Local News Articles

Nomination Period Underway for FSA County Committee Election

June 1, 2010
Dwayne Page

Donny Green, DeKalb County FSA County Executive Director, announces that the nomination period for the 2010 Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Committee Election is underway. The nomination period continues through August 2, 2010.

"I encourage all producers to participate in the county committee election process by nominating candidates by the August 2 deadline," said Green. "We are counting on as much participation as possible, because county committees are an important link between the farm community and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We have seen a trend in recent years of increased nominations of minority, beginning farmers, and women producers and we hope that will continue."

Committees apply their judgment and knowledge to make decisions on county commodity price-support loan eligibility, establishment of allotments and yields, conservation programs, disaster programs, employment and other farm program-related issues. Nationwide, there are more than 7,800 farmers and ranchers serving on FSA county committees. Committees consist of three to five members who are elected by eligible local producers.

To be eligible to serve on an FSA county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in a program administered by FSA, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and reside in the local administrative area in which the person is a candidate.

For the 2010 Election, nominees must reside in Local Administrative Area (LAA) # 3 which is described as the area that includes: East of Hwy. 56 South beginning at the DeKalb/Warren county line, following Hwy. 56 in a northern direction to the intersection of Highway 56 and Highway 70; south of Highway 70 East to Center Hill Lake; following Center Hill Lake north and northwest to the Caney Fork River thence to the Smith County line; south of the Smith County line and west of the Putnam County line to the White County line; west of the White County line to the Warren County line; north of the Warren County line following the county line back to Highway 56 South at the DeKalb/Warren County line.

LAA # 3 generally covers the communities of Antioch, Belk, Keltonburg, Jefferson, Four Seasons, Seven Springs, Student’s Home, Bright Hill, Indian Mound, Johnson’s Chapel, Austin Bottom, Rock Castle, Cherry Hill, Wolf Creek, and Edgar Evins State Park.

Individuals may nominate themselves, or others, as a candidate. In addition, eligible candidates can be nominated by community-based and other organizations in the county where the election is being held before the close of the nomination period, especially groups representing socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. Nominations and elections are open to all eligible candidates and voters without regard to race, color, religion, nation origin, age, sex, marital status or disability. The nomination form (FSA-669A) is available at USDA Service Centers and online at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/publications/elections.

Ballots will be mailed to all eligible voters in LAA # 3 on November 5, 2010. Completed ballots must be returned, either in person or postmarked, no later December 6, 2010. For more information about FSA county committees, visit the DeKalb County USDA Service Center or call 615-597-8225, extension 2.

Sheriff's Department Makes Arrests for Drugs, DUI, and Theft

June 1, 2010
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department arrested two people from Pikeville on drug charges last Wednesday, May 26th after a deputy checked out a suspicious vehicle setting behind a building on Allen Street.

61 year old Glenda Walters and 32 year old Anthony Herbert Walters, both of Grove Road, Pikeville were arrested. Glenda Walters is charged with simple possession of a schedule II controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bond is $3,000 and she will be in court on June 24th. Anthony Herbert Walters is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on June 24th.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says a deputy, while on patrol, spotted a suspicious vehicle on Allen Street setting behind a building. After checking the vehicle, the officer found Glenda Walters to be in possession of a loaded hypodermic syringe. Walters had the syringe tucked into her waistband. The syringe contained a yellow substance believed to be dilaudid.

Also in the vehicle was Anthony Herbert Walters. Deputies arrested him after he was found to have a used needle, hemostats, and a tourniquet in his possession.

35 year old Tracey Lavonne Guthrie of Cherry Point Court was arrested on Thursday, May 27th and charged with a first offense of driving under the influence. Bond was set at $1,500. She was also issued a citation for refusing to submit to a blood alcohol test. Guthrie will appear in court on June 10th.

Sheriff Ray says a deputy received a call of a reckless driver on Cookeville Highway. When the officer spotted the vehicle, he noticed the driver to be operating at a high rate of speed. The vehicle was also crossing the traffic lines. Guthrie was identified as the driver. Upon stopping the vehicle, the officer discovered that Guthrie had slurred speech and her eyes were red and watering. Guthrie submitted to field sobriety tasks which she failed. Guthrie also refused to submit to a blood alcohol test.

36 year old John Allen Judkins Jr. was charged Thursday, May 27th with theft of property over $1,000 after he was found to be in possession of stolen items that were taken from a barn on Big Rock Road. Through an investigation, detectives discovered that Judkins took items such as tractor weights, scrap iron, and a bucket of bolts to a scrap business here in DeKalb County. The items were found to be stolen from the Big Rock barn. Bond for Judkins was set at $25,000.

DeKalb Countians Gather to "Remember" on Memorial Day

May 31, 2010
Dwayne Page
Ronnie Redmon of American Legion POST 122 and Edward Frazier of VFW POST 7623 La
Fred VanHook (left), Donald Owens (center), Edward Frazier (right)
Colton Rhody blows TAPS

A group of patriotic citizens joined members of the American Legion POST 122 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars POST 7623 in remembering those who have died in our nation's service during a Memorial Day program Monday morning at the 303 building downtown Smithville.

The service featured gospel and patriotic music by Fred VanHook and the Harmoneers, poems by VanHook and Susan Hinton, a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by Luke Willoughby, an opening prayer by Chuck Olson, Doyle Smith leading the group in the Pledge of Allegiance and remarks by the guest speaker, minister Donald Owens. "This nation of ours has never known anything but wars. We're now involved and engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't have all the answers to it but ladies and gentlemen if we get that settled then it won't be the end of it (war). There'll be another. And if time goes on there'll be another. There are people who hate us (Americans). They hate our way of life. They hate our freedom. They hate our smiles. They hate our happiness. They hate our luxurious life that we live and they're not going to stop. They're not going to give up. So just dig in deep and say "it's worth fighting for". I'm grateful, humbled, and thankful for all those who have served and I'm grateful and thankful for those who paid the supreme sacrifice. It cost a lot of fathers and mothers their sons and daughters. It cost a lot of wives their husbands. It cost a lot of children their fathers. I want to do my part to make this country what it should be for those who follow after me so that those who pay the supreme sacrifice someday will know that the sacrifice that they paid was worth it for those who followed after them. God bless America."

The following poem was read by Susan Hinton in tribute to our veterans:

"It is the VETERAN , not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN , not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN , not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN , not the politician,
Who has given us! the right to vote.

It is the VETERAN,
who salutes the Flag.

It is the VETERAN,
who serves under the Flag,

God Bless them All"

The following poem was also read by Susan Hinton:

"Red for the blood shed in the name of Freedom

For which we fought united

Blue for the oceans of time we have crossed

Remaining the land of the free

White for the peace we wish to share

All men created equal

Stars to remember those who fought

Throughout the night bravely for our land

Stripes to remind us of the lashings

Taken by the Prisoners of War

With a seal, in God We Trust

We each are one of many in which we stand

United in Brotherhood, a symbol of Pride

A salute to those who died in the fight

A blanket to cover us in times of need

Waving high to show we are still here, undefeated

With honor you are presented to the world."

Fred VanHook recited a poem called "That Ragged Old Flag"

"I walked through a county courthouse square

On a park bench, an old man was sittin there.

I said, "Your court house is kinda run down,

He said, "No, it will do for our little town".

I said "your old flag pole kinda leaned a little bit,

And that's a ragged old flag you got hanging on it".

He said "have a seat", so I sat down,

He said, "is this your first visit to our little town"

I said, "I think it is"

He said "I don't like to brag, but we're kinda proud of

"That Ragged Old Flag"

"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there,

When Washington took it across the Delaware.

It got powder burned the night Francis Scott Key sat watching it, writing

"Oh Say Can You See"

It got a rip in New Orleans, with Packingham & Jackson

tugging at its seams.

It almost fell at the Alamo beside the Texas flag,

But she waved on tho.

It got cut with a sword in Chancellorsville,

Got cut again at Shiloh Hill.

There was Robert E. Lee and Beauregard and Bragg,

And the south wind blew hard on

"That Ragged Old Flag"

On Flanders Field in World War I,

She took a bad hit from a Bertha Gun,

She turned blood red in World War II

She hung limp and low by the time that one was through,

She was in Korea, Vietnam, She went where she was sent

by her Uncle Sam.

She's been over to the Gulf to fight Saddam

And now as you know, she's over in Afghanistan

She's waved from our ships on the briney foam

But they've just about quit waving her here at home

And here in her own good land,

She's been abused, burned, dishonored, denied and refused,

And the very government for which she stands

Has been scandalized throughout out the land.

And she's getting thread bare, and she's wearing kinda thin,

But she's in pretty good shape, for the shape she's in.

So we raise her up every morning

And we bring her down slow every night,

We don't let her touch the ground,

And we fold her up right.

On second thought
I do like to brag

Cause I'm mighty proud of

"That Ragged Old Flag"

At the conclusion of the program, a wreath was laid at the veterans memorial monument on the south side of the courthouse, placed there by Ronnie Redmon of the American Legion POST 122 and Commander Edward Frazier of the VFW POST 7623

Colton Rhody then blew TAPS on his trumpet to close out the program.

Relay for Life Seeks Support so Cancer Survivors May Celebrate More Birthdays

May 31, 2010
Dwayne Page
Relay for Life Begins Friday Evening June 4th
Relay for Life 2009

"Imagine a world with more birthdays" is the theme for the 13th annual Relay for Life, which begins Friday evening, June 4th at Greenbrook Park.

Chris Summers, Community Representative for the American Cancer Society, says thanks to funds raised through efforts like Relay for Life, more cancer survivors are celebrating more birthdays. "Our theme is "Imagine a world with more birthdays" The reason we chose that theme is because through our research and patient services, we help provide more birthdays for cancer survivors. We want cancer survivors to have more birthdays with their families and in our communities. So our theme this year is "Imagine a world with more birthdays." At the campsites when you come to Relay we'll be doing birthday parties. I personally love our theme. It's been very well received. How cool is that to say that we help provide birthdays for more cancer survivors? Cancer survivors are surviving longer. There are more battles being won. It's very humbling. I am proud to play a role in that and so is our entire Relay for Life planning committee and our teams."

Casey Midgett, the 2010 DeKalb County Chairman for Relay, says this year's program will start with entertainment at around five o'clock. "We have groups coming in to sing from five o'clock all the way til past midnight. Every possible variety of music will be included. We're also going to have some drama teams there. It's going to be something that everybody will enjoy. There is truly something for everybody. Of course, we'll have all the booths again this year with all the wonderful food that everyone looks forward to each year. All of our main stays are back plus we've picked up a couple of new teams this year. I look forward to it being a lot of fun. Some of the teams are going to do things a little different this year. We're going to have a lot more for the kids. We'll have some big inflatables, bounce zones, and some slides. It's just going to be a lot of fun for the whole family. For the teams that participate, it's also going to be a lot of fun. As teams stay all night long, we've got a lot of stuff planned for them. It's just going to be a lot of fun. It always is."

Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society's signature event, is a fun-filled overnight experience designed to bring together those who have been touched by cancer. At Relay, people from within the community gather to celebrate survivors, remember those lost to cancer, and to fight back against this disease. Relay participants help raise money and awareness to support the American Cancer Society in its lifesaving mission to eliminate cancer as a major health issue. During Relay For Life events, teams of people gather and take turns walking or running laps. The events are held overnight to represent the fact that cancer never sleeps. Through the survivors' lap and the luminaria ceremony, the people who have faced cancer first hand are honored, and those who have been lost to this disease are remembered.

But, Relay isn't about taking laps -- it's about coming together in the fight against cancer. It's a time to remember those lost to this disease and celebrate those who have survived. It's a place where people connect with others, share the cancer experience, and find comfort and solace. And it's an opportunity to build hope for a future where cancer no longer threatens the lives of the people we love.

As volunteers and donors, your efforts support research, education, advocacy, and services that allow the American Cancer Society to offer help and hope to people across the country when they need it most. By joining together at Relay, we celebrate life, friendship, and an opportunity to work to defeat cancer for future generations.

On June 4th, the community will gather together as one group to help in the battle against cancer. At Greenbrook Park in Smithville, dozens of teams, volunteers, community leaders, and citizens will enjoy the annual Relay for Life event. Plans are to have lots of entertainment and food available that evening. Planning for the Relay is a year round event and the organizers hope that you will enjoy what they have in store for you. Relay is the largest community event held in DeKalb County. Please join in for this special night and have lots of fun helping raise money.

For more information about participating in Relay for Life, contact Casey Midgett, Chris Summers, Lynn Miller, Iva dell Randolph, or any member of the planning committee.

Meanwhile, on the second weekend in June, a 5K and One Mile Fun Run will be held to benefit Relay for Life. "It's the Relay 5K and it'll be held on Saturday, June 12th, the weekend after Relay for Life", said Lynn Miller. " It's a 5K and a one mile Fun Run. All the money from that event will go to Relay for Life. If you're interested in participating in the 5K and Fun Run, you can come by and see me at Regions Bank to pick up a form or you may contact Casey Midget. Forms are also available at other locations."

122 Cast Ballots on the First Three Days of Early Voting for Smithville Municipal Election

May 24, 2010
Dwayne Page

A total of 122 people have cast ballots during the first four days of early voting for the Smithville Municipal Election.

Twenty one voted by personal appearance and two by absentee ballot on the first day, Wednesday, May 26th

Thursday, May 27th, twenty seven voted in person

Friday, May 28th, thirty one voted in person and one by absentee .

Saturday, May 29th, forty people voted in person

The DeKalb County Election Commission reports that the City of Smithville has a total of 3,076 registered voters.

Here's a break down of the registered city voters by age group:

Ages 18-20: 144 registered voters
Ages 21-30: 509
Ages 31-40: 432
Ages 41-50: 552
Ages 51-65: 730
Ages 65 and over: 709

Female registered city voters also outnumber males 1,739 to 1,336

Of course it's unknown how many people will vote in the upcoming Smithville Municipal Election, but the turnout seems to have been trending upward in recent years.

In 2006 a total of 696 people cast ballots to elect a mayor and two aldermen. The following year, 738 turned out to elect three aldermen. In 2008, 963 voters went to the polls to choose a mayor and two aldermen. Last year, a total of 811 cast ballots. Even though the turnout was down a bit last year compared to 2008, it was still somewhat higher than in 2006 and 2007.

The record also shows that in each of those years from 2006 to 2009, most of the people who voted, did so during the early voting period.

In 2006, 425 voted early and 271 cast ballots on election day.
In 2007, 555 voted early and 183 election day
In 2008, 684 voted early and 279 election day
In 2009, 590 voted early and 221 election day

This year's city election begins with early voting Wednesday, May 26th through June 10th.

Voting times are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. and Thursday from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on the first floor of the courthouse. No voting on Memorial Day, May 31st.

A mayor and two aldermen will be elected on Tuesday, June 15th. Each term is for two years. The terms of office for those elected will begin on July 1st.

The candidates for mayor are incumbent Taft Hendrixson and challengers Debi Loring DePriest and Bruce Medley.

Candidates for alderman are incumbents Cecil Burger and Stephen White and challenger Shawn Beckham.

Legislative Update from State Senator Mae Beavers

May 29, 2010
Dwayne Page

The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers.

With only days left before adjournment, State Senators worked tirelessly this week to find common ground on the budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year that will begin on July 1. The Senate Finance Committee then approved a “no tax budget” that reduces spending and holds the line against funding pork projects in a time of economic recession. The Senate Republican plan cuts $100 million from Governor Phil Bredesen’s $28 billion budget proposal to offset $139 million in tax increases which Republicans would not adopt.

The Republican plan, as amended, provides funds in this year’s budget for career ladder teacher pay, perinatal outreach grants, and agricultural enhancement funds. The plan is also a longevity pay stipend for health care expenses of state employees contingent on revenues exceeding budgeted projections.

The Republican budget provides funds that would be available for an employee buyout plan. The employee buyout plan entails offering “voluntary buyouts” to reduce the state payroll by an estimated $60 million in recurring funds. The buyout plan is based on Governor Phil Bredesen’s 2008 plan which provided cash incentives, health insurance assistance, and tuition assistance to those in targeted areas for reorganization.

The full Senate will take up the appropriations bill on Wednesday.

State Senate votes to uphold citizens’ Second Amendment rights by overriding governor’s veto

The State Senate voted this week to uphold the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans by overriding the governor’s veto on legislation to allow law-abiding handgun permit holders to “carry” into establishments serving alcohol as long as they do not consume alcoholic beverages and the owners of the premises have not posted notification that firearms are banned. The bill, Senate Bill 3012, clarifies language in the law passed last year, particularly as it applies to the posting of notices, and adds penalties for those who consume alcohol while carrying their gun in violation of the statute.

All states surrounding Tennessee, except North Carolina, allow legal gun-carry permit holders to carry in places that serve alcohol. The legislation upholds the U.S. and Tennessee Constitution’s right to bear arms. It also follows 13 years of experience with Tennessee’s handgun carry law that shows an outstanding record of safety among permit holders.

The bill addresses Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman’s decision to strike down the law due to ambiguity. The measure makes clear what signs qualify as a legal posting so there is no vagueness or ambiguity. The notification must be of appropriate dimensions. The wording must also contain key components spelled out in the proposed law, or owners could post notification by using the international gun symbol drawing with a mark through it, or both.

Finally, the bill prescribes a Class A misdemeanor offense for those convicted of drinking alcohol in violation of the gun carry permit law. In addition, those convicted of intoxication would be subject to losing their gun carry permit for three years.

Senate passes bill calling for Tennessee jails to send information regarding prisoners who are in the U.S. illegally to ICE

The State Senate approved legislation calling for Tennessee jails to send information to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office (ICE) regarding prisoners who do not have documentation that they are in the U.S. legally. The bill requires the jail keeper to fax, email or send a copy of the booking information to ICE. It helps to ensure that Tennessee will not be open to lawsuits that have been problematic in other localities with similar laws. The bill does not apply to any county or municipality that enters into a memorandum of understanding with the United States Department of Homeland Security or ICE concerning enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The legislation now goes back to the House for approval of the Senate amendments.

Issues In Brief….

Veterans / State Contracts – Members of the Senate Finance Committee voted this week to encourage state government relationships with veteran-owned businesses that have not always had access to state government contracts. Senate Bill 2785 calls for state agencies actively to solicit bids and proposals for equipment, supplies, and services from veteran-owned businesses. These businesses are defined as those which are at least 51 percent-owned by a veteran who has served honorably on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that there are at least 548 veteran-owned businesses in the state.

Kaiser study / Obama health care plan – Tennesseans could be paying an additional $1.5 billion in health care services in the first five years of implementation of President Obama’s health care plan passed by Congress in March. A study by the Kaiser Foundation reports that Tennessee could add nearly a half million more residents on the TennCare program during that period. The analysis projects the nationwide Medicaid enrollment will increase by 15.9 million at a total cost of $464 billion.

Smithville Police Make Arrests for DUI and Public Intoxication

May 28, 2010
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police made two arrests last week for DUI and one for public intoxication.

23 year old Cipriano Petriz of 1532 Vaughn Lane was arrested on Sunday, May 23rd for a first offense of driving under the influence. Officer David Phillips saw Petriz driving without his headlights on and not maintaining proper lane of travel. Upon stopping and speaking with Petriz, Officer Phillips smelled a strong odor of a fermented beverage coming from him. Petriz also had slurred speech and he was unsteady on his feet upon exiting his vehicle. Due to the language barrier and his intoxicated state, field sobriety tasks were not performed. Bond for him was set at $1,500 and his court date is June 17th.

58 year old Keith Michael Upton of 2488 Turners Bend Road, McMinnville was arrested for driving under the influence on Tuesday, May 25th. Corporal Travis Bryant responded to a possible drunk driver on West Broad Street. Upon making contact with Upton, Corporal Bryant suspected him to be under the influence of something. Upton was asked to perform several field sobriety tasks and he performed poorly on all tasks. Upton submitted to a blood alcohol test and admitted taking medication, Xanax earlier. His bond is $1,500 and his court date is June 10th.

40 year old Robert Roy Atnip Jr of 205 South 1st Street was arrested for public intoxication on Tuesday, May 25th. Officer Matt Holmes responded to a suspicious person that had left K & M Jewelry on West Broad Street. Officer Holmes made contact with Atnip who was unsteady on his feet and almost stumbled into the roadway. Upon speaking with Atnip, Officer Holmes noticed him to have a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and his speech was slurred. Bond is $1,000 and his court date is June 10th.

On Thursday, May 27th, Officer Scott Davis arrested 28 year old Christina L Johnson of 530 Miller Road on a warrant for failure to appear.

Any information received that will help Smithville Police solve any criminal offense will be greatly appreciated. All information is confidential.

Man Airlifted After Friday Evening Wreck

May 28, 2010
Dwayne Page

A 28 year old man was injured in a car wreck Friday evening on Highway 56 near the DeKalb/Warren County line.

Central dispatch received the call at 6:32 p.m.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Shaun Travis Hill of Johnson City was traveling north on Highway 56 in a 1990 Chevy Lumina Mini-Van when he crossed over the center line into the oncoming lane, went off the left shoulder, and struck a mail box post. The mini-van then traveled north a short distance in a ditchline and struck a culvert, causing the vehicle to roll over on it's passenger side. The accident occurred just inside the DeKalb County line.

A passerby stopped to render assistance to Hill until EMS arrived. Members of the DeKalb County Fire Department responded to perform extrication services, cutting out the windshield so that Hill could be removed on a backboard and treated at the scene by EMS. Hill was later airlifted on site by a Life Force helicopter ambulance. He was believed to have been flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Trooper Jennings says charges are pending against Hill.

DeKalb April Jobless Rate Holds Steady at 10.9%

May 27, 2010
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's April unemployment rate was unchanged from March at 10.9% and only slightly higher than the rate for April, 2009 of 10.7%

The local labor force for April was at 9,630. A total of 8,580 were employed and 1,050 were unemployed.

DeKalb County and Macon County tied for having the fourth lowest unemployment rates in the Upper Cumberland region for April at 10.9%.

The other counties ranked as follows from highest to lowest:
Pickett- 15.2%
Van Buren- 13.2%
White- 13.1%
Clay- 13.1%
Warren- 12.4%
Smith- 12.4%
Jackson- 12%
Fentress- 12%
Cumberland 10.8%

Meanwhile, Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was 10.5 percent, down from the March rate of 10.6 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of April was 9.9 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for April show that the rate decreased in 89 counties, increased in three counties and remained the same in three counties.

Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 7.1 percent, down from 7.4 percent in March. Scott County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 20.3 percent, up from 19.8 in March, followed by Marshall County at 17.3 percent, down from 18.4 percent in March.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 8.2 percent, unchanged from March. Davidson County was 9.0 percent, down from 9.1 in March. Hamilton County was at 9.0 percent, down from 9.4 in March, and Shelby County was 10.3 percent, down from 10.5 in March.

The LOOP- A Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

May 27, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

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

Budget discussions continued this week, with conservatives standing firm against any wasteful projects and tax increases. Lawmakers have maintained, throughout budget discussions, that raising taxes on economic-weary Tennesseans and additional money spent on wasteful projects are irresponsible. Their plan calls for significant reductions in discretionary spending, no tax increases, and leaving the Rainy Day Fund at a healthy level.

Flood relief plans have been discussed this week during budget negotiations as lawmakers recognize the need for aid. Proposed methods for funding flood relief proposals include using cash from the state's Rainy Day Fund, using a portion of stimulus money, and through various tax relief measures.

Lawmakers will continue to hammer out details next week, as the General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget each year. Each General Assembly is allowed to meet for 90 session—or legislative—days over the course of two years. After session on Thursday morning, the House has only three legislative days left to finish business. The Senate has only one legislative day remaining. Lawmakers can continue session after the legislative days are depleted, but cannot receive per diem beyond 90 days.

The Governor’s original budget proposal totaled $28.4 billion, including over $130 million in tax increases. House leadership previously denounced the Governor’s plan to implement an additional $85 million tax on single article sales as a way to balance the budget. This tax proposal was in addition to $50 million the Administration called for by increasing taxes on cable, long-distance telephone services, and free continental breakfasts that hotels and motels sometimes provide.

Resolution commends immigration policy, passes House

The House passed House Joint Resolution 1253 Monday evening commending Arizona for their bold move on immigration policies. Arizona recently passed a law that allows law enforcement officials to require citizenship documentation on any citizen that is detained or arrested. The resolution passed with a 67-27 vote.

The recent immigration policy adopted by Arizona has received national attention. In a poll conducted by MSNBC, NBC, and Telemundo, 61 percent of Americans support Arizona's actions. Lawmakers have defended the law’s importance from both an immigration and economic standpoint. Individual states and municipalities across the country have implemented a slew of illegal immigration laws in the last few years following inaction by the federal government.

To read the resolution in its entirety, please visit http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/106/Bill/HJR1253.pdf. The resolution has been sent to the Senate for action.

Lawmakers debate traffic cameras on House floor, implement moratorium

Lawmakers debated whether or not to allow traffic cameras on the House floor at length this week. House Bill 2875 was originally introduced to allow the formation of “automobile clubs and associations,” but lawmakers attempted to add a flurry of amendments to the bill that aimed at restricting the use of traffic cameras, imposing new regulations on them, or banning them outright.

After hours of debate, an amendment was added that will place a moratorium on the devices so that lawmakers can conduct a study. After January 1, 2011, no local government may place or operate traffic cameras on any highway that is maintained using state funds unless the location has been adopted by ordinance or resolution.

Numerous bills were filed this year to either ban or lessen the impact of traffic cameras in Tennessee, after public outcry reached a fever pitch. Cities and counties in Tennessee have increasingly turned to the automated systems for surveillance of intersections and roadways. The Tennessee General Assembly studied the use of traffic cameras over the summer and fall of 2009. Lawmakers echoed criticisms from constituents that in addition to a violation of rights, the motivation behind the cameras is money, not safety. Proponents of the cameras argue that safety is the priority in using the cameras. The bill recommended by the committee stalled earlier this year, but the amendment passed Thursday contains similar wording.

In case you missed it...

House Bill 270 stipulates that voter registration forms must include a statement warning applicants that giving false information to register to vote or attempting to register when not qualified is a Class D felony. The application must also include an area where the applicant has to affirm that he or she is lawfully present in the United States. This voter protection measure is likely headed to a conference committee after a series of amendments were added in the Senate. The state's Attorney General recently opined that problems may exist within the amended version.

Despite the economic downturn, Tennessee has fared better than most states. Jackson National Life Insurance Company has finalized a deal to locate a regional headquarters in Cool Springs. The company said it is aiming to hire 400 people by next January, and eventually have a total staff of approximately 750. Nissan is breaking ground this week on a lithium-ion battery plant that will provide power for electric vehicles. Roughly 250 construction workers will be needed for the project.

Several more counties were added to the federal disaster designation list this week, including Giles, Henry, and Campbell Counties. The total now stands at 48 and residents in designated counties may apply for help with debris removal and restoration efforts. Residents seeking help should call the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-621-FEMA.

Keeping in mind Memorial Day, I would like to mention that last week we buried Billy Anderson from Smithville, Tennessee. This 20 year old husband, father, son and soldier gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. May we always take time to pause, look an American Soldier in the eye and say thank you for your service.


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