or experience difficulty reading by providing funding to implement new or expanding literacy programs, purchase new technology or equipment or purchase books, materials or software to enhance literacy programs. Applications are available online at www.dgliteracy.org.

Dollar General’s commitment to literacy and education is rooted through the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and the company’s co-founder, J.L. Turner. Turner had a third-grade education and was functionally illiterate after dropping out of school to support his family. His grandson and former CEO, Cal Turner, Jr., founded the Dollar General Literacy Foundation in 1993. Since its inception more than 25 years ago, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $168 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 10 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy or continued education.

For additional information, photographs or items to supplement a story, please visit the Dollar General Newsroom or contact the Media Relations Department at 1-877-944-DGPR (3477) or via email at dgpr@dollargeneral.com.

About the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives that help others improve their lives through literacy and education. Since 1993, the Foundation has awarded more than $168 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 10 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy, a general education diploma or English proficiency. To learn more about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, visit www.dgliteracy.org.

About Dollar General Corporation

Dollar General Corporation has been delivering value to shoppers for nearly 80 years through its mission of Serving Others. Dollar General helps shoppers Save time. Save money. Every day!® by offering products that are frequently used and replenished, such as food, snacks, health and beauty aids, cleaning supplies, basic apparel, housewares and seasonal items at everyday low prices in convenient neighborhood locations. Dollar General operated 15,472 stores in 44 states as of March 1, 2019. In addition to high-quality private brands, Dollar General sells products from America’s most-trusted manufacturers such as Clorox, Energizer, Procter & Gamble, Hanes, Coca-Cola, Mars, Unilever, Nestle, Kimberly-Clark, Kellogg’s, General Mills, and PepsiCo. Learn more about Dollar General at www.dollargeneral.com.

Press Release from The Tennessee Firearms Association, May 9, 2019:

Link: https://tennesseefirearms.com/2019/05/tennessee-firearms-association-calls-for-house-members-to-remove-speaker-casada/

Tennessee Firearms Association is calling for members of the Tennessee House of Representatives to vote to remove Glen Casada as Speaker of the Tennessee House based on investigations surrounding the lewd text messaging, the attempted coverup, intentionally false statements to reporters, and related concerns.

John Harris, Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, states “The Speaker of the House is the third most powerful position in state government. That office holds unilateral control over most of the significant affairs of the House, such as appointments and removals of committee chairs. It would be an unquestioned breach of the public’s interest and trust to have a person in that office who is now proven to be willfully false in his dealings with news reporters and in responding to matters of significant public interest.” Harris continued, “since the Speaker is selected by the House members, it is ultimately the duty of all House members under their oaths of office and as public stewards to make sure that their selected leader is a person of unquestioned truthfulness, integrity and character.”

News reports from Nashville over the last 48 hours document without dispute that Speaker Glen Casada has been willfully dishonest when he attempted to cover up his involvement in the lewd text messaging and misconduct scandal, some of which involved the use of illegal drugs by the Chief of Staff while in government offices, involving himself and his former Chief of Staff. These reports reveal that Glen Casada knew who released the text messages to Channel 5’s Phil Williams as early as Tuesday of last week but that Casada intentionally questioned the existence and source of the text messages in a subsequent interview with Phil Williams and in a radio spot with Phil Valentine of WWTN 99.7 FM (” Now we know that @GlenCasada lied to me when he made up this vast left-wing conspiracy theory (à la Hillary Clinton) just to cover for this idiot Cothren whom Casada had the bad judgement to make his chief of staff. Time to go.” – Twitter post on May 8, 2019).

Elected members of the Tennessee General Assembly take an oath that is set forth in Article X, Section 2, of the state’s Constitution which contains this sworn declaration: “… I will, in all appointments, vote without favor, affection, partiality, or prejudice; and that I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to me injurious to the people, or consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State.” As such, the members of the General Assembly are sworn to protect the interests of the public and to do so with the highest fiduciary and stewardship principles.

Harris commented “the members of the Tennessee Legislature have an affirmative and fiduciary duty to the people of Tennessee to protect the office of Speaker from being held by people who lack the integrity, truthfulness or trust that must be unquestionably present to serve in that office. Speaker Casada, by his conduct and willful dishonesty in a matter of public interest, has unquestionably shown to the other members and the public that he is unqualified to serve in of the highest offices of public trust in the State.”

The members of the Tennessee Legislature individually and collectively owe a duty to the people of the state of Tennessee to set aside personal friendships, loyalties and partisan partialities that they may have and act now to remove Glen Casada from the office of Speaker and to carefully select a replacement who can be fully and unquestionably trusted by the people of this state in this high office. The public has a right, set forth in Article I, Section 23, of the state’s Constitution to demand of their elected officials that they take action now to restore the office of Speaker by purging its current holder from power.

Press Release from Tractor Supply Company, May 8, 2019:

Tractor Supply Market Day Highlights Local Artisans, Producers and Craft Makers
Free event invites community to shop homemade, homegrown goods on Saturday, May 18

Carthage, TN (May 2019) — Carthage is full of skilled makers, bakers and producers, and the Carthage Tractor Supply store is bringing these talented individuals and businesses together for a community-wide, family-friendly event.

On Saturday, May 18, from 8:00am until 4:00pm, the store will host its annual Market Day event featuring local vendors and their homemade and homegrown goods.

Market Day is a free event, featuring items such as crafts, candles, produce, baked goods and more in tents outside the Tractor Supply store, located at 59 Dixon Springs Hwy.

This year’s vendors and community partners include:

New Creations by Amanda Morales
On site 8:00am to 4:00pm

SCHS Band Boosters
On site 8:00am to 4:00pm

“As members of this community, we strive to do whatever we can to support our neighbors,” said Catherine Chapman, store manager of the Carthage Tractor Supply store. “Market Day allows us to highlight and support the great talent we have here, while creating a fun event everyone can enjoy.”

Local artisans, farmers and craft makers interested in selling their goods are invited to register at TSCeventpartners.com or visit the local Carthage Tractor Supply store before May 15. While participation is free, all vendors are responsible for complying with state and local ordinances. Contact the Carthage Tractor Supply store at 615-735-2684 for more details or information about participating in the event.

To learn more about Tractor Supply Company and Tractor Supply Market Day, visit TractorSupply.com/MarketDay.

About Tractor Supply Company

Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ: TSCO), the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the United States, has been passionate about serving its unique niche, as a one-stop shop for recreational farmers, ranchers and all those who enjoy living the rural lifestyle, for more than 80 years. Tractor Supply offers an extensive mix of products necessary to care for home, land, pets and animals with a focus on product localization, exclusive brands and legendary customer service that addresses the needs of the Out Here lifestyle. With more than 29,000 team members, the Company leverages its physical store assets with digital capabilities to offer customers the convenience of purchasing products they need anytime, anywhere and any way they choose at the everyday low prices they deserve. At March 30, 2019, the Company operated 1,775 Tractor Supply stores in 49 states and an e-commerce website at www.TractorSupply.com.

Tractor Supply Company also owns and operates Petsense, a small-box pet specialty supply retailer focused on meeting the needs of pet owners, primarily in small and mid-size communities, and offering a variety of pet products and services. At March 30, 2019, the Company operated 176 Petsense stores in 26 states. For more information on Petsense, visit www.Petsense.com.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, May 3, 2019:

SPENCER – State and local officials, alongside former Tennessee First Lady Betty Dunn and current Tennessee First Lady Maria Lee, today celebrated renovations to the Betty Dunn Nature Center at Fall Creek Falls State Park.

“This is a special day for Van Buren County and for Fall Creek Falls State Park visitors around the world,” Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers said. “We were especially honored to have former First Lady Betty Dunn cut the ribbon on the facility she helped build.”

The renovations include new pathways, compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, from the parking lot to overlooks and down to the nature center. A new overlook was constructed and improvements were made to the existing overlook. The exterior of the nature center has been repaired, with new painting in addition to new stonework. The facility has a new restroom and gift shop.

The nature center offers hands-on environmental education through naturalist-led programs. Other programs include arts and crafts, movies, campfires, organized games and live musical entertainment.

In February 1974, the Tennessee General Assembly named the nature center at Fall Creek Falls State Park for Betty Dunn for her efforts in developing the facility. The nature center, near the north entrance to the park, is a popular trailhead.

Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of Tennessee’s largest and most visited state parks, encompassing more than 26,000 acres across the eastern top of the Cumberland Plateau. With cascades, gorges, waterfalls, streams and virgin hardwood timber, the park attracts a large following from those who enjoy nature. Fall Creek Falls, at 256 feet, is one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States. Other waterfalls in the park include Piney Falls, Cane Creek Falls, and Cane Creek Cascades.

Press Release from the Tennessee Firearms Association, May 3, 2019:

Link: https://tennesseefirearms.com/2019/05/legislature-adjourns-after-passage-of-bad-legislation-and-refusal-to-consider-constitutional-carry/

Legislature Adjourns after ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Session: Creates Unnecessary 2nd Class of ‘Concealed Only’ Permit

General Assembly passed bad bills and refused to consider constitutional carry

By John Harris
TFA Executive Director

The Tennessee Legislature adjourned from the first half of its two year session on May 2, 2019. Did the Republican super majority of “2nd Amendment supporting” legislators do great things to remove the infringements on the 2nd Amendment in Tennessee this year? No.

To the contrary, it demonstrated an absolute unwillingness to even put the major issues like constitutional carry, civil immunity, criminal investigative requirements, school carry and others on the floors of the respective houses for even the slightest debate!

This is not the TFA’s annual report but it is a summary of the bills that were active this week. The annual report will come later after the dust settles and we know for sure which bills become law and which might be vetoed.

Increased focus week was on a bill (Senate Bill 705 House Bill 1264) that was sponsored in the Senate by noted “anti” 2nd Amendment Senator John Stevens. Sen. Stevens earned that reputation over the years by, for example, being perhaps the swing vote that killed Sen. Mark Green’s constitutional carry legislation in 2016. This bill proposed initially to create a second class of handgun permit that was concealed only and good for only five years. It would have been free to the applicant but would have cost the taxpayers about $1 million per year for the Department of Safety to process. It would not have all the same carry locations that the existing permit had. Also, it would require less training – such as the hunter safety course or any NRA course.

The “concealed only” bill was amended in many ways. The length was changed from 5 to 8 years. The cost went from ZERO to the applicant to an application fee of $65 (contrasted with the $100 fee for the standard handgun permit that allows open or concealed carry). There are no discounts for certain categories of individuals. There are no lifetime permits. The applicant still has to submit two sets of fingerprints (which are outsourced to a third party) and be photographed. It is not available to 18-20 year old individuals who are in or retired military. It is not good on school grounds (existing permits are under limited circumstances). The training went from just a simple almost anything course to at least a 90 minute course which includes a written test and which also – in that 90 minutes – in the opinion of the Department of Safety “”conveys the basic knowledge and skills necessary for safe handling and storage of firearms and ammunition and includes firearm safety rules, handgun uses, features, basic skills and techniques, safe cleaning, transportation, and storage methods and … conveys the current state law on carrying handguns”. According to Senator Stevens statements on the Senate Floor on May 2, no such course presently exists.

The Senate debates on May 2 are worth watching and begin at approximately 1 hour into the session.

Here are some highlights.

  • Sen. Stevens claimed the existing permit is not changed (other than its name – its now the “enhanced” permit but with no new enhancements this year). He claimed this bill makes the new concealed only permit less expensive and easier to get because of reduced number of hours required for the training (8 hours versus 1.5 hours).
  • Sen. Jeff Yarbro asked “how is concealed defined” (it is not). Sen. Stevens said “it is not changed from current law” which does not have a definition.
  • Sen. Yarbro asked if the concealed permits have the same “rights” as the current permits. Sen. Stevens said not with respect to “higher education” (an incomplete answer since it omits school employees who can carry with the existing permit and it fails to deal with the exceptions under the wildlife resources acts).
  • Sen. Yarbro pointed out that he has on two occasions in the last two days taken online courses in less than 3 minutes that would generate the required certificates. Sen. Stevens said that an applicant who did that would be subject to felony perjury charges (but no explanation on how that would be determined or enforced).
  • Sen. Yarbro objected about all the confusion and risks that the second permitting system creates for citizens and reciprocity issues.
  • Sen. Stevens said that there is not a single course online that presently complies with the training requirements of the law (because of the training on existing Tennessee laws that is required)
  • Sen. Janice Bowling argued against the bill and asserted that the state should be adopting Constitutional Carry. She argued correctly if its the “cost” then we should reduce the cost of the existing permit. She argued that the potential confusion of a 2 permit system rather than constitutional carry is of no advantage. She also said she has talked to her constituents and they are objecting to the “concealed permit” which she attributed to an unnamed “organization” (it was not TFA). She argued it has no wisdom, benefit and that she would vote no.
  • Sen. Kerry Roberts (who voted for it in Judiciary) said he was bothered that that they were talking about a second permit rather than constitutional carry. He objected that they were passing a law to force citizens to “buy back their constitutional right”. He pointed out that 16 states already have constitutional carry and Kentucky just adopted it. He stated he was struggling to understand why Tennessee is not passing constitutional carry rather than a “convoluted” second permitting system.
  • Sen. Paul Bailey said he agreed with Sen. Roberts that Tennessee should be talking about constitutional carry (although he later voted for the bill).
  • Sen. Mike Bell said he agreed with constitutional carry and “it’s coming.” He then moved to cutoff off debate and, despite his statement, voted for the bill.

18 Senators ignored the calls for constitutional carry and moved forward to pass the unnecessary, confusing second “concealed only” permit. These Senators were Bailey, Bell, Crowe, Gardenhire, Gresham, Hensley, Johnson, Kelsey, Lundberg. Powers, Reeves, Rose, Southerland, Stevens, Swann, Watson, White and Yager. That is an odd mixture of individuals who frequently vote against 2nd Amendment bills (Stevens, Kelsey, Lundberg) and some who typically do.

Senators voting no on the bill were Akbari, Bowling, Dickerson, Gilmore, Jackson, Kyle, Massey, Nicely, Pody, Robinson and Yarbro – again an odd mix but some of the 2nd Amendment most consistent supporters were in this group and we believe for the right reasons! Two senators were “present not voting” – Roberts and McNally. Two appear to have been agent Briggs and Haile.

TFA noted that it was a bad bill for many reasons. Most of those reasons were addressed by Senators Bowling, Roberts and Yarbro.

Now, some who identify as 2nd Amendment supporters have defended their “yes” votes by suggesting that this was a necessary “step” toward constitutional carry. Enacting a law that creates confusion, risks and delay is “necessary” or even a step in the right direction? That is not a credible excuse nor is it consistent with the campaign promises or constitutional oaths of office. What it evidences is in fact an unwillingness to actually run and pass constitutional carry, as 17 states including Kentucky have done, despite the fact that the Republican caucus is a super majority and it could do so even if every Democrat voted against it.

Comments on other bills this week…

The legislature passed a handful of other laws at the last minute which TFA has been tracking but none are truly significant toward removing infringements or establishing protections of our 2nd Amendment protected rights. For example, the legislature passed a technical fix to adopt the substantial equivalent of the federal “antique firearm” exception to the definition of a firearm under Tennessee for some purposes. It also removed an excise tax on ammunition which removed a projected $455,000 from the Wildlife Resources Fund annually (likely to be replaced with taxpayer revenue from the general fund).

The bill status report and the bill calendar can be accessed through the TFA’s website: https://tennesseefirearms.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/TFA-BillReport-2019-05-03.pdf

Press Release from the Office of Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, May 2, 2019:

Gov. Bill Lee Lauds General Assembly in Working Together to Pass Conservative Reforms

$38.5 Billion Budget Passes Unanimously

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee marked the close of the 2019 legislative session, a session which included the unanimous passage of his budget as well as the passage of his full agenda as outlined during his State of the State address in March.

“In March, I presented our budget and a series of priorities which I believe will be foundational to making Tennessee a leader in the nation,” said Lee. “Working with the General Assembly leadership and members, we passed reforms that will continue to build on the momentum our state has seen in recent years.”

Gov. Lee’s slate of priorities included 16 legislative initiatives to work towards strengthening public education and school choice, enhancing workforce development, addressing criminal justice reform and public safety, promoting good government and developing solutions for rural Tennessee.

The passage of the fiscal year 2020 budget marked the first unanimous budget approval from the General Assembly since 2011. Notably, this budget includes a historic deposit to the state’s Rainy Day Fund that will elevate reserves to over $1.1 billion. Tax cuts included a full repeal of the Gym Tax, the elimination of sales and use tax on agricultural trailers and a reduction to the professional privilege tax.

“I commend the General Assembly for their work this session and I look forward to joining members in their districts in the coming months to highlight all that was accomplished this session” said Lee. “I am especially pleased with the outcome of the budget and our joint commitment to making sure Tennessee is well-managed and fiscally sound.”

Highlights from Gov. Lee’s legislative agenda include the following:

Strengthening Public Education and Expanding School Choice:

  • Creating the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) to expand access to vocational and technical training to students
  • Establishing an education savings account program to expand school choice for low-income students in Davidson and Shelby counties
  • Creating the Future Workforce Initiative to prepare students for the jobs of the future in science, technology, engineering and math
  • A $71 million investment in pay raises for teachers across Tennessee and investment in professional development programming
  • A three-year pilot program to provide support services for high school students in Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties
  • Establish the Governor’s Civics Instructional Seal to support and recognize schools that prioritize teaching our nation’s history and civic values
  • Investing an additional $175 million in new funding to support teachers and students in public schools
  • Establishing an independent statewide charter school authorizer and adding $6 million to the charter school facilities fund

Enhancing Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform

  • Investing $40 million in school safety enhancements
  • Increasing penalties for trafficking fentanyl
  • Increasing the training pay supplement for firefighters and police officers
  • Increasing salaries for corrections professionals
  • Expanding the Electronic Monitoring Indigency fund to reduce needs for pre-trial incarceration
  • Eliminating the state fee for the expungement of records for those who have paid their debt to society
  • $5 million to expand recovery courts and services for people in the justice system with drug abuse issues
  • $4 million investment in pre-release rehabilitation and education for incarcerated individuals

Investing in Health Care and Good Government Initiatives

  • Establishing the Office of Faith Based Initiatives to support partnerships with the non-profit community
  • Expanding the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with an additional 24 positions dedicated to identifying fraud and waste
  • Investing an additional $11 million to support mental health services through the behavioral health safety net and regional mental institutes.
  • Increasing funding for graduate medical education at Tennessee’s medical schools and critical incentive programs that provide financial support to resident physicians who commit to living and working in our rural communities
  • Investing an additional $2 million recurring for the primary care safety net for federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs) and community- and faith-based clinics, providing primary care services to low-income, uninsured adults
  • A $3 million recurring increase to support medical students who agree to work in an underserved area after graduation. These state dollars would draw down an additional $5.7 million in federal funds
  • $11.9 million investment to maintain pay increases funded in last year’s budget for providers delivering services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities