Local News Articles

A Look at the Tennessee Legislature

May 1, 2011
Dwayne Page
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:

House votes to renew tax on hospitals to avert TennCare cuts

The Tennessee legislature has raised and extended for another year a hospital tax it first levied last year to generate revenue that – when combined with federal 2-for-1 matching money – will help avoid over $1 billion in TennCare cuts.

The bill increases the 3.52 percent tax on hospital net income to 4.52 percent and extends it to July 1, 2012. State officials have acknowledged it’s likely to be extended annually, like a similar nursing home tax enacted nearly two decades ago and renewed yearly.

The hospital tax exempts government-owned hospitals like the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, rural critical-access hospitals, free-standing rehabilitation hospitals and pediatric research hospitals like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Its approval last year was credited with avoiding cuts that would have closed The Med.

The tax won overwhelming, bipartisan approval in both chambers. The law stipulates that hospitals cannot pass on the tax to patients through higher fees. Lawmakers made much of that, plus the THA’s backing and the fact that the bill titles the fee as an “assessment” rather than a “tax.” The tax will generate $449 million from the hospitals, which will draw down an additional $870 million in federal Medicaid funding, for a total of over $1.3 billion for health care.

House Passes Override of Nashville Discrimination Ordinance

The House has passed a bill that would void a Nashville ordinance barring companies that discriminate against gays and lesbians from doing business with the city. The measure was approved 73-24 on Monday.

The proposal would prohibit local governments from creating anti-discrimination laws that are stricter than the state's own laws. Under state law it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.

The Nashville ordinance prohibits companies that discriminate because of sexual orientation or gender identity from receiving city contracts. It does not apply to local governments' hiring policies for their own workers. An amendment to remove Nashville from the proposed legislation failed.

Pro-Business Tort Reforms Move to House Floor

Legislation that caps non-economic damage awards at $750,000 and at $1 million in cases where victims suffer certain catastrophic injuries was given final approval to move to the House Floor next week for full consideration by the Chamber. The bill also caps punitive damages meant to punish accidental negligence by businesses or individuals. Awards for injuries that can be quantified, such as medical care, rehabilitation, or loss of income, are not capped.

The bill is a central focus of the Majority’s legislative agenda. Proponents of the legislation believe these reforms will bring stability to the legal environment companies have to account for when considering relocation to Tennessee or doing business here.

On numerous occasions, the Majority Leader has talked about the fact this reform will drastically improve the business prospects for Tennessee. “Leveling the playing field so Tennessee is more competitive with other States in the region is the smart thing to do for our citizens,” he said recently.

Constitutional Amendment to Ban State Income Tax Moves Through General Assembly

The House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee this week approved a measure that calls for a constitutional amendment that forever bans a State income tax in Tennessee. While many are comfortable with the Tennessee Constitution saying as much, many legislators believe there needs to be a concrete prohibition enshrined in Tennessee law to prevent future legislators from examining an income tax as a source of revenue.

Our State has carefully cultivated a low-tax, business-friendly image and passage of this bill will help make sure we never ruin that reputation. The measure now goes to full Finance Committee.

Tennessee was recently ranked as one of the friendliest States for business development and small business creation. Additionally, it was placed in the top five States for its low tax burden and certainly is something to be proud of and something to continue to protect.

Associates of Smithville Walmart Raising Money for Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt

May 1, 2011
Dwayne Page
Vonda Brown and Jennifer Cantrell

Walmart associates of Smithville are launching special fundraising activities over the next six weeks in support of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt as part of the Children's Miracle Network.

Vonda Brown and Jennifer Cantrell of the Smithville Walmart store said you can help .

Since the Smithville Walmart has been in business, Cantrell said more than $17,000 has been raised. The goal this year is at least $10,000 but associates would like to raise as much as $20,000. Local fundraising events include: Cupcakes for mom on Saturday, May 7th in time for Mother's Day from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.; an intra-company ballgame featuring Walmart associates and their families at Cookeville on Saturday, May 14th ; a yard sale in the grassy area near DTC on Saturday, May 21st from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. (Rent your spot for the yard sale today because space is limited-Funds raised through rentals only. Yard sale participants keep their sale proceeds); a hot dog and hamburger grill out on May 28-30; a photo contest May 31st through June 10th; and a beauty pageant inside the store at the apparel department starting at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 11th.

The need is great. According to Cantrell and Brown, 749 children from DeKalb County were treated just within the last year at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.

Children's Miracle Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children's hospitals. Each year, the 170 Children's Miracle Network hospitals provide the finest medical care, life-saving research and preventative education to help millions of kids overcome diseases and injuries of every kind.

Walmart's support for the Children's Miracle Network began in 1987. Since then, Walmart and Sam's Club associates, customers and members have raised and contributed more than $500 million for Children's Miracle Network hospitals.

Meet the DCHS Class of 2011

April 30, 2011
Dwayne Page
WJLE congratulates all members of the DCHS Class of 2011

Meet the DeKalb County High School Class of 2011

Click the following link to see a photo gallery featuring members of the class (some photos unavailable)


WJLE congratulates all members of the Class of 2011 at DCHS

Graduation is set for Friday, May 20th at 7:00 p.m. on the high school football field

Prom Night for DCHS Students

April 29, 2011
Dwayne Page
Taking a Limo Ride to the Prom

DeKalb County High School students adorned their formal wear and posed for pictures with their dates, friends, and family as they excitedly awaited departure from the school for the prom Friday evening

This year's prom was held off campus at the Doubletree Heartland Ballroom in Murfreesboro

Stretch limousines picked up several groups for the ride to the dance.

Limo loaded with DCHS Students headed for the Prom from dwayne page on Vimeo.
The prom of course is one of the last big events of the school year prior to graduation on Friday, May 20th.

State legislators Pass E-Tracking Legislation To Fight Meth Production

April 29, 2011
State Senator Mae Beavers

The Tennessee Senate Thursday passed SB 1265, which calls for the implementation of a statewide, real-time electronic tracking system, called NPLEx (National Precursor Log Exchange), to monitor and block illegal purchases of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE), an ingredient used in methamphetamine production. The bill also calls for felony charges for manufacturing meth in front of children and increases penalties for meth-related offenses. The legislation is a compromise brokered by Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and members of the legislature.

"I commend Safety Commissioner Gibbons and the Tennessee Senate for supporting a compromise that will prevent methamphetamine production in Tennessee while maintaining consumer access to important cold and allergy medications," said state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, the bill's sponsor. "E-tracking is the only solution that will stop illegal sales of pseudoephedrine products by providing a real-time, preventive system in every Tennessee pharmacy."

There is currently no mechanism in place in Tennessee to block illegal PSE sales in real time, as many pharmacies rely on handwritten paper logbooks to track purchases. As a result, criminals have learned to circumvent the current system. SB 1265 and its companion bill in the House (HB 1051) will provide a secure, interconnected electronic logbook that advises pharmacists when to refuse a sale based on an individual's purchase record elsewhere in the state and beyond its borders. In addition, the state's comptroller will conduct a thorough study of Tennessee's meth production, which will be released by January 1, 2013.

"Most importantly, electronic tracking preserves access to the trusted medicines that many Tennesseans rely on and trust for cold and allergy relief," continued Sen. Beavers.

E-tracking, which has been adopted by 13 states nationwide, will give local law enforcement officials a powerful investigative tool to track meth production across state lines. E-tracking allows law enforcement to find previously undiscovered meth labs and helps them identify meth cooks without costing taxpayers one penny.

The provision stiffening penalties against making meth in the presence of a child would take place on July 1, 2011. The bill would make the crime aggravated child endangerment which is punishable as a Class A felony if the child is eight years old or younger and a Class B felony if the child is over the age of eight.

Senator Beavers said the bill would make illegal "smurfing" or pharmacy shopping in order to obtain enough drugs to make meth and upon conviction in court, defendants would be required to pay fines that could go toward clean up of meth labs locally.

For a first conviction for such an offense, the offender would be subject to a $1,000 fine, and for a second or subsequent conviction the offender would be subject to a $2,000 fine. All proceeds from such fines would be used by the jurisdiction making the arrest for methamphetamine clean-up activities in that jurisdiction. Any person convicted of such offense would also be placed on the methamphetamine registry and would be prohibited from purchasing a nonexempt product for the seven years such person is required to be on the registry.

SB 1265/HB 1051 is supported by the Tennessee Pharmacists Association, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The NPLEx system would be fully integrated into Tennessee pharmacy systems by January 1, 2012.

DeKalb County to Participate in the Great American Cleanup

April 28, 2011
Jen Sherwood, Mike Foster, and Suzanne Williams

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce and the DeKalb County Executive’s office would like to invite residents across the county to participate in the DeKalb County Clean Up campaign on Saturday, May 14th. This event will be held in conjunction with the Keep American Beautiful initiative going on across the country. This organization’s mission revolves around a core belief that beauty is a silent but powerful force that makes communities safer, healthier and more livable.

Suzanne Williams, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, would like to remind everyone that DeKalb County’s peak tourism season is about to begin, so now is a great time to start getting things spruced up for our coming visitors. According to Williams, “I think we are all aware of the value and importance of beautification in our communities to attract newcomers and tourists to our area and to maintain a stable and growing economy.”

To get a head start on clean up, dumpsters will be set up at highly visible and convenient locations a few days prior to the main event. Dumpster locations will be at the Dowelltown Community Center, Liberty Community Center, Alexandria City Parking Lot (behind square), and the Shopping Center parking lot (close to DeKalb Ace Hardware), 702 South Congress Blvd., Smithville.

County Executive Mike Foster says, “We would like for people to come out and help clean our communities and roadways. Folks are welcome to pick their own locations to clean, or we will be glad to assign a safe place for each person to participate.”

DeKalb Clean Up volunteers are asked to come to the Chamber office located at 301 North Public Square, Smithville on May 14th between 9 AM and 11 AM to sign-in and pick up the provided trash bags, rubber gloves, bottles of water, and hand sanitizer. For early sign-up, you can stop by the Chamber anytime during regular office hours before May 14th to pick up supplies. Or if stopping by is not convenient, call the Chamber office at 597-4163 to be counted as a DeKalb Clean Up volunteer -- just give your name and the general area where you will be working. Whether you’re beautifying your street, a highway, a park, ball field, a stream, or your own home, what a difference we can make through working together!

New Sligo Bridge Included in Governor's Transportation Program

April 28, 2011
Dwayne Page
November 2009 photo of Sligo bridge

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Transportation Commissioner John Schroer have released a three-year transportation program, which includes replacement of Sligo bridge in DeKalb County.

Sligo bridge, to be funded with passage of the state's 2011-12 budget, is among more than 152 individual projects in 59 Tennessee counties included in the three year program which provides $1.7 billion for highways and bridges. The proposal has been presented to the Tennessee General Assembly.

Transportation projects in TDOT's Region Two, which includes DeKalb County, will be funded through TDOT's state and federal aid program. TDOT officials have previously said that the estimated cost to replace Sligo bridge is $30 million dollars.

The new Sligo bridge is expected to be erected some sixty feet to the north of the existing bridge and plans are for traffic to continue on the old bridge while the new structure is under construction. Right of way acquisition with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and any other adjoining landowners must also be resolved.

State Senator Mae Beavers told WJLE Thursday that the Governor's announcement is great news for DeKalb County. "I'm delighted that Sligo bridge is included in the budget. I'm further delighted that this Commissioner of Transportation has committed to not using bonds, not borrowing money. I think that's important especially with the way the economy is right now. That was a big issue in some of our campaigns and I'm happy to announce that not one penny has been borrowed. All of the money thus far to fix the bridges and roads have come from the federal and state money. I'm delighted that Sligo bridge has been included and I think the people of DeKalb County are going to be happy that finally we're getting some relief on the Sligo bridge," said Senator Beavers.

"A quality transportation system is vital to the continued growth of the state's economy and increasing job opportunities for our residents," said Governor Haslam. "The commissioner and I believe this three-year program balances the needs of communities across the state and makes solid investments in Tennessee's infrastructure."

"Taking a multi-modal approach to transportation planning allows TDOT to be responsive to the citizens of this state, tailoring projects to provide the greatest benefits in both our urban and rural areas," said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. "The department will address a number of needs through this three-year program, including congestion relief, improving access to communities, and the replacement or repair of dozens of aging bridges."

To view a complete list of projects and programs funded through the 2011-2014 three-year multimodal program visit http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/mediaroom/documents.htm.

Another Day of High Winds, Heavy Rains for DeKalb County

April 27, 2011
Dwayne Page

From high winds early in the morning to high water during the afternoon, DeKalb County was pounded yet again by another day of springtime storms Wednesday.

Dowelltown Home Surrounded by Rising Creek Waters from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Portions of DeKalb County were placed under a tornado warning at least three times during the day but no touchdowns were reported, although high winds from the storms blew down trees in various locations and caused some power outages. DeKalb County Schools were also closed for the day due to the storms.

Creek Overflows at Dowelltown from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Heavy downpours of rains caused street flooding in many areas and several creeks overflowed. High water forced the closure of a portion of the Old Nashville Highway at Dowelltown for a period of time. Rising creek waters also came dangerously close to a few homes, especially at Dowelltown and Alexandria, but apparently no one had to be evacuated.

Another Dowelltown Home Threatened by Flood Waters from dwayne page on Vimeo.
No widespread structure damage was reported across the county although the Industrial Machine Services facility in Alexandria will need some roof repairs due to the high winds.

Smithville Beer Board Grants Permit to Mercadito Chabelita

April 27, 2011
Dwayne Page

Another Smithville business has been licensed to sell beer.

The Smithville Beer Board Monday night approved the application of Pablo Gonzalez-Rosales to sell beer at 408 East Broad Street known as Mercadito Chabelita after finding that the applicant met all criteria in accordance with city codes.

Members of the beer board voting in favor were Lloyd Black, Steve Hays, Annette Greek, and Cecil Burger. Farron Hendrix was absent.

A total of twelve city businesses are now licensed to sell beer in Smithville including Walmart, Food Lion, Dollar General Store, Mapco Express, Kwik-N-Ezy, Jewel's Market, Village Market, South Congress BP, West Broad BP, Eastside Citgo, El Mariachi, and now Mercadito Chabelita.

End of Course Assessments Begin Next Week

April 26, 2011
Dwayne Page

Jonathan Fontanez, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12, reminds students and parents about the upcoming state assessments.

Jonathan Fontanez Speaking of Upcoming Testing from dwayne page on Vimeo.

"It is testing time at the secondary level in Tennessee once again and we are looking at beginning our testing season on May 3rd, 4th, & 5th with secondary assessments, end of course assessments in Algebra I, English X, and Biology I. The following week we will continue our testing in the areas of English IX, U.S. History, and Algebra II. The state has also rolled out a new assessment this year in 11th grade English, English III. We'll also have final exams toward the end of the month and then graduation on May 20th," said Fontanez.

"We just want to remind everyone to make the necessary preparations for these assessments. Be sure students that you get enough rest the night prior to these assessments and eat a good breakfast and come to school ready to do well on these end of course assessments", said Fontanez.


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