- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014
Haslam has ‘major concerns’ on guns-in-parks bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he has “major concerns” about a measure supported by fellow Republicans in the Legislature seeking to do away with local government’s power to decide whether to allow firearms in public parks.

The Legislature in 2009 gave city and county governments the ability to opt out of a new law that allowed people with handgun carry permits to be armed in public parks, playgrounds and sports fields.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville that would do away with local control over guns has drawn the support of fellow Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville.

When Haslam was Knoxville mayor, he supported a 2009 city council vote that kept in place a ban on handguns in some of the city’s parks.

“I have a concern about that in the sense of I think if that property belongs to local governments then their locally elected officials should be able to decide what happens to that property,” Haslam told reporters Thursday.

Asked whether he opposes the measure, the governor said: “The way I understand it now, I have some major concerns.”

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Study: New Madrid fault zone alive and active

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The New Madrid fault zone in the nation’s midsection is active and could spawn future large earthquakes, scientists reported Thursday.

It’s “not dead yet,” said U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Susan Hough, who was part of the study published online by the journal Science.

Researchers have long debated just how much of a hazard New Madrid (MAD’-rihd) poses. The zone stretches 150 miles, crossing parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

In 1811 and 1812, it unleashed a trio of powerful jolts - measuring magnitudes 7.5 to 7.7 - that rattled the central Mississippi River valley. Chimneys fell and boats capsized. Farmland sank and turned into swamps. The death toll is unknown, but experts don’t believe there were mass casualties because the region was sparsely populated then.

Unlike California’s San Andreas and other faults that occur along boundaries of shifting tectonic plates, New Madrid is less understood since it’s in the middle of the continent, far from plate boundaries.

Previous studies have suggested that it may be shutting down, based on GPS readings that showed little strain accumulation at the surface. Other research came to the same conclusion by blaming ongoing quake activity on aftershocks from the 1800s, which would essentially relieve strain on the fault.

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Supermarket wine bill up for key votes next week

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The full Senate is scheduled to vote next week on a proposal to allow wine to be sold in Tennessee supermarkets, while a House committee that derailed last year’s version is set to consider reviving the measure.

Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville says the upper chamber has scheduled a Jan. 30 vote on the proposal to authorize cities to hold referendums on whether to allow wine to be sold outside of liquor stores.

“All but one special interest group is happy with that bill, and I don’t know whether we’ll ever make them happy,” Ramsey told The Associated Press on Thursday, referring to the association representing liquor store owners.

Liquor lobbyists fought last year’s version of the bill, eventually succeeding in killing the measure in the House Local Government Committee when the panel’s chairman, Republican Rep. Matthew Hill of Jonesborough, reversed his earlier support.

Hill said after he cast the deciding vote against because he was upset that sponsors didn’t want to debate a series of proposed amendments. But by September he said he would consider taking the parliamentary steps to revive the measure.

“We continue to work with all sides to reach the most positive outcome for all Tennesseans,” Hill said in an email Thursday.

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Republicans discuss new voucher bill with governor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican state lawmakers have proposed a school voucher bill they hope will be acceptable to Gov. Bill Haslam, who has repeatedly said he favors a more limited version of the program that gives parents another option for educating their children.

Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown said Thursday that he spoke with the Republican governor Wednesday night about the proposal, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham of Somerville and is supported by Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville.

Haslam’s proposal is limited to students from low-income families attending the bottom 5 percent of failing schools. He had that measure withdrawn last year when Senate Republicans sought to expand to a larger number of children.

The measure now being proposed by Republicans would affect students attending the bottom 10 percent of failing schools.

Kelsey didn’t elaborate on his conversation with Haslam, only saying that the governor wants to see a bill pass this year.

“Sen. Gresham and I have gone a long way toward offering a compromise that we hope fits within the governor’s desires for a bill that he would like to see this year,” he said.

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