NASHVILLE - Spurred by last summer's terror attack in Chattanooga, the state House today approved legislation requiring new spending totaling $1.58 million for beefed-up protection at Tennessee National Guard recruiting stations and armories across the state.
The National Guard Force Protection Act of 2016 passed 91-0.
The measure will go next week to the Senate Finance Committee for concurrence. Gov. Bill Haslam has already included the money in his proposed 2016-17 budget.
"As you know we had a tragedy last year in Hamilton County," Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, the bill's sponsor, told lawmakers, alluding to the shooting attack on two U.S. military facilities, including the Naval Reserve Center on Amnicola Highway that left five U.S. Marine and Naval reservists dead.
The FBI later characterized the shooting by Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez as having been "inspired" by terrorists. Abdulazeez, whose family said was suffering from mental problems, died in a subsequent shootout with Chattanooga police.
Inviting Hamilton County lawmakers to join him before the House, Sargent described hearings lawmakers held last year on vulnerabilities at Tennessee National Guard facilities.
Lawmakers had been under the impression everything was secure at facilities prior to the attack. But state Adj. Gen. Max Haston said in hearings there were numerous safety and protection upgrades that were needed.
That included new protections for National Guard recruiting stations which are often located in storefronts.
Abdulazeez's first assault was on a U.S. military recruiting station on Lee Highway. A state National Guard facility was located adjacent to it. No military personnel were hurt but Haston said it emphasized the need for new protections including special film for glass windows, better intercom and entry systems, protective bollards to prevent vehicles from smashing into offices and security cameras.
The bill specifically provides those items be funded. Sargent thanked Haslam for including the funding in the budget.
Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, told lawmakers that onJuly 16 "we had a terrible tragedy in Chattanooga with a terorist attack."
"This is not just a resolution, this is money going toward helping protect" guard members, said McCormick, noting recruiters "want to be out in the middle of everything. They ought to be able to defend themselves. This will help them do that."
This story was updated March 3 at 4 p.m. The story incorrectly stated the bill passed the Senate. The measure will go next week to the Senate Finance Committee