Stan Voit: Rep. Carr fulfilling promise to limit number of bills
Toward the end of a phone interview with Dale Carr last week, the state House member said he had to go. “Two men are here to see me,” he said, while politely begging off further questions.
Such is the life of a state legislator. Carr is barely two weeks into his first legislative session, and his days and some nights jammed with meetings, legislative sessions, phone calls and study. Besides that, for another three months he is doing double duty, retaining his seat on the Sevierville Board of Mayor and Aldermen until his term ends after the May election.
Carr promised when elected last year he wouldn’t be introducing a lot of bills, and so far he is keeping his word. He is sponsor or co-sponsor of only four bills, all at the request of his District 12 constituents.
To recap, Carr announced two years ago he would challenge incumbent Richard Montgomery in the 2012 Republican Primary. Then the new legislative district map came out, and Carr’s residence was in the newly reconfigured District 17, which was about half Sevier, half Jefferson County. Instead of running in District 17, Carr moved his residence to a house off Pittman Center Road in Montgomery’s District 12.
On primary election night in August, Carr edged Montgomery by about 100 votes, ending Montgomery’s 16-year run in the Tennessee House. Fret not for Richard Montgomery. In January, Gov. Bill Haslam named him to the Board of Parole, with a salary of more than $93,000. Who says defeat is an orphan?
One of Carr’s four bills would allow the city of Sevierville to change its privilege tax to equal the amount charged by Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It does not affect the gross receipts tax. Instead, it affects only the privilege tax — the tax for doing business.
Carr also has his name on a bill to require all candidates for constable to have at least one year of law enforcement experience. That comes at the request of Billy Seagle, who heads up the regional association of constables.
“All of the city police chiefs and the county commission agree with it,” Carr said. “It’s not unprecedented. Other counties have a similar requirement.”
It seems, as Carr relates the story told to him, a constable in another county— one who lacked basic law enforcement experience — messed up an arrest, leading to a $25,000 judgment against the county. Requiring some law enforcement experience might prevent that, Carr says.
“All of the local constables are in favor of it,” he said.
In an effort to try to improve the county’s share of the Basic Education Program funding, Carr and Sen. Doug Overbey are sponsoring a bill to require the director of the office of legislative budget analysis to provide the revised BEP funding formula to certain legislative leaders if the education commissioner doesn’t provide it by Jan. 1 of each year.
“This changes the code to open things up so we can start working to change the BEP,” Carr said. “If we get it passed and the commissioner does not give us a breakdown on how he arrives at the formula, it leaves it up to the legislative budget office.”
Carr expects opposition to this. Legislators in big cities likely will band together to resist any effort to change the formula to take away money from their systems to redistribute to systems like Sevier’s, where local officials insist they are not getting their fair share. Nashville leaders tend to think Sevier County should up its property tax rate to make up for any education shortfall, forgetting just how expensive property values are here and how that would adversely and disproportionately affect property owners.
Carr’s fourth bill would exempt the sale of gold, silver and platinum coins and bullion from sales tax. Local dealers in those coins asked Carr for the bill because they say other states don’t charge sales tax on such transactions, putting locals at a disadvantage. Full disclosure: Carr didn’t seem sold on the idea, at least based on what I inferred from his comments, since it would take away revenue from the state. Still, he is introducing it anyway. Last year a similar bill introduced by Rep. Frank Nicely of Jefferson County failed to pass.
“The bill will have its trial in committee,” Carr said.
The Sevierville resident is enjoying his time as a legislator as he learns the system from the back bench, where freshmen tend to be placed. He welcomes calls and emails (you’ll find his contact info at the bottom of this page).
— Stan Voit is editor of The Mountain Press. His column appears each Sunday. He can be reached at 428-0748, ext. 217, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.