published Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

NRA targets Tennessee gun bill compromise offered by Gerald McCormick

NASHVILLE -- The National Rifle Association is taking aim at efforts by Republican Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and other House leaders to push a compromise alternative to the controversial "parking lot" gun bill.

The NRA's Institute of Legislative Action said Monday in an email alert that McCormick and other House GOP leaders are "insistent on weakening the NRA-drafted" legislation. It urges NRA members to contact lawmakers.

The original NRA bill, which has about 30 House sponsors, would allow all employees with a gun to store their weapons in their locked vehicles on private or government-owned parking lots. McCormick's alternative bill is modeled on a Georgia law dealing with the issue.

The Chattanooga Republican and others have objected to the original bill, saying it interferes with the rights of private property owners. McCormick's bill would restrict thes provisions to Tennesseans with state-issued handgun-carry permits, which the NRA says discriminates against others such as hunters.

"The language contained in Majority Leader McCormick's HB 3660 introduces several of the worst aspects of the current statute found in the neighboring state of Georgia," says the NRA email.

McCormick's bill is scheduled for a committee hearing Wednesday.

In other legislative action that deals with local issues, Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Monday he is sending two of four controversial zoning bills he is pushing to a legislative study committee after local government officials widely objected to the measures.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield recently said some of the bills "would severely damage communities' ability to deal with "nonconforming uses" of property by business. Nonconforming uses allow existing commercial or manufacturing interests, no longer technically permissible under zoning changes adopted later, to continue operating.

Littlefield said that, under current laws, "a nonconforming use over time would be expected to go away. The provisions in the [legislative] hopper would guarantee those uses eternal life."

As an example, he cited an adult establishment "that everyone would like to see it go away. And you finally get it to go away -- and maybe it's gone for years -- and somebody finds out there was one out there one time and they go back and re-establish another one."

Ramsey said he realized the proposals are "extremely controversial" and he hopes to find "common ground" between businesses and cities and counties during this summer's study committee.

"The two major ones aren't going to pass," Ramsey assured city officials attending the Tennessee Municipal League's legislative conference in Nashville. "But I do believe we at least brought this up for discussion, brought this up to try to find some common ground," but he acknowledged he doesn't know where common ground lies.

DEAN'S PAPERS

Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, on Monday picked up a qualifying petition to run for re-election to his current House district, but the lawmaker said he still is weighing running for the Senate District 10 seat being vacated by Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga.

"I'm still weighing heavily my options," Dean said. "I've gotten a lot of phone calls urging me to go ahead and run for the Senate district. I've gotten a lot of phone calls and visits from my House colleagues pleading with me to stay in the House.

"This is not a decision I'm going to make overnight," Dean added. "It may take me a week or so. I've got till April 5."

Dean already had picked up papers to run for the Senate district but had not turned them in. Last week, House Speaker Beth Harwell, D-Nashville, and McCormick asked Dean to reconsider running for the Senate, saying they preferred he remain in the House.

Also last week, local businessman Greg Vital said he intended to run in the Senate Republican primary in August.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at 615-255-0550 or asher@timesfreepress.com.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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