Apr 17 2012

Whose Rights Are Being Violated? #TNLeg #GunsInParkingLots

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey - via his state website

Being Lt. Gov. of Tennessee must be a pretty confusing gig.

On the one hand, you’re the second in command, even though you have been elected by a tiny minority of Tennesseans, which would seem to call your “mandate” into question. But thanks to the easy compliance of a Governor who just won’t stand up to the legislature under any circumstances, you have free reign to do darn well anything you please.

On the other hand, you’ve got aspirations, and have made those aspirations pretty clear. Fulfilling those aspirations on a statewide level requires you to not be seen as too much of a wild eyed radical, despite your deeply held radical right-wing leanings.

So it must be even more difficult to get a handle on things when you simultaneously support and oppose a bill that allows individuals to store their guns in their cars on employers parking lots.

I’m sure its even more confusing when you and your House colleague have both declared the bill dead for the year as it moves its way through the committee process.

Dang. Can’t a confused Lt. Gov. get a break.

Add to that, the opposition of several industry groups and two of the state’s largest employers, FedEx and Volkswagen and you’ve got a both a political and policy conundrum. Do you stick with your NRA buddies and see this bill through, or do you focus on your reservations and make sure it never makes it out of the calendar committee?

It’s hard out there for a Lt. Gov.

Ron Ramsey Auctions - Via Google Maps

But here’s something else to consider. Ron Ramsey is a business owner. His business includes land, and even a parking lot. Now, assuming that Ramsey owns that parking lot, he can choose whether or not he will allow his employees to bring firearms of whatever sort on to the property. It is his property after all, right?

But if this law passes, Ron Ramsey, property owner and businessman, suddenly loses the right to set certain rules as they pertain to gun possession on his property for his employees. While several people have touted the safety concerns and other issues, for Ron Ramsey, what this creates is essentially an additional restriction on his liberty to own his property in the way he sees fit.

Now, there are other property owners here too, of course. The employees, presumably, own their cars and the guns concealed in their cars. But cars move, land doesn’t (or at least it isn’t supposed to). It is a generally accepted idea that the land, which is immovable, takes a certain level of precedence over modes of transit in terms of who controls what. This is, after all, the idea behind the Guns in Bars law allowing establishments to choose if they will allow guns in their businesses.

This bill doesn’t allow such a choice, and as onerous as the Guns in Bars bill was, the lack of choice makes this bill even more onerous because it mandates what property owners and employers MUST do in regard to firearms on their property and in relation to their employees.

Sounds like that the kind of “Big Government” that Lt. Gov. Ramsey is always railing about.

There are also other concerns, like liability and insurance.

Insurers are in the business of managing risk to make a profit. When risks, real or perceived increase, so do premiums. While there may or may not be any real increase in risk to this law, don’t think for a minute that insurers are going to miss this opportunity to increase premiums. Its not just the employees they’ll be concerned about either, its the attractive nuisance that can come from a potentially not-so concealed weapon in a public space, in view of people who may not have the best interests of the public in the forefront of their minds, who then acquire that weapon for their personal interests…which may include the business the weapon was stolen from.

Then there’s the liability issue. Nothing in this bill says that the State of Tennessee, in passing this mandate, will assume liability for injuries and or deaths that may come from the passage of this law. As any property owner knows, when someone gets hurt on your property, your insurance may have to pay. If you don’t have adequate insurance, you may also get sued despite the Tort reforms of last year.

Is Lt. Gov. Ramsey worried about these issues? Maybe. He’s not really a details person, he’s more into hyperbole, but when he says he “has concerns”, well, this is where I’d start with those concerns.

If these are the concerns of the Lt. Gov., this is one of those rare times when I agree with him. Its concerning on many levels, but most importantly, on the level of slowly eroding the rights of property owners to determine what is or isn’t permissible on their property.

The idea of personal control of property goes all the way back to British Common Law that our nation’s laws are based on. It strikes at the very foundation of our ideas of property.

Remember, it was John Locke who penned “Life, Liberty, and Property”, long before Thomas Jefferson moderated it to “Pursuit of Happiness”, which is a nice euphemism for property as well as other things, in the 1776 Declaration of Independence.

Considering this precedent, does the TN Legislature, and by extension Ron Ramsey, want to put a largely Conservative US Supreme Court in the position of either overturning a law backed by a conservative group, or overturning a precedent that is at the foundation of our nation’s identity?

I don’t think so, but I also don’t think the folks that have been pushing this bill have thought too deeply about the irony of their position.

We’ll just have to see how strong the Lt. Gov.’s resolve is. If it gets scheduled on the floor, then I guess we’ll all know he caved, which will put he and Governor Haslam in the same boat…in terms of caving to bad ideas on some level. If it doesn’t make it to the floor there are other, less obvious considerations. But I’ll leave that to the Lt. Gov. to add to his already full “thinking cap” load.

Jan 12 2012

Whose District is it Anyway?

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

An interesting exchange on the floor of the Tennessee State House today. Democrats introduced a number of amendments to the House Redistricting plan, all of which were placed on the table by the Republican majority; effectively killed.

The final amendment was proposed by Jeanne Richardson. The amendment would have shifted 6 precincts into the new district she and Rep. Antonio Parkinson have been drawn into.

By all accounts, this amendment would have been tabled by the Republicans as well, but that’s not exactly how it worked out.

Here’s the floor debate.


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You’ll note, at the end of the video Minority Leader Fitzhugh rightly tried to go into caucus to talk this out. It’s not really good form to send a fellow caucus member’s amendment to the table, especially when its likely to be tabled by the opposing side in the first place.

I understand the emotional nature of the redistricting process, but that shouldn’t trump the desire to maintain the long-term working relationship between caucus members. Rep. Parkinson may find he needs a friendly vote in the future that should be a gimmie, but might not be thanks to this action.

Ed. Note: No one has mentioned anything about withholding votes or not supporting someone’s legislation or anything like that. This is based on what I’ve observed from years of watching the legislative process across Federal, State and Local governments. Legislators have long memories and just like regular people, can hold grudges. Contrary to popular belief, they are only human.