state capitol

Haslam sticks to his guns in banning firearms at Capitol

Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he has no intention of changing his administration’s stance on barring handgun-carry permit holders from bringing their weapons into Tennessee’s state Capitol even though they will be allowed in the Cordell Hull Building where state legislators have offices and hold hearings, reports the Times Free Press.

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Haslam request to move Forrest bust rejected

The State Capitol Commission today rejected Gov. Bill Haslam’s request to move a bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from the lobby of the state Capitol building to the state museum. Seven of the members on hand opposed the move; five voted yes – and the tally could be seen as a legislature-versus-the-governor lineup.

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Confederate flag joins Forrest on Haslam unapproved list

Gov. Bill Haslam has formally asked the Tennessee Historical Commission to approve a Memphis City County request to remove a statute of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from a city park. This follows his request last week to the State Capitol Commission that a bust of Forrest be removed from the state capitol building.

Further, The Tennessean reports, he is informally questioning whether the state should stop issuing specialty vehicle license plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans that have an image of the Confederate battle flag.

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Prodded by Haslam, panel schedules meeting on Forrest bust

The State Capitol Commission, one of two state government entities that must approve the removal Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from inside the Tennessee capitol building,  has scheduled a special meeting for Friday.

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Legislature could leave JLL when it vacates the Legislative Plaza this fall

It’s at least possible that Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, “Gov. Bill Haslam’s favorite real estate management-services provider, “ won’t get the contract for janitorial and maintenance services at a renovated Cordell Hull State Office Building when the General Assembly move there this fall, reports Andy Sher.

Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell confirmed to the Times Free Press that JLL has no automatic lock on a contract for services at the 1950s-era Cordell Hull building when a $116 million renovation is complete.

“We have decided to put it out for bid, and of course, they can bid and other companies might bid,” McNally said. “But we’re looking, you know, for the best deal we can get.”

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Senate votes for Polk body relocation (Getting ‘cart before the hearse?’)

The Senate voted 20-6 with three abstentions Monday evening in favor of a resolution calling for disinterring the bodies of President James K. Polk and his wife, now in entombed on the state Capitol grounds, and moving them to his parents’ home in Columbia.

From WPLN’s report:

Some family members are objecting, but Senator Joey Hensley, whose district includes Columbia, says Polk will get more attention if he’s buried there.

“This is a first process,” he says. “We want to honor James K. Polk and his wife, and honor his legacy. Have him somewhere where every day people can talk about him and see what all he accomplished.

In addition to state lawmakers, the courts and the Tennessee Historical Commission have to sign off on the move.

In his will, Polk asked to buried at his home in Nashville. But after his widow, Sarah, died in the 1890s, his home was torn down, and his body was moved to the Capitol grounds.

Some relatives say he should remain there. But the James K. Polk Home & Museum says a burial on its grounds would hew to his wishes.

Note: One of those voting no, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, probably had the most notable comment. He said the language of the resolution (SJR141) struck him as “presumptuous on our part” — by suggesting relocation would be Polk’s preference, for example – and that Legislative approval should come after the matter has been through the court system, the Tennessee Historical Commission and the State Capitol Commission  — the last step, not the first.

“We may be getting the cart before the hearse in this case,” Norris said.

(Most recent previous post HERE.)

Some James K. Polk kin oppose disinterring, moving body

The New York Times has done a lengthy article on the proposal to move the bodies of President James K. Polk and his wife from the Tennessee state capitol grounds to his parents’ home in Columbia, including comments from a Polk descendant lobbying against the relocation.

As the article notes, a legislative resolution (SJR141) declaring the General Assembly’s approval of moving the remains is scheduled for a Senate floor vote Monday evening.  It was scheduled for a vote Thursday, but the Senate adjourned before taking it up.


Supporters say the move will properly honor an unjustly overlooked president, a man who expanded the territory of the United States by a third, signed a law establishing the Smithsonian Institution and created the Naval Academy.

Opponents, including Teresa Elam, 65, a distant relative of Polk’s, are calling it nothing short of macabre, and an unsavory effort to promote tourism in Columbia, a city of 37,000 about 50 miles south of Nashville that is otherwise known for a colorful yearly celebration of its mule-breeding industry.

“They’re desecrating a grave,” said Ms. Elam, who has walked the halls of the Capitol with a sheaf full of historical documents, making her case to lawmakers. “It’s been on the Capitol grounds for about 124 years. It’s dishonor and disrespect.”

The Tennessean on Saturday, a day after the Times article appeared, did its own report on the issue, also quoting Elam along with another distant relative of the late president, Bill Mason.

Elam said she’s spoken to more than a dozen other descendants who are just as upset as she is. She described relocating the remains as “despicable” and only “using remains for a pony show.” Mason said it’s rare for any set of remains to be moved, much less three times.

“I wouldn’t want any relative of mine — lowly or high-born — treated that way,” Mason said.

Elam and Mason said there are very few ideas in their mind that would sway them. The only suggestion Elam offered would be to create a “complete total perfect replica” in Columbia of the memorial that lies on the Capitol grounds.

Note: A previous post HERE.

On compromise and fundraising for a POW flag at TN Capitol

The Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee staff calculates it would cost $100,000 to begin flying a POW-MIA flag over the Tennessee state Capitol at all times, as initially required by SB125. The Tennessean reports that a GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise the funds and that Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, sponsor of the bill, has personally contributed $10,000 to the cause.

The problem is that laws already require the flying of three flags over the Capitol – the American flag, the Tennessee flag and, when the legislature is in session, the official flag of the General Assembly. Because of the way flag poles are structured in the Capitol dome, or cupola, the addition of another flag would require a new flag pole and some rearrangement.

As things stand now, the Senate has voted to amend Green’s bill so the POW flag would fly only when the General Assembly is not in session, effectively replacing the legislature’s flag at such times (which, of course, is most of the year). The amended bill passed the Senate unanimously and awaits its first vote in the House.

Says Green (via Tennessean): “We had no idea the cupola was at its max capacity… It’s a bummer.”

Note: The fiscal note explaining the cost is HERE. The GoFundme campaign is HERE.

Protesters prompt McNally to push tighter security

A day after shouting protesters stopped two legislators from holding a Legislative Plaza press conference, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said Thursday that a return to tighter security measures at the state Capitol complex is needed.

From The Tennessean:

McNally said… that he is considering reinstating a policy that was eliminated to require visitors to the legislature to have an ID scanned and wear a badge while visiting. He said some of the behavior from protestors, like preventing them from getting on elevators and leaving “shouldn’t occur.”

“We’re in favor of going back to have a little more security,” McNally said.

The move would require a joint effort between both Senate and House leadership.

McNally said it may require an entry process similar to what is used in most schools, which require visitors to scan an ID at an entry point and wear a visitor’s badge.

“I think people having name tags on, it’s a little bit of a deterrent to being violent or disruptive,” McNally said.

Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, said constituents should have easy access to their representatives, and the House Democratic Caucus will soon begin having come-one-come-all type meetings weekly in the Plaza to allow constituents to ask questions.

“We should be bending over backwards to allow the public to come speak with us,” he said.

Note: Previous post on protesters stopping the new conference is HERE.

Work begins on restoring state Capitol cupola

The American and Tennessee flags will not be flying above the Tennessee State Capitol building for a while, according to the AP, as restoration work on the Capitol’s cap, or cupola, gets underway. The $2.3 million project is expected to take about a year to complete and two temporary flagpoles will be erected outside the building during that period.

The $2.3 million project started Wednesday and is expected to take about year to complete. The Capitol building was constructed in 1859, and the cupola was last restored about 100 years later. A major restoration of the interior of the state Capitol in 2012 did not include any work on the cupola atop the structure.

The work will involve removing, repairing and repainting the cupola’s original cast iron elements and the existing cooper roof. Deteriorating exterior stone will be replaced or repaired, new lighting will be installed and a new flagpole will be placed on top.

Note: A Department of General Services “fact sheet” on the project is available HERE.


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