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Past Due Parking Ticket Could Delay Your Vehicle Registration Under Proposed New Law

April 14, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mike Clayborn

Be careful not to get a parking ticket, and be sure to pay the fine on time if you do. Otherwise, you may be prohibited from getting your vehicle registration renewed under proposed legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly.

DeKalb County Clerk Mike Clayborn told WJLE Thursday that if the "parking ticket" bill is passed in the state legislature, county clerks would be prohibited from registering or renewing registration if the owner of a vehicle has parking tickets within such county that are more than 60 days past due." Most people realize that if you get stopped without proof of insurance, that goes directly to the state and the state puts a block on your tag and you can't do anything with it. You can't renew it. You can't transfer it. You can't do anything with that tag until your insurance company proves to the state that you have insurance on your particular vehicle. This legislation would impose (regulations) on parking tickets. If you have a parking ticket, we would have to verify that you don't have an outstanding parking ticket. If you do, we would not be able to renew your tag. We wouldn't be able to do anything for you. If that happens, its going to be a nightmare not only for us but for city policemen, our sheriff, and anybody who has the authority to write a ticket. We're hoping this (legislation) doesn't pass," said Clayborn.

Present law provides that the office of county clerk is not required to review the driving record of any owner before issuing a certificate of registration or a tab, sticker or other device as a prerequisite to payment of wheel or road taxes.

This bill adds a requirement for the county clerk to inquire to county law enforcement and to appropriate officials in any city within such county as to whether the owner has any outstanding parking tickets that are more than 60 days past due. If the owner does have such outstanding parking tickets, then the clerk will not issue a certificate of registration, registration plate or sticker to the owner, until the owner shows proof that the parking tickets have been paid. The clerk must send written notice to the owner that the tickets must be paid prior to registration or renewal.

The legislation is sponsored by Democrat Karen D. Camper of Memphis in the State House and by Republican Brian Kelsey of Memphis in the State Senate.

School Board Pays Tribute to Teachers, Administrative, and Instructional Support Staff

April 14, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night adopted resolutions honoring administrative and instructional support staff and teachers. The April monthly meeting of the school board was held at Smithville Elementary School.

The resolution of appreciation honoring teachers states that " Whereas, teachers nurture students and engage them in activities which will educate and graduate tomorrow's citizens and leaders; and

Whereas, teachers spend countless hours preparing teaching materials, grading papers and projects, studying about issues in education, consulting with administration, parents, students, and fellow educators; and

Whereas, teachers create a safe and healthy learning environment for the students to enjoy while they participate in daily lessons; and

Whereas, teachers demonstrate an exemplary attitude and establish rapport with the students; and

Whereas great teachers transmit their passion for learning onto their students; and

Whereas, effective teachers give positive and constructive advice, praise accomplishments, and adjust their teaching styles as needed to meet the individual needs of students.

Now, Therefore, Be it resolved that the DeKalb County Board of Education recognizes the numerous contributions that our teachers make each day by establishing May 3, 2011 as Teacher Appreciation Day in all DeKalb County Schools; and

Be it further resolved that the board expresses appreciation and thanks to teachers in our school system and encourages each school and community to recognize them for their contribution to the success of our school system and its students".

The resolution honoring administrative and instructional support staff states that "Whereas, the administrative and instructional support staff in the DeKalb County School System is an outstanding group of dedicated school employees who care deeply about the students; and

Whereas, our teachers and administrators depend upon administrative and instructional support staff members to prepare learning materials, operate the office, and carry out business functions of the school, tutor, counsel, advise, and guide individual students and perform a variety of other activities that result in an improved learning environment for students and their teachers throughout the school year; and

Whereas, our instructional and administrative support staff is made up of individuals who have shown a commitment to our schools and the students they serve; and

Whereas, most members of our administrative support staff bring into our schools a pleasant personality, a good measure of common sense, a calm demeanor, and a willingness to let others occupy the spotlight and receive credit for success; and

Now, Therefore be it resolved that the DeKalb County Board of Education hereby establishes April 21, 2011 as Administrative and Instructional Support Staff Appreciation Day; and

Be it further resolved that the board expresses appreciation and thanks to all the support staff in our school system and encourages each school to recognize and join in the celebration of these individuals on that day for the role they play in the success of our school system.

Be it further resolved that the board endorses the use of an outer space theme to celebrate administrative and instructional support staff members because students can have fun with the theme, use what they have learned about space in the celebration and because many of our students consider them to be shining stars who help to guide them in the right direction".

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby gave his monthly update on personnel:

Rebecca Purdue, a teacher at DCHS has resigned
Annie Walker, PreK Educational Assistant at Smithville Elementary School has retired

Candice Scarbro, teacher at DeKalb Middle School, was granted a leave as requested.

In other business, the board voted to accept sealed bids on the sale of six buses being taken out of service as surplus property. Sealed bids will be opened on June 9th. The board also approved the disposal of other surplus property including several computer monitors and printers.

Darrell Gill, on behalf of the Junior Pro Football Program, asked for and received permission from the school board for the architectural and engineers building plans to be submitted to the state fire marshal for the construction of a new 5,134 square foot field house at DCHS, subject to a review by the school system's maintenance supervisor Earl Jared.

The new fieldhouse, being built with high school football and Jr. Pro funds, will be for the Tiger football program complete with a dressing room area, locker room, training room, utility room, showers and bathrooms, an office for the coach, and two dry storage areas, one of which would be for the youth football league. Construction is expected to begin this summer with volunteer labor.

The board also voted to ask Director Willoughby to gather more information on what is specifically needed and the cost estimates for updating the existing science lab facilities at DeKalb County High School. Once that information is obtained, the board may schedule a special meeting to discuss the issue further.

Martha Webb Commits to Maryville College

April 12, 2011
Martha Webb Commits to Maryville College

Martha Webb has committed to continue her education, and basketball career at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee.

The daughter of Alan and Lora Webb, Martha was a standout forward for the Tigers at DeKalb County High School.

This 5'11" standout was an All-District 8AA performer during her junior and senior seasons under head coach Joe Pat Cope at DeKalb County. During her career she deposited 1,141 total points while knocking down 127 career three-pointers. She was also versatile enough to haul down 668 career rebounds.

As an NCAA Division III institution, Maryville College does not award scholarships based on athletic performance; however, for her proven academic ability and accomplishments in high school, the Smithville, Tennessee native and class salutatorian has been awarded the Maryville College Scholarship.

Darrin Travillian, head coach of the Maryville College women's Basketball team, said, " Martha is an excellent addition to our program. She has been the "go-to" player and leader of her team. Although she played a great deal of post this season, Martha has the ability to step out on the perimeter and make shots, giving her the chance to play some at the four and five. She is a willing rebounder and defender, which will give her the opportunity to compete for playing time in our front court."

This fall, Webb will join a team that finished the 2010-11 season with a 21-5 record winning the Great South Athletic Conference regular season crown by posting a perfect 14-0 mark during the regular season. The Scots have earned 17 invitations to the NCAA tournament pacing the school's athletic department in post-season appearances.

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for its academic rigor and its focus on the liberal arts, Maryville is where students come to stretch their minds, stretch themselves and learn how to make a difference in the world. Total enrollment for the spring 2011 semester is 1,103 men and women, representing approximately 17 states, 15 countries.

(PICTURED ABOVE: FRONT ROW LEFT TO RIGHT- Emily Webb, Lora Webb, Martha Webb, Alan Webb and Thomas Webb. BACK ROW- Coach Lynus Martin, Coach Joe Pat Cope, and Coach Josh Agee. NOT PICTURED- Anderson Webb (Martha's brother who is a student at Belmont University) and Mary Ann Puckett (Assistant Coach)

Midgett and Quinteros Receive Leadership DeKalb Awards at Chamber Banquet

April 12, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Dick Kinsey Presents Casey Midgett (right) with Community Leader of Year Award
Twana Green (center) Presents Legacy Award to John and Kay Quintero
Tim Hintz, Suzanne Williams, and Dr. Steve Morse

The winners of the annual Leadership DeKalb Alumni awards were honored Tuesday night during the Chamber of Commerce Membership Banquet at the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church.

Casey Midgett received the Community Leader of the Year Award and Kay and John Quintero were presented the Legacy Award.

The Community Leader of the Year award goes to someone who has made a significant and positive impact on the county, specifically during 2010 and in a capacity beyond commitment to his or her profession. In 2010, Casey was named Chairman of Relay for Life in DeKalb County, an event which has become one of the largest community-wide endeavors of the year and raises tens of thousands of dollars annually for the American Cancer Society. Casey is also very active in his church. He volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and will be coaching T-ball this summer. Casey believes in this community and works to ensure that it is a better place for those who live here.

The Legacy Award goes to the person or persons who have made a significant and positive impact on DeKalb County over a considerable period of time and in multiple or lasting ways. Kay Quintero has been a licensed professional counselor for several years and both she and John have been Mission Service Corp volunteers. Recognizing the great need for services locally for those dealing with drug and alcohol addictions, the Quinteros approached the leadership of the First Baptist Church and Haven of Hope was established. Haven of Hope is a Christian centered source of encouragement for hurting people. It offers individual and group counseling, support groups, and a safe place where people can seek solace from the constant pressures of life. The Quinteros are committed to getting people the help they need. John runs the ministry portion of Haven of Hope as its volunteer Executive Director. John is also a member of the local Drug Court program. In addition to her work with Haven of Hope, Kay serves on the Board of Directors of the Smithville Housing Authority and Lighthouse Christian Camp. She is part of the DeKalb County Community Advisory Board and the DeKalb Prevention Coalition. Both John and Kay are very involved with their church where Kay teaches Mission Friends for pre-schoolers and is the church pianist. John is Sunday School Assistant and sings in the choir.

The guest speaker was Dr. Steve Morse, an economist and director of the Tourism institute at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, who spoke about the economic impact tourism has in DeKalb County.

In his remarks, Dr. Morse said statistics show that for the year 2009, more than $34 million was generated in direct tourist spending in DeKalb County; that tourism produced more than $7.22 million in worker income and paychecks; created $4.65 million in local county tax revenues; created $1.97 million in state tax revenues; and generated 279 jobs.

As a result of taxes generated by 2009 tourist activity in DeKalb County, Dr. Morse said each household here paid $746 less in local and state taxes; each household paid $524 less in local county taxes; and that each household paid $222 less in state taxes.

On an average day in 2009, tourist spending in DeKalb County created $12,751 daily in local county tax revenues; created $5,404 daily in state tax revenues; and generated $19,784 in daily worker paychecks.

Dr. Morse added that while the 2009 recession had a downward impact on most all Tennessee economic sectors, including the tourism sector, DeKalb County faired better than many other counties.

According to Dr. Morse, statistics show that when tourist spending is compared to all other consumer retail spending from 2008 to 2009, retail spending decreased by 8% in Tennessee while tourist spending decreased by only 4.1% during the same period in DeKalb County. As a result, Dr. Morse said tourist spending in DeKalb County was relatively stronger than overall consumer retail spending during the 2009 recession.

The source for this data is the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the Tourist Institute at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

Meanwhile, the retiring members of the Chamber board were recognized including Judy Sandlin of the DeKalb County Fair Board and Robin Driver of Center Hill Realty

New members are Bill Little, CEO for Cannon County Hospital, LLC.; Janna Gillard, publisher of the DeKalb County Guide; Tony Luna of the Real Estate Team and Sligo Marina; Lori Manns, owner of Manns Master Mechanics; Valerie House, active community supporter who is involved with the Cookeville Rescue Mission, the Genesis House, and the Leadership DeKalb Alumni Association, and Rhonda Caplinger of Liberty State Bank.

Other member of the Chamber board are Tom Miller of Liberty State Bank; Keith Blair, Attorney-at-Law, George Oliver of the Smithville Rotary Club; Jason Ray, Leadership Alumni from the Class of 2009; Mike Williams of the DeKalb County Fair Board; Angie Meadows of the Smithville Review; Rob Willingham of Middle Tennessee Natural Gas; Michelle Burklow of the DeKalb County Board of Education; and Kathie McGlamery of the Appalachian Center for Crafts.

The 2011 officers are Vice President; Janna Gillard, Secretary Valerie House, Treasurer Jason Ray, and Past President Tim Hintz. A new President will soon be named.

Local Resident Selected for Washington, DC Conference

April 12, 2011
Wm Freddy Curtis

Mr. Wm. Freddy Curtis, US Government and Sociology Teacher at Cannon County High School and Smithville resident has been selected as 1 of 25 Teachers Nationwide (Grades 6-12) to attend the C-SPAN 2011 Summer Educators' Conference in Washington, DC on July 14th-15th, 2011. He was selected after completing an application process that included an essay regarding utilizing C-SPAN in the classroom and sharing C-SPAN resources with fellow educators.

Conference topics will include: C-SPAN's mission, history, programming, and event coverage; How to navigate C-SPAN's online resources (c-span.org, C-SPAN's newly launched Video Library, Congressional Chronicle, and C-SPAN Classroom); Enrichment opportunities available for students and educators (StudentCam, and Teacher Fellowship Program); and Successful techniques for successfully using C-SPAN resources to enhance learning.

As a guest of C-SPAN, they will provide and arrange for Curtis's roundtrip travel to Washington, DC, and hotel accomodations on Wednesday and Thursday nights (July 13th & 14th, 2011).

Curtis stated, "I am honored for this selection and look forward to sharing about C-SPAN at In-service and Social Studies meetings during the 2011-2012 School Year! I am very excited, because I have never been to Washington, DC!"

Mr. Curtis is a 25 year veteran of the Cannon County School System serving as a teacher and principal at West Side Elementary School from 1986 to 2008, and currently serving as US Government & Sociology Teacher at Cannon County High School. He is married to Trena Braswell Curtis, 2nd Grade Teacher at Smithville Elementary School, and has four sons – Matt, Trent, Casey, and Evan Curtis. They reside at 288 Dogwood Circle in Smithville, TN.

School Board Discusses Need to Update Science/Chemistry Lab at DCHS

April 12, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
One of Existing Lab Tables at DCHS

The lab in the Science/Chemistry department at DeKalb County High School hasn't been updated in many years and members of the board of education believe its time for a change.

A workshop meeting was held Monday evening at DCHS where Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and board members Charles Robinson, John David Foutch, Kenny Rhody, Billy Miller, W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, and Johnny Lattimore met with principal Kathy Hendrix and teachers Dylan Kleparek, Kevin Burchfield, Amanda Fuller, and Kelly Daniels to view the lab and discuss the need for newer facilities. County commissioners Jimmy Poss and Jerry Adcock also attended the meeting.

Existing Science-Chemistry Lab at DCHS from dwayne page on Vimeo.
After the meeting, Kleparek, who is a physical science, chemistry, and physics teacher at DCHS spoke with WJLE about the condition of the existing lab. "Our lab is very outdated. It (same lab facilities) were here when we originally built the school. Its not very safe. The lab tables are all the way around the room and there is no place for the teacher to really instruct from. I think we need a better facility in which the students are all facing in one direction. We need updated facilities so that the labs can be better performed. We need safer situations because the current situation is not very safe, " said Kleparek.

Kleparek offered an option for school officials to consider that would modernize the lab and classroom and make it more functional and user friendly. "I've been to several workshops and talked to several different companies that design and build labs and found what I feel would be the best setup. We could have eight basic islands that the students are at, four students per island, to accommodate 32 students. Each island would be equipped with gas, water, electricity and hopefully computer resources as well. Those stations would be lab stations and a classroom station so this room could still be used as a classroom and when its lab time we can put away the classroom things and bring out the lab components," said Kleparek.

Board members have talked about asking the county commission for a budget amendment to get the upgrades done before school starts this fall. This issue may be discussed further at the school board meeting Thursday night, April 14th at 7:00 p.m. at Smithville Elementary School.

Moore Charged with Rape of a Child

April 11, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Kenneth Lee Moore
Joseph Daniel Richardson
Nena Renea Chapman
Dayna Lamay Johnson

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has arrested 42 year old Kenneth Lee Moore of Midway Road, Smithville for the rape of a child.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Moore allegedly raped his twelve year old niece on November 15th. The child, who was living with Moore at the time, awoke from sleep to find Moore making sexual contact with her.

Moore's bond is $50,000 and he will be in court on April 21st.

Meanwhile, 30 year old Joseph Daniel Richardson of Church Street, Liberty is charged with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $10,000. 30 year old Nena Renea Chapman of Gentry Avenue, Smithville is charged in the same case with theft of property.

Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, April 4th, Richardson allegedly entered a residence on Dry Creek Road with the intent to commit a theft. Richardson apparently made entry by pushing on the locked back door with his shoulder. Items taken were twenty five dollar gold pieces on a chain, two and a half dollar gold pieces on a chain, five dollar gold pieces on a chain, approximately one hundred fifty pieces of miscellaneous items, a medicine organizer, and a quilt. All items were valued at $15,070 dollars. Chapman allegedly took some of the jewelry and sold it at a local business.
Bond for Richardson is $40,000. Chapman's bond is $25,000. Both will appear in General Sessions Court on May 5th.

45 year old Dayna Lamay Johnson of Andrew Street Smithville is charged under a grand jury sealed indictment with sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (Morphine). Her bond is $30,000. Johnson's indictment and arrest comes after an undercover drug investigation by the Smithville Police Department and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

47 year old Morales Jesus Alarcon of Vinewood Road, McMinnville is charged with reckless endangerment. Alarcon was also issued citations for improper passing on a double yellow line, no drivers license, and violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance). His bond is $10,000 and he will be in court May 5th. According to Sheriff Ray, Alarcon was operating a motor vehicle on Highway 56 last Wednesday, April 6th when he almost hit a deputy head-on while passing two vehicles on a double yellow line.

Juan M. Hualos of Short Mountain Highway, Smithville was issued a citation on Wednesday, April 6th for no drivers license and expired registration. While patrolling on Jacobs Pillar Road. a deputy saw Hualos' vehicle traveling south and noticed that the tags on the car were expired. He pulled over the automobile. A computer check revealed that Hualos had no drivers license. His court date is set for June 16th.

51 year old Lonnie Ray Dyer of Patterson Road, Smithville is charged with abuse of 911. Dyer's bond is $2,500 and his court date is April 28th. According to Sheriff Ray a deputy went to Dyer's home on Thursday, April 7th to speak with him. Dyer had called 911 twice that day to report that his neighbors had stolen from him and that they had been shooting at him. Dyer allegedly threatened to shoot anyone who came onto his property including the officers. Sheriff Ray said that Dyer has called 911 several times within the last week to make these types of complaints but each time the deputies responded to investigate, they could find no evidence to support Dyer's claims. Dyer has also refused to give a more complete report or file charges against anyone.

Terri Lynn Poss of Poss Road, Smithville was issued a citation on Friday, April 8th for failure to use a traffic control device, four counts of simple possession of a schedule II controlled substance, and one count of simple possession of a schedule IV drug. Her court date is May 5th. Sheriff Ray said that Poss failed to use a signal light (blinker) at the intersection of Hooper Road and Four Seasons Road. After the deputy pulled over the car, he conducted a search of the vehicle and found nine percocet pills, four xanax pills, nineteen methodone pills, and four oxycodone pills. She had no valid prescription for them.

49 year old Randall Scott Curtis of Liberty is charged with public intoxication. His bond is $1,000 and he will be in court on April 28th. Curtis was also served with a capias for failure to appear in court on two counts of violation of probation. He is being held without bond on the capias.

Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, April 8th a deputy was dispatched to Highway 70 west near DeKalb Market to check on a person who was standing in the roadway. Upon arrival the deputy made contact with the man, Curtis, who was standing in the roadway facing oncoming traffic. Curtis had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was very unsteady on his feet. Curtis' speech was also very slurred. Curtis told the officer that he had drank twelve beers and had smoked some marijuana. Curtis also told the deputy he was hoping to get hit by a car. Due to his intoxication and being a danger to himself, Curtis was placed under arrest.

New Bridge Construction Underway on Tramel Branch Road

April 10, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Portion of Tramel Branch Road Closed due to Bridge Construction
New Bridge Being Built Over Helton Creek

One local bridge project is in progress and another is about to begin.

In February, the Tennessee Department of Transportation awarded a bid to Mountain States Contractors, LLC of Mount Juliet in the amount of $505,991 to build a new concrete box beam bridge on Tramel Branch Road over Helton Creek near Alexandria. The project includes grading, drainage, and paving.

Construction is now underway and Tramel Branch Road is closed to traffic at the point of the bridge site. The work is to be completed on or before November 30th.

TDOT has also awarded a bid to Roads, LLC of Brentwood in the amount of $623, 963 to build a concrete I-Beam bridge on Pea Ridge Road over Dry Creek. The project includes grading, drainage, and paving. Construction on this project has not yet begun but should be starting soon. The work is to be finished on or before November 30th.

Road Supervisor Kenny Edge told WJLE that both projects are to be funded with 80% federal funds and 20% local matching money, including 14% from the DeKalb County Highway Department budget (state aid) and 6% from the county general fund.

City Denies AT&T's Request for Tower Installation

April 10, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

AT&T will have to find somewhere else in town to erect a telecommunications tower.

The Smithville Board of Zoning Appeals Thursday evening denied AT&T's application for a "Special Exception" variance to install a tower and associated utilities within the M-I General Industrial District at the intersection of Kendra Drive and Short Mountain Street.

During a public hearing, several residents in the area and city officials expressed opposition to the proposal.

Members of the BZA board are Sandra Wall, Janie Knowles, Wade Smith, Jr. W.J. (Dub) White, and Jimmy Ervin. Mr. Ervin was absent.

A Look at the Tennessee Legislature

April 10, 2011
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

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

Tort Reforms Move Along in Judiciary Committee

After much discussion, the House Judiciary Subcommittee moved forward with legislation to cap damages stemming from lawsuits in Tennessee. The tort reforms will provide stability in the legal system and ensure lawsuit abuse does not become a reality in Tennessee.

The bill has been a major cornerstone of the Republican Majority’s jobs package, with the Administration stressing the need for the proposal in order to create a jobs-friendly environment in Tennessee. The reforms set in stone much-needed stability so businesses in Tennessee will be able to adequately budget. We have fought for several years to pass various tort reform measures, and are extremely pleased to see the bill moving forward. The bill will now be heard in the full Judiciary Committee.

Governor, Lt. Gov., and Speaker Unveil Career Coach Vehicles for Tennessee

The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker today unveiled three vehicles designed to improve outcomes for those looking for work. Three “Career Coaches” were customized with 10 computer workstations with Internet access, printers, fax machines, and flat screen TV’s with SMART Board overlays to facilitate classroom instruction. The intent of these roving offices is to bring job matching and training to rural communities that have limited access to a Tennessee Career Center.

The vehicles will be based in Huntingdon, Nashville and Knoxville in order to cover all areas of the state. Each mobile unit will be staffed with three Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development employees who are trained in career counseling and unemployment benefits.

"These mobile career centers will provide Tennesseans across this state with the information, assistance, and equipment they need to find jobs and career opportunities,” the Speaker said. “Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development employees will provide them with the tools they need to succeed in today's economy, and I applaud Governor Haslam and Commissioner Davis for making this a priority."

Major Initiatives for Election Reform

On Thursday we passed major legislative initiatives meant to reform how elections are conducted and administered in the Volunteer State.

Taken together, the bills clarify the Tennessee Code to make it consistent with legal precedence that has governed election commissions. The bills also define the responsibilities of administrators of elections and provide greater local oversight over how elections are conducted. These bills ensure there is a concrete route for dealing with concerns raised by election observers.

A central tenet of the Republican platform is local control. These bills are all representative of that philosophy as they ensure greater access by county officials who can best ensure a free and fair election for the citizens of Tennessee. As the prime sponsor of HB709, this bill simply removes early voting if there is not any opposition in a municipal election (city council) and it does not coincide with the August or November election. This legislation will be a savings to our counties statewide. My focus is how to do government better by ultimately reducing the costs and size of government.

We Welcome New Tennessee Commissioner of Education

On Tuesday, the Governor swore in his pick to guide Tennessee’s Department of Education. The new Commissioner of Education is tasked with guiding and implementing the much-needed reforms that are at the heart of the education initiatives moving through the General Assembly. Following the swearing in ceremony, key leaders of the House of Representatives released statements applauding the Commissioner’s appointment.

The Speaker stated, "I am looking forward to working with Commissioner Huffman to ensure Tennessee students have every opportunity at their fingertips and every classroom has a great teacher at the helm. His background of strong reform will build on the momentum we currently have here to make our schools even better. Strong schools lead to job growth and prepare the next generation for our global economy. The Republican Education Committee Chairman said, “I look forward to working with Commissioner Huffman over the coming years to enact an agenda that is both visionary and attainable. Raising the standards for student achievement and teacher excellence is a laudable goal and I am confident we will reach it.”

Commissioner Huffman is the former executive vice president of Teach for America, a nationwide organization that recruits educators. Mr. Huffman is an attorney who taught in the classroom and has a decade of experience as an administrator under his belt.

We Pass Tough Sex Offender Registry Legislation

Early in the week, House Republicans overwhelmingly passed a reform to the criminal code that closes a loophole that allows sexual offenders to find refuge. The bill requires all sexual offenders who are incarcerated, but who have not yet registered as a sexual offender or violent sexual offender, to be registered in the institution in which they are incarcerated by no later than August 1, 2011.

Effectively, the bill increases public safety as it will catalogue and publicize the sexual offenders around the State. It ensures those who have been convicted of a sexual offense have to sign a TBI registration form. The TBI then takes the person's information and places it into the sexual offender database.

The Republican sponsor of the legislation stated, “This is an important move for our General Assembly. It reinforces our commitment to increase safety for Tennessee families. I have seen the destruction and detrimental effects sexual abuse can have on victims. The fact our law currently allows some criminals to legally continue harassing their victims is unacceptable. Our Majority is committed to preventing further victimization of Tennesseans by the worst kind of criminals.”

Tennessee Says Goodbye to a Tennessee Original, Former Governor Ned McWherter

Members of the General Assembly were saddened to hear the news of the passing of former Governor of Tennessee, Ned McWherter. Many veteran Members of the Chamber served with McWherter, including many Republicans.

Gov. McWherter was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1968. After a few terms, he was elected to be Speaker of the House. He would go on to serve Tennessee as Governor for two terms in 1986.

After learning of his passing, Speaker Harwell stated, “Tennessee lost a true statesman with the passing of Governor McWherter. He understood the role of the legislative body, and he carried it out to the fullest. He will be missed, and my heart goes out to his family during this difficult time.”

Two memorial services will be held for Governor McWherter, one on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Nashville at the War Memorial Auditorium. The other service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on the front lawn of McWherter’s home in Dresden. Both memorials are open to the public.

Unclaimed Property Website for Tennesseans

I urge citizens throughout Tennessee to visit an updated State website that features hundreds of listings for unclaimed property.

In terms of property, Tennessee does not hold to a law of escheat, meaning that unclaimed property after a certain time period “returns to the crown”. The State—through the Treasury Department—holds unclaimed property until it is reclaimed by the rightful owner, or by the owner’s heirs (if the owner is deceased). Anyone can search for unclaimed properties by name at this website: http://treasury.tn.gov/unclaim/FindUnclaimed.html. “I would hope every Tennessean visits this site to check for any property that may rightfully be theirs. Far too many citizens are unaware of this fact and I hope this site helps correct that. Typically the property that is held by the Treasurer’s office is intangible property. A few common examples might be uncashed payroll checks, utility deposits, customer refunds, dormant checking and savings accounts, mutual funds, and stock. This is a prime example of how our government can help our residents and I encourage everyone to spread the word about this resource.”

Tennessee's State Treasurer remarked, “The Unclaimed Property Division within the Treasury Department returned over $23.6 million and 250,000 shares of securities to approximately 20,000 claimants last fiscal year. This is an outstanding program that benefits citizens of this State.”

Visitors from the 40th!

It was such a joy to showcase the many talented and gifted artists from Macon, Smith and DeKalb Counties during Arts Day on the Hill this week. Arts Advocacy Day on the Hill is an annual event that promotes the importance of the Arts and the effect it has on our culture. As one who is a strong advocate of the Arts, I certainly enjoyed hosting this event and having a reception in honor of those who participated. Hats off to those of you who attended!

I also want to thank Sheriff Steve Hopper and his Chief Deputy Eugene Roberts for visiting my office this week. It is always so great to have my local officials stop by.

It was also Ladies Day on the Hill with a record number of Republican women from all over the state emerge on the State Capitol. Governor Bill Haslam addressed the annual event. I too, was asked to speak, as well as, sing the National Anthem. It was a huge honor for me.

In closing, please feel free to call on me at any time if I can ever be of assistance to you at (615) 741-2192. It is such an honor to serve you all.

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