By Chas Sisk, The Tennessean
The Tennessee Senate approved legislation Thursday that would let
some teachers carry arms, and the House of Representatives approved a
bill that would give the State Board of Education final authority to
rule on charter schools.
In a busy day as lawmakers enter the home
stretch for the 2013 legislative session, senators voted 27-6 to
approve House Bill 6, a measure that lets teachers who have worked as
police officers in the past carry their guns with them at school. They
also added an amendment that would make information about which teachers
are carrying - or even if a school has any armed teachers -
House members signed off on the amendment later in the day, sending the measure to Gov. Bill Haslam.
votes came a day after the U.S. Senate was unable to amass 60 votes in
favor of taking up legislation expanding criminal background checks to
Internet sales and gun shows, among other proposals.
Mark Green, the Clarksville Republican who came up with the amendment in
committee, argued that it would keep "bad guys" from knowing whether
there are armed teachers when planning an attack. Opponents said it
would take away parents' right to decide whether they want their
children in a classroom with guns.
Critics also noted that because
the law does not specify what guns could be carried, semiautomatic
weapons such as Uzis and AK-47s theoretically could be allowed.
countered that local school and law enforcement officials would have to
approve any plan for guns, including the types of weapons allowed.
measure has been billed as a compromise between the various proposals
filed in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in
December. Other suggestions in the Tennessee legislature ranged from
letting any teacher with a permit to carry a handgun bring their weapons
to school to requiring trained police, known as "school resource
officers," in every school.
"Sometimes you just have to make a
decision," said state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown. "When you try to
please everybody, in fact you please nobody."
Later in the day,
the House voted 62-30 to give state officials the final say on charter
schools in districts with failing schools. The vote represents the
climax in a session-long debate over how to handle appeals when local
districts reject a charter school application. It still needs Senate
In other business:
• The Senate signed off on technical changes to the state's $32.7 billion budget and sent it to Gov. Bill Haslam.
The House voted 66-23 to pass HB 639, which ends $15 per week
unemployment benefit payments for dependents instituted during the
recession. The bill also increases auditing of the unemployed.
• The House voted 78-16 to pass HB 475, which imposes a moratorium on annexation proceedings in some jurisdictions.