NASHVILLE - Republican Gov. Bill Haslam today vetoed legislation that proponents said was aimed at "flash mob" retail vandalism, saying the amended bill had the "unintended consequence" for reducing criminal penalties on polluters.
"The original intent of this bill was to define and penalize retail vandalism," Haslam said in a statement on the bill, which was backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "In a review of the amended legislation, it has been determined that the bill had the unintended consequence of reducing the criminal penalties for certain types of polluting in Tennessee."
Haslam said the "vast majority of Tennessee is rural farm land, and farm property can occasionally be used illegally by non-property owners as dumping grounds for garbage. The vandalism statute in the Tennessee Code is used to police that act, and the amended version of HB2029/SB2178 would reduce unintentionally the penalty on polluters in Tennessee."
State Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, last month charged that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, was actually a "Trojan horse bill designed to help corporate polluters."
Holt denied that at the time, saying "if there is any tangible change at all [in anti-pollution laws], I personally will be the first to come back next year to fix it."
In his veto statement, Haslam said the state "is blessed with unparalleled natural beauty, and we have to protect our land and water for future generations so it remains an attractive place for people to live, work and raise a family. For this reason, I have vetoed this legislation, and I respectfully encourage the General Assembly to reconsider this issue."