Local News Articles

School System Seeks Support for Spring Break BackPack Program

March 2, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page
 Dee Anna Persinger

The DeKalb County School System is seeking donations of food and funds for another Back Pack program to make sure children who receive free or reduced priced meals at school have plenty to eat during the Spring Break while they are at home.

Dee Anna Persinger, School Health Coordinator, says through the"BackPack" program, children receive food they can take home.

"BackPack" was started locally as a pilot program during the winter break for students at Smithville Elementary, but Persinger says this "BackPack" program will include all schools if donations permit. "We started a food BackPack program this year with winter break and it was such a huge success that we would like to do that again for spring break. We are again looking for volunteers, monetary donations, and food donations. The program is not going to be successful unless we can find those volunteers and donations. Spring break starts March 29th and we are scrambling to get that together so if anyone is interested, we welcome them to help us."

Persinger says almost 400 students from Smithville Elementary School were served during the winter break but in order to expand the program to serve students from all schools more donations of funds and food are needed along with volunteers to help bag, box, and label the food bags.

Suggested individually packaged food to donate for the BackPack program include: 100% juice in single serving unbreakable bottles, boxes, or pouches; small boxes or bags of nutritious cereals; nutritious snack/breakfast bars; fruit cups; small boxes of raisins or dried fruit; microwave popcorn; non-perishable single serve microwave kids meals; and individually packaged crackers (peanut butter and crackers), and packaged nuts.

For more information, call Dee Anna Persinger at 215-2118 or Cindy Childers at 215-2161

The BackPack Program concept was developed at the Arkansas Rice Depot, after a school nurse asked for help because hungry students were coming to her with stomachaches and dizziness. The local food bank began to provide the school children with groceries in non-descript backpacks to carry home.

In addition to providing nutritious food to school children in need, some BackPack Programs provide extra food for younger siblings at home and others operate during the summer months when children are out of school and have limited access to free or reduced-priced meals.

The BackPack Program became a pilot program in 1995. The National Council of Feeding America approved the BackPack Program as an official national program of the Network in July 2006.

More than 140 Feeding America members operated more than 3,600 BackPack Programs and served more than 190,000 children in FY2009.

Local Scholarship Applications Due Soon

March 1, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County High School Guidance Department is urging parents to encourage their high school seniors to submit scholarship applications by the deadlines.

Almost all local scholarship applications are due at the DCHS Guidance Office by March 23rd.

Applications for the DTC Scholarship in memory of McAllen Foutch are due at the DTC office by the close of business on March 15th. This scholarship is for students whose parents or guardians are active DTC members.

The following scholarships are available:

Kyle & Kenny Robinson Memorial Scholarship

DeKalb Community Hospital- for students going into the healthcare field

DeKalb Retired Teachers Award for students who will major in education.

Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club Award for female students only.

The Elzie and Nell McBride Memorial Scholarship for future MTSU students only

The DeKalb Farmers Coop Award for students going into an agriculture or related field.

The Lucille Stewart Memorial Scholarship Award for basketball players or basketball cheerleaders going into teaching.

DeKalb Republican Women's Club Scholarship. Male or female students may apply

AmVets Scholarship and AmVets Auxiliary Scholarship for a male and female student who are children or grandchildren of a veteran.

The DeKalb County Soil Conservation District Scholarship is for students majoring in agriculture.

The DeKalb Firefighters Association Scholarship is for students who have a parent or grandparent who is a current member of the DeKalb Firefighter's Association.

And the Liberty State Bank, DeKalb County Scottish Rite, Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, Alan Hooper Memorial Scholarship, Eddie Crips Memorial Scholarship, DeKalb Funeral Chapel, Smithville Rotary Club, First Bank, Class of 1966, Class of 1969, the Jeff Garrett Memorial Scholarship, the PTO, Jolly Angels Scholarship and the Agee Oil Company Scholarship.

Local Scholarship Applications are now available in the Guidance Office or
on the DCHS website: http://www.teacherweb.com/tn/dekalbcountyhighschool/guidance/

Man Believed to be Responsible for Death of Child

March 1, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page
Esteban Palomo Morales
Joshua Dean Turner
Terry Ray Barnes
Tommy Lynn Parsley

A 25 year old man, charged with aggravated child abuse, could be facing more serious charges now that the four month old baby he is accused of abusing has died.

However, Sheriff Patrick Ray says Esteban Palomo Morales of West Green Hill Road, Smithville has fled the county and hasn't been seen since his arrest on Wednesday, February 24th.

Palomo was charged in the case by county detectives after an investigation into an injury that occurred to the child on August 6th 2009.

The infant had a terminal illness and was being fed with a feeding tube. According to Sheriff Ray, Morales was mad when he entered the residence on Cecil Hale Road in Smithville and threw the baby face down on the couch. The child suffered injury from the abuse and the feeding tube came out. The baby was sent to St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville and has died.

Detectives have been in contact with the District Attorney General about the case and will decide if Morales can be charged with the death of the child. Bond for Morales was set at $50,000 and he is scheduled to appear in court on March 4th.

Meanwhile, in another case, Sheriff Ray says 19 year old Joshua Dean Turner of Northwood Lane, McMinnville, 21 year old Terry Ray Barnes of Fun Branch Road, Gainesboro, and a 17 year old female were all charged Friday, February 26th with attempted manufacture of a schedule II drug methamphetamine. Bond for Turner and Barnes was set at $25,000 each. The juvenile was sent to the juvenile detention center in Cookeville. All will appear in court on March 25th. A deputy, while on patrol, spotted a vehicle pulling into the parking lot of Mt. Pisgah Church on Short Mountain Highway. The officer stopped to investigate and took the K-9 dog around the vehicle. The dog alerted on the automobile. The occupants told the deputy that they had smoked marijuana while in the vehicle, but all gave conflicting stories of when it happened. The officer conducted a search and found a methamphetamine lab including ammonium nitrate, lithium batteries, hose, funnel, aluminum foil, Drano, empty pseudoephedrine blister packs, water, acid, and bags of ephedrine.

27 year old Tommy Lynn Parsley of Broad Street Smithville was arrested on Sunday, February 28th and charged with a fifth offense of driving on a suspended license, criminal impersonation, evading arrest, possession of a schedule VI drug (marijuana) for resale, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Parsley was also wanted for criminal trespassing and a general session's court capias has been issued for his arrest. Parsley's total bond was set at $64,500 and he will appear in court on March 11th. A deputy spotted Parsley on Highway 70 East at a motel and knew that he was wanted in DeKalb County on outstanding warrants. The officer turned his patrol car around and when he entered the parking lot he noticed Parsley run into a room. The deputy went to the door and knocked. Parsley answered. The officer asked Parsley for his identification. Parsley provided him with an I.D. of Timothy Murphy. When the deputy told Parsley that the I.D. didn't belong to him, Parsley then ran out the door in an attempt to flee. Parsley was caught about 150 yards away and began resisting arrest. Officers found in Parsley's vehicle over ½ oz. of marijuana, marijuana scales, a pill crusher, baggies, and a marijuana shredder.

40 year old Donna Sue Blankenship of West Green Hill Road, Smithville was arrested Tuesday, February 23rd for driving on a suspended license on Bright Hill Road. This was Blankenship's second offense. Bond was set at $2,000 and she will appear in court on March 10th

18 year old Colby M. Kelnhofer of Rodonna Drive, Smithville was charged Tuesday, February 23rd with driving under the influence and possession of a schedule II drug. Bond was set at $3,000 and he will appear in court on March 18th. Sheriff Ray says deputies were dispatched to an automobile accident on Sparta Highway. An officer noticed that Kelnhofer, the driver, had a smell of marijuana about him. There was also an odor of marijuana inside his vehicle. Kelnhofer submitted to field sobriety tasks which he failed. Deputies asked Kelnhofer about the marijuana smell. He replied that he had smoked a marijuana cigarette and then wrecked. Officers also found a small portion of a pill in Kelnhofer's pocket believed to be oxymorphone.

28 year old Alicia L. Fish of Midway Road, Smithville was arrested on Tuesday, February 23rd and charged with disorderly conduct, assault on an officer, and resisting arrest. Her bond was set at $7,500 and she will appear in court on March 18th. Deputies responded to a complaint on Midway Road. While talking to another person there, Fish came out of the residence yelling and screaming at both the officers and the person to whom they were talking. Fish was told several times to go back into the residence. She initially complied but later came out again yelling and screaming. This happened seven or eight times. After the officer told her she was under arrest, Fish took off running back into the house and slammed the door on the deputy's arm. Fish also fought the officer as he was trying to cuff her.

26 year old Matthew Malachi Lawson of Haley Road Smithville was arrested on Thursday, February 25th and charged with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $1,000 after an investigation into a break-in on South College Street in Smithville. Lawson allegedly entered the home and took a pistol, money, knives, a cedar dresser drawer, and blank checks. Bond for Lawson was set at $40,000 and he will appear in court on March 11th.

42 year old Thomas Wayne Coats of Malone Hollow Road was arrested on Thursday, February 25th for public intoxication. Bond was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on March 18th. Deputies responded to a domestic call on Malone Hollow Road in Alexandria and upon arrival found Coats in an intoxicated state. Coats had a smell of alcohol on his person and his speech was slurred.

19 year old Ray Darnell Underwood of Short Mountain Highway was arrested on Friday, February 26th and charged with driving on a suspended license after he was involved in a motor vehicle accident on Short Mountain Highway. Bond for Underwood was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on March 18th.

Senator Jim Tracy Announces DeKalb County Chairman in His Race for Congress

March 1, 2010

State Senator Jim Tracy announced today that former Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture, John Rose will chair his efforts in DeKalb County in his race for Congress.

“As an entrepreneur and successful business owner, John Rose has created jobs across Middle Tennessee and understands how our economy works. His commitment to our community and generosity make John Rose a well respected addition to our team,” said Tracy.

John Rose is a summa cum laude graduate from Tennessee Tech University, holds a masters in agricultural economics from Purdue University and a law degree from Vanderbilt University. John is the co-founder of Transcender Corp., an award winning provider of information technology certification training. John served as Tennessee’s 33rd Commissioner of Agriculture. As Commissioner, John served on the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission, the Tennessee Board of Regents, and the University Of Tennessee Board Of Trustees. In 2005 and again in 2008, John was appointed to the Tennessee Heritage Conservation Trust Fund Board. In 2007, John was recipient of the TBR Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy. Currently, John serves as the chairman of the Tennessee FFA Foundation and the TTU Foundation.

Jim Tracy is small business owner, former teacher and coach, and former TSSAA & NCAA basketball referee. He has been married to his wife, Trena, for 33 years, and they have three sons. Jim and Trena live in Shelbyville and attend Fairlane Church of Christ, where Jim is an active member and Deacon. Jim is a 1978 graduate of The University of Tennessee at Martin with a degree in Agriculture Education.

Smithville Police Lieutenant Steven Leffew Receives Commendation

February 27, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page
Smithville Police Lieutenant Steven Leffew

Lieutenant Steven Leffew has been presented a Smithville Police Department Commendation from Mayor Taft Hendrixson and Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks.

The commendation states that " On behalf of the City of Smithville Police Department, I would like to commend you for your recent actions and diligent efforts in your capacity as a Police Officer".

"Recently, you were named Officer in Charge of the Smithville Police Department. Because of your dedication and through your direction, the department has been able to conduct numerous under cover investigations resulting in the recovery of illegal drugs, seized property, and numerous felony arrests. The officers of the Smithville Police Department consider it a privilege and an honor to serve the citizens of Smithville under your guidance. You have strived to make a difference for both the citizens of Smithville as well as your co-workers and for that you are commended."

"Your determination and efforts in the continued performance of your duties exemplify your outstanding work ethic. Your action enables the citizens of Smithville and your fellow co-workers to know that the Smithville Police Department is continuously striving for quality service. You have served with distinction. You are a credit to the Smithville Police Department. I appreciate your current performance and for that you are hereby recognized and commended with a copy of this commendation becoming a part of your personal record."

"Thank you and congratulations for a job well done!"

Lady Tigers Upset Grundy County 56 to 40 in Region Tournament

February 26, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Lady Tigers upset Grundy County in the Region 4AA basketball tournament Friday night 56 to 40

With the win the Lady Tigers will meet Cannon County in the next round of the tournament on Monday night at 6:00 p.m. at White County High School in Sparta. The Lionettes eliminated Blesoe County 69 to 39 in their region tournament game at Woodbury.

DeKalb County, the fourth seed from district 8, led 16 to 6 after the first period. Grundy County, the top seed from district 7, cut into the Lady Tiger lead in the second period, outscoring DeKalb 16 to 10, but still the black and gold held a four point edge, 26 to 22 at halftime. DeKalb County maintained that four point advantage at the end of the third quarter 38 to 34 as each team scored 12 points in the period. DeKalb County put the game away in the fourth quarter, outscoring Grundy County 18 to 6 enroute to the 56 to 40 victory.

Kristina Stephens led the Lady Tigers in scoring with 23 points, followed by Martha Webb with 19, Cynthia Woodward 6, Alex Meadows 5, Morgan Page 2, and Mercedes Luna with 1 point.

In addition to the DeKalb-Cannon County game, the Upperman girls will take on Livingston Academy at 7:30 p.m. Monday night in Sparta.

Silver Point Man Airlifted after Two Car Crash

February 26, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page

A Silver Point man was airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital Thursday night after a two car crash on Highway 56 (Cookeville Highway) less than a mile from the Putnam County line.

Central dispatch received the call at 6:17 p.m.

Trooper Darrell Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says 62 year old Dennis Trahan of Silver Point was driving south on Highway 56 in a 1992 BMW when he went across the road and struck a northbound 1997 Chevy Cavalier, driven by 46 year old Steven Taylor of Baxter. According to Trooper Knowles, Trahan claims he blacked out. After making impact with Taylor's car, Trahan's vehicle also struck a guardrail. Taylor's car spun counterclockwise after impact and came to rest in the emergency lane on the southbound side.

A Life Force helicopter ambulance landed near the scene and airlifted Trahan to Vanderbilt Hospital. Taylor received minor injuries and refused transport to the hospital by ambulance.

In addition to Trooper Knowles and THP Lieutenant Randy Maynard, others on the scene were members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, the Temperance Hall station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, and DeKalb EMS.

Traffic Stop Results in Trip to Hospital for Two Law Enforcement Officers

February 26, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page

After making a routine traffic stop, Smithville Police Officer Scott Davis and State Trooper Mark Jones of the Tennessee Highway Patrol recently had to make a trip to the hospital.

According to Smithville Police, Officer Davis responded to a call on Dry Creek Road to aid in identifying possible narcotics. Trooper Jones was also on the scene. While searching a vehicle, belonging to 28 year old Mary E. Tanner of Old Mill Hill Road, the officers discovered a Sobe water bottle, containing an unknown substance. Trooper Jones opened the bottle and both he and Officer Davis inhaled fumes from chemicals inside the bottle which was determined to be methamphetamine.

Both officers were treated and released at the emergency room of DeKalb Community Hospital after they began having breathing problems as a result of exposure to the chemicals.

Smithville Police charged Tanner with aggravated assault on an officer. The Tennessee Highway Patrol also charged her with possession of methamphetamine, among other offenses.

The hazardous chemicals were properly disposed of from the scene.

Meanwhile, in other city crime news, police recently received information about a possible meth lab at a West Main Street apartment complex. Officer Matt Famer, trained and certified in handling and identifying components used to make methamphetamine, was summoned to the scene where he and other officers discovered what appeared to be a "shake and bake" operation, along with enough components for a full-blown meth lab.

A clean-up crew was called to properly dispose of all the components and chemicals at the scene. The case is still under investigation and arrests are pending.

33 year old Eric James Garner of Tabernacle Drive, Smithville, was arrested and charged with simple possession of a schedule IV drug (valium).

K-9 officer Bradley Tatrow received a report of a possible drunk driver, inbound on Highway 56 North. Officer Tatrow pulled the vehicle over on Allen Ferry Road and made contact with the driver, Garner, who allegedly had the odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person. Garner allegedly admitted to drinking one beer and having taken his hydrocodone medicine.

After spotting a rifle in the passenger seat, Officer Tatrow asked Garner to exit the vehicle and found on him a plastic wrapper that contained different types of pills, including ten pills believed to be valium. Bond for Garner was set at $1,500, and he will appear in General Sessions Court, March 18th.

19 year old Stephanie Murphy of East Bryant Street, Smithville, was arrested on Friday, February 19th, and charged with disorderly conduct.

Corporal Travis Bryant responded to a call of a verbal altercation at the City Walk Apartments. Murphy admitted she had been in an argument with another party. Corporal Bryant was later informed of a fight upstairs at the apartment complex, in which Murphy was allegedly involved with another neighbor. He advised her to calm down, but she allegedly did not comply.

Bond for Murphy was set at $1,000, and she will appear in court on the charge, March 11th.

32 year old James A. Hesson of Sparta Highway, Smithville, was arrested on Friday, February 19th, and charged with leaving the scene of an accident and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Corporal Travis Bryant responded to a motor vehicle accident with property damage on North Congress Boulevard. Upon arrival, Corporal Bryant made contact with Patty Davis who had been involved in the accident. The other driver had fled the scene but Davis gave the officer a detailed description of the vehicle. Corporal Bryant said he was familiar with the vehicle and its owner.

Two days later, on Sunday, February 21st, while escorting someone to a Hayes Street residence to recover some personal items, Corporal Bryant saw Hesson in the passenger seat of another vehicle. He made contact with Hesson who admitted that he had fled the scene of the accident on Friday because he wasn't sure if the truck he was driving had been stolen. Hesson claimed he purchased the truck just a few days before the accident. He also allegedly had a hypodermic syringe strapped to a case underneath his leg.

Meanwhile on Friday, February 19th, Linda Rigsby reported to Corporal Travis Bryant that she noticed three rings missing from the bedroom of her West Market Street residence. One was a gold ring, valued at $200, another was a gold wedding band, valued at $100, and the third was a gold ring with a quartz stone, valued at $600. Rigsby reported there was no sign of forced entry into her home, but three other people had access to the residence.

On Wednesday, February 17th, Sergeant Randy King was dispatched to a Smith Road residence, where Ethel Y. Cash reported missing a New England Firearms 22-caliber revolver. Cash said she had bought the gun several years ago, but last remembered seeing it on February 1st, 2009. She recently began looking for it and noticed it was missing.

On Thursday, February 18th, Brittany A. Scarpaci reported to Sergeant Randy King that all of her belongings had been taken out of her apartment while she was away from home for three days, visiting her mother. Among the items taken were a leather living room suite, a 19-inch color television, end tables, a lamp, a TV table, a microwave, skulls glass and porcelain, collector's teddy bear, a rose lamp, a 26-inch color television, a DVD player, 60 VHS tapes and 100 DVD's. The total value of the items was about $2,500.

Also on Thursday, February 18th, Jennifer Hicks reported to Lieutenant Steven Leffew that she had become aware of multiple transactions having been made on her debit card. She was made aware that her card had been mailed to the wrong address, and according to her bank statement, the transactions had started on or around January 5th.

On February 25th, Samuel Kennedy of O'Connor Street reported to Corporal Travis Bryant that his mailbox had been opened and his outgoing mail was missing. The post office had told Kennedy that the mail had not been picked up. Kennedy's missing mail contained three checks, totaling $119. At the time of the report, none of the checks had been cashed.

State Senator Mae Beavers Legislative Update

February 26, 2010
State Senator Mae Beavers

The following is an update from State Senator Mae Beavers.

The pace quickened on Capitol Hill this week as committees considered a wide variety of bills and continued to review budget requests from departments and agencies of state governments. In addition, the Senate heard a presentation on the Senate Floor from the Future Farmers of America, an organization that promotes the growth of agricultural education amongst junior high, high school, and college students. Senator Beavers welcomed this year’s FFA President James Flatt and Middle Tennessee Vice President Andy Ligon, both from Wilson County in Senate District 17. Lastly, this week Senator Beavers was honored by the Concerned Motorcyclists of Tennessee and given a lifetime appreciation award for her career efforts in supporting motorcyclists and their issues.

Senate Judiciary Committee debates bill to require drunk drivers with a high blood alcohol level to install ignition interlock devices

Among bills considered was one debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee that would require extreme drunk drivers to install an ignition interlock device. The proposal would apply to persons arrested with blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .15 or more, a level which is 385 times more likely to cause a crash.

Interlock devices are small pieces of equipment attached to the steering wheel of a car with a tube that the driver must breathe into in order to allow ignition to start. The current alcohol ignition interlock technology makes it easier for courts to require drunk drivers to utilize the device.

“This bill aims squarely at those who drink, drive and kill,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), sponsor of the bill. “The record is clear that ignition interlock devices save lives.”

According to the Department of Safety, 3,877 restricted driver’s licenses were issued to people with DUI convictions in 2008, of which 1,163 were to offenders having a BAC level of .15 or higher. The bill aims to strengthen Tennessee’s law against DUI offenders who register high levels of alcohol upon arrest. State law already requires persons who are convicted and have a prior conviction within the past five years to install an interlock device for a six month period at their own expense.

Eight other states already have laws that require DUI offenders to install interlock devices if they register .15 or higher. Action on the bill, Senate Bill 2965, was deferred until next week.

Government Operations Committee reviews objectives to loosen grip of special interest groups and lobbyists on state’s boards and commissions

The Senate Government Operations Committee is currently considering action to loosen the grip of special interest groups and lobbyists over the various boards and commissions in Tennessee as they are reviewed by the panel in their normal sunset review process. Several members of the committee have expressed serious concerns about repeated language in Tennessee law that requires appointing authorities to select a candidate from special interest organizations.

The governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house are most commonly responsible for naming those who serve on the approximately 250 boards and commissions currently in operation in the state. The boards cover a wide variety of matters and involve oversight for various professions in the state from real estate and health care to athletic training and funeral homes. Special interest groups over the years have lobbied to make sure that their organizations are included in the language of the law by requiring that appointments are made from members of their group.

One of the key concerns includes the idea that many qualified citizens are eliminated from consideration because they may not be members of an organization. This is especially the case in professional organizations, some of which have a small percentage of members who are licensed within that profession.

Issues in Brief

Online Driver Safety Class – The Senate and House have approved and sent to the governor legislation that would allow senior drivers in the state to take an online driving course in order to receive a discount on their automobile insurance premiums. The bill, Senate Bill 2570, would allow the discount to citizens over 55 years of age if they complete an online driver safety course approved by the State Department of Safety. Currently, only seniors who take courses in a classroom are eligible to receive the discounts.

Snow Days – School superintendents would have more flexibility in making up missed days due to snow or other weather-related problems under legislation that was approved by the full Senate this week. The bill, Senate Bill 3031, authorizes the Commissioner of Education to approve directly proportional variations from half-hour extension of the school days and the corresponding accumulation of 13 days of adjustments to the instructional time requirements.

Motorcycle Lemon Law – The Senate approved legislation, Senate Bill 2649, to add motorcycles to Tennessee’s “lemon law” regarding warranty protections. The lemon law requires that motor vehicle manufacturers, or their authorized agent or dealers, must repair new vehicles that are under warranty and replace or accept the return of them if they cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts.

Trust laws – The State Senate has approved legislation to update and improve Tennessee’s trust laws to keep the state competitive as a prime location for investments. The bill, Senate Bill 3522, improves Tennessee’s Uniform Principal and Income Act, the Uniform Trust Code, and the Investment Services Act by adding a number of statues to upgrade and improve the state’s trust laws. It also creates a new type of trust in Tennessee called the unitrust. The legislation employs the top features of trust laws in other states and best practices in trust administration to put Tennessee ahead of other states in desirability for trust administration.

Troops / Voting – Legislation making it easier for troops who are deployed overseas to vote received final approval in the State Senate this week. The bill, Senate Bill 2681, authorizes a county Election Commission to e-mail a ballot to each member of the armed forces, as well as citizens temporarily outside the United States, who are entitled to vote and who have submitted a valid application for a ballot. The move would expedite the process so the voter would have more time to make a decision and return their ballot so they will be counted. According to the Pew Center on the States, about half of overseas voters fail to vote or to have their votes counted because of current voting rules.

Honoring fallen heroes – The State Senate took time this week to honor two fallen Tennessee heroes who lost their life this week in a helicopter accident in Iraq. The soldiers, Capt. Marcus Ray Alford and Chief Warrant Officer Billie Jean Grinder, were with Louisville's 1/230th Air Cavalry. In addition, Sergeant David Clay Prescott, Jr. and Staff Sergeant Michael Wayne Tinsley of the Guard’s Armored Calvary Regiment were killed earlier this month. Public Chapter 169 which was approved last year, requires that if members of the Tennessee National Guard die in the line of duty, the Governor shall proclaim a day of mourning in their honor and the names of the deceased members of the armed forces shall be recorded in the journal of the Senate and House of Representatives. The new law also requires that flags be flown at half-mast to honor these soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice for their state and country.

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

February 26, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is an update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver.

Greetings, Folks of the Fortieth! We continued our examination of the budget this week, amid reports that revenues continue to slide. The state has seen revenues decline for 20 straight months, a new record. Despite the dismal numbers, we are focused on our goal of a balanced budget that keeps priorities in place and view the current budget situation as an opportunity to return government to the basics.

Based on tentative numbers, the total budget will shrink this fiscal year by roughly $1.5 billion. Analysts say that the state’s sales tax revenue—the primary source of revenue—has dropped sharply over the last 20 months.

“Clawback Payment” could save millions
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that Tennessee could keep some of the “clawback payments” associated with prescription drug coverage. The temporary change means the state could save roughly $120 million, going a long way in softening the blow of the Governor’s call for $200 million in reductions from TennCare.

Some Tennesseans that are a Medicaid-waiver enrollee are also enrolled in Medicare. The federal government requires the state to contribute some of its TennCare funds in lieu of paying twice for the benefits that both programs cover, called “clawback payments.” Temporarily, the federal government will be forgiving those payments, thus saving the $120 million.

Tennessee joined several other states in asking the federal government to suspend the payments, because the federal stimulus aid for Medicaid meant the state would have paid less for prescription drugs in the next two budgets. At the end of last week the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services agreed, leading them to temporarily suspend the payments.

Subcommittee approves ‘Pass the bottle’ legislation
The ‘Pass the Bottle’ legislation appeared before the House Local Government Subcommittee on Wednesday, eventually winning the approval of the committee. The bill passed with a 5-3 vote. House Bill 2744 would ban open containers in the passenger areas of vehicles, and make a violation a misdemeanor, subjecting a guilty party to a fine. Currently, no driver may consume an alcoholic beverage or possess an open container of such while operating a motor vehicle, but passengers may consume alcohol. The sponsor argued this policy invites drivers to drink as long as there is a passenger to which they can “pass the bottle.”

The bill was filed last year and experienced resistance in subcommittees then. Opponents expressed concern over the ability of sober drivers to take friends home who are drinking, and also regarding sporting events, such as University of Tennessee football games. Despite these objections, the sponsor said the state must reform its drunk driving laws.

In 2008, an estimated 11,773 people died in drunk driving related crashes. Alcohol-related crashes in the United States cost the public an estimated $114.3 billion in 2000, including $51.1 billion in monetary costs and an estimated $63.2 billion in quality of life losses. People other than the drinking driver paid $71.6 billion of the alcohol-related crash bill, which is 63 percent of the total cost of these crashes. Having won approval from the Local Government Subcommittee, the bill now faces the full House State and Local Government Committee and is scheduled to be heard on March 2nd.

Lawmakers continue to study traffic cameras; Attorney General opinion released
The controversy over traffic cameras continues, and legislation that would place a two-year moratorium on the cameras is being held in the Transportation Committee until April 1st. The bill would prohibit city and county governments from signing new contracts for a two-year period, giving us time to study the issue further.

The state’s Attorney General also released an opinion this week that said the cameras are constitutional. A fellow lawmaker asked the Attorney General to decide whether or not the cameras violate the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause, which allows the accused to confront any witnesses against them. The AG opinion stated, in response, “The confrontation clause embraces testimonial statements. Photographs are not testimonial statements.”

Although the opinion did not directly address many of the issues we are examining, it indicated there are certain areas that could be open to scrutiny. The opinion also stated that certain restrictions we are considering placing on the cameras would be constitutional, as long as the restrictions were “reasonable.”

The City of Gallatin in Sumner County was the first to implement the cameras in 2006, and has since added additional cameras. City officials say the cameras have significantly reduced T-bone crashes at major intersections. Currently, sixteen Tennessee cities utilize the cameras for traffic enforcement, including red light and speed cameras.

In Brief
House Bill 270, requiring citizenship status to be proven prior to registration to vote was passed out of the House State and Local Government Committee this week.

The week ahead
Next week bills will shift focus to several areas of importance. House Bill 2904 decreases from five to three years the length of time a small employer must purchase coverage through a health group cooperative. Next is House Bill 1357 which allows municipalities to take special census at their own expense any time between regular decennial federal censuses. Then, there is House Bill 2506 which creates a new criminal offense prohibiting a felon from possessing a radio capable of receiving emergency voice transmissions; prohibits a person from using information from the radio to facilitate a felony or interfere with emergency transmissions. Also, House Bill 2936 clarifies that tuition credits or refunds during military service are to be given to students called to active duty while attending Tennessee technology centers as well as state universities and community colleges. And finally, following along the theme of education is House Bill 3745 which authorizes h ome schooled students to participate in extracurricular athletic activities of a public school in which they are eligible to attend.

In closing, I would like to say what a treat it was to have the Future Farmers of America (FFA) here in the halls of the legislature. These young men and women are some of the finest Tennessee has to offer. It was an honor to have them as guests in Agriculture Committee as well as have them speak to House members on the Floor. They are truly remarkable leaders of tomorrow. May we truly embrace their charge “Lead out loud.” Again, it is a pleasure to serve you the Folks of the Fortieth.

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