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Habitat Seeking to Build HOPE for Another Partner Family

February 13, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
1st Habitat Partner Family Home on Adams Street
2nd Habitat Partner Family Home on Adams Street
3rd Habitat Partner Family Home located on Hayes Street

Members of Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County have helped build HOPE for three partner families within the last five years and they would like to reach out to another family this year.

If you would like to experience the dream of home ownership you are invited to attend an
informational meeting and application fair on Thursday, February 16 at 6 p.m. at the First United Methodist Fellowship Center in Downtown Smithville across the street from Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Families will receive information about the Habitat Program and assistance to complete the application.

The third Habitat home on Hayes Street in DeKalb County was completed during the summer of 2010 for Kim McCowan and her grandchildren. The other two homes, completed within the last five years for the Denise Perry and Felicia Gibbs families, are located on Adams Street.

"We are seeking a partner family for 2012," said Marie Blair, chair of the Family Selection Committee for Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County. " To help people learn all about Habitat, we are having an informational meeting to explain all about Habitat. We will help you fill out an application and let you know what will be expected if you become a partner family," said Blair.

Applications must be postmarked by March 30. "We will help you at the February meeting and if you are unable to attend the meeting you can call Habitat and leave a message. One of the volunteers will call you back. The phone number is 215-8181," said Blair.

While Habitat provides resources and assistance, partner families are expected to do their part in helping build and pay for the homes. "I want to make sure everyone understands that this is not a free house," said Blair. " The house does belong to the partner family but its an opportunity for them to buy a house at no interest. They will pay only for the house. The family gets to help select the colors of their rooms, the kind of floors they want, etc. Of course there are some guidelines. We have some different house plans depending on the size and shape of the lot but the family does get to be involved in that (selecting house plans). The way they make their down payment is called sweat equity. That means the partner family actually works on the house. The children can help. They can earn sweat equity partly by staying in school, improving their grades, and having perfect attendance. It's a whole big family project," said Blair.

"We really do need a family," she said. " If you can make a house payment of between $300 and $400 a month and you don't have lots of other debt or if you do have debt, please attend the meeting. We're starting a new program to hopefully help families who need to get their finances in order. If you have interest in owning your own home and don't want to have to think about moving again and where your children can play in their own yard, come to the meeting on February 16," said Blair.

Volunteers are also needed to help when the time comes to start construction. " If you think you don't know anything about building, we have contractors that will tell you what to do," said Blair. "But all of us can pick up the trash from the work site. We have good support from our church community. They provide lunch when people are over there working on the house. Anything you can do, we can use your help. There are people who will be willing to show you what to do. We do have construction experts that do things like the foundation, the roof, and those things. We're just looking for people of all ages who want to help so if you want to volunteer you can call that same phone number (215-8181) and say I'd like to volunteer and work on the house," said Blair.

To qualify as a partner family, applicants must meet the following basic criteria:

1. Be a DeKalb County resident for at least 1 year.
2. Be a U.S. Citizen or have permanent resident alien status.
3. Have a housing need. For example, current conditions may be overcrowded, unsanitary, unsafe, temporary or cost prohibitive.
4.Have an ability to pay. Applicants must provide proof of income and ability to pay a monthly mortgage.
5.Be willing to partner. Qualified families will participate in budgeting and home maintenance classes as well as help in the construction of their own home.

If you are unable to attend the February 16th meeting, you may call 615-215-8181 and leave your name, address and phone number. A Habitat volunteer will contact you to provide additional information and perhaps mail an application to you.

To be considered, completed and signed applications must be postmarked by Friday, March 30, 2012.

The purpose of Habitat is to build houses and sell them at no profit and no interest to families who could not otherwise afford their own home. This Christian ministry is financed through private donations using volunteer labor and donated materials whenever possible.

Saving Lives Officially Underway

February 13, 2012
by: 
Chase Ferrell, DeKalb County Relay for Life Promotions/Media Chair
Saving Lives Officially Underway

The Relay for Life season is officially off to a great start! The DeKalb County Relay for Life Kickoff was this past Tuesday (February 7th) at the “Coaches vs. Cancer” basketball game at the high school, and I must say I was truly impressed with the amazing turnout! The DeKalb County basketball teams showed their breast cancer awareness support by wearing hot pink shirts saying “Hoops for Hope” and Cannon County sported light pink tees with the official breast cancer awareness ribbon on the front. A large majority of the crowd also showed their support for not only the basketball game but also for awareness of the terrifying disease that takes the lives of many men, women and children every year. Our Relay Committee set up a table outside the gym and sold pom-poms, bracelets and signed up teams on a constant basis throughout the night. I can’t thank you enough for your incredible support!

You may be wondering where the money goes that you donated; well, many people do not realize that Tennessee spent 10.2 million dollars last year on breast cancer research. This research goes to finding a cure, and doctors and scientists work around the clock to speed up the process in order to save as many lives as possible. Breast cancer does not only affect women as many men are diagnosed each year so it’s important for EVERYONE to get screened on a regular basis. The death rate for breast cancer has gone down an incredible amount since last year so it’s vital that we continue to support the American Cancer Society to insure they have the funds they need to save lives. My grandmother was a breast cancer survivor and she lived a wonderful life until God called her home in September of 2010, therefore, this organization has a special place in my heart. I will do my best to keep all of you updated (via newspapers, WJLE, Facebook and email) with information on all our upcoming events. You’ll be shocked with all the awesome ideas we’ve come up with!

If you are a business that would be interested in promoting the DeKalb County Relay for Life then please email us and let us know so we can get information to you! You, in return, will get free publicity on our end as a Relay Sponsor.

For more information on how you can get involved with the DeKalb County Relay for Life, or to see all the photos taken at the events (which you are more than welcome to tag yourself in), please visit: www.facebook.com/DeKalbRelay or email: dekalbrelay@gmail.com

Remember, every step we take is one step closer to finding a cure! Let’s get DeKalb County excited about saving lives!

State and U.S. Flags Presented to Corey Tate of U.S. Air Force

February 13, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Terri Lynn Weaver, Timothy Tate, Corey Tate, Christie Tate Brown, Mae Beavers

Family and friends gathered at the Midway Community Center Sunday to welcome home Corey Tate who recently joined the U.S. Air Force.

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver and State Senator Mae Beavers were also on hand for the occasion to present Tate a Tennessee State flag and a United States flag which were both flown over the state capitol recently in his honor with certificates signed by Governor Bill Haslam.

Tate, son of Timothy Tate and Christie Tate Brown, joined the U.S. Air Force three and a half months ago and has been stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Tate completed his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and then attended Tech school at Fort Sam Houston.

Tate, who returned home over the weekend, is here until February 20 and then he will be leaving for the Aviano Air Base in Italy. Tate will complete his first tour of duty in two years.

Sligo Bridge Project on Hold Until Right of Way Issue Resolved

February 12, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Sligo Bridge
Paul Degges
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The state is ready to proceed with plans to build the new Sligo bridge but can't move on the project until a disagreement over right of way acquisition is resolved.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation, which has been in negotiations with the Corps of Engineers and its lessee Sligo Marina, recently made another offer to purchase right of way for the bridge and is now waiting for a response. An answer is expected by the end of the month. Terms of the offer have apparently not been publicly disclosed.

As WJLE first reported on December 29, TDOT had hoped to have the new Sligo bridge project ready for bid letting by now.

Although the Corps is the only property owner involved, TDOT apparently has to take into consideration concerns of Sligo Marina, which is located next to Sligo bridge.

According to TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges, one of the major concerns is that the marina owners want the state to pay for "potential loss of business"to them during the construction of the bridge. The problem is the state cannot legally pay for those types of damages.

In a telephone interview with WJLE in December, Degges said this has been the primary sticking point in the negotiations. "The Corps of Engineers has leased this property to a lessee (Sligo Marina). They're wanting to be paid for some things. In particular, he (lessee) wants to be paid for some potential loss of business due to loss of some of his parking and the impact of construction. Under state law in Tennessee, we (TDOT) are prohibited from paying those types of damages. So since we're kind of in a disagreement," said Degges.

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver has weighed in on the issue saying, in an interview on WJLE Friday morning February 10, she is concerned that the bridge project is being delayed. "When we noticed that the (bid) let wasn't taking place, I just happened to call and say ‘okay what's the deal'?. I had not known there was actually some meetings with the Corps and the owners of the marina and their lawyers. So there were some back and forth offers being made. Apparently, the problem is that the owners of the marina fear that they are going to lose business while this bridge is being constructed. TDOT has already appropriated two million dollars, and they didn't have to do that, to build a retaining wall to keep those (marina) parking places they were worried about. The bridge will be built (a few feet away from) the old existing bridge so there is still going to be ample space to maneuver. Plus, they will be doing the heaviest construction during the winter months when the marina won't have as much traffic," said Representative Weaver.

Normally, when an agreement cannot be reached on right of way acquisition, the state can resort to imminent domain proceedings. But in this case, condemnation is not an option because the state cannot condemn federal property.

"Our process is, and this is all in state law, that for any typical project we do an appraisal," said Degges. " We make an offer and if the property owner thinks it's a fair price then we buy the property. If they don't think that the price is fair, it goes to the attorney general's office for condemnation. Probably about 75% of the property we buy in a given year, we negotiate and people negotiate with us. About 25% of what we buy goes through the condemnation proceedings. There's nothing bad about condemnation. It's just that's the process used to make sure that people have the ability to feel that they're getting the appropriate value for their real estate. In this particular case, since the property is owned by the Corps of Engineers, the United States government has sovereign immunity over the state of Tennessee. In other words, we cannot condemn the federal government. So since we're kind of in a disagreement, the question is can we condemn the property? The Corps of Engineers has determined that we cannot condemn their lessee. So that's kind of got us in a situation here. Not only is the project contingent on us getting the right of way, but the Corps of Engineers also issues us water quality permits. So we can't finish up the permitting process nor can we get the right of way to actually build the project until the issue is resolved," said Degges.

Representative Weaver said it isn't right for any business to hold a road or bridge project "hostage" in this manner. "Any business, whether you're having a highway built in front of you or a bridge, its maybe going to be a little inconvenient for you. That's just a part of life. What a marina or any business cannot do is hold the Department of Transportation hostage and say ‘well I'm not going to let you do this (build a bridge) because I'm going to miss "x" amount of money in business. That is unconstitutional. But if something like that could proceed then its almost as ludicrous to say ‘okay now that the bridge is done or now that the new road is in, you as a business now need to pay the Department of Transportation for all the new business and the increased traffic you will get'. That's not going to happen," she said.

According to Representative Weaver, if the stalemate continues the bridge project, which has already been funded in the state budget, could be delayed another year. She added that further delays could also impact the Corps' decision on whether to renew Sligo Marina's lease, which comes up for renewal next year. "The Corps is involved because of the land where the marina is. We don't foresee this but the worst case scenario would be if they can't come up with any agreement, which would be unfortunate for everybody, then in 2013 the (marina's) lease is up for renewal. The Corps could deny the lease. If that were to happen then they (marina) would lose and we lose because it would take another year to get that (bridge project) going. Plus the two years it would take to build the bridge. So everybody would lose out on that. I don't want that to happen. This bridge is vital. It needs to be moving along. We have the money budgeted for it and we need to proceed for the good of everyone concerned. I'm hoping they'll see this and move forward," said Representative Weaver.

The Sligo project, which was funded in the 2011-12 state budget, calls for replacement of the existing overhead truss bridge which is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The new bridge will be located a few feet to the north of the existing bridge, which will remain open to traffic during construction. The new bridge will be a continuous welded plate girder design with a composite concrete deck slab and will be 1,545 feet in length. The project typical section is two-12 foot lanes with 10 foot shoulders. The total estimated cost of the project including engineering, right of way, and construction is $31-million.

"We're going to build what we call a steel plate girder bridge with a concrete deck," said Degges. " Right now, the bridge is a truss. The truss has quite a bit of age on it. I believe it's right at 80 years old. The steel of that vintage, when it starts to deteriorate, deteriorates pretty fast. So its time for us to put a new bridge in there. The bridge is somewhat narrow. The new bridge we're going to put in here will have twelve foot lanes and ten foot shoulders. It will be what most people would consider a traditional bridge in that the beams of this bridge will be under the deck. One of the challenges here is that the water is over one hundred feet deep at this location which makes the construction of the bridge somewhat more challenging. Just think about trying to pour concrete one hundred feet under water. Its a pretty tough proposition. We don't have a whole lot of that type of work in Tennessee, but we do have some. We'll build the new bridge adjacent to the existing bridge. It's a vital artery for this part of the state of Tennessee. DeKalb County is very interested in this project. This county is split by the river and transportation is a key component of the economy there. So we want to make sure we get this bridge replaced before we have to do any additional repair work to the bridge," added Degges.

Fire Claims One Life

February 11, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Fire Claims One Life on Hurricane Ridge Road
One Dies In Fire On Hurricane Ridge Road

A fire at 831 Hurricane Ridge Road Saturday morning has claimed one life, according to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

The name of the deceased has not yet been released.

County firefighters were dispatched at 11:06 a.m. and three minutes later the first station arrived on the scene. Members of the Cookeville Highway, Liberty, Main Station, and other units of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS. The blaze was reportedly well underway by the time firefighters arrived and the home could not be saved.

According to County Fire Chief Donny Green, three people were in the home at the time of the fire, Barbara Arnold, a resident there; Brad Driver, a family member; and the victim. Driver and Mrs. Arnold escaped unharmed. The victim who reportedly tried to extinguish the fire, didn't make it out. Driver went across the road to the home of relatives to call for help.

The origin and cause of the fire is under investigation by the state fire marshal. Mrs. Arnold and Driver have told officials they believe the fire started from a portable electric heater.

No foul play is suspected but the body of the victim will be sent to Nashville for an autopsy to make positive identification, before the name is released.

The home and all belongings were lost in the fire. Chief Green said members of the local chapter of the Red Cross have provided food and clothing for Mrs. Arnold. She is now staying with family members.

State Readies for Fourth Round of TennCare Standard Spend Down

February 11, 2012

The TennCare Standard Spend Down program will again offer open enrollment opportunities to new applicants on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 beginning at 6 p.m. CST.

Standard Spend Down is available through a waiver to the Medicaid program for a limited number of qualified low income individuals, or those with high, unpaid medical bills who are aged, blind, disabled, or the caretaker relative of a Medicaid eligible child. Eligible individuals must have enough unpaid medical bills to meet the “spend down” threshold to qualify for coverage.

“We are pleased to again to be able to open enrollment in the Standard Spend Down program,” said DHS Commissioner Raquel Hatter. “This program offers additional assistance to qualified low-income individuals or those with very high medical bills who are not already on TennCare.”

A special call-in phone line through DHS has been set up for interested applicants. The only way to request an application is by calling the toll-free number -- 1-866-358-3230 -- which will be open between 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. CST on Feb. 21. Operators will close the phone line once 2,500 applicants call in. In previous open enrollment periods, 2,500 calls had been taken within one hour. If 2,500 calls are not received on Feb. 21, the phone lines will be open from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on subsequent weekdays until 2,500 interested applicants call in.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to check eligibility qualifications before calling in. More information on the Standard Spend Down program and more detailed eligibility criteria are available here.

The toll-free number system is used to ensure equal access to Tennessee citizens interested in this program. The Tennessee Department of Human Services will send applications to all callers who are not already on TennCare and will review their eligibility for any open Medicaid categories and the newly opened Standard Spend Down category. Advanced notifications will be made to the public and other stakeholders prior to subsequent openings of the application request line.

Standard Spend Down Eligibility:

In addition to being aged (65 or older), blind*, disabled,* or a caretaker relative,
An individual must meet certain income restrictions, or be able to “spend down” qualifying unpaid medical bills to that limit. (*To be considered blind or disabled, an individual must meet standards set by the Social Security Administration.)

The following shows the income limits:

Household Size 1 (Monthly Income $241)
House Size 2 (Monthly Income $258)
House Size 3 (Monthly Income $317)
House Size 4 (Monthly Income $325)
House Size 5 (Monthly Income $392)
House Size 6 (Monthly Income $408)

Applicants also must not have resources that:

Exceed $2,000 for a family of one and $3,000 for a family of two with an additional $100 added per additional individual in the family.
A person’s unpaid medical bill must have been accrued within the past 90 days. Medical bills paid by the applicant within the past 30 days may count towards meeting an applicant’s spend down requirement.
Pregnant women and children still are eligible for the Medically Needy Spend Down program.

The ONLY way to request an application for the TennCare Standard Spend Down Program is through the toll free number (1-866-358-3230). Individuals interested in accessing the Standard Spend Down call-in line who are deaf/hard of hearing/speech impaired and using a TTY (text telephone) device should first call the Tennessee Relay Service at 1 (800) 848-0298. They will be prompted to enter the number they are trying to reach (the call-in line #) and a communications assistant will act as the go-between. Those wishing to apply for other TennCare categories should contact their local Department of Human Services county office, call the Family Assistance Service Center at 1-866-311-4287 during normal business hours, or visit www.tennessee.gov/humanserv/.

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A look at the Tennessee Legislature

February 11, 2012
by: 
Terri Lynn Weaver
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Greetings, Folks of the Fortieth! Almost a month into the second half of session and we are beginning to see committees fill with legislation that is active and moving. Please take advantage of the user-friendly Tennessee General Assembly website where you can watch the committee meetings live on video stream, www.legislature.state.tn.us.

Communication is paramount between the folks I represent and the issues at hand here at the state level. I do appreciate the emails I receive when it comes to the legislation you are passionate about.

Your voice is being heard, for apparently Governor Haslam is opening up more discussion on SB2210 that would allow school districts to establish teacher salaries and use maximum class sizes rather than average pupil-teacher ratios in the school district. It is good to know that teachers are in those discussions as efforts to get feedback from various schools across the state continues. Remember, bills that are introduced go through changes in the committee process before they even come to the House Floor for a vote, and even then can still be tweaked.

The TennCare Standard Spend Down Program is available again and open for enrollment for new applicants on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 beginning at 6 p.m. This program comes to us through a waiver to the Medicaid program for only limited qualified low-income individuals. Eligible persons must have enough unpaid medical bills to meet the “spend down” limit in order to qualify for coverage. Call this toll free number, 1-866-358-3230, which is open from 6 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. CST on Feb.21. Previous enrollment periods had taken some 2,500 calls within one hour. Go to the eligibility criteria on TennCare’s website, www.tn.gov/TennCare, for more information.

HB2638, heard in House Judiciary this past week, prevents people from LIVING on publicly-owned property not designated for residential use and prohibits people using publicly-owned property from posing a health hazard or threat to the safety and welfare of others. This bill makes it a class C misdemeanor to those who would violate. As one who supports our constitutional rights that gives us the right to protest, living, setting up residence, or camping should not be allowed on public property. Come to the plaza to express your concerns in protest then go home and return. Freedom of speech is essential and most be protected and by no means are we taking that freedom away by supporting this bill.

I look forward to seeing you in the district this weekend, and as always, it is such an honor to serve you. Call my office 615-741-2192 and Grace will assist you. Blessings!

Area Master Beef Producer Program Offered

February 11, 2012

There will be a Master Beef Producer Program to be held in Sparta at the White County Extension Office. The first meeting will be on Thursday, February 16th at 5:00 P.M. The courses will meet over 9 sessions between February 16 and finish on March 20. Perceived as the most extensive educational project ever conducted for the Tennessee cattle industry, the Master Beef Producer program is designed to help individual producers improve their profitability and competitiveness.

The MBP program will focus on 12 issues facing the beef industry. These topics include managing and planning for success, marketing, genetics, carcass traits, feeding and managing the cow herd, forage production, reproduction, herd health, cattle handling and behavior, environmental concerns and food safety. A beef quality assurance (BQA) certification or recertification session will also be included. Specialists and agents with University of Tennessee Extension and faculty of the UT College of Veterinary Medicine worked together to develop the MBP program. The project is part of the overall effort of the Tennessee Beef Cattle Improvement Initiative and enables participants to apply for 50% cost-share through the Tennessee Ag Enhancement program. Along with a sign, participants will receive a certificate recognizing their training and a Master Beef Producer cap. A registration fee of $50 will cover the cost of the course materials, including a beef production reference manual. Interested producers should contact the local Extension office in Smithville at 615-597-4945 or the White County UT Extension Office at 931-836-3348.

American Red Cross Recruiting DeKalb County Volunteers

February 10, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Kathy Nesmith
DeKalb County Red Cross Office in New Complex on South Congress

The American Red Cross in DeKalb County is looking for volunteers to help provide shelter in the event of disasters that leave people homeless such as fires, floods and tornadoes.

A meeting will be held Thursday, February 16 at 6:00 p.m. at the Smithville city hall building downtown in the second floor community room and anyone interested in being a volunteer is urged to attend.

Kathy Nesmith, Executive Director for the American Red Cross, Warren County Chapter which also includes DeKalb County, said individual volunteers are needed as well as church and civic groups. "We want to recruit more volunteers. We've already had one meeting here and we've recruited five volunteers but we want more. You've got to have more volunteers when a disaster happens because there is always the risk of some of those volunteers being affected themselves. So we're primarily wanting to recruit volunteers but we also want to focus on partnering with churches and church groups. We want to seek out churches and community centers that has a facility that we could use as a shelter during a disaster. You always want to know where your possible shelters are going to be before a disaster happens. You want communication in place. You want an agreement in place," said Nesmith.

Sandra Wilmore, a Red Cross volunteer, said those who attend the informational meeting are under no obligation to commit. "This is only an informational meeting. Its not a commitment for someone to join. Of course we'd like for them to join. We want to just better serve our community because there's a saying in the Red Cross, its not IF a disaster happens, its WHEN it happens. Our first focus is sheltering and we are interested in partnering with the churches here and with the community as much as possible. I think also that they (volunteers) will find that the training can be fun. Normally its (training) is only a couple of hours in the evening and sometimes on Saturdays. I've been in the Red Cross for several years now and I absolutely love it. They've got a lot of good people. They're very well trained and very knowledgeable and that's what our focus is all about. Its to educate the public on what the American Red Cross does and that we're here to serve our community and let them know that help is provided for our communities if there is a disaster that should strike home to us," said Wilmore.

Nesmith said the Red Cross Chapter has an office in the new county complex on South Congress Boulevard. Again to find out more information on how Red Cross is working in DeKalb County you're urged to attend the meeting on Thursday, February 16 at 6:00 p.m. at the City Hall Building, 2nd floor.

Capitol Hill Week From Senator Mae Beavers

February 10, 2012
State Senator Mae Beavers

Law and order legislation dominated debate in the State Senate this week as lawmakers considered several of Governor Bill Haslam’s public safety bills. The Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), advanced legislation to enact tougher sentences for gun possession by those with prior violent felony convictions and two drug abuse measures, while the State and Local Government Committee approved a bill to realign under the Department of Correction the supervision of adult felony offenders to include probation, parole and community corrections.

The bills were drafted at the recommendation of a Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group composed of more than 10 government agencies which held meetings with over 300 leaders in law enforcement, substance abuse, and corrections. The group developed 11 objectives and 40 action steps in their multi-year safety action plan with the goal of significantly reducing drug abuse and drug trafficking; curbing violent crime; and, lowering the rate of repeat offenders in Tennessee.

Felons with Guns -- Among bills approved was Senate Bill 2250 that would increase from a Class E felony to a Class C felony the punishment for convicted felons carrying a firearm whose crime involved the use of force, violence, or a deadly weapon. The punishment would be a Class D felony for those whose conviction involved a felony drug offense. The purpose of the bill is to give District Attorneys in Tennessee a stronger tool to keep convicted felons, who are prohibited from possessing a firearm, off Tennessee streets.

Gang Violence – The Judiciary Committee also heard testimony regarding Senate Bill 2252 that would enhance penalties for certain crimes committed by groups of three or more people. Shelby County Deputy District Attorney General John Campbell told members of the Judiciary Committee that a person robbed by more than one assailant has a much greater chance of suffering severe injury or death. The bill to keep them behind bars longer bumps up penalties by one classification for aggravated assault, robbery, or aggravated burglary, if the crime is committed in concert with two or more persons. Action on the legislation was deferred until next week at the request of the sponsor.

Corrections -- Senate Bill 2248 was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The legislation gives the State Department of Corrections the authority to supervise probation and parole services to provide a seamless one person contact for offenders throughout the entire criminal justice system.

This bill was part of the administration’s top to bottom review of departments and agencies conducted last year. The consolidation of these agencies will reduce the competition for providers and allow for continuity of a single point of contact. Forty states operate under a consolidated system, which is widely recognized as a best practice in corrections. The existing organizational structure that actually performs under the Board of Pardons and Paroles will remain intact upon transfer to the Department of Corrections.

Drug Abuse – In other action on the Governor’s public safety legislation, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation clarifying two statutes in Tennessee law dealing with the purchase of amphetamines for the purpose of making meth. Senate Bill 2235 makes it a misdemeanor to “attempt to purchase” and “attempt to sell” amphetamines with the intent to sell it to another for a non-medical use or unlawful purpose, including the manufacture of meth, leaving the felony as the punishment for completing the act.

A second proposal approved by the Judiciary Committee adds numerous opiates, depressants, stimulants, and narcotics to Schedule I through V of the Controlled Substances Schedule. Senate Bill 2230 also adds Tramadol and Carisoprodol to Schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Schedule. A controlled (scheduled) drug is one whose use and distribution is tightly controlled because of the potential for abuse. Controlled drugs are rated in the order of their abuse risk and placed in Schedules by the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The drugs with the highest abuse potential are placed in Schedule I, and those with the lowest abuse potential are placed in Schedule V.

Other bills in the Governor’s public safety package, including a major prescription drug abuse bill, will be considered by the General Assembly in the coming weeks.

Issues in Brief

Tennessee Officials / Judicial Diversion -- The Tennessee State Senate gave final approval to legislation which makes state or local officials who have committed a crime during their term of office ineligible for consideration of either pre-trial or judicial diversion. Judicial diversion is the process in criminal law when a person pleads guilty to a crime and can later have the charge removed (or expunged) from their record following a period of probation. Senate Bill 2566 would simply add a criminal offense committed by an official in the executive, legislative or judicial branch to the list of those which are ineligible for judicial diversion, if the crime was committed, in their official capacity or involved the duties of their office.

New “I Hate Meth” law results are promising -- Just released January data collected by the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) reveals impressive results for Tennessee in blocking unlawful sales of pseudoephedrine (PSE) at the sales counter. Sponsors of the “I Hate Meth” law are touting the results as proof Tennessee is making progress in the fight against meth with legislation passed by the General Assembly last year. NPLEx uses real-time, stop-sale technology to block PSE sales. NPLEx has only been implemented in Tennessee for one month, but the electronic system has successfully blocked the sale of more than 4,993 illegal boxes of PSE, keeping more than 13,000 grams off of Tennessee streets.

Support for Israel – State Senators have approved a resolution expressing strong support for the nation of Israel. Senate Joint Resolution 523 acknowledges a long history of friendship with Israel and its role in democracy in the Middle East. It also states the State of Tennessee recognizes that Israel has a right of self-defense against attacks of terrorism and expresses “strong support and a steadfast commitment to the security, welfare, and survival of the Jewish State of Israel with secure borders.”

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