The following is a legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver
Greetings! As we all know, Tennessee was hit with unprecedented rain over the weekend, causing disastrous floods across Middle and West Tennessee. Although much of the water has receded, some communities are still faced with flood water. As clean-up efforts began Monday, the extent of the devastation was becoming apparent. As of Thursday morning, the Governor had declared a State of Emergency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had designated 10 counties as federal disaster areas: Cheatham, Davidson, Dyer, Hickman, McNairy, Montgomery, Perry, Shelby, Tipton and Williamson Counties. More are expected to receive the designation, as the Governor asked for a federal disaster declaration for 52 counties total.
Parts of Middle and West Tennessee received a record 13 inches of rain in 24 hours over Saturday and Sunday. The Cumberland River, which winds through the state, finally crested late Monday night, well over the 50 feet expected by officials. The flood level for the Cumberland is 40 feet. As of Thursday morning, 19 people were killed, and thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. Tens of thousands went without power for several days, and water supplies in Middle Tennessee were threatened as a result of damaged water treatment plans. Federal and state officials estimated Wednesday that Davidson County’s damage alone would be upwards of $1 billion. The cost of damage in other counties is expected to be assessed in the coming weeks.
In addition to the homes that were destroyed, many Tennessee landmarks also suffered extensive damage, such as Gaylord Opryland Hotel, historic businesses on Lower Broadway in Nashville, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Grand Ole Opry.
Despite the mass devastation, criminal activity has not dramatically increased. Living up to its nickname of the “Volunteer State,” Tennesseans have been helping neighbors and many media reports have focused on communities pulling together.
Flood waters as high as seven feet prohibited me from driving out of our bend on Monday. Roads were closed in many parts of Smith, Macon, and Dekalb counties. Knowing there was not going to be any train travel that day, our four wheel drive got us out via the tracks and I was able to get to the flooded areas and meet with local authorities in the 40th district. No words can describe the extensive damage this historic flood of 2010 has caused. Facing these unprecedented challenges, it is inspiring to see the hands of campassion extended to many of those who are hurting. Now as we work towards recover let us continue to trust God and move forward.
Those in disaster designated counties can contact FEMA for assistance. Tennesseans can apply at www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). In addition, organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army are also organizing massive assistance efforts. Affected people can call the Red Cross at 615-250-4300 and the Salvation Army at 1-800-725-2769.
We passed a resolution on Wednesday commemorating the National Day of Prayer and encouraging other Tennesseans to take part. House Joint Resolution 1191 passed with an overwhelming majority.
We are publicly supporting the National Day of Prayer due to a ruling recently handed down by a federal court saying the day was unconstitutional. The sponsor said people have the choice of whether or not they want to participate, and their actions are supported by the First Amendment. Many members of the House also felt the day takes on new meaning as thousands across the state are still reeling from floods that paralyzed communities for days.
We are a people of prayer and we must remain a nation of prayer. Faith is what keeps us united as a nation and motivates us during the difficult times.
The National Day of Prayer acknowledges the important role of religion in the United States, and was a tradition started by President Harry Truman via proclamation. Events are being held across the country today, including several major events in Tennessee.
House Bill 270 which passed on Wednesday requires voters to affirm that they are lawfully in the United States and requires a warning on the registration form stating that giving false information is a Class D felony. This measure will protect against voter fraud.
House Bill 3125 passed the house this week. The General Assembly last year passed a law allowing licensed carry permit holders to carry firearms into establishments that sell alcohol, while giving restaurant owners the option of posting signs explicitly prohibiting firearms. The law was subsequently struck down in Chancery Court due to some ambiguity. This clarifies the language with regard to the posting and lawmakers believe the new law can withstand a constitutional challenge.
House Bill 3310 is now headed to the Governor for his signature. The bill enacts a hospital coverage fee that will restore $659 million state and federal dollars to TennCare using a method that 26 other states already utilize. The mechanism will allow the state to draw down federal funds and restore millions in eliminations and reductions the state has been forced to make as a result of low revenues.
House Bill 2768 moved out of the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee this week. The bill requires anyone convicted of a DUI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .15 or higher to use the ignition interlock device (IID). Ignition interlock devices have been implemented around the country, and tests the driver’s BAC level. If it is above the set limit, the car will not start.
As always, I am honored to serve the 40th district. Please do not hesitate to call my office at 615-741-2192 if you need any assitance or have any questions.