Local News Articles

Elderly Woman Airlifted after Midday Wreck

March 24, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mattie Brandon's Nissan Sentra after being loaded on truck
William Dozier's Jeep after being pulled upright
Life Force helicopter lands on Highway 56 to airlift Mattie Brandon

An elderly woman was airlifted from the scene of a two vehicle traffic accident just before noon Wednesday on Highway 56 south at the intersection of South College Street.

Central dispatch received the call at 11:30 a.m.

Trooper Darrell Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says 81 year old Mattie Brandon of Capshaw Road, Smithville was north on Highway 56 in a 1996 Nissan Sentra and was attempting to turn left onto South College Street when she crossed into the path of a southbound 1981 Jeep, driven by 34 year old William Dozier of Lascassas. Passengers of the jeep were 33 year old Sharla Dozier, 9 year old Kensington Dozier, and 6 year old Brycen Dozier.

According the Trooper Knowles, the jeep overturned after impact and came to rest off the west side of the highway. A passerby stopped to help get the Dozier's out of their vehicle.

Brandon's car spun counterclockwise upon impact and came to rest off the east side of the highway. She is believed to have suffered head and leg injuries.

Mr Dozier suffered some minor cuts but the other members of his family were apparently uninjured. They later went to the hospital by private vehicle to be checked out.

Brandon was airlifted from the scene by a Life Force helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Traffic was blocked for a period of time.

In addition to Trooper Knowles and Life Force, others on the scene were members of DeKalb EMS, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, Smithville Police Department, and the Short Mountain Highway and Main Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, who helped set up the helicopter landing zone and were on standby in case of fire. Neither of the vehicles caught fire but there was a fuel spill from the jeep.

Judge Hands Down Sentences in Criminal Court

March 23, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page

Judge Leon Burns, Jr. handed down sentences against several defendants in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Monday.

33 year old Sharon Skinner pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, three counts of theft over $500, and forgery. She received a total sentence of four years including three years on the aggravated burglary charge and one year in each of the other cases. Two of the sentences are to run consecutively for a total of four years. The others are to run concurrently. Skinner will be on supervised probation. She was given jail credit of 77 days.

38 year old Craig Hill pleaded guilty to burglary, theft over $1,000, forgery, and two counts of theft under $500. Hill received a two year sentence on the burglary charge, suspended to supervised probation after serving 120 days. He was given credit for time served. Hill also received a two year sentence for theft over $1,000 on DOC probation. Hill received a one year sentence on DOC probation in the forgery case and a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on probation in each of the theft under $500 cases. Almost all the sentences are to run concurrently.

35 year old Jeremy Bilbrey pleaded guilty to a first offense of driving under the influence. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended except for 48 hours to serve. Bilbrey will lose his license for one year, pay a fine of $360, and he must complete the Alcohol Safety Education Program, undergo an alcohol and drug assessment, and follow any recommended treatment.

Steve A. Stanley pleaded guilty to possession of a schedule II controlled substance with intent to sell and driving on a suspended license. He received a sentence of four years, all suspended to supervised probation except for 104 days to serve. Stanley was given jail credit of 104 days and he must pay a $2,000 fine. Stanley received a six month sentence on the driving on suspended license charge, suspended to supervised probation. The sentences are to run concurrently with each other but consecutive to his current six year probation in another case.

24 year old Jonathon D. Thomas pleaded guilty to attempted burglary and three charges of evading arrest. He received a sentence of three years for attempted burglary and 11 months and 29 days in each case of the evading arrest charges all to run concurrently with each other and all suspended to probation. The sentence is to run consecutive to a violation of probation against him in which he is to serve one year before being released to state probation.

20 year old Nina Natasha Sullivan pleaded guilty to criminal responsibility for facilitation. She received a six year sentence in the community corrections program. She was given jail credit from September 15th to March 22nd

34 year old James LeDuc pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, theft over $500, burglary, and theft under $500. He received a total sentence of three years with one year to serve. The sentences break down as follows: three years for aggravated burglary, one year for theft over $500, two years for burglary, and 11 months and 29 days for theft under $500. All the sentences are to run concurrently as a three year term but consecutive to a violation of probation against him in which he must serve one year. He was given jail credit of 187 days.

39 year old Jefry V. Overall pleaded guilty to a third offense of driving under the influence. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended to 120 days to serve. He will lose his license for three years and he must pay a fine of $1,100 and complete the alcohol safety education program. The sentence is to run concurrent with any other sentence against him. Overall was given jail credit of 243 days. Overall has been classified as an Habitual Motor Vehicle offender. Under the order, Overall is prohibited from being issued a license to operate a motor vehicle for three years, after which he will have to petition the court for a restoration of his driving privileges.

51 year old James Linder pleaded guilty to a second offense of driving on a revoked license and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to supervised probation. He will lose his license for a period of time.

41 year old Larry David Luna, charged with manufacturing marijuana, was granted pre-trial diversion probation under a memorandum of understanding for a period of two years. He must perform 50 hours of community service work and adhere to all other provisions of his probation.

38 year old Willard Brown pleaded guilty to domestic assault. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended to good behavior probation except for time served. He must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and attend anger management classes. He was given jail credit from July 18th, 2009 to February 24th, 2010.

42 year old Christopher Cantrell pleaded guilty by information to reckless endangerment and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended to supervised probation except for five days to serve

40 year old Donna Blankenship pleaded guilty to simple possession of a schedule II controlled substance. She received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended to probation, including six months of supervised and six months of unsupervised probation. She must also pay a fine. Blankenship was given jail credit of 90 days.

40 year old Paul Edward Stanley pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on probation except for 48 hours to serve. He must pay a fine of $350 and he will lose his license for one year.

33 year old Jimmy Estes pleaded guilty to public intoxication and received a 30 day sentence to serve which is to run concurrently with a violation of probation against him.

35 year old Michael Evans pleaded guilty to two charges of child neglect and a first offense of driving under the influence. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in each case to run concurrently. He was given nine days of jail credit. Evans will be on supervised probation and he must pay a fine of $350. A handgun possession charge against Evans was dropped however he must forfeit the weapon under his plea agreement.

Pinegar Charged with Burglary and Theft

March 22, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page
Chris David Pinegar
Jimmy Dean Skelton
Donald Perry Jr.
Joshua Brandon Graham

A 26 year old Smithville man was arrested Sunday by the Sheriff's Department for the recent burglary of a boathouse and the theft of an automobile near the lake.

Chris David Pinegar of Roy Foster Road, Smithville is charged with burglary, theft of property over $1,000, and theft of property over $10,000. Sheriff Patrick Ray says Pinegar was arrested on Sunday, March 21st and charged after he was questioned about recent thefts in the Cookeville Highway area.

On Saturday, March 20th, deputies responded to a theft at Hurricane Boat Ramp off of Cookeville Highway where someone had stolen a vehicle containing some expensive jewelry. Then on Sunday, March 21st, officers responded to Relax Drive concerning a vehicle that was setting in the parking lot of Lakeside Resort. After checking the tags, it was discovered that the vehicle was the same one that was reported stolen the day before at the boat ramp. Officers went to a cabin at the Resort where Pinegar and a female had been staying. A warrants check was conducted on them and authorities learned that they were both wanted in Warren County on unrelated charges. While searching the room, deputies found a set of keys that went to the stolen vehicle. They also found some of the jewelry.

Detectives were called to the scene to conduct a further investigation and discovered that on March 15th Pinegar entered a boathouse and took several fishing rods and reels, a fish finder, a kneeboard, floats, and skies which were valued at over $1,000. Bond for Pinegar was set at $45,000 and he will appear in court on April 22nd. The female was not charged locally.

46 year old Jimmy Dean Skelton of Page Drive Smithville is charged with driving on a suspended license, burglary, and theft of property under $500. Sheriff Ray says that on Tuesday, March 16th, as deputies were investigating a burglary and theft at a residence on Savannah Drive, Smithville, they spotted Skelton, who was a suspect in the case. The officers stopped Skelton and found him to be driving on a suspended driver's license. After interviewing Skelton about the break-in, the deputies also charged Skelton with burglary and theft. According to Sheriff Ray, Skelton admitted to entering a home which was under construction on Savannah Drive and taking an air compressor without the owner's consent. Bond for Skelton was set at $7,000 and he will appear in court on March 25th.

27 year old Helen B. Lawson of Danklefs Lane, Sparta is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license. Sheriff Ray says Lawson was involved in an automobile accident on Back Bone Ridge Road on Thursday, March 18th. Lawson had a smell of alcohol on her person and she was unsteady on her feet. She submitted to field sobriety tasks which she failed. A check of her driver's license revealed them to be revoked for a DUI. Lawson was also issued citations for having no automobile insurance and violation of the implied consent law. Her bond was set at $3,000 and she will appear in court on April 1st.

38 year old Donald Perry Jr of Adcock Cemetery Road, Smithville is charged with theft of property under $500. Sheriff Ray says he was arrested on Friday, March 19th after an investigation by detectives into the theft of two Wal-Mart gift cards that were delivered by mail to a former resident who lived at the Adcock Cemetery Road address. Perry opened an envelope, which came by mail, containing a letter and two gift cards. Perry took the cards out of the envelope and resealed the envelope that contained the letter and put it back into the mailbox to return it to the sender. On December 14th, 2009, Perry then took the two gift cards to the Smithville Wal-Mart and cashed them in. Bond for Perry was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on April 1st.

Joshua Brandon Graham is charged with simple possession of a schedule VI drug (marijuana). Sheriff Ray says on Saturday, March 20th, a deputy went to Graham's home on New Bildad Road, Smithville to serve a civil paper on him. Graham met the officer on the porch. The deputy smelled an odor of marijuana on Graham's person and he asked Graham about it. Graham went back into the residence and retrieved a plastic bag that contained the marijuana. Graham also had marijuana seeds in his pants pocket. Graham's bond was set at $1,500 and he will appear in court on April 22nd.

24 year old Stephen Hunter Pugh is charged with a first offense of driving on a revoked license. Sheriff Ray says on Sunday, March 21st an officer spotted Pugh on Cave Springs Road. Having prior knowledge that Pugh had two warrants against him for violation of probation, the deputy stopped Pugh. The officer checked Pugh's driver's license and discovered them to be revoked. His bond was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on April 22nd.

40 year old Donna S. Blankenship of Greenhill Road, McMinnville was arrested on Sunday, March 21st for a second offense of driving on a suspended license after she was involved in an automobile accident on New Home Road in Dowelltown. Bond for Blankenship was set at $2,000 and her court date is April 22nd.

Early Voting Begins April 14th for DeKalb Democratic Primary

March 22, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page

Early voting dates and times are set for the May 4th DeKalb County Democratic Primary

Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections, says early voting will be Wednesday, April 14th through Thursday, April 29th. Voting times will be from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Thursdays.

The primary will feature three contested races for county wide public offices, county clerk, county mayor, and register of deeds, and three contested races for the county commission in the third, fourth, and fifth districts. All other candidates will be unopposed.

The offices and candidates listed on the ballot are as follows in this order:

Circuit Court Judge, Part 1, 13th Judicial District to fill unexpired term: Amy Hollars

District Attorney General, 13th Judicial District to fill unexpired term: Randall A. York

County Mayor:
Mike Foster
Bob Snyder

County Commissioner (Vote for Two)
1st District- Elmer Ellis, Jr.

2nd District- Jack E. Barton, III

3rd District:
Bradley Hendrix
Roy Merriman
Jerry Scott

4th District:
Jesse Baker
Wayne Cantrell
David McDowell
Ron Rogers

5th District:
Randy Braswell
Johnny Ringo Colwell
John Green
Bobby Taylor

6th District:
Jeff Barnes
Marshall Ferrell

7th District:
Jimmy W. Poss
Larry Summers

Trustee: No Candidate

Sheriff: No Candidate

Circuit Court Clerk: Katherine Pack

County Clerk:
Mike Clayborn
Glynn Merriman
Chris Smithson

Register of Deeds:
Jeff McMillen
Clarence R. Trapp

Road Supervisor: Jimmy D. Sprague

Zelenik Campaigns for Congress in Smithville

March 20, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page
Congressional Candidate Lou Ann Zelenik with DeKalb GOP Chair Jennifer Winfree

Lou Ann Zelenik of Rutherford County, Republican candidate for Congress in the sixth district, campaigned in Smithville on Thursday.

Zelenik will be seeking her party's nomination in the Tennessee Republican Primary on August 5th. "A little bit about me, I'm a graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Engineering. I built a heavy construction company during the ‘80s, and for twenty-three years I created jobs, balanced a budget, and met a payroll. And that's kinda what it's about here, and for citizens across the fifteen counties of the district. So many are worried about having a job, and so many business owners and those are the ones I've really been meeting and speaking a lot with, to hear their concerns and worries, and they're worried about meeting that bottom line; they don't know what Congress will be placing upon them next year or even this year, or what new regulation, or tax, or bill. So many people are very concerned about the health care bill that's being debated back and forth. It seems like it's become more about the buying of votes. It's about so many in Congress and not about real people doing the real business for the people of their district. I just met with a mother who has a child that is critically ill and concerned that under these new bills that their child would not get the healthcare needed, because it's cystic fibrosis, a very serious disease."

"One of the problems that has gone on in Washington is those that we work really hard to get elected, they forget their roots and are more worried about winning the next time or getting their campaign coffers up. My campaign is about sending a real person to Washington, someone that has walked in the boots of so many in DeKalb County. You know, I put two nickels together to start a business and paid those taxes and created jobs. I'm not a career politician and anyone running for office becomes a politician but I'm going to Washington to bring that representation back. For too long it seems like people forget what's important, and I've already built my career, I'm proud to have built it in business, and I'm privileged to represent Tennesseans and go to Washington to not build another career but to go up there and stand strong for our principles, our values, to join with others, and have our voice heard in a large number."

" I am a fiscal conservative, a faith, family, and freedom conservative. I've also been in Rutherford County, the GOP party chair and Vice Chair. Last year in February I put my name on a national website to organize a Tea party on April 15th and almost three thousand showed up for the largest rally in Rutherford County history. We did it again in July and then we did a health care forum for our seniors after Bart Gordon voted for HR 3200 out of committee and for taxpayer funded abortions. We had over 750 senior citizens come to the square in August to find out more about HR 3200 and get involved to try and get the latest information. That's what we're seeing. People who have never been involved are getting involved."

As for putting people back to work, Zelenik says "When you deregulate business, when you take away some of the restraints on business and you give them real tax breaks, that does give incentives to those businesses to hire and create jobs. That's something that was done in the 1980's and it worked. It was also done again with the Bush tax cuts on the first wave of tax cuts for businesses. I was a business owner at the time and I saw that I could depreciate more equipment so I bought more goods. When my tax bracket was lowered, we didn't have to pay as much come April 15th so what we did instead, we gave it to our employees in the form of raises and hired new people. We gave a little bigger Christmas bonus. Those are the things you do to encourage that innovation and morale. Right now even though businesses may be holding their own, they don't know where to look because they don't know if Cap and Trade and job killing energy taxes will be placed upon them, which would really impact manufacturing and really hit hardest our farmers and family's electric bills. They also don't know what's going to happen with this health care bill. I talked to one business owner who has 250 employees and he said, based on the U.S. House of Representatives version of the bill, it will cost him over $200,000 more next year if this bill is passed just based on additional penalties added to businesses. So give businesses something to base on for the future, give them tax breaks right now, and let our free market, free enterprise system work. That's what has worked in the past and it's a really great way to do it in the future."

Smithville Firefighters Extinguish Midnight Fire

March 19, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department was called to the residence of Stacey Campbell at 300 Wade Street early Friday morning.

Central Dispatch received the call at 12:56 a.m.

Chief Charlie Parker says the fire apparently started from an overheated pot on the kitchen stove. The wall caught fire and the blaze spread to the ceiling.

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the kitchen area with minimal fire damage. Smoke spread to the rest of the house.

Members of the family were present in the home at the time of the fire and escaped unharmed.

Smithville Police Department Crime News

March 19, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police have released the weekly city crime report.

44 year old Sandra Lee Atnip of 1983 Capshaw Road was charged on Monday, March 15th with seven counts of fraudulent use of a credit card and two counts of theft. Detective Jerry Hutchins made the arrest. On February 3rd K-9 Officer Bradley Tatrow took a report from Debra Scruggs who stated that her credit card was stolen out of her purse at work. Authorities later discovered that the card had been used at numerous businesses.

44 year old Tony Reeder of 516 East Main Street was arrested on Tuesday, March 16th for public intoxication. Officer Matt Holmes received a call that Reeder was driving a blue Ford Ranger, that he had been at DeKalb Community Bank, and was now in the parking lot. The caller said that Reeder appeared to be highly intoxicated. While en route another 911 call came in reporting that a blue Ford Ranger had wrecked on Short Mountain Highway in the ditch but that the truck had continued traveling down the road. Central dispatch(911) then received another call from a woman who said she lived on Crestlawn Avenue and that there was a blue truck that had almost run over people in that area. Upon arrival to that location, Officer Holmes saw Reeder on the porch of a residence knocking on the door. The resident of the house said she had never seen Reeder and didn't know who he was or why he was knocking on her door. As Officer Holmes was speaking to Reeder, he detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage. Reeder was also unsteady on his feet and he almost fell down several times. Bond for Reeder was set at $1,000 and his court date is April 1st.

26 year old Shana Nicole Pittman of 125 Meridian Drive was arrested on Wednesday, March 17th for theft. Sergeant Randy King made the arrest. According to Joyce Sobotka of Wal-Mart, Pittman had been observed on video taking merchandise from Wal-Mart without paying for it while employed by the store. Bond for Pittman was set at $1,000 and the court date is April 22nd.

34 year old Michael K Pelham of 245 Allen Street was arrested on Wednesday, March 17th for theft. Pelham allegedly went into the BP Station on Highway 56 and took two drinks and a candy bar to the back of the store and sat down. Employees told him he needed to pay for his items and leave. Pelham replied that he was resting. Pelham opened one drink, consumed half of it, and then placed it and the other drink and candy bar on a shelf. Officer Matt Farmer requested to see his driver's license but Pelham advised that he couldn't as the picture on the license was of a guy and he was a girl. He said his name was Michelle Shelton and according to the clerks, he made a statement that he was allowed 12 mistakes. Pelham gave a social security number that belonged to Michael K Pelham and Mr. Pelham finally admitted that it was him. Bond for Pelham was set at $1,000 and his court date is April 1st.

Meanwhile, anyone having information on the following offense is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

On Friday, March 19th Corporal Travis Bryant met with Christine Tramel who reported that she had came out of Wal-Mart on Thursday, March 18th around 2:00 p.m. and was putting groceries into her car. Tramel said she had to get in her car to move it and then got back out and loaded up her groceries and left the property not realizing that her purse was missing until she got home. There are no suspects at this time.

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

Legislative Update from State Senator Mae Beavers

March 19, 2010
State Senator Mae Beavers

The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers

Senate Committees worked at “full steam” this week as they wrapped up budget hearings for various agencies and departments of state government and moved a number of important bills to the Senate floor for final action. The committees are preparing to conclude their business within the next two to three weeks, as the General Assembly is working to adjourn the 2010 legislative session by the end of April.

Senator Beavers’ Ignition Interlock Bill Gets Approval from Senate Judiciary Committee

Senate Bill 2965 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday with a 9-0-0 vote, bringing the bill one step closer to becoming law. The bill is designed to increase the use of ignition interlock devices to curb the number of alcohol-related car crashes on our Tennessee highways.

Currently, ignition interlocks are required for repeat offenders, those drunk drivers who have statistically driven hundreds of times before they are ever caught. Senator Beavers’ bill would require interlock devices to be installed for a year in cases of aggravated first offenders (those who blow a 0.15 BAC, which is almost twice the legal limit), people driving with children in the car, or those involved in accidents caused by alcohol impairment.

Courts often restrict those convicted of drunk driving to traveling only to work and home. The restriction routes can be difficult for law enforcement officers to monitor. Officers would easily be able to see if a convicted offender has a court-ordered interlock device, which would be installed at the offender’s expense.

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 represents a big step forward towards increasing the use of these devices to keep drunk drivers off our roads,” said Senator Beavers. “The record is clear that ignition interlock devices save lives.”

As of January, 2,743 Tennessee driver’s license holders had an interlock restriction, while 580 license holders had an interlock device installed. Eight other states already have laws that require DUI offenders to install interlock devices if they register .15 or higher. The National Transportation Safety Board has urged Tennessee to pass a more uniform and mandatory system for installation of interlock devices for those convicted of drunk driving.

Lawmakers Honor Veterans Through Various Legislative Measures

Among legislation approved in committees this week were several bills to honor and provide assistance to Tennessee’s veterans. This includes legislation approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee that would develop and encourage relationships with veteran-owned businesses that have not always had access to state government contracts.

The bill, 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.

In separate action, the Senate Government Operations Committee approved Senate Bill 2488 that would create the Veterans' Honor Medal program to recognize and honor distinguished service by Tennessee veterans. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs, under the bill, would commission the design of a medal for the program to which gold or silver stars will be added to indicate that an armed forces member was killed or wounded in action. The medal program would honor both active duty, National Guard and reserve component veterans based on criteria established by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Similarly, the Senate Transportation Committee approved legislation to authorize a “wounded warrior” specialty license plate with proceeds going to help with the cost of rehabilitation, readjustment and treatment of veterans. The bill, Senate Bill 3416, would give first priority to providing assistance to members of the Tennessee National Guard wounded in conflicts in federal service and then to all other disabled veterans in the Armed Services. Any remaining funds could be used for other honorably discharged veterans. The license plates would be designed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and, if approved, could be ready for sale as soon as this summer.

The Senate Education Committee also approved two military-related bills. The first proposal, Senate Bill 942, ensures that military personnel who have taught as JROTC instructors for at least two years and are licensed to teach another subject are credited with their years of service in JROTC instruction for the purpose of salary rating.

The second measure, Senate Bill 3022, authorizes local education agencies to issue a diploma to a student who failed to receive one due to their service in the Vietnam War.

Tennessee law already allows for high school diplomas to be issued to veterans whose education was interrupted by service in World War I, World War II, or the Korean War. A surviving spouse or other immediate family member of a deceased veteran may also request the diploma.

Protecting Medical Patients from Sexual Offenders

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill this week to require the Board of Medical Examiners to deny the application for licensure or revoke the license of a physician convicted of an offense which requires registration as a sexual offender. The bill, Senate Bill 3362, provides for communications between the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s (TBI) Sex Offender Registry and the Board of Medical Examiners within 30 days to assure notification is given. It also requires the Medical Examiners to make sure that no existing physician is currently listed on the Registry.

The action comes after a mother in Middle Tennessee learned her child’s family practice physician was listed on the state’s Sex Offender Registry. The doctor had been convicted of first-degree rape and sexual abuse of a young girl in 1987 before moving to Tennessee. He obtained a medical license in Tennessee in 1992 after being turned down by two other states. The state later renewed his license, even after the TBI listed him as a violent sex offender.

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

March 19, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

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

Greetings! This week session is rolling right along as we continue to present and hear bills. One of the bills heard this week was a constitutional amendment giving Tennesseans the right to hunt and fish. This amendment to the Tennessee Constitution has completed its journey through both the House and Senate and will now appear on the ballot in the form of a referendum in 2010. Before a constitutional amendment is adopted, it must pass one General Assembly by a majority, a subsequent General Assembly by two-thirds, and receive a majority of voters’ approval on a ballot in a gubernatorial election year. Senate Joint Resolution 30 was approved by the House this week with a 90-1 vote, and has already passed the Senate.

Senate Joint Resolution 30 adds a new provision to Article XI, Section 13 of the state’s constitution which reads: “The citizens of this state shall have the personal right to hunt and fish, subject to reasonable regulations and restrictions prescribed by law. The recognition of this right does not abrogate any private or public property rights, nor does it limit the state's power to regulate commercial activity.”

Since, other countries have outlawed certain types of hunting the House sponsor believes this measure will act as a pre-emptive strike to protect the time-honored traditions. Fourteen other states have approved similar provisions.

This week, Tennessee joined states across the nation in celebrating ‘Sunshine Week,’ a time designed to remind public officials and citizens of the value of open records and other transparency in government measures. In recent years, Tennessee has passed a numerous laws designed to make the public’s access to open records an easier process. To that end, we created an Office of Open Records Counsel within the Comptroller’s office to deal with open records request, and to help citizens navigate local governments’ public records process.

The state’s open record counsel recently presented the office’s 2009 report, which showed that the number of requests coming through the office has increased over 2008. The Office of Open Records Counsel handled 1,085 inquiries about the requirements of various open records laws. Roughly half of those inquiries came from within state government, media and citizens made up the other half—with private citizens edging out the media for more requests. For more information on the Office Open Records Counsel in Tennessee, please visit www.state.tn.us/comptroller/openrecords.

Students entering childcare facilities, pre-k, kindergarten, or seventh grade this fall will have a new set of immunization requirements. According to the State Department of Health, this is the first update to immunization requirements in ten years. Most of the new rules take affect on July 1.

New childcare, pre-k, and kindergarten children will be required to show proof of vaccination for Haemophilus influenzae type B (HBV), Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B. Previously, these shots were recommended but not required.

Meanwhile, students entering seventh grade will be required to have a tetanus booster shot and show proof of immunity against chicken pox. This can be demonstrated by having a prior chicken pox diagnosis or by taking two doses of the vaccine.

The state is providing new official immunization certificates to doctors. After completion of the required vaccinations, a doctor will complete a certificate which will be given by the parents to the school as evidence of required vaccinations. As with other required vaccinations, students may be exempted for medical and/or religious reasons. For more information, you can visit www.health.tn.gov.

In Brief...
HB2685 ‘English in the Workplace’ continued to advance this week, winning approval from the Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee. The bill will next be presented in the House Calendar and Rules Committee, which sets floor calendars.

House Joint Resolution 746 which is a resolution urging 911 call centers to accept text messages was approved by the House on Monday evening. It was drafted after other states began implementing technology within their 911 call centers to accept text messages. Idaho was the first state to begin accepting the text messages and so far results have shown this to be positive, especially for those who are hearing impaired.

House Bill 3007 encourages departments in state government to implement new strategies and innovative ideas in regards to saving money and operating more efficiently. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority of House members’ approval, and many House members signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

In closing, I was delighted to have so many folks from my district visit the Capitol this week. The Farm Bureau from Macon, Dekalb, and Smith County took the time to visit and discuss issues important to us all. We had the Firemen from Dekalb County who also came to the Capitol as well as two leadership groups, one from DeKalb County and the Youth Leadership from Smith County. It is always inspiring to see today’s youth take an active interest in government. They are the future. I applaud the youth Leadership group for participating in my Education Committee as we discussed bills that would affect the schools across the state. It was great to see them appointed as honorary members of the Education Committee. We discussed current issues and had a short Question and Answer session as well. Doug Dillard, pastor of Lighthouse Community Church in Smith County, was gracious enough to be Pastor of the Day on Thursday and pray before ses sion began. Before I introduced him I began with a Song for the Lord. This truly has been a busy week but a blessed one indeed! I always look forward to hearing from my constituents and hearing your concerns. I am here for you; please do not hesitate to call my office.

Congressman Bart Gordon to Vote For Controversial Health Care Bill

March 19, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page
Congressman Bart Gordon

Congressman Bart Gordon says he will vote in favor of the controversial health care bill when it comes to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In a prepared release, Congressman Gordon says "The health care bill being considered by Congress now accomplishes three things: one, it reduces health care costs for families and small businesses; two, it improves access to affordable care, regardless of pre-existing conditions; three, it lowers our budget deficit. That’s why I am supporting it.

Over the past year, I have been contacted by thousands of Middle Tennesseans with opinions on health care. Because this issue is so important, I have heard from passionate voices on all sides through face-to-face meetings, call-ins, surveys, town halls, calls and letters.
During that time, I have consistently said I would not support any version of health care reform unless it brings down rising health care costs, improves access to affordable care, and does it all without adding one nickel to the national deficit. I’ve now been presented with a bill that does all three; in fact, this proposal reduces the deficit by $130 billion over the next 10 years and $1.2 trillion in the 10 years after that. Finding solutions to the problems we face has been challenging, but we simply cannot sustain the status quo any longer.

I’ve heard from many Tennesseans in the past year who are struggling to afford health care. Since 2000, health insurance premiums for the average family have doubled. Too many hard-working families and small businesses are getting priced out of needed health care.
There is no evidence this trend of escalating costs is moderating. If no reform is passed, the average family premium in Tennessee is expected to increase from $11,550 today to $19,700 in 2019. Hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans who currently have insurance are projected to lose their coverage. Small businesses that have stretched their budgets to cover employees will be forced to either cut care or cut staff. If we do nothing, local hospitals that are already struggling to accommodate uninsured patients through emergency room care and other resources will be stretched to the breaking point; some will likely go bankrupt.

Drawing from Republican and Democratic ideas, the bill before the House now has the potential to bring about major, commonsense remedies to our system that most all Tennesseans agree are necessary. Under the bill’s reforms, Tennesseans with preexisting conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer would be able to purchase insurance from any insurance company in the United States. Young adults would be able to remain on their parents’ policies until they turn 26. Families in financial trouble would receive tax breaks to help them find affordable insurance plans in the private sector. And finally, for the 100,000 seniors in my district, the bill would eliminate the Part D donut hole and extend Medicare’s solvency nine years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Growing health care costs are also straining our economy and increasing our national debt. Health care expenditures now account for 20 percent of the federal budget. Without reform, that number is projected to double in the next ten years. The Congressional Budget Office calls current federal spending on health care “the single greatest threat to budget stability.” These costs must be contained if we are to get serious about cutting our national debt. I voted against the House bill in November because that version didn’t do enough to address health care inflation. The Congressional Budget Office now says the current bill will address the problem by reducing the deficit.

With this bill, we have an opportunity to address a number of inefficiencies that have drained our system and driven costs up artificially. To begin with, we can address the pressing issue of frivolous and expensive malpractice lawsuits, which force doctors and hospitals to practice defensive medicine and put a huge financial burden on the system. That’s why I introduced a measure based on Tennessee’s own successful Certificate of Merit Program, which has already brought down the number of malpractice suits in Tennessee by 60 percent.

We can attack waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare. We can hold insurance companies accountable and prevent companies from hiking premiums arbitrarily and dropping patients when they get sick. These are the measures I believe are essential to sensible reform, and these are the measures the new bill includes.

In November, I said I hoped the Senate and House could work out the difference and produce a bill I could support – one that takes responsible steps to make health care more affordable for our economy and for our families and small businesses. If I and each of my 534 colleagues in Congress had been able to write our own health reform packages, we would be looking at 535 different bills today. In the end, the question I’m faced with is this: will this reform be better for Middle Tennessee than the status quo? I think it will. That’s why I believe passing meaningful health care reform is essential and why I have made my decision to help ensure health care is affordable for Middle Tennesseans today and for generations to come."

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