Local News Articles

Two Candidates Qualify for Alexandria Election-Four Positions to be Filled

June 18, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

A mayor and three aldermen will be elected in Alexandria on Thursday, September 3rd but only two people met the qualifying deadline Thursday at noon to get their names on the printed ballot.

Mayor Ria Baker will be running for a full term as mayor and alderman Tony Tarpley will be running for a full term as alderman.

The positions are currently held by mayor Baker and aldermen Tarpley, Eddie Tubbs, and Charles Griffith.

Anyone wanting to run as a write-in candidate still has an opportunity to get in the race.

Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley says under state law 2-7-133 subsection (i), any person wanting to be elected by write-in ballots shall complete a notice requesting such person's ballots be counted no later than 12 noon 50 days before the election" which in this case is July 15th.

According to Stanley, "If the ballot still isn't full, any vacancies would be filled by the board of mayor and aldermen after the election, as I understand the law."

Meanwhile, the last day to register to vote in the Alexandria election is August 5th.

The last day to register to vote in the Liberty election is July 7th.

Early voting for the Liberty election is July 27th-August 1st.

TDOS Reminds Motorists: Never Leave Children Unattended in a Vehicle

June 18, 2009

As we approach the summer months, the Tennessee Department of Safety (TDOS) reminds motorists that children and pets should never be left unattended in a vehicle.

“It is important to remember that children and pets can become ill from heat exhaustion when left in a hot car,” stated Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell. “Motorists should never leave a child or animal unattended in a car, even with the windows down. Even if it’s just a few moments, it’s extremely dangerous.”

On a typical sunny, summer day, the temperature inside a car can reach potentially deadly levels within minutes. Experts say the damage can happen in as little as ten minutes. Even on a mild day at 73 degrees outside, an SUV can heat up to 100 degrees in ten minutes and to 120 degrees in just 30 minutes. At 90 degrees outside, the interior of a vehicle can heat up to 160 degrees within several minutes.

“Cracking the window to let air in does little to protect children from the effects of heat buildup in a parked car,” stated Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Mike Walker. “Not only could you suffer the loss of a loved one from leaving them in an unattended vehicle, you could face jail time and stiff penalties.”

Heat exhaustion can occur at temperatures above 90 degrees and heat stroke can occur when temperatures rise above 105 degrees. If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. With respiratory systems that are still developing, children are particularly vulnerable to heat exhaustion.

Depending on the seriousness of the offense, a person can be charged with penalties ranging from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class A Felony for leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. TCA Code 39-15-401 provides that “any person who knowingly, other than by accidental means, treats a child under eighteen years of age in such a manner as to inflict injury commits a Class A misdemeanor. If the abused child is six years of age or less, the penalty is a Class D felony. TCA Code 39-15-402 carries a possible Class B or Class A felony for aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect or endangerment. Class A Misdemeanors carry a penalty of not greater than 11 months, 29 days or a fine up to $2,500, or both. Class A Felonies can carry a penalty of not less than 15 nor more than 60 years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $50,000.

Last year, nationwide, there were at least 42 deaths in the United States due to hyperthermia after being left inside hot cars, trucks, vans and SUV’s. (Source: San Francisco State University)

Make sure your child is safe this summer and always follow a few simple tips:

Safety Tips:

• Children should never be left alone in a vehicle, not even to run a quick errand.
• Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping babies.
• Children can set a vehicle in motion. Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
• If a child gets locked inside, call 911 and get him/her out as soon as possible.
• Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway.
• Keys should never be left within reach or sight of children.
• If you see a child or animal unattended in a car, be proactive and call 911.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services is taking similar steps to protect children transported by child care providers. To learn more, visit: http://www.tennessee.gov/humanserv/news/09/news-06-03-09.pdf and http://www.tn.gov/humanserv/adfam/cc_main.html.

New Warren County Driver Service Center to Open

June 18, 2009

The Tennessee Department of Safety (TDOS) is opening a new Driver Service Center in McMinnville, Tennessee, and closing the one currently located at 1350 Sparta Street. The new facility will be located at 594 Vervilla Road in McMinnville.

The current Warren County Driver Service Center will be closed on Monday, June 22, 2009, and will open for business at its new location on Wednesday, June 24, 2009, at 7:00 a.m. Normal hours of business will continue to be Tuesday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On the second Wednesday of each month, the facility opens one hour late for a monthly staff meeting.

The relocation gives TDOS the opportunity to move into a larger space that will allow the department to serve customers more efficiently. In the early 1980’s, the Driver Service Center moved into the 1,400 square feet modular building on Cadillac Drive. It was adequate for serving customers at that time, but the population in McMinnville has grown significantly since then and more space was needed. The Driver Service Center was moved to a temporary facility on Sparta Street in February 2008 until the new facility could be constructed. The new facility will be nearly 6,000 square feet. Members of the Tennessee Highway Patrol will also utilize some of the space.

Customers may also utilize the full-service Driver Service Centers in Coffee, Rutherford and Putnam counties.

Jacobs, White, and Meeks Win City Election

June 16, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Shawn Jacobs
W.J. (Dub) White
Aaron Meeks

Three new aldermen were elected Tuesday in the Smithville Municipal Election.

Shawn Jacobs, W.J. (Dub) White, and Aaron Meeks defeated the incumbent aldermen, Jerry Hutchins, Sr., Tonya Sullivan, and Willie Thomas.

Jacobs led the ticket with 403 votes (19.3%), White had 364 (17.4%) and Meeks received 303 votes (14.5%)

Sullivan had 289 votes (13.8%), Hutchins 237 (11.3%), Thomas 227 (10.8%), Gary Durham 224 (10.7%), and Todd Van Dyne 40 (1.9%)

A total of 811 people voted in the election, including 590 during the early voting period and 221 on Tuesday.

Jacobs, White, and Meeks will officially begin their two year terms on July 1st. They will likely be sworn into office during a special meeting of the city council prior to July 1st.

The position of alderman is not new to Meeks and White. They have both served as alderman before. In fact they both were unseated in their bids for re-election two years ago. Jacobs ran unsuccessfully for alderman for the first time two years ago, losing by only twelve votes.

The city council will be made up of Shawn Jacobs, W.J. (Dub) White, Aaron Meeks, Cecil Burger, and Stephen White. The mayor is Taft Hendrixson.

The terms of Hendrixson, Burger, and Stephen White will expire June 30th, 2010.

The following are the votes for each candidate in the election Tuesday:

Gary Durham-
Early Voting-150
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 16
Election Day-58
TOTAL-224

Jerry Hutchins, Sr.
Early Voting-153
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 21
Election Day-63
TOTAL-237

Shawn Jacobs
Early Voting-273
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 14
Election Day-116
TOTAL-403

Aaron Meeks
Early Voting 204
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 14
Election Day-85
TOTAL-303

Tonya Sullivan
Early Voting 190
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 15
Election Day-84
TOTAL-289

Willie Thomas
Early Voting-155
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 17
Election Day-55
TOTAL-227

Todd Van Dyne
Early Voting-27
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 3
Election Day-10
TOTAL-40

W.J. (Dub) White
Early Voting-245
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 19
Election Day-100
TOTAL-364

Smithville Aldermen Say No to Water and Sewer Rate Increases

June 15, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen Monday night voted 5 to 0 to keep water and sewer rates at their current levels to start the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which begins July 1st.

The proposed 2009-2010 budget for the City of Smithville originally included an overall increase in water and sewer rates of 37%. The city's financial consultant Janice Plemmons Jackson told the aldermen in a workshop last Wednesday that the proposed increase was necessary since the city has not raised it's water and sewer rates in several years and revenues haven't kept pace with costs. According to Jackson, revenues have increased by 28% since 1999 but expenditures have risen by 77%. And while the city ended the 2007-08 fiscal year in the black by $330,384 in the water and sewer department, this year the city could be at a break even point or in the red. The actual net income or loss for the year apparently won't be known until after June 30th.

Jackson says if the water and sewer fund operates in the red for two years in a row, the state could force the city to raise rates to make the utility self supporting.
The alderman asked Jackson to figure the proposed overall rate increase at about 18% so they could make a cost comparison.

During Monday night's meeting, Alderman Tonya Sullivan presented a print out from Caney Fork Electric showing that total electrical usage at the water plant has increased by 31% since June, 2007 and that the average costs are up by 37% over the last two years. Sullivan says she believes this surge may be due to the inefficiency of the existing pumps.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says officials of Wauford Engineering, who are designing plans for the rehab of the water plant, agree. "I have talked with Greg Davenport and he has come to the conclusion that these pumps may be using excess electricity because of their age. He is going to propose all new pumps instead of using rebuilt pumps. That may be where a lot of this is coming from."

Alderman Sullivan says she believes costs will come down once the water plant rehab is completed, so it may not be necessary to raise rates right now. "I don't think this is something that we need to jump to conclusions and start raising prices based on inefficient equipment. We are already in the process of replacing that equipment. If we repair or replace those pumps, I anticipate that we will continue to be in the black, as opposed to being borderline in the red.."

In response, Mayor Hendrixson said the savings may not be enough. " Greg (Davenport) thought that maybe the inefficiency would be no more than seven percent."

Mayor Hendrixson added that it's important to always have a little money left over from year to year in the water and sewer fund, and not run so close to the vest. "Just remember, over the years we've put a little extra money up (saved) every year, and now we've got the money to do (rehab) our water plant. Otherwise, we'd be floating bonds or borrowing money."

Alderman Willie Thomas made a motion that the water and sewer rates stay the same to start the new budget year, with no increases. Alderman Jerry Hutchins, Sr. seconded the motion. Aldermen Tonya Sullivan, Cecil Burger, and Steve White all voted in favor.

Alderman Sullivan pointed out that the city council could revisit the water and sewer rates at any time during the year "if numbers are not what we anticipate."

City water customers will continue to pay $3.50 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus $3.50 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits are 50% higher. The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District is $1.85 per thousand gallons but will increase to $1.90 for January 1st, 2010 sales.

City sewer customers, under the new budget, will continue to pay the flat usage rate of $3.62 plus $3.25 per thousand gallons thereafter.

The aldermen also voted 5 to 0 to keep the water and sewer tap fees at the same rate, even though Mayor Hendrixson said the fees are not sufficient to cover costs." According to everything I can find out, we're losing money on every tap we make, especially sewer taps."

Water tap fees in the proposed budget for 2009-2010 would have gone from $400 to $1,000 for a 3/4 inch line and from $400 to $800 for a four inch sewer line. Larger lines would have been $2,000 for water and $1,200 for sewer taps. Outside the city limits, water taps would have gone from $525 to $1,500 for 3/4 inch water lines and from $525 to $1,000 for four inch sewer lines. Larger lines would have increased to $2,500 for water and $2,000 for sewer taps.

Alderman Steve White initially made a motion to raise those fees as called for in the proposed budget, but his motion died for the lack of a second. Alderman Jerry Hutchins, Sr. then moved that the tap fees remain the same, without any increases and revisit it at a later date. Alderman Willie Thomas seconded the motion. Aldermen Tonya Sullivan, Cecil Burger, and Steve White all voted in favor.

Passage of the proposed 2009-2010 budget was postponed until Thursday night, June 18th at 6:30 p.m. at city hall. Alderman Sullivan said she needed more time to study the document and made a motion to put it off. The motion was adopted unanimously.

The budget includes a two percent pay raise for city employees and a five dollar increase per call for the volunteer firefighters, going from $15 to $20 per call.

In other business, Gary Durham addressed the mayor and aldermen complaining that the city administration decided to increase fees for backdoor garbage pickup from $10 to $25 per month without consulting the aldermen or seeking their approval. "If you want to raise it, that's not a problem, I think the method of your increase is a problem."

Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson says only a few residents subscribe to this service, mostly in the golf course area, and letters were sent, alerting them as to the increase. He says it was treated as a "day to day' operation matter. The aldermen took no action to reverse the decision so the increase will be imposed.

The aldermen voted 5 to 0 to adopt an ordinance on second and final reading amending the city's personnel policy to give city employees with ten consecutive years of service a three week vacation with pay.

The amendment states that "after ten years of consecutive service of full time officers and employees, there will be three weeks of paid vacation."

During the public hearing on this issue, former Smithville Mayor Waniford Cantrell asked that similiar consideration be given to the volunteer firefighters, perhaps in the form of "payment in lieu of vacation."

Cantrell said while city employees have received regular pay raises over the years, firefighters have not had an increase since he was mayor 25 years ago. "We've gone 25 years without giving them anything. All of our employees have been getting their step raises and cost of living raises while our firemen keep coming for $15 per call and on a two hour call that's not even paying them minimum wage. I'm concerned that we're not treating them right. That's shameful."

Mayor Hendrixson pointed out that the proposed budget for 2009-2010 includes an increase in pay for the firefighters.

The aldermen also voted 5 to 0 to adopt an ordinance amendment on second and final reading establishing a flat rate court cost of $85.00 for the Smithville City Court.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says "the city currently has court costs ranging from $20 to $95. Most towns around us have gone to a flat court cost. This ordinance proposes an $85 court cost straight across the board. It just simplifies the court costs and the record keeping."

The ordinance states as follows: Whereas, the Municipal Court Reform Act of 2004 allows cities to set and collect reasonable municipal court costs in the amounts prescribed by ordinance;

Whereas, the City of Smithville has determined that it is necessary to establish reasonable court costs for the City Court.

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Smithville, as follows:

Section 1. The following section is hereby amended:

In all cases heard and determined by him, the city judge shall impose court costs in the amount of $85.00.

One dollar of the court costs in each case shall be forwarded by the court clerk to the state treasurer to be used by the administrative office of the courts for training and continuing education courses for municipal court judges and municipal court clerks. The above amount does not include the $13.75 litigation tax levied by the State of Tennessee.

An ordinance was approved on second and final reading levying a litigation tax for the City of Smithville

Mayor Hendrixson says "On every case that goes before our city court, there's a state litigation tax of $14.75 which goes to the State of Tennessee. Our clerk has to send it to the state. DeKalb County and, as far as I know, everyone around us, has their own litigation tax. It's only people that break the laws of the City of Smithville, who will be paying this, it won't be your taxpayers. It's just a way to help operate the police department without raising taxes on the taxpayers. It will be an additional $13.75 city litigation tax."

The ordinance states as follows: Whereas, Public Chapter 488 of the Public Acts of 1981, which imposed a state litigation tax, has been interpreted by opinions of the State Attorney General as allowing cities to levy a litigation tax in the same manner as the litigation tax now levied by state law in an amount not to exceed the amount of such state litigation tax; and

Whereas, the City of Smithville does not impose a litigation tax as authorized by law and desires to levy such a tax to help pay for court and police related expenses; and

Now therefore, be it ordained by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Smithville that:

Section 1. Effective on the first day of each month following passage of this ordinance, a city litigation tax shall become effective as follows;

On cases in the city court there is hereby levied a city litigation tax to match the state litigation tax of $13.75

Section 2. The privilege taxes levied pursuant to this ordinance shall be paid to the City Recorder monthly to be used to assist in paying for the operation of the city court and the police department.

Section 3. This ordinance shall become effective on the first day of the month following the final passage of this ordinance."

Child Found Floating in City Swimming Pool Sunday Recovering at Vanderbilt Hospital

June 15, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

A three year old child, found floating in the city swimming pool Sunday afternoon, is recovering today (Monday) at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville.

Kadee Griffith, daughter of Chris and Jennifer Griffith, has been taken off the respirator and is alert and responsive, according to her father.

Chris Griffith told WJLE by telephone Monday morning from the hospital that he, Kadee, and his seven year old daughter were at the Smithville Municipal Pool Sunday afternoon attending a friend's birthday pool party when the incident occurred around 4:38 p.m.

Griffith says he doesn't know what happened. One minute Kadee was standing near the pool, and moments later he looked around and saw her floating face down in the water. Griffith says he picked Kadee up out of the pool. She wasn't breathing.

Kim France, an RN, who was there began performing CPR on the child. Others also rendered assistance until DeKalb EMS arrived. In addition, Smithville Police Officer Scott Davis and members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department were on the scene. A Life Force helicopter ambulance was summoned and landed at the golf course. Kadee was then airlifted and flown to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, where she remains hospitalized.

Griffith says Kadee has shown signs of improvement this morning (Monday). She has been talking and giving her parents hugs. No word yet on when she will get to come home.

Meanwhile, in his weekly update on crime news, Sheriff Patrick Ray reports that
21 year old Homer Anthony Petty II of Banks Pisgah Road was arrested on Monday, June 8th for driving on a suspended license. Petty's license was revoked for failure to satisfy a citation in Smith County on August 18th, 2008. Having knowledge that Petty's license was suspended, a deputy, while on patrol, stopped Petty's vehicle after spotting it on Short Mountain Highway. Petty's bond is $1,000 and he will appear in court on June 24th.

24 year old Joshua Rhyn Cripps of Hodges Road Smithville was arrested Wednesday, June 10th for possession of a schedule VI drug (marijuana) and possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond for Cripps was set at $3,000. A deputy, while on patrol in the northern part of the county, spotted a vehicle setting on the side of the roadway on Cookeville Highway. While the officer was talking to the driver, he spotted a bag of marijuana lying in the passenger side seat. A box was also found in the driver's side door pocket which contained a set of scales that is believed to have been used to weigh the marijuana.

53 year old Gary Wayne Stockton of Austin Bottom Road, Baxter was arrested Friday, June 12th and charged with driving under the influence and evading arrest. He was also issued citations for violation of the implied consent law and no tail lights. Bond for Stockton was set at $2,500 and he will appear in court June 25th. While on patrol in the eastern part of the county, deputies stopped a vehicle for a light law violation on Highway 70 at Johnson Chapel Road. Upon speaking with the driver, the deputy noticed that he had slurred speech and he was unsteady on his feet. After the man failed field sobriety tasks, officers asked him to submit to a blood alcohol test but he refused and then took off running. The man, Stockton, was caught a short distance down the road.

On Saturday, June 13th, deputies stopped a vehicle for a traffic offense on Highway 56 South and Old Blue Springs Road. The driver, 25 year old Claudie Dewayne Odom of Ash Avenue,. Cookeville was found to be driving on a suspended license. Odom's license was suspended for failure to file insurance after an accident he had in Putnam County on March 10th, 2008. Odom's bond was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on July 23rd

On Sunday, June 14th deputies investigated a complaint about a theft where 45 year old Denise Ann Jauregui of Morgan Drive, Smithville went into a house on Short Mountain Highway, entered a bed room, and took $3,900 in cash from a wallet. Officers located Jauregui and she admitted to them that she had taken the money. Jauregui was arrested and charged with theft of property over $1,000. Her bond was set at $10,000 and she will appear in court on July 2nd. Deputies were able to recover $2,728 in cash from Jauregui.

Qualifying Deadline Thursday for Alexandria City Election

June 15, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Alexandria City Election will be held Thursday, September 3rd. A mayor and three aldermen will be elected that day. The positions are currently held by Mayor Ria Baker and Aldermen, Charles Griffith, Eddie Tubbs, and Tony Tarpley. The qualifying deadline for the election is noon on Thursday, June 18th at the DeKalb County Election Commission Office. Call 597-4146 for more information.

New Bildad Primitive Baptist to Celebrate 200 Years

June 15, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
New Bildad Primitive Baptist Church

It's one of the oldest churches in DeKalb County and this week, the congregation of the New Bildad Primitive Baptist Church is celebrating 200 years of service to the Lord.

Elder Ricky Arnold, pastor of the church, invites everyone to join them. "Starting this Thursday night, June 18th, the New Bildad Primitive Baptist Church celebrates it's 200th anniversary. The church was constituted in June 1809. It lettered from the Brush Creek Primitive Baptist Church, which is still in existence."

"The New Bildad Primitive Baptist Church has been in the Seven Springs-Keltonburg community for 200 years now. We wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate and to thank God for His amazing Grace. In 200 years, the church has probably touched the lives of a lot of people and families that are here in DeKalb County. We'd love for those folks to come back and visit us."

"The church divided in 1854 and the church that became known as Old Bildad changed their original church covenant but the church that became known as New Bildad still holds the church covenant and the Articles of Faith from 1809 and we still practice and worship as they did 200 years ago. We have a rich history and we want to thank God for that."

Arnold says services will be Thursday and Friday nights starting with supper at 5:30 p.m. followed by services at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday morning service at 10:00 a.m. with lunch to follow; Saturday night supper at 5:30 p.m. followed by the service at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday morning service at 10:30 a.m. followed by lunch. The invited speakers are Elders Michael Gowens, Ronald Lawrence, and Jeff Winfrey.

Amy Hollars Appointed Circuit Judge in 13th Judicial District

June 14, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Judge David Patterson Administers Oath to Newly Appointed Judge Amy Hollars

Governor Phil Bredesen on Friday appointed Amy V. Hollars of Livingston to the Tennessee Circuit Court for the 13th Judicial District. Hollars will fill a vacancy created by the retirement of her father Judge John A. Turnbull. The 13th Judicial District is composed of Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, and White Counties.

"Amy Hollars has developed extensive civil trial experience in her career, and I'm confident her skills, education, and practice experience will serve her well in this capacity," said Bredesen. "I am pleased to appoint Amy to this seat, and I appreciate her willingness to serve the citizens of the 13th Judicial District."

Hollars previously served as a solo practitioner in Overton County as well as attorney for the City of Livingston from October 2007 through October 2008. She is a former partner in the Knoxville firm Hodges, Doughty, and Carson.

"I am honored to receive this appointment and appreciate the confidence Governor Bredesen has shown in me," Hollars said. "I look forward to working with the litigants, attorneys, and the public at large, and I will endeavor to do the work of a trial judge with integrity, fairness, and diligence."

Hollars was appointed as special circuit court judge for the 13th Judicial District by Governor Bredesen in October, 2008 after Judge Turnbull, submitted a notice of physical disability. Tennessee law provides a process for the appointment of a special temporary judge in the event sickness or disability prevents a state judge from carrying out his or her duties.

Turnbull, who has held the position since 1989, is stepping down from the bench, effective June 15th. He was last elected in 2006 and his term expires in 2014.

Hollars was one of three persons who applied for the position. The other two were Algood attorney Wesley Thomas Bray and Cookeville attorney and former Criminal Court Judge Lillie Ann Sells.

Hollars will serve until the next regular election, which is in 2010. The person elected then will serve out the remainder of Turnbull's term through 2014.

Hollars, 42, holds degrees from the university of the South and Vanderbilt University and received her Doctor of Juridpridence from the University of Tennessee College of Law. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. She and her husband James Hollars have three children.

A look at the Tennessee Legislature

June 14, 2009
by: 
Terri Lynn Weaver
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Greetings Folks of the Fortieth…
Well, summer is finally here and I for one am very excited! I am really looking forward to returning home and getting the opportunity to spend some quality time with the fabulous folks of the fortieth!

House passes legislation to encourage energy efficiency
This week the House considered legislation that would require international building codes be met for new home construction. The legislation would not affect every county in the state, as some counties already have more stringent requirements than what is stipulated in the bill. In addition to traditional building codes, the legislation also includes required energy conservation standards that would apply to new home construction.

We debated the bill at length on the House floor, where we shared concerns ranging from increasing the cost of new homes to taking away from the autonomy of local governments. Proponents of the measure said the legislation would make homes safer and more energy efficient, which would ultimately result in cost savings.

After several hours of debate, the legislation was amended to allow for local governments to opt out of the requirements. Each time a new county commission is installed the body will have to pass a resolution by two-thirds in order to opt out. The final version of Senate Bill 2300 passed with an 82 to 12 vote.

House to consider constitutional amendment giving Tennesseans the right to hunt and fish
House Joint Resolution 149 was read for the second time this week in the House, meaning it will be up for final consideration by the House next week. If passed by a 2/3 majority of the General Assembly, the constitutional amendment will appear on the ballot in a 2010 voter referendum. The constitutional amendment gives Tennesseans the right to hunt and fish.

The resolution states that, “hunting and fishing are a vital part of this state's heritage and economy and should be preserved and protected.” The sponsor has said that Tennessee has always enjoyed hunting and fishing as a leisure activity, and the amendment was necessary to clarify that Tennesseans have a constitutional right to pursue wild game that cannot be infringed upon the legislature, courts, or local authorities.

House, Senate pass menu labeling pre-emption
A bill that would bar some local entities from requiring nutritional labeling on menus has passed both the House and Senate. The legislation comes as other states, municipalities and cities are passing or considering laws that mandate chain restaurants put calories and other nutritional information on menus.

Lawmakers arguing in favor of the bill said that mandating chain restaurants to put certain nutritional information on menus places an unnecessary burden on restaurant owners in an already struggling economy and creates an atmosphere that is unfriendly to business owners. They also said that often, the laws are selective, targeting only large restaurant chains.

The legislation was amended to prohibit non-elected bodies from making the decision to require nutritional information on menus. It also specifies that if the federal government passes legislation requiring menu labeling and the federal action specifically authorizes state departments to enforce such action, then the Tennessee Department of Health will be the department that is primarily responsible for the implementation and supervision of the new requirements.

Also this week…
Two new nominees to the State Election Commission were confirmed on Wednesday in a joint legislative session of the General Assembly. The move to place the two members, Kent Younce of LaFollette and Judy Blackburn of Morristown, on the Commission honors a long-standing state law to give the majority party in the Tennessee General Assembly a one vote edge on the State Election Commission.

House Bill 250 passed the House this week, and creates an offense for any owner, occupant, or other person having a lawful right to the exclusive use of property to knowingly allow an underage adult to consume alcoholic beverages, wine or beer on such property.

House Bill 804 seeks to allow a parent that has been granted court-ordered visitation with their minor child or children who has been called to active duty military service, to petition the court for the temporary assignment of that parent’s visitation rights to a legal or biological relative or relatives. The petition must state the relative that the parent is requesting to maintain contact with the child during the parent’s absence and shall include a proposed visitation schedule with such relative. The bill, having now passed both the Senate and the House, is now on its way to the Governor for his signature.

In closing…
As the Senate remained in session on Friday, June 12 to take up budgetary matters, the House Budget Subcommittee is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon to begin their discussions. Although we are hopeful session will adjourn for the year next week, both parties acknowledge that with an unprecedented budget shortfall wrapping up session next week may not be possible.

As always, I am so honored to represent each and every one of you! Please continue to keep me and the rest of the Legislature in your thoughts and prayers. Hope to see you all very soon! Blessings!

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