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The Loop: A Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

March 14, 2011
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

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

Health Care Freedom Act Passes General Assembly, Headed to Governor for Signature

The “Tennessee Health Care Freedom Act” passed the House this week, meaning the legislation is now on its way to the Governor for his signature. This bill’s passage is part of a larger effort by the General Assembly to not only encourage job growth, but protect the valuable jobs already in Tennessee.

The legislation was an integral piece for many legislators’ agendas over the last two years. A majority of House Members felt it was necessary for Tennessee to take action and protect the State from job losses that would have inevitably occurred due to the onerous mandates stemming from the federal health care law. More importantly, the legislation protects the integrity of individual rights for Tennesseans.

Essentially, the soon-to-be law ensures every person within Tennessee is free to choose or decline any mode of health care services without penalty or punishment from the government. Additionally, it prohibits Tennessee officials from interfering with the health care insurance decisions of every Tennessean.

On Monday, the bill passed in an overwhelming, bipartisan fashion with a 70-27 vote. The bill sponsor said, “I believe this bill sets a precedent for States to begin protecting their citizens from a federal government that taxes too much, spends too much, and regulates too much. Tonight, with one voice that has been a long time coming, Tennessee tells Washington, ‘no’.” It was such a huge honor to carry this bill in the House.

Jobs Agenda Keeps Rolling Along in Tennessee

While the country is still grappling with the effects of a harsh recession, Tennessee’s economy continues to prove many experts wrong. In a mid-week announcement, the Governor and Commissioner of Economic and Community Development announced another company was expanding their facility in the Volunteer State. Tennessee has seen a surge of relocations and growth from many companies over the last few years that view our right-to-work State as a low-tax haven with a strong and qualified worker base.

The Japanese company is expanding its Coffee County manufacturing facility with a $32 million investment that will provide 70 news jobs to the area.

The ECD Commissioner stated this is another win for Tennessee's push to improve unemployment, especially in rural counties. The Governor added, “Japan has long been Tennessee’s largest foreign investor nation, and we are particularly grateful for the growing presence of Japanese companies in the Volunteer State and the investment and jobs they bring.”

Governor’s Education Reform Agenda Begins Moving in House

On Wednesday, the initial plank of the Governor’s education reform agenda began moving in the House with passage of the teacher tenure reform in the House Education Subcommittee.

The legislation passed the House Education Subcommittee with a strong 9-4 vote. As written, the reforms will require an educator to be on the job five years instead of the current three before being granted tenure. Additionally, in a common sense move, the legislation makes poor performance a reason for tenure to be revoked. These reforms will ensure Tennessee’s next generation is being taught by the best and brightest teachers. The bill places student achievement and excellent teacher performance as the main priorities for Tennessee’s educational system. The bill now goes before the full Education Committee for approval.

In related news, the Education Subcommittee passed an equal access bill that allows for other professional organizations to represent our State’s teachers. Currently, only one union is allowed to represent educators, essentially silencing thousands of teachers across the State. Next week, the Education Subcommittee will deal with legislation that reforms charter school requirements, including lifting the cap on the number of those schools. After that, the Subcommittee will move on to consider changes to the mandatory negotiating authority of the unions.

Agreement Reached That Allows Tennessee Veterans Day Flag Tradition to Continue

House and Senate Members announced this week they have been informed about an administrative change will take place to allow for the long-standing practice of placing American flags on the graves of veterans in Tennessee's veteran cemeteries on Veteran's Day. The lawmakers have worked with the Governor and the Veterans Affairs Commissioner to make the appropriate administrative changes to permit volunteers, like the Boy Scouts, to place the flags on the graves.

The cemeteries fall under the federal Floral Regulations for the gravesites of military veterans which prohibits the practice except on Memorial Day. Adherence to those regulations raised many concerns and questions by community organizations and others who sought to decorate the graves with flags last year on Veteran's Day. The administrative change anticipates a change in the federal regulations.

The VA Commissioner remarked, “Placement of flags on the graves of our heroes reflects honor and respect. It makes a public statement that the State of Tennessee shall never forget the many sacrifices of a few so that all can enjoy our freedom. Changing this policy is the right thing to do.”

Governor to Deliver His First State of the State Address Next Week

In what is often a highly-anticipated speech to highlight the priorities of Tennessee’s government, the Governor will deliver his first State of the State Address on Monday, March 14th. The House and Senate will enter into a Joint Convention in the House Chambers at 5:45p.m., with the Governor delivering the address at 6:00p.m.

The address offers all Members of the General Assembly and the citizens of Tennessee a unique chance to hear directly from the Governor about his Administration’s top initiatives. Tennesseans can expect to hear about economic growth, limiting government, education reform, and budget proposals, among many other important topics.

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

DeKalb Jobless Rate Jumps to 10.3% in January

March 13, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate jumped from 9.4% in December to 10.3% in January according to new numbers released Thursday by the state. Still, the local jobless rate was better than the rate of 11.3% recorded in January, 2010.

DeKalb County's Labor Force in January, 2011 was at 9,990. A total of 8,960 were employed and 1,030 were unemployed

Among the fourteen counties of the Upper Cumberland, DeKalb County recorded the second lowest jobless rate for the month of January.

Pickett County- 18.4%
Van Buren- 14.1%
White- 14.1%
Clay- 13.6%
Fentress- 13.1%
Overton-13%
Cumberland-12.9%
Jackson-12.4%
Warren-12.3%
Macon- 12.2%
Cannon-11.6%
Smith- 11.5%
DeKalb-10.3%
Putnam- 9.6%

Tennessee's unemployment rate for January was 9.5 percent, up 0.1 from the December rate. The national unemployment rate for January 2011 was 9.0 percent, 0.4 percentage point lower than the December rate.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for January 2011, show that the rate increased in 95 counties.

Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.7 percent, up from the December rate of 6.2 percent. Scott County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 23.2 percent, up from 19.7 percent in the previous month, followed by Pickett County at 18.4 percent, up from the December rate of 15.4 percent.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.5 percent, up from 6.8 percent in December. Hamilton County was 8.7 percent, up from 7.6 percent the previous month. Davidson County was 8.6 percent, up from 8.1 percent in December, and Shelby County was 10.4 percent, up from 9.4 percent in December.

School Board Schedules Workshop to Address Science Needs at DCHS

March 12, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
W.J. (Dub) Evins, III

The DeKalb County Board of Education has scheduled a workshop for Monday, April 4th at 6:00 p.m. at DCHS to discuss plans for addressing science needs at the high school.

Fifth district member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, during Thursday night's monthly school board meeting, said the science labs at the school haven't been updated in many years and its time for the board to act. "We want to do this right. Its going to take some time. If the county mayor and county commission deem this to be appropriate to amend our budget for this year then hopefully we can get started on this and have something done and completed through the summer months so that the classes coming back in 2011-12 can take advantage of this," said Evins.

"We have students leave this school and go to college. Some of them do okay in physics and chemistry. Some of them struggle with it. But its not because of the teachers. We have some teachers who are capable of teaching in any school but they need the facilities to work with and we're not providing that. We need to get with the program, meet, and then ask for a budget amendment. This may even involve having a portable classroom for the actual class and turning that into a full fledged lab. We need to do what's needed. If we're going to just take a band aid approach we might as well not do anything. If we can do it and do it right, that's great. Its not going to be money wasted because if we have a long range plan of five years or more for a new high school and it be the wishes of the board and community that (existing high school building) be turned into a middle school, then what better opportunity could the (future) middle school students have than to have a chemistry, physics, biology, and science lab? That would be a blessing," said Evins.

Application Filing Deadline Approaching for Local Scholarships

March 12, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Lori Barnes Myrick

The DeKalb County High School Guidance Department is urging parents to encourage their high school seniors to submit scholarship applications by the deadlines.

Lori Barnes Myrick, DCHS School Counselor says almost all local scholarship applications are due at the DCHS Guidance Office by March 30th.

The following local scholarships are available:

Smithville Women's Club (This scholarship is for female students and applications are due on April 8th)

DeKalb Democratic Party Scholarship (applications due April 8th)

DCHS PTO

DeKalb Community Hospital

Eddie Crips Memorial

Love Cantrell Funeral Home

Alan Hooper Memorial

DeKalb Farmers Coop

Class of 1966

DeKalb Soil Conservation

Smithville Rotary

DeKalb Republican Women's Club

DeKalb County Firefighters Association

Kyle and Kenny Robinson Memorial

Jolly Angels

Lucille Stewart Memorial Scholarship

Agee Oil

Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club

DeKalb Scottish Rite

Liberty State Bank

Elzie and Nell McBride Memorial

Class of 1969

AmVets

AmVets Auxiliary

First Bank

DeKalb County Retired Teachers

Jeff Garrett Memorial

David Wayne Alexander Memorial

Dailey and Vincent

Local Scholarship Applications are now available in the Guidance Office or
on the DCHS website: http://www.teacherweb.com/tn/dekalbcountyhighschool/guidance/

Smithville Police Department Crime News

March 11, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

Five people have either been arrested or issued citations by Smithville Police within the last week.

In the most recent city crime report, Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger reports that 41 year old Donna Sue Overall of McMinnville was issued a citation on Saturday, March 5th for simple possession. Ms. Overall was in a motel room that was being searched by police. Upon her giving consent to search her person and purse, Officer Brad Tatrow recovered some pills in her purse that were not in a prescription bottle. Her court date is March 31st.

23 year old Francisco Maximo Domenguez of Hayes Street was arrested on Saturday, March 5th by Corporal Travis Bryant for driving on a revoked license, a first offense of driving under the influence, and criminal impersonation. Corporal Bryant was dispatched to the West Broad Street area regarding a person in a white Mustang driving recklessly. After making contact with the driver, Mr. Domenguez, the officer ran a computer check which revealed Domenguez was driving on a license which had been revoked due to a previous DUI offense. The criminal impersonation charge was filed against Domenguez after he gave a different name when first confronted by police. Bond for Domenguez is $5,000 and his court date is March 31st.

43 year old Rasikkumar H Patel of Stone Gate Drive was arrested on Monday, March 7th for assault. According to the warrant, an employee of Mr. Patel informed Officer Matt Farmer that Patel entered his store and hit her with his fist on the upper part of her right arm leaving a very large bruise. The incident allegedly occurred at the BP Station located at 627 West Broad Street. The employee claims she was sitting behind the counter when Patel came in, shook his head, rolled his eyes at her, and then punched her twice in the arm. The employee claims Patel was angry with her because she had asked off from work. Bond for Patel is $2,500 and his court date is March 17th.

39 year old Robert E Knox of Foster Road was arrested by Officer James Cornelius for driving under the influence on Thursday, March 10th. According to the warrant, Officer Cornelius was called to Wal-Mart to check out someone who appeared to be asleep at the wheel of a vehicle that was parked up front in the no parking zone. Upon arrival Officer Cornelius saw the man, later identified as Robert Knox behind the wheel of the vehicle. The engine was running and the gear was in the drive position. Knox appeared to be asleep. After waking up Knox, Officer Cornelius asked him if he had been drinking or had taken any narcotics. Knox replied that he had taken some medication about 20 minutes prior. Knox submitted to several field sobriety tasks and performed poorly. He was also unsteady on his feet. Bond for Knox is $1,500 and his court date is March 31st.

29 year old Joshua K Vickers of Liberty was issued a citation on Friday, March 11th for shoplifting and possession of a schedule III & IV controlled substance. Captain Steven Leffew was dispatched to the Dollar General Store where he was informed by the manager that Vickers was spotted putting an item in his pants. Vickers produced the item for Captain Leffew. Upon a search of Mr. Vickers' person, a schedule III & IV drug were recovered in an Rx pill bottle without a label. His court date is March 31st.

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

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

Core Drilling Scheduled Monday on Allen Ferry Road Property

March 11, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

Core drilling has not yet been conducted on the property the school board is hoping to purchase on Allen Ferry Road because of recent rainy weather.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said Thursday night during the school board meeting that the core drilling has been re-scheduled for next week. "We were supposed to have core drilling done last Wednesday but the rain came in and we didn't get to have it on that day. We were going to have it on Monday but that didn't happen either because of the rain. Now it's set up for the core drilling to be done next Monday depending upon the weather. We're hoping to have that complete to give you (school board) a report pretty soon."

Meanwhile, Willoughby said he is hoping to negotiate a better price for the property with the owners after a recent survey of the site. "When we had the land surveyed, it came out to 52.97 acres which is about 4.68 acres less than what we thought it was going to be. When we looked at the survey the discrepancy in the 4.68 acres was actually an area that we could not use anyway so I am talking with the owners about lowering the price. I think that may be a good possibility that we may be able to purchase the property a little bit cheaper than what we had planned on."

Willoughby added "I think that particular site is going to suit our purposes really well. We will go forward once we get the core drilling and the professional opinions from the people that do this all the time. We'll find out whether we go ahead or not. Some people have been concerned but I just want to let everybody know that if the site doesn't meet the professional opinions of the engineers and it's not found to be a good building site, we won't go forward. If it does meet the opinions and the requirements of the architects and engineers then we will go forward with it. We're just waiting on the core drilling."

The school board voted last month to request that the county commission adopt a budget amendment to appropriate $374,000 of Basic Education Program (BEP) Reserve funds to purchase 57.59 acres more or less on Allen Ferry Road to be used for future educational needs. So far, the county commission has not acted on the request.

County Fire Department Saves Home on Allens Chapel Road

March 11, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Photo by Donny Green

Thanks to quick action by the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, a home on Allens Chapel Road was spared from possible widespread fire damage Thursday night.

County Fire Chief Donny Green said that firefighters were called to the home of Ronnie Redman, Jr. at 222 Allen's Chapel Road at 7:46 p.m.

According to Chief Green, a passerby driving by saw smoke coming from the home and called 911. "When we arrived, we found no one at home. We later learned that the family had left about an hour prior to the fire to go visit friends at Gordonsville," said Green. "We made entry and found a fire in the laundry room which started in a trash can. We put out the fire and contained the damage to the laundry room and hallway outside of the laundry room. The rest of the house received extensive smoke and heat damage," said Chief Green.

Members of the Cookeville Highway, Tanker Truck, Main Station, and Short Mountain Highway Stations responded along with the Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS. Smithville Police officers were also there to control traffic. No one was injured.

Willoughby Gets New Three Year Employment Contract

March 10, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Director of Schools Mark Willoughy and School Board Chairman Charles Robinson

The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night, by a five of 5 to 2, offered Director of Schools Mark Willoughby a new three year employment contract during the regular monthly meeting which was held at DeKalb West School.

The agreement, which Willoughby will sign, takes effect July 1st, 2011 and runs through June 30th, 2014

Seventh district member Johnny Lattimore made the motion to offer the contract with essentially the same terms as the current contract. Willoughby's base salary will remain at the current level of $93,067 per year except for any additional raises that the state or local government may approve for educators.

Third district member Kenny Rhody offered a second to Lattimore's motion.

Fourth district member Billy Miller tried unsuccessfully to amend Lattimore's motion saying that this contract does not specify what the board expects of Willoughby other than to run the school system. "I think we need to specify in his contract what we expect him to do," said Miller.

According to the Tennessee School Board's Association, Miller said the board should "specify in writing what it wants a superintendent to accomplish; identify when those accomplishments are to be completed, and identify what standards will be used in judging whether these accomplishments have been satisfied".

"I've looked through this contract and I can't find anything that specifies what we are requiring of him other than to maintain the school system. There's nothing really specific in there. I'm looking at this contract and I'm trying to figure out what direction it is we're trying to go as a board," said Miller.

Miller also expressed concerns about the school system's not having met No Child Left Behind benchmarks in certain areas within the last six years at the high school and at the elementary grade level. "I know we're in a situation with No Child Left Behind. It appears we have been there since 2005 in one way or another. Other counties adjoining us are meeting these goals. I think it is to our benefit since he (Willoughby) is the highest paid official in this county, to not only expect something but to demand something from him as well".

Seeking to hold Willoughby accountable if the school system continues failing to meet NCLB benchmarks, Miller made a motion to amend Lattimore's motion. "The amendment should be written into the contract stating that the entire school system should meet all established benchmarks of No Child Left Behind. This goal shall be accomplished within a two year period. If any school in the system fails to meet such standards set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act within two years, the contract will be null and void with the remaining year of the contract to be re-negotiated between the board and the director of schools. The director of schools would be entitled to no further benefits or compensation for the third and final year until the contract is re-negotiated. However, if all schools in the DeKalb County School System are in full compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act, the contract shall run a full three year course with no need for re-negotiation of the contract for the third and final year," said Miller.

Sixth district member Bruce Parsley seconded Miller's motion.

In his defense, Director Willoughby said he believes progress has been made in the school system in recent years, citing that the graduation rate at the high school has improved from 67% a few years ago to 92.7% now. Willoughby added that except for the last two years when Northside and Smithville Elementary failed to meet NCLB benchmarks within certain subgroups, "all of our standards and attainability has gone up".

Last year Northside and its feeder school, Smithville Elementary, were singled out by the state as "Target" schools because a sub-group of students with disabilities failed to meet the Average Yearly Progress benchmark in the reading and language arts category. This year, Northside and Smithville Elementary were listed as " School Improvement 1" schools because the sub-group of Hispanic students failed to meet the necessary AYP benchmark for the year in the subjects of reading and language arts.

Willoughby said that while the goal of the school system is to meet all benchmarks of NCLB at all levels every year there is no guarantee, especially since standards are changing and becoming more challenging for students. "Last year we were on the NCLB (Target) list because of students with disabilities. We made the accomplishments and the goals that we should have with the students with disabilities (this year). We met our goal. But because we did not meet the goal in another criteria (Hispanic subgroup) it goes to the next level (School Improvement 1). Once you're on this list, you have to stay off (meet benchmarks) for two years in a row in order to get removed (from the list)".

Fifth district member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III said while he understands Miller's concerns, he doesn't believe its fair to hold Willoughby accountable in this way. "This is not something that one man can accomplish. You can surround yourself with some good people and get these things accomplished but the people who work under his supervision have to put one foot forward and have the same kind of goals. I can understand this being a goal but I don't feel comfortable making this a demand as a part of his contract because he can't do this alone. I think that puts some undue pressure on him as well as his support staff and the teachers. In a lot of ways the director of school's hands are tied as to what he can and cannot do."

Third district member Kenny Rhody added that since NCLB could be re-evaluated soon at the federal level, it should not be a factor in Willoughby's contract with the board. " There's extreme pressure to get NCLB re-authorized, get it rewritten by June. The Congress and Senate have had that on their agenda. They want to at least postpone the sanctions that are placed on it. I wouldn't want to tie NCLB to his contract. Other than (subgroup of Hispanic students) our students are doing excellent and our faculty and teachers are doing excellent. They're teaching and the students are learning."

During a roll call vote, Miller's motion to amend the proposed contract failed by a vote of 5 to 2. The board then voted on Lattimore's motion to approve the contract without Miller's amendment and it passed 5 to 2.

Again, the new contract is essentially the same as the current agreement in that Willoughby will be evaluated annually. He will be provided with an automobile and all expenses involved in the automobile for him to carry out his official duties. He may use the automobile for personal purposes not interfering with school purposes, provided he shall pay or reimburse the cost of all fuel during such use.

The board shall provide, during the term of this contract, such medical insurance for the director, spouse, and dependents as the school system provides for other licensed staff as long as the director maintains enrollment in the insurance program. As additional compensation, the board shall also pay the employee's matching share of the insurance plan the director chooses. Should the director elect no coverage under the school system insurance plan, no other benefit or salary shall be paid in lieu thereof..

The director shall be granted one day of sick leave for each month of contractual employment. Sick leave days shall be cumulative and unused sick leave days may be for retirement credit in accordance with the policies of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System.

The Director's work year shall consist of 240 duty days. Non-duty days include 10 holidays and 20 annual leave days. In accordance with state law, the director shall be allowed to transfer up to two days of any unused leave days to his accumulated sick leave at the end of the year; otherwise, unused annual leave days shall not accumulate from year to year.

The performance evaluation of the Director shall occur no later than January 31 each calendar year during the term of the contract. The board will review with the Director his performance, progress towards goals established by the board and the director; and the working relationship of the director with the board of education, the staff, the students, and the community at large; and any other matters relative to the employment of the director.

The board may extend the term of the contract at any time with concurrence of the director.

The contract may be terminated by mutual agreement of the parties or due to the retirement, disability, death of the director; for removal from office; or for willful cause upon sufficient proof of improper conduct, inefficient service (including but not limited to performance evaluation scores), neglect of duty or failure to follow board policies and directives. If the board terminates the contract for cause, he would be entitled to no further benefits or compensation.

The board may also terminate the contract without cause, at its option, provided that the board provides the director 60 days written notice of such termination.

The Board reserves the right to transfer the Director to any position within the system; however, the compensation and insurance benefits included within this agreement shall remain in full force and effect for the duration of the contract. In the event the director declines to accept transfer, this contract shall be terminated and the director would be entitled to no further benefits or compensation. Transferring the director shall require a majority vote of all members of the board of education.

The Director may also terminate the contract at any time, at his sole discretion, by giving the Board 30 days written notice of his resignation.

In other business, Director Willoughby gave his monthly personnel report to the board.

Kathy Bryant, teacher at Northside Elementary School was granted an extension of a leave of absence as per request.

Lynn Griffith was transferred to a bus assistant position and David Turner was transferred to a full time bus driver position

The board also adopted a resolution of appreciation honoring special services staff.

The resolution states that "Whereas, the DeKalb County School System is served by an admirable group of special services staff members including school nurses, guidance counselors, school resource officers, psychologists and speech and hearing specialists; and

Whereas, this group of professionals is made up of competent and dedicated individuals who play a large role in the success of the students in DeKalb County; and

Whereas, the special services staff members in the DeKalb County School District are responsible for providing a variety of special services to many students on a daily basis; and

Whereas, these professionals join the efforts of our teaching and administrative staff to help us meet the unique needs of each student from bandaging a wound to offering encouragement and hope for students in despair; and

Whereas, the DeKalb County Board of Education wishes to honor the commitment and service the special services staff provides.

Now, therefore, be it resolved that, the Board of Education hereby establishes March 17th, 2011 as Special Services Staff Appreciation Day in all DeKalb County Schools; and

Be it further resolved that the board expresses appreciation and thanks to all who provide special services in our school system and encourages each school and community to recognize these individuals for their role in the success of our school system."

Fire Destroys Abandoned Home

March 10, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Fire Destroys Abandoned House on New Home Road

A fire early Thursday morning gutted an abandoned house belonging to Rocky Menix at 641 New Home Road.

Central dispatch received the call at 1:37 a.m.

County Fire Chief Donny Green said that a neighbor spotted the fire and reported it. Members of the Main Station, Cookeville Highway, Short Mountain Highway, and Liberty Stations responded but were unable to save the structure.

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Election Officials Support Legislation to Save Tax Dollars

March 10, 2011
Dennis Stanley and Walteen Parker

A couple of bills important to both voters and taxpayers cleared major hurdles in the Tennessee General Assembly this week.

A measure that would require all counties to use optical scan voting machines with paper ballots by November 2012, adopted by the legislature in 2008, has been a concern to virtually every county election commission and legislative body throughout the state due to the tremendous costs associated with the plan.

That issue was addressed Tuesday in the House State and Local Government Committee with the approval of a bill that would implement the plan only if the General Assembly includes a specific recurring appropriation in the
General Appropriations Act for the 2011-2012 fiscal year to cover all increased costs to the counties. That measure now goes to the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee. The Senate version of the bill is still pending in the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

"The legislation passed by the committee is a win-win for local property taxpayers," said DeKalb County Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley. "If the legislature insists on counties using this type of voting system, state dollars would be used to pay for the recurring costs of printing the ballots and other expenses associated with the plan. Also, if the bill
passes, but money is not included in the state budget adopted by the General Assembly, the plan would not have to be implemented, and we would continue to use the voting machines we use now." Stanley was one of about
20 administrators in the state to attend the committee meeting to show support of the bill.

"Even if state or federal funds were used to purchase the actual machines, we estimate it would cost this county a minimum $60,000 during the 2012 calendar year to go to this type of voting system," said Election Commission Chairman Walteen Parker. "This cost would include the printing of ballots, the purchase of voting booths, educating election workers and the additional costs of transporting the machines to and from the voting precincts. The bill that cleared the committee this week would do one of two things, use state funds rather than local property tax
revenue to finance all the costs, or the plan would never be implemented. Either way, the local taxpayer wins."

"We want the public to know that, through the legislative process, we are working to save tax dollars while still providing voters with a safe, accurate voting system," Parker added.

A bill sponsored by State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver and State Senator Mae Beavers that would save small city governments money cleared the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

As passed, the bill would "eliminate the early voting period for a municipal election in a municipality having a population of 5,000 or less, if there is no opposition for any office in the election and the election is held on a date which does not coincide with the August or November general election, unless the municipality files a request with the county election commission for an early voting period to apply."

The bill now goes to the Senate Calendar Committee. The House version of the bill cleared the House State and Local Government Subcommittee this week and will be heard by the full committee next week, March 15. "We commend Senator Beavers and Rep. Weaver for looking out for the interest of taxpayers," Stanley said. "This bill would only apply if there is no opposition in a city election and only for cities that have a population of 5,000 or less."

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