Gov. Bill Haslam signs bills geared at school security, tax reduction

Authored By James Harrison

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill into law that will allow teachers with law enforcement training to carry weapons in classrooms. 

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, allows school personnel who have had previous law enforcement training, such as retired police officers, to carry weapons. In addition to having prior training, the teachers would be required to complete additional courses in school security and safety. 

According to an Associated Press report, information about which teachers were armed would be confidential and only available to law enforcement. The legislation also dictates what kinds of ammunition could be in schools.

The bill, introduced less than a month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was passed in the House in an 82-15 vote and in the Senate by a margin of 27-6. At the time, Watson, who is chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said the event played a role in prompting the legislation.

In addition to the gun legislation, Haslam signed two measures that would continue trimming taxes on groceries and retirement income. 

The governor approved a reduction in the state tax on groceries from 5.25 percent to 5 percent and signed a measure raising exemption levels on the Hall income tax for seniors receiving interest from bonds, notes or stock dividends. The change will exempt single filers with a total annual income of $33,000 or less and joint filers with a spouse 65 years or older and having a total annual income of $59,000 or less. 

Both measures were spelled out by the governor when he revealed his legislative agenda to the General Assembly in February.