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

April 2, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

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

Greetings, Fellow Folks of the Fortieth! My thanks go out to the 4-H groups, from all three of my counties, who spent the day with me this past week. I love it when our youth come to the Capitol.

Also, I am blessed to have such wonderful water resources in my district. I called for an informational meeting involving Dale Hollow Lake and all marina owners of Center Hill Lake. It was a positive proactive turnout with emphasis on keeping our water clean for generations to come. Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), the Corp of Engineers, and local officials joined us for lunch and discussion.

On another note, this week has been very busy here at the state capitol both for me and my fellow colleagues. I struck back at the Tennessee Democratic Party (TNDP) today after they made false allegations about a bill I am currently sponsoring in the Tennessee General Assembly. House Bill 3627 would encourage the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to take into account quality of life and economic impact when prioritizing road projects. The TNDP falsely accused me of jeopardizing federal funding by requiring the General Assembly to approve road projects.

It is clear to me that the Tennessee Democratic Party has no interest in the truth. This legislation would simply encourage TDOT to consider certain important factors when prioritizing road projects. There is no price tag on the bill, and the Tennessee Democratic Party would have realized this if they had actually read it.

The bill specifically encourages TDOT to prioritize projects with the following objectives in mind:
Ensuring the continued viability of and improving the quality of life in rural communities affected by any projects;

Promoting economic development and tourism in affected communities;
Improving public safety;

Improving the efficiency of transportation routes and

Coordinating the traffic flow between local communities to maximize opportunities for all of the state.

While the Tennessee Democratic Party plays deceitful politics, I have been working tirelessly with TDOT and the constituents in my community to make District 40 an even better place to live, work, and raise a family. It is disappointing that they are taking cheap political shots, but it will not deter my work for the people of Macon, Smith, and DeKalb Counties.

Also, this week the House Industrial Impact Subcommittee passed the ‘Tennessee Health Freedom Act’ this week, which is aimed at protecting the right of an individual to purchase—and the right of doctors to provide—lawful medical services without penalty. The bill would also require the state Attorney General to take the necessary steps to defend these rights.

House Bill 3433 was presented as a crowd lined the aisles and the hallway outside of the committee room in support of the bill. The measure is just one of many that Republicans hope will protect individuals from an increasingly heavy-handed federal government. Other states have passed similar legislation, and many are already in the process of filing a lawsuit against the federal government regarding the healthcare overhaul.

Concerned that expanding government programs are rarely effective solutions to efficient complex issues, we have argued that the federal government takeover of healthcare will only prove to balloon the cost of healthcare services to the states. Having passed the subcommittee, the bill will be presented to the full House Commerce Committee next Tuesday morning.

Another measure that achieved passage by the Industrial Impact Subcommittee Wednesday would put into Tennessee’s Constitution language that prohibits laws that would compel a person, employer, or healthcare provider to participate in any healthcare system. Similar to the bill in context, House Joint Resolution 745 has now cleared one hurdle, but faces Tennessee’s lengthy constitutional amendment approval process, which can take up to four years.

A constitutional amendment must be approved by one General Assembly by a majority, and a subsequent General Assembly by a two-thirds vote. Following its passage by the legislature, the amendment goes on the ballot in the next gubernatorial election, and must receive approval from a majority of those voting in the gubernatorial race.

The House Commerce Committee also approved two measures this week that Republicans hope will send Washington a message. House Bill 2681 would prohibit using tax dollars for abortions. The legislature’s Fiscal Review Office has said the bill does not put the state in jeopardy of losing any federal funds, and the sponsor impressed upon the committee the need to be proactive. Due to its passage out of Commerce this week, the bill could be scheduled for a floor vote as early as next week.

Finally, the House Commerce Committee also approved a resolution that expresses opposition to the government takeover of healthcare, and the creation of a public option healthcare plan. House Joint Resolution 704 will be heard in the House Calendar and Rules Committee which will schedule the resolution for a floor vote should it pass.

The United States Department of Education announced Monday that Tennessee has been chosen to receive millions of dollars from the federal government’s “Race to the Top” program. Only two of 16 finalists—Tennessee and Delaware—were ultimately selected. Tennessee hoped to receive $500 million, and early reports indicate the state stands to receive approximately that amount. The Tennessee General Assembly met for two weeks in early January for an Extraordinary Session to pass a bi-partisan, comprehensive education reform plan.

We stood together Monday and praised the efforts of everyone involved who had worked together toward true education reform. Tennessee presented their plan to a panel of independent evaluators in Washington, D.C., who reportedly were impressed by the strong accountability measures in Tennessee’s proposal.

The “Race to the Top” competition is designed to reward states that are leading the way in comprehensive, coherent, statewide education reform across four areas:
Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;

Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and informing teachers and principles how to improve instruction;

Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principles, especially where they are needed most; and

Turning around their lowest-performing schools.

The Transportation Committee approved the “English Only” legislation this week, which would require driver’s license exams to be given only in English. The Republican sponsor argued that House Bill 262 is needed so that drivers can read road signs and other critical information. Republicans also say drivers need to be able to communicate with police and other emergency personnel in case of an emergency.

In the same vein, the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee approved House Bill 270, which would require voter registration forms to carry a disclaimer that clarifies giving false information to register to vote carries a criminal penalty, and also requires that the applicant affirm that they are lawfully in the United States. The bill will now move the House Calendar and Rules Committee.

We also scored a majority victory on Wednesday, after passing House Bill 2685. The “Protecting English in the Workplace” proposal experienced no resistance on the House floor and passed by an overwhelming majority.

The legislation clarifies that employers can require that English be spoken on the job, but does allow for some exceptions such as lunch hours or other designated breaks. The bill would protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits that can emerge when private policies are set perfectly within their rights.

The Republican sponsor said requiring English is often a safety precaution. Businesses where employees are continuously handling toxic products or food containers have a need to require English. The sponsor also cited industrial businesses, where signs in English often display critical safety information.

For many years, all three bills have faced resistance by Democrat-controlled subcommittees, but due to a Republican majority in the House and Senate, the legislation has been successful thus far this year.

Tennessee celebrated ‘Tax Freedom Day’ on April 1st this year, which according to the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day answers the basic question, “What price is the nation paying for government?” Based on their calculations, Tennesseans worked for 91 days before they earned enough money to pay this year’s federal and state tax obligations. In addition, Tax Foundation reports that Americans will pay more taxes in 2010 than they will spend on food, clothing and shelter combined.

House Bill 3576 places restrictions on the amount of reimbursement legislators can receive for in-state flights. Currently, legislators have the option of flying or driving from their respective districts to Nashville to serve in the legislature. This legislation would limit the reimbursement to simply mileage or the cost of the airline ticket, whichever is less. The bill passed out of the House State Government Subcommittee and will next be heard in the full State and Local Government Committee.

House Bill 2885 will next be heard in the House Budget Subcommittee. A bill that would create a “small business advocate” within the state Comptroller’s office passed out of the House Commerce Committee this week.

House Bill 3301 passed on the House floor this week, and would enact the “Freedom from Coercion Act.” If a pregnant female is a minor, the attending physician or health care professional must inform the minor that no one can force her to have an abortion and the procedure cannot be done unless she provides her freely given, voluntary and informed consent. The legislation has already passed the Senate.

DeKalb Jobless Rate 11.2% in February

April 1, 2010
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for February was 11.2%, down slightly from 11.6% in January and down from 12% in February, 2009

The local labor force for February was 9,590. Employment was at 8,510 and a total of 1,080 were unemployed. Among the fourteen upper cumberland counties, Pickett County had the highest jobless rate at 18.8% followed by Van Buren County at 15%, Smith County, Clay, and White County at 14.2% each, Jackson 13.9%, Fentress 13.6%, Warren 13.4% Overton 13.2%, Cumberland 13%, Trousdale 12%, DeKalb 11.2%, Cannon 10.5%, and Putnam County 10.3%.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February 2010 was 10.7 percent, unchanged from the January rate of 10.7 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of February was 9.7 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for February 2010 show that the rate decreased in 78 counties, increased in 10 counties and remained the same in seven counties.

Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 8.0 percent, down from 8.3 percent in January. Marshall County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 19.1 percent, down from 20.2 in January, followed by Henderson County at 19.0 percent, down from 19.8 percent in January.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 8.4 percent, down from 8.5 percent in January. Davidson County was 9.3 percent, down from 9.5 in January. Hamilton County was at 9.7 percent, down from 9.9 in January, and Shelby County was 10.8 percent, down from 11.3 in January.

August Election to Include Three Contested Races for School Board

April 1, 2010
Dwayne Page
John David Foutch
Charles Robinson
Jerry Wayne Johnson
Kenny Rhody
Johnathon Willoughby
Billy Miller
Larry Redmon
Johnny Lattimore

The DeKalb County General Election will feature three contested races for the Board of Education on August 5th in the second, third, and fourth districts.

Today (Thursday) at noon was the qualifying deadline. School board members will be elected in the first, second, third, fourth, and seventh districts.

In the second district, Charles Robinson will be seeking his third term. Robinson was first elected in 2002 and he was re-elected in 2006. He will be challenged by a former second district school board member Jerry Wayne Johnson, who served from 1992 to 1998.

In the third district, Kenny Rhody is running for his third term. Rhody was first elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. Johnathon Willoughby, making his first attempt at public office, will be running against Rhody.

Two candidates are in the race to succeed Joan Draper in the fourth district, Billy Miller and Larry Redmon. Draper, who was elected for the first time in 2006, will not be seeking re-election. Both Miller and Redmon are seeking elected office for the first time.

Incumbent school board members John David Foutch in the first district and Johnny Lattimore in the seventh district will be unopposed. Foutch will be seeking his second elected term. Foutch was appointed by the county commission in January 2005 to fill the unexpired term of Darrell Gill who moved out of the first district. Foutch was elected to his first term in 2006.

Lattimore will be seeking his third term. He was first elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006.

Candidates for the school board run neither as democrats or as republicans but as non-partisans. Terms are for four years. Incumbent members W.J. (Dub) Evins, III in the fifth district and Bruce Parsley in the sixth district are in mid-term. Their terms expire in 2012.

Others on the DeKalb County General Election ballot on August 5th will be the democratic and republican nominees for the offices of county mayor, county clerk, trustee, register of deeds, circuit court clerk, sheriff, road supervisor, and to fill unexpired terms for circuit court judge (part one) and district attorney general. All fourteen county commission seats will also be filled in the August election.

Early voting for the August 5th elections will be July 16th-31st

The Dowelltown Municipal election is set for August 5th to elect three aldermen.

Today (Thursday) at noon was the qualifying deadline.

Incumbent aldermen Brad Driver, Keith Farler, and Ron Griffith have all qualified to seek re-election.

They will be running unopposed

Meanwhile, early voting dates and times are set for the May 4th DeKalb County Democratic Primary.

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. Winners will run in the August General Election.

Weaver and Beavers Seek-Re-election, Both to Face Challenges

April 1, 2010
Dwayne Page
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver
James Hale
Jamie Winkler
State Senator Mae Beavers
Susan Lynn
Aubrey Givens
Sam Hatcher

State Representative Terry Lynn Weaver of Lancaster will be unopposed in the Tennessee Republican Primary for re-nomination on August 5th but she will have a Democratic and an Independent opponent in the November 2nd General Election.

Today (Thursday) at noon was the qualifying deadline.

James Hale of DeKalb County and Jamie Winkler of Smith County will be seeking their party's nomination in the Tennessee Democratic Primary on August 5th for the right to challenge Representative Weaver this fall. Weaver is seeking her second term.

Independent candidate Pleas Ford of Macon County is also running for State Representative in November.

Three counties make up the 40th legislative district, including DeKalb, Macon, and Smith.

Meanwhile, State Senator Mae Beavers will have two opponents in the Tennessee Republican primary on August 5th.

Senator Beavers, who is seeking her third term in the state senate from the 17th district, will face a challenge from State Representative Susan Lynn of Mount Juliet and Gordon Borck of Smith County.

The winner will face a democratic challenge in November from either Lebanon attorney Aubrey Givens, Smith County farmer George McDonald, or Lebanon newspaper publisher Sam Hatcher. Givens, McDonald, and Hatcher are seeking their party's nomination for the State Senate in the Tennessee Democratic Primary on August 5th.

The State Senate in the 17th district includes Cannon, Clay, DeKalb, Macon, Smith, Trousdale, Wilson, and part of Sumner County.

Several candidates have lined up hoping to succeed Democratic Congressman Bart Gordon in the U.S. House of Representatives from the 6th District. Last December, Congressman Gordon announced his plans to retire from Congress when his current term ends in 2010. Gordon was first elected in 1984 and is completing his 13th term.

Those seeking the GOP nomination for Congress in the August 5th Tennessee Republican Primary are as follows:

Bruce McLellan of Overton County
Gary Mann of Williamson County
James Tracy of Bedford County
Diane Black of Sumner County
Lou Ann Zelenik of Rutherford County
David Evans of Bedford County
Kerry Roberts of Robertson County

Those seeking the nomination for Congress in the August 5th Tennessee Democratic Primary are as follows:

Devora Butler of Rutherford County
George Erdel of Rutherford County
Brett Carter of Davidson County
Benjamin Leming of Rutherford County
Henry Barry of Wilson County

Independent candidates for Congress in the November 2nd Tennessee General Election include:

Jim Boyd of Sumner County
Tommy Hay of DeKalb County
Brandon Gore of Rutherford County
Stephen Sprague of Jackson County
David Purcell of Robertson County

Candidates for Governor in the Tennessee Republican Primary on August 5th include:

Zach Wamp of Hamilton County
William Haslam of Knox County
Joe Kirkpatrick of Wilson County
Ronald Ramsey of Sullivan County
Basil Marceaux, Sr. of Chattanooga

Candidate for Governor in the August 5th Tennessee Democratic Primary:

Mike McWherter of Madison County

Independent Candidates for Governor in the November 2nd Tennessee General Election

Brandon Dodds of Dyer County
Samuel Duck of Blount County
Carl Whitaker of Sevier County
Boyce McCall of Knox County
Toni Hall of Davidson County
June Griffin of Rhea County
Donald McFolin of Davidson County
James Reesor of Davidson County
Bayron Binkley of Williamson County
Floyd Knois of Marshall County
Thomas Smith, II of Hamilton County
David Gatchell of Williamson County
Howard Switzer of Perry County

Corps to Conduct Test of Emergency Evacuation Siren at Long Branch Campground

March 31, 2010

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces a periodic test of an emergency evacuation siren at Long Branch Campground, located directly below Center Hill Dam, on Monday, April 5th, at 2 p.m.

This siren serves the Long Branch and Buffalo Valley Recreation Areas immediately below the dam. Additionally, neighboring private landowners downstream of the dam may possibly hear the siren. The test will last for approximately one minute.
This is only a test.

In the unlikely event of a breach of the dam, the siren will be activated and an evacuation plan put into effect to assist the visiting public in the Long Branch and Buffalo Valley Recreation Areas. Anyone with questions should call the Center Hill Lake Resource Manager’s Office at 931-858-3125.

Tennessee Approves new Childhood Immunization Requirements

March 31, 2010

For the first time in a decade, Tennessee has adopted new childhood immunization requirements to better protect children from serious diseases, especially those that can spread easily in a school or pre-school setting. The new 2010 requirements apply to those who attend child care, pre-school and school, and changes coming in 2011 affect new Tennessee college students. The state has also introduced a new official Tennessee Certificate of Immunization required for children starting pre-school, Kindergarten and seventh grade this fall.

"Vaccinations have all but eliminated the threat of diseases like mumps and measles. Unfortunately, we still see Tennessee children suffer and die unnecessarily when they are not properly immunized," said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. "These new requirements assure that children have the best protection from serious illnesses that are easily passed from person to person in schools and child care centers."

Parents and guardians planning to pre-register their children for school this spring will need to submit the new Certificate of Immunization by the time class starts in the fall. Because all new Kindergarten students and seventh graders will need the new certificate, public schools are allowing a one-time grace period of October 1 to submit the form, according to the state Department of Education. Check with your school for more information.

"The required vaccines are already recommended for all children by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, so most young children have already received them," said Kelly Moore, MD, medical director of the state immunization program. "Parents should talk with their child's health care provider to be sure they have had everything they need. Unlike toddlers, who have frequent health exams, many pre-teens and teens are overdue for their annual health check-up, and are missing some of these important vaccines."

A complete list of the new immunization requirements as well as information for parents and health care providers is available on the Tennessee Department of Health Web site at http://health.state.tn.us/CEDS/required.htm. Examples of changes that will go into effect are as follows:

·Children enrolling in child care, pre-school or pre-Kindergarten must now show documentation of Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Pneumococcal vaccine.

·All children entering the seventh grade this fall must submit proof of a booster dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine; and confirm either chickenpox immunity through the disease or receipt of two doses of the varicella vaccine.

·In July 2011, new full-time enrollees to Tennessee colleges who were born after 1979 will need to provide proof of chickenpox immunity through either the disease or two doses of the varicella vaccine.

Children and teens younger than age 19 who have TennCare as well as those who do not have health insurance can receive free vaccines through the federal Vaccines for Children Program in participating private medical offices and health departments. Ask your child's health care provider if they participate in VFC. If a child has insurance that does not pay for vaccines or if parents are unable to afford them, local health departments can provide the vaccine. Health departments and VFC providers give the vaccine for a small fee that can be adjusted based on your income.

Local health departments will be able to provide the new certificates beginning April 1; private providers will be able to obtain the new certificate beginning in April. Parents should talk to their child's health care provider about plans for issuing the new certificates. Health care providers can go to https://twis.tn.us for more information.

For general information about vaccines, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines. For questions about school policies or health examinations, contact your local school system. For more information on the new requirements, call your county health department or go to the Web at http://health.state.tn.us/CEDS/required.htm.

Midnight Fire Destroys Home

March 30, 2010
Dwayne Page

A midnight fire destroyed the residence of Jerry Harper on Rosewood Lane off Blue Springs Road Monday night.

Central dispatch received the call at 11:51 p.m.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says no one was at home when the fire started. A neighbor spotted the blaze and reported it, but the flames were already coming through the roof by the time it was discovered. The home and all contents were lost in the fire..

No one was injured.

Members of the Keltonburg, Short Mountain Highway, Blue Springs, and Main Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the tanker truck and equipment truck, DeKalb EMS, and Sheriff's deputies.

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

City of Smithville Accepting Applications for Chief of Police

March 30, 2010
Dwayne Page

The City of Smithville is accepting applications to fill the position of Police Chief.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson, in a public notice, states that applications may be picked up at city hall from 8:00 a.m. until noon. through April 16th All applicants must be certified by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (P.O.S.T.) with a minimum of six years experience as a certified, full-time officer with a minimum of three years experience in a supervisory position. The City of Smithville is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, or disability.

The Police Chief position has been open since December when the Board of Aldermen, with four voting in the affirmative, upheld the city discipline board's decision in November to terminate former Police Chief Richard Jennings for dereliction of duties/negligence..

Lieutenant Steven Leffew has been serving as "Officer in Charge" of the department since November.

On December 10th. Jennings and his wife June filed a federal court lawsuit against the City of Smithville claiming he was wrongfully terminated and that his constitutional rights were violated
In the lawsuit, Jennings alleges that the city never established a cause for his termination, that the city violated his constitutional due process rights, and that he was the victim of age discrimination in the dismissal.

The former police chief is asking for a jury trial, that he be awarded back pay and damages for loss of earnings and benefits in an amount to be determined at trial, that front pay be awarded to compensate him for lost employment opportunities, that compensatory damages be awarded in an amount to be determined at trial, and that he be awarded attorney's fees, expenses of the litigation, prejudgement interests, punitive damages, and such other and further relief as may be deemed just and proper."

Jennings is being represented by Murfreesboro attorney Kerry Knox.

THP Investigates Four Vehicle Accident

March 29, 2010
Dwayne Page

The Tennessee Highway Patrol investigated a four vehicle accident Monday morning at the intersection of North Congress Boulevard and East Main Street in Smithville.

Trooper Mark Jones says 78 year old Billy Harris of Smithville was traveling west on East Main Street in a 2003 Chevy pickup truck, crossing Highway 56 as 68 year old Kenneth Tramel, driving a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup for the Tennessee Forestry Division was going north on Highway 56. After impact, Tramel's truck crossed into the southbound lane and struck a 1994 Oldsmobile, driven by 33 year old Alfaro Alejandro, who was setting in the outside southbound lane at the traffic light. After making contact with the Alejandro vehicle, Tramel's truck also hit a 1987 Chevy pickup behind Alejandro, driven by 50 year old James Johnson of McMinnville.

According to Trooper Jones, both Harris and Tramel claim they had a green light but Alejandro and Johnson say the light on Congress Boulevard was red.

Trooper Jones says Tramel went to the hospital by private vehicle to be checked out, but there were no other injuries.

Luna Charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident

March 29, 2010
Dwayne Page

A 62 year old man was arrested Monday morning after leaving the scene of a traffic accident at the intersection of South Congress Boulevard and Vaughn Lane.

Corporal Travis Bryant of the Smithville Police Department says Raymundo Luna is charged with leaving the scene of an accident and he was cited for not having any insurance and for failure to yield while entering an intersection. His bond totals $3,500 and he will be in court on April 15th.

According to Corporal Bryant, Luna was traveling west on Vaughn Lane in a 1992 Buick Regency when he failed to stop at the intersection with Highway 56 south. Luna proceeded through the intersection and crossed into the path on a southbound Mercury SUV driven by 20 year old Ashlee Thomason of Smithville.

Corporal Bryant says Luna left the scene after the wreck, drove to College Street, turned right, and then cut across to Short Mountain Highway.

Thomason gave police a description and tag number of the vehicle and a "BOLO" or "Be on the Lookout" was issued by Central Dispatch. A witness spotted the car parked in a barn at the Pirtles Nursery location on Short Mountain Highway and notified authorities.

County deputies went to the nursery and verified that the car was the same one that was involved in the accident. Corporal Bryant came to the scene and talked with the owner of the vehicle, Luna, who worked at the nursery. Luna admitted to leaving the scene of the accident, saying he did so because he was trying to get to work and was scared.

Thomason, who received minors injuries in the accident, was taken to the hospital by private vehicle.


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