The Tennessee House of Representatives meets for the General Assembly and legislature in this file photo.
I think our safety and security folks have some major concerns about [state Capitol's inclusion], which they'll be expressing today in terms of both the practical realities of how that would happen as well as the process."
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Gov. Bill Haslam announces a healthier communities initiative at the state Capitol in Nashville on March 11, 2015.

Other business

In other House action Monday night:

* The House approved and sent to Haslam a bill granting the for-profit Tennessee American Water Co. access to low-interest, publicly funded loans made available under the State Revolving Fund for public utility districts.
A similar bill was introduced last session and stalled. What passed Monday made a number of changes and was not opposed by the 400-plus-member Tennessee Association of Utility Districts.
Tennessee American operates water systems in Chattanooga and nearby Whitwell in Sequatchie County. The investor-owned utility would not be eligible for grants.
The bill was on the House consent calendar, a package of non-controversial bills passed in one fell swoop. The package passed on a 92-0 vote.

* Questions and answers to the state exams given before county property assessors and their deputies are certified will no longer be a public record under another bill heading to Haslam for his consideration.
House members approved the bill, sponsored by Rep. Marc Gravitt, R-East Ridge, as part of the consent calendar. It was previously passed by the Senate.
Gravitt said he was carrying the bill for state Comptroller Justin Wilson, who became concerned after one test-taker requested the questions and answers under the state's Open Records Act. It was then discovered there was a "loophole," Gravitt said.
Present law authorizes the state Board of Equalization to prescribe educational and training courses to be taken by assessors and their deputies, and to specify qualification requirements for certification of anyone who is to be engaged to appraise and assess property for the purpose of taxation.


NASHVILLE -- The state House Monday night refused to go along with a Senate amendment on a guns-in-parks bill that would allow handgun-carry permit holders to also carry their weapons into the state Capitol.

Whether the Senate agrees, however, remains to be seen. At this point, it's likely to wind up in a House and Senate conference committee where a majority Republicans will hash out their differences.

The House vote to non-concur on the bill was initially 72-14. But that was changed to 75-17 after the tally on the electronic board was announced, as members who abstained sought to change their votes to aye or nay. That's permissible provided it not change the outcome of a bill. Measures require at least 50 votes to pass.

The original bill would override local governments' ability to impose bans on permit holders going armed in public parks, playgrounds and ball fields. After charging Republicans with hypocrisy, Senate Democrats succeeded in getting the amendment allowing permit holders to go armed in the state Capitol complex, too.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters earlier Monday he has "some major concerns" about the underlying bill as well as the state Capitol provision. The governor said it's premature to talk about a veto, given how quickly bills can change in the Legislature, but "it's safe to say" he favors stripping the bill of the Capitol provision.

"I think our safety and security folks have some major concerns about [state Capitol's inclusion], which they'll be expressing today in terms of both the practical realities of how that would happen as well as the process," Haslam said.

Proponents say that given the criminal background check and eight-hour gun safety course required by permit holders, they should be allowed to bring their firearms into parks and the state Capitol. House Republicans want the parks provision but argue allowing permit holders to go armed in the Capitol isn't necessary, given the extensive security there, and also say it would prove expensive because more officers would be needed to check permits.

Citing his concerns about the underling bill, Haslam said "there's obviously a lot of confusion about what happens at parks that are used by schools, but not owned by schools, but are used at some point in time" [by a school]. "Exactly what is the law on that? That confusion is something we're working on to clear up."

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin told reporters last week that firearms would not be allowed in public parks used by schools because of another provision in state law. That, Casada said, would require guns be banned even if the parks are used by a school but once a year.

But two previous state attorney general opinions appear to cloud that interpretation. Haslam said his office is reviewing those legal opinions and plans to seek another attorney general opinion.

As for what the Senate will do following Monday night's House vote, Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville told the Times Free Press that "we'll talk about it tomorrow."

The Associated Press, however, quoted Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, as saying senators did not intend to back up on the state Capitol provision.

"There are other improvements that could be made to the original bill," Norris told The AP. "I think it's likely that there'll be a conference committee."

Meanwhile, Haslam also told reporters he's not disappointed the National Rifle Association did not extend an invitation to him to address the Second Amendment advocacy group, which holds its annual meeting in Nashville this week.

"We're glad they're coming to town. We're thrilled to have 70,000 folks coming. I won't be giving an opening address," the governor said, noting he will be in Chattanooga and Knoxville when the gathering kicks off on Friday.

Haslam has come under criticism for his past opposition to several bills, expanding permit holders ability to go armed.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550.

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