Local News Articles

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

February 7, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Greetings! The 106th General Assembly was presented with the proposed 2010-2011 state budget this week, as the Governor addressed a joint convention on Monday night. Overall, the proposal includes a 5 to 6 percent decrease in the budget total, with roughly $200 million being used from both the Rainy Day Fund and the TennCare reserve fund.

In the coming weeks as budget hearings begin in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee, I will be going over this 612 page “budget book” the same way I did for last year’s budget line by line with my highlighter. I remain committed to fully discussing the budget over the coming weeks as I learn more about the details.

Priorities protected
The Department of Safety had originally prepared to cut state troopers in 13 rural counties, but the proposed budget includes a driver’s license renewal fee increase intended to avoid those layoffs and pay for new radio equipment for the state troopers. Currently, it costs $19.50 every five years to renew a Tennessee driver’s license. The proposal increases that fee to $46 every eight years, which state officials say will make the process more efficient. The driver’s license renewal fee has not been increased since 1988.

The Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System was not on the chopping block, as the system will receive an infusion of $82 million to shore up the fund. K-12 also escaped major cuts, with the proposal protecting BEP funding and even includes $47 million in growth. K-12 capital projects were cut, as were many capital projects across the state. However, money will not leave the classrooms in the budget as proposed.

In addition, the state will mostly avoid mass layoffs and the budget as proposed includes a one-time bonus of 3 percent for state employees. The Governor did outline a plan to eliminate 456 unfilled positions in order to save money. I have some concerns over some of the items in the budget and I will continue to thoroughly look through each of these expenditures.

Recurring Reductions
I have always believed that our state government should be run like a family budget – live within your means. Because our revenue intake continues to drop we must be careful not to spend more than we take in and bust the Copeland Cap. The Governor addressed this Monday night; however, actions do speak louder than words. Tennesseans are tightening their belt and so must the state government. With the state in its 20th straight month of revenue decline—a record—some reductions are inevitable. They include:
$200 million in recurring reductions in TennCare;
$64 million reduction in higher education;
$20 million recurring reductions in K-12 capital projects; and
$16 million in recurring Child Services

Technical Corrections Bill

The technical corrections bill originates in the Department of Revenue and proposes revenue increases through specific changes to the Tennessee Code. This year, the legislation includes a tax on real estate investment trusts, and an increase in the cable tax, totaling $49.8 million among a few other smaller proposals.

The first $15 of cable TV service is currently taxed at 8.25 percent, with the rest being exempt. On the other hand, satellite TV is taxed at 8.25 percent, but without the $15 exemption. The technical corrections bill proposes to tax an entire cable TV bill at 8.25 percent, bringing it in line with satellite service. In addition, cable providers will be charged a new tax on equipment such as cable boxes. Members have expressed concern that this equipment tax will be passed on to the consumer.

Secret Ballot Protection Act dies in subcommittee
The “Secret Ballot Protection Act” appeared in the Employee Affairs Subcommittee this week. The proposal defines the denial of secret-ballot elections as an unfair labor practice. It also establishes penalties (class C misdemeanor) and civil remedies for violation.

The bill is a remedy for “card check,” which has been proposed in Congress. Card check would require unionization ballots to be public, so that unions could see if a worker voted for or against unionization. Currently, the vote on whether to unionize is a secret ballot, which protects workers from undue harassment by union leaders. The Secret Ballot Protection Act would declare that those votes remain private in order to protect workers.

The sponsor argued that voting is sacred whether it is in the voting booth or the workplace, and that the bill is consistent with the state’s Constitution in guaranteeing ballot secrecy. Ultimately, however, the bill failed along party lines.

House to vote next week on veto-override of menu-labeling measure
A bill that would have barred some local entities from requiring nutritional labeling on menus passed both the House and Senate last year, but was then vetoed by the Governor. The legislation was filed as several states, municipalities and cities began considering laws that mandated chain restaurants put calories and other nutritional information on menus.

Last year, many of us were concerned that mandating chain restaurants to put certain nutritional information on menus places an unnecessary burden on restaurant owners in an already struggling economy and creates an atmosphere that is unfriendly to business owners. We also said that often, the laws are selective, targeting only large restaurant chains. In addition, if every city enacted something different, large or even medium sized companies would have difficulty in following the law properly.

The legislation was amended to prohibit non-elected bodies from making the decision to require nutritional information on menus. It also specifies that if the federal government passes legislation requiring menu labeling and the federal action specifically authorizes state departments to enforce such action, then the Tennessee Department of Health will be the department that is primarily responsible for the implementation and supervision of the new requirements. The more we allow government to rule over our day to day life, in instances such as this, our individual freedom becomes not only threatened but non-existent.

The Senate has already voted on the veto override, with a vote of 24- to 7. The House is expected to take up the veto override next week.

The Week Ahead…
Next week I will be moving full steam ahead with two of my bills: HB 3628 concerning workman’s compensation and HB 3627 which deals with rural roads and bridges. House Bill 3627 will be discussed in the Rural Roads a sub- committee of Transportation. I will be working hard with the Caucus on both sides of the aisle to ensure this bill pulls through intact. Being a staunch supporter of rural Tennessee when it comes to our bridges and roads I consider the infrastructure to be vital to our district in not only creating jobs but retaining them as well. I am a strong voice for rural Tennessee which comprises most of our state. Ensuring that we receive equal recognition from our local government that our larger cities obtain effortlessly is one of my main goals. It is an honor to serve you, the 40th district.

Stabbing and Shooting under Investigation

February 7, 2010
Dwayne Page
Roxanne Mignon White
Amy Jo Odell

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are investigating a Saturday evening stabbing and shooting which occurred at the home of 22 year old Bransford (Brad) Patterson on Patterson Road.

In a prepared statement, Sheriff Patrick Ray says at 4:57 p.m. central dispatch received the call. Upon arrival, officers found two female victims who were each stabbed once and Patterson who had suffered a single gunshot wound.

Vanderbilt Life Flight was summoned to the intersection of Patterson Road and Turner Road and airlifted Patterson to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. At last report, Patterson was in stable but critical condition. The two female victims were transported to DeKalb Community Hospital by personal vehicle where they were treated and released.

According to Sheriff Ray, Patterson had gotten into an argument with members of his family and stabbed the two females, who are also related to him. Patterson then started beating one of the wounded females. In an attempt to get Patterson under control, another family member got a pistol and fired a warning shot. When that failed, the family member then shot Patterson one time and called central dispatch.

Patterson faces multiple charges pending his release from the hospital. The case is still under investigation by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Sheriff Ray has not released the names of the females who were stabbed or the person who shot Patterson.

Members of the Main Station and Short Mountain Highway Station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, the DeKalb County Ambulance Service, DeKalb County Constables Mark Milam and Johnny King, Sheriff Ray, Deputies and Detectives from the DeKalb Sheriff's Department, and the TBI were all on the scene.

Meanwhile, in other crime news, 27 year old Roxanne Mignon White of Bill Cobb Road, Smithville was arrested on Tuesday, February 2nd for theft of property. Detectives allege that on January 1st White took jewelry and jewelry tools from a residence on Bill Cobb Road without the owners consent, including a diamond pendent, a set of gold earrings, a rope chain, a heart pendent, and some loose diamonds, and then sold them to a jewelry store in Smithville. Meanwhile on two other occasions, White took two jewelry buffing machines, two jewelry steam cleaners, a ring resizing machine, jewelry cleaner, scrap gold, and a bag of loose diamonds to another jewelry store in Smithville where she sold those items. The total value of the theft was $7,225. Bond for White was set at $10,000 and she will appear in court on March 4th.

On Wednesday, February 3rd deputies, while on patrol on Highway 70 West, stopped 21 year old Sarah Michelle Ferrell of Vickers Hollow Road for a traffic offense. When the officer asked for her driver's license she replied that she did not have it on her. After the deputy ran a computer check, it revealed that Ferrell's driver's license were suspended for failure to satisfy a citation in South Carolina. Ferrell was charged with a second offense of driving on a suspended license. Her bond was was set at $2,000 and she will appear in court on February 24th..

37 year old Amy Jo Odell of Hurricane Ridge Road, Smithville was arrested on Friday, February 5th for filing a false police report. Odell came to the DeKalb Sheriff's Office on Thursday and reported that she had been pulled over by an unknown person who then assaulted and robbed her in Dowelltown. Odell said that after being hit, she fell to the ground and did not remember much after that. Odell also gave a list of items stolen from her vehicle. After Detectives interviewed Odell she finally admitted that she had made up the story so that her doctor would prescribe her more narcotics, thinking that her medicine was stolen. Bond for Odell was set at $2,500 and she will appear in court February 11th.

On Saturday, February 6th, deputies while on patrol on Highway 70 West, stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation. The driver, 20 year old Juan Pablo Garcia of Park Way Drive, McMinnville was found to be driving on a suspended license for failure to satisfy a citation in Warren County. Garcia was charged with a first offense of driving on a suspended license. His bond was set at $1,000. He will appear in court on February 17th.

Jim Judkins Named Chairman of DeKalb Democratic Party

February 6, 2010
Dwayne Page
Retiring Party Chair Faye Fuqua Congratulates New Chairman Jim Judkins-
Members of DeKalb Democratic Executive Committee
County Clerk Mike Clayborn
County Clerk Candidate Glynn Merriman
County Clerk Candidate Chris Smithson
County Mayor Mike Foster
Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack
Road Supervisor Candidate Jimmy Sprague
Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen (file photo)
District Attorney General Randy York
Circuit Court Judge Amy Hollars
First District County Commissioner Elmer Ellis Jr
Second District County Commissioner Jack Barton
Third District County Commissioner Jerry Scott
Third District County Commission Candidate Roy Merriman
Third District County Commission Candidate Bradley Hendrix
 Fourth District County Commission Candidate Jesse Baker
Fourth District County Commission Candidate David McDowell
Fifth District County Commission Candidate Randy Braswell
Seventh District County Commissioner Larry Summers
State Representative Candidate James Hale-
State Representative Candidate Jamie Winkler
State Senate Candidate Aubrey Givens
Governor Candidate Kim McMillan
Governor Candidate Jim Kyle
Bert Driver speaking on behalf of Governor Candidate Mike McWherter

The DeKalb County Democratic Party has a new chairman.

Jim Judkins was introduced as the new party leader during Saturday's mass meeting at the high school cafeteria. The retiring chair, Faye Fuqua, who has held the post for twenty five years, made the announcement.

Judkins, selected by the party's executive committee, said he is honored to have been chosen for this position and thanked his predecessor for the work she has done for the party. "I want to thank former Chair, or Chair Imeritus Faye Fuqua for her many years of service and devotion. She has been a teacher and an inspiration to me for many years. She means a lot to me."

"I am humbled and honored at the trust you have placed in me. This position is one I do not take lightly. This party is steeped in tradition. It is as old as DeKalb County itself, organized in 1838. The roots of the Democrat party run deep in DeKalb County. The founder of our party, President Andrew Jackson, spent the night about 1,000 yards from where we are, in the old Beckwith Inn."

"This party, as all previous parties, faces new challenges. We will meet those challenges fairly and diligently."

"Although the torch has been passed, we are still DeKalb countians. We share the same values, ideals, hopes, and dreams as our forebearers. While we look to the future, we must always remember from where we have come. We are the party of Edgar Evins, Joe L. Evins, and of McAllen Foutch."

Fuqua, in her remarks, called this a "New Era for DeKalb County Democrats".

"In the last 100 years, we have had only five chairs: Tom Webb, McAllen Foutch, Ed Fuqua, M.T. Puckett, and myself. It is indeed an honor and I am so very proud to serve the fine people of DeKalb County and the State of Tennessee for 25 years. The Executive Committee has been very supportive of me throughout all these years and I can say that I truly appreciate that."

"I took office in 1984, first serving as Women's Chair and then as the first woman to serve as County Chair. I also served on the state level as the State Chair.'

Speaking of her successor, Fuqua said "Jim is very in tune with both the long-standing traditions of the Democratic Party here in DeKalb County, as well as being the youthful embodiment of what our future holds. His leadership and drive, along with the tremendous support of all the young Democrats, is exactly what we need to move strongly into the future. More than all that, Jim knows and understands the people and politics of DeKalb County.'

"Of course, our team will depend on the rest of us to continue to provide support and share the wealth of experience we have gained throughout the decades. I will continue to serve on the Executive Committee and be a presence in whatever way I can. I encourage all of you to stay strong and supportive of the Party."

"Now I feel is it time to pass the torch to a new generation of leaders."

In addition to Judkins being named chairman, Larry Bain, Mack Harney, and Kim Luton were all named co- vice chairs.

Members of the executive committee are Mildred Clayborn, James Hale, Faye Iverlette, Sherry Bush, Jackie Smith, George Sperry, Betsy Driver, Jordan Wilkins, Glynn Merriman, Chris Summers, Katherine Pack, Faye Fuqua, and Mike Clayborn.

Several state and local candidates also announced their intentions during Saturday's mass meeting including the following:

(Click here to listen to the announcements of candidates for county offices)

District Attorney General: Randy York

Circuit Court Judge: Amy Hollars

County Mayor: Mike Foster

Circuit Court Clerk- Katherine Pack

County Clerk- Mike Clayborn, Glynn Merriman, and Chris Smithson

Register of Deeds- Jeff McMillen

Road Supervisor-Jimmy Sprague

County Commissioner Candidates:

(Click here to listen to the announcements of county commission candidates)

First District- Elmer Ellis, Jr.

Second District- Jack Barton

Third District- Jerry Scott, Roy Merriman, Bradley Hendrix

Fourth District- David McDowell, Jesse Baker

Fifth District- Randy Braswell

Seventh District-Larry Summers

(Click here to listen to the speeches of State Representative candidate Jamie Winkler, State Senate candidate Aubrey Givens, and State Representative candidate James Hale in that order)

State Senate Candidate: Aubrey Givens

State Representative- James Hale and Jamie Winkler (Sarah Marie Smith attended but did not make an announcement)

Governor candidates: Kim McMillan and Jim Kyle. Mike McWherter could not attend. Bert Driver spoke in his behalf.

(Click here to listen to Governor candidates speak)

Democratic candidates were not required to make an appearance during the mass meeting. All potential Democratic candidates have until noon on Thursday, February 18th to qualify for the May 4th DeKalb County Democratic Primary.

Independents for county offices also have until February 18th to qualify for the August General Election.

Candidates for state offices, Governor, Congress, State Senator, and State Representative, have until noon April 1st to qualify for the Tennessee Democratic and Republican Primaries in August.

In addition to those who announced Saturday, the following Democrats have either picked up or returned a qualifying petition to the Election Commission Office.

County Mayor:
David C. Redmon (picked up petition)

Register of Deeds:
Clarence R. Trapp (picked up petition)

County Commission Third District:
Johnathan W. Willoughby (picked up petition)

County Commission Fourth District:
Wayne Cantrell
Ronald H. Rogers (picked up petition)

County Commission Fifth District:
Johnny Ringo Colwell
Bobby R.Taylor
John D. Green

County Commission Sixth District:
Jeff Barnes
Marshall Ferrell

County Commission Seventh District:
Jimmy W. Poss

County Commission candidates running as Independents in the August General Election

Fifth District:
Lloyd Emmons (Independent) picked up petition

Seventh District:
Richard Kinsey (Independent)

Meanwhile, candidates for the Board of Education who have picked up petitions for the August General election include the following:

School Board:

First District:
John David Foutch (picked up petition)

Second District:
Charlie Robinson (picked up petition)

Third District:
Kenny Rhody

Seventh District:
Johnny Lattimore (picked up petition)

School board candidates run as non-partisans and have until noon April 1st to qualify.

Meanwhile candidates who have picked up petitions for the Smithville Municipal Election include the following:

Smithville Alderman:
Steve White (picked up petition)

Smithville Alderman:
Cecil Burger (picked up petition)

Smithville Mayor:
Taft Hendrixson (picked up petition)

Smithville Mayor:
Bruce Medley (picked up petition)

The Smithville Municipal Election will be held on June 15th to elect a mayor and two aldermen. Candidates run as non-partisans and they have until March 18th to qualify.

(Pictured second from top: Bottom row left to right: Betsy Driver, Larry Bain, Jordan Wilkins, Kim Luton, and Glynn Merriman; Back row left to right: Chris Summers, Katherine Pack, Jim Judkins, Faye Fuqua, and Mike Clayborn)

DeKalb Republican Convention Nominates Candidates for August Election

February 6, 2010
Dwayne Page
GOP Candidates Nominated for August Election
Republican Candidate for Congress Lou Ann Zelenik
 Republican Candidate for Congress Dave Evans

Members of the DeKalb County Republican Party held their convention Saturday morning at the courthouse.

There were no surprises.

The delegates formally nominated Republican incumbents Sheriff Patrick Ray, Trustee Sean Driver, Road Supervisor Kenny Edge, First District County Commissioner Mason Carter, and Second District County Commissioner Bobby Joines, who all announced their intentions to seek re-election in January.

These candidates will be on the ballot in the August DeKalb County General Election and will face any Democrats or Independents who may run against them.

Meanwhile, after the convention, Republican candidates for Congress, Lou Ann Zelenik and Dave Evans, spoke briefly announcing their intentions to run for the party's nomination in the August State Primary.

Click here to listen to the speeches of Lou Ann Zelenik and Dave Evans

For more information about these candidates visit Lou Ann Zelenik's website at http://www.votelouann.com/. Dave Evans' website is www.daveevansforcongress.com.

(Pictured above: Left to Right- Sean Driver, Bobby Joines, Kenny Edge, Mason Carter, and Patrick Ray)

Sykes Charged in Local Thefts

February 6, 2010
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police have charged a 37 year old man in connection with thefts from two local businesses.

Scottie Lynn Sykes of 605 Alexander Street was arrested on Wednesday, February 3rd for theft of property and possession of drug paraphernalia. Sergeant Randy King was dispatched to Ace Hardware where he spoke with Officer Matt Holmes. Officer Holmes said that he reviewed a store video and saw Sykes stealing a hammer from the store. Sykes was stopped by Deputies Jody Johnson and Roger Whitehead on Adams Street where he was placed under arrest. While getting Sykes out of the vehicle he was driving, Sergeant King spotted a used needle lying in the floorboard. The hammers found in his vehicle had been stolen from Ace Hardware. Also found were items stolen the previous week from Smithville Builders Supply. Bond for Sykes was set at $3,000 and his court date is February 25th.

56 year old Patricia Jade Farler of 111 Stone Street, Liberty was arrested Sunday, January 31st for a first offense of driving under the influence and possession of drug paraphernalia. She was also cited for failure to use due care. Officer Matt Farmer was dispatched to the intersection of Highways 56 & 70 to take a report of a wreck that had occurred. While taking the report, Officer Farmer noticed that Farler, a driver of one of the vehicles involved in the accident, was unsteady on her feet, she had slurred speech, and she could not follow a conversation that Officer Farmer was trying to have with her. This led Officer Farmer to believe she may be intoxicated. Farler also couldn't perform the four field sobriety tasks requested of her. After placing her in the patrol car, police searched her vehicle and found drug paraphernalia. Bond for Farler is $2,500 and she will be in court on February 11th.

31 year old Jerry Goff of 356 Page Drive was arrested Sunday, January 31st for possession of a schedule VI drug for resale, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving on a suspended license. K-9 Officer Bradley Tatrow saw Goff operating a motor vehicle on East Bryant Street. Having prior knowledge that Goff's license was suspended, Officer Tatrow made contact with him and Goff gave verbal consent for a search of his vehicle. Goff informed Officer Tatrow that there was some marijuana under the passenger seat. Approximately 4.5 ounces of marijuana were found under the seat in a zip lock bag. A set of digital scales were also found in Goff's pocket. His bond was set at $5,000 and he will be in court on February 25th.

22 year old Coty Lynn McCormick of 524 Frazier Road was arrested on Tuesday, February 2nd for shoplifting at Wal-Mart. An employee saw McCormick leave the store with merchandise unpaid for. Officer Scott Davis found an item on McCormick during a search incident to arrest. His bond is $1,500 and his court date is February 18th.

28 year old Eddy Deloyd Farris of 732 Gentry Avenue and 23 year old Nathan Dewayne Farris of 405 Church Street were arrested on Tuesday, February 2nd for assault. Corporal Travis K. Bryant responded to a call of a fight in progress at the hospital emergency room. Witnesses said that Eddy and Nathan Farris assaulted Bobby Turner. Eddy Farris informed Corporal Bryant that he and his brother had assaulted Turner in retaliation for an incident that occurred earlier. Bond for each is set at $1,500 and their court date is February 18th.

32 year old Angela Jean Atnip of 1053 Greenhill Road was arrested on Thursday, February 4th for driving under the influence. Central dispatch informed Officer Bradley Tatrow that an off duty officer from McMinnville was behind a possible drunk driver inbound on McMinnville Highway. Officer Tatrow observed the vehicle weaving left of the yellow line several times. Officer Tatrow activated the blue lights on his patrol car but the vehicle in front of him continued on approximately one mile before it stopped on Jennings Lane. Upon contact with the driver, Atnip, Officer Tatrow found her to be unsteady on her feet and she had slurred speech. Atnip submitted to field sobriety tasks but performed poorly. Her bond was set at $1,500 and she will be in court on February 25th.

34 year old Juan A Valdivia of 1222 South College Street was arrested on Friday, February 5th for a second offense of driving on a suspended license. Officer Matt Holmes and Sergeant Andy Snow were following a person driving recklessly but could not catch up with the vehicle. Corporal Travis Bryant, who was in the vicinity, was able to stop the automobile, driven by Valdivia. A computer check revealed that his license was suspended in Warren County. He also has a prior offense of driving on a suspended license in DeKalb County. His bond is set at $2,000 and his court date is February 17th.

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

Lenzi Dickens Wins County Spelling Bee

February 5, 2010
Dwayne Page
Lenzi Dickens Wins County Spelling Bee
 Grace Godowns Spelling Bee Runner-up
County Spelling Bee Winners with School Officials

Lenzi Dickens, a seventh grader at DeKalb Middle School, won the 7th annual DeKalb County Spelling Bee Friday night at DeKalb County High School.

Dickens, the 12 year old daughter of Len Dickens and Mandi Sullivan of Smithville was among almost forty students from the fourth grade to the eighth grade who participated in the contest.

She correctly spelled the words "cafeteria" and "ominous"" in the 12th round to claim the championship.

Nine year old Grace Godowns, a fourth grader at Northside Elementary School, was the runner-up in the contest. She is the daughter of Kelly Godowns of Smithville.

Students from DeKalb Middle School, DeKalb West School, and Northside Elementary School recently competed at the school level to become eligible for the county competition.

Along with students from thirty nine other counties, Dickens and Godowns will compete in the Tennessean Regional Spelling Bee on March 4th at Belmont University in Nashville.

The winner of the Regional Spelling Bee will compete in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

The purpose of the County Wide Spelling Bee is to help students improve spelling skills, increase vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.

WJLE taped the spelling bee and will air the broadcast Monday night, February 8th at 7:00 p.m.

Participants in this year's County Wide Spelling Bee were:

Northside Elementary School:

Fourth Grade- Hannah Brown, Grace Godowns, and Hayley Martin

Fifth Grade- Erica Birmingham, Madison Bouldin, Timothy Cassinera, Katlyn Cox, Caelin Crips, Eli Cross, Madison Dickens, Hali Huang, Sara Beth LeFever, Baylee Phillips, and Taylor Spare.

DeKalb Middle School:

Sixth Grade-Chase Bryant and Kyra Trapp

Seventh Grade- Peter Antoniak, Lenzi Dickens, Matthew Foutch, Justin Johnson, Brandon Kircher, Makalee Rush, Makayla Starnes, and Jacob Washer.

Eighth Grade- Josh Davidson and Jacob Pittman

DeKalb West School:

Fourth Grade- Breanna Gibson and Danielle Theriaque

Fifth Grade- Jayra Plattenburg, Brandy Rock, and Paige Snyder

Sixth Grade- Ashley Grater

Seventh Grade- Leah Burchfield, Cason Oakley, Lydia Trail, and Bruce Wilson

Eighth Grade- Zach Bandy, and Crystal Vickers

(Bottom Photo: left to right front row- Grace Godowns and Lenzi Dickens; left to right back row- Michelle Burklow (Spelling Bee Coordinator) Mark Willoughby (Director of Schools), Charles Robinson (School Board Chairman), and Jon Fontanez (Official Pronouncer)

State Senator Mae Beavers Legislative Update

February 4, 2010
Dwayne Page
State Senator Mae Beavers

The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers

The focus on Capitol Hill this week turned to the budget as Governor Phil Bredesen unveiled his proposal to fund state government for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Despite being one of the most difficult budgets to date, Senator Beavers expressed concern that the Governor presented a budget that did not go far enough in ensuring fiscal responsibility and adhering to Tennessee’s “pay-as-you-go” history. Beavers was also unhappy that the Governor requested the legislature approve $71.7 million in tax and fee increases, in addition to plugging holes in the budget with one-time stimulus and reserve funds.

Tax Hikes, Fee Raises, Stimulus and Reserve Funds Once Again Rear Ugly Head in Governor’s Proposed Budget

Tennessee’s revenue collections have continued to underperform at unprecedented levels as the national economy has declined. December tax collections represent the 19th consecutive month of negative sales tax growth. With the decline in revenue, the Governor is allowing the legislature to use money from the Rainy Day Fund – the state’s savings account to be used in cases of severe economic hardship. Yet, pulling money from the state’s reserve fund instead of living within our means and making the necessary spending reductions is very dangerous, especially when the fund will be essential if the economy worsens in the coming years.

“The legislature needs to ensure that the state makes realistic revenue projections and prioritizes its spending cuts, however to do things such as rely on stimulus money and reserve funds to plug holes will only make it harder for the next governor to operate when he takes office next year,” said Sen. Beavers.

The Governor’s tax proposals include a $21.3 million proposed sales tax on cable and satellite television services, $2 million to tax cable boxes, a $6.5 million increase in the rate charge on interstate and international business telecom service, $10 million to clarify ‘sale for resale’ provisions, and $10 million to repeal the dividend paid deduction on real estate investment trusts (REITs). In addition, the governor proposed a $2 per year increase for the cost of a Tennessee driver’s license.

Finally, in a move quite perplexing to many Republican lawmakers, the Governor proposed a raise to state employees – a move that comes when thousands of people are losing their jobs and places like Cloverbottom – a facility that cares for mentally disabled individuals – are being closed down.

Unlike Congress, the Tennessee General Assembly is constitutionally bound to balance the budget. The legislature will closely examine the budget over the next two months as the various agencies and departments are called before Senate committees to explain the details further. Senator Beavers believes that the weakened economy means lawmakers must be vigilant to make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent in the most efficient and effective manner.

Senator Beavers to Introduce Constitutional Amendment to make it Harder to Break “Copeland Cap” – Ensuring more Fiscally Responsible Budgets

In 1978, Tennessee legislators amended the constitution to attempt to prevent the problem of runaway spending, especially during times of economic hardship. The “Copeland Cap” is a provision that says that state spending can grow no faster than the annual growth in personal income. This move was supposed to make tax hikes unnecessary, and allow Tennessee to operate as a “pay-as-you-go” state with a balanced budget. Yet, the amendment allowed the legislature to break the cap with a simple majority vote in the House and Senate, a provision that has allowed the cap to be broken fourteen times for a total of more than $3.6 billion dollars in overspending since 1978.

Senator Beavers hopes to restore fiscal accountability and to control the growth of state government with a new amendment – a move that she hopes will restore Tennessee’s “pay-as-you-go” history that has brought much economic prosperity to the state over the years. Beavers’ amendment will require a 2/3 vote by the House and Senate to override the Copeland Cap, not a simple majority as it currently requires.

“It is time that we make it harder for administrations to drive this state further in debt in the form of bonds, tax hikes, and reserve spending,” said Beavers. “I think it’s inconsistent when legislators vote against breaking the Copeland Cap, and then vote for the budget that breaks the cap. This amendment will attempt to right that wrong.”

Tennessee Soldiers Honored

Tennessee’s soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan were honored this week by the Governor and the General Assembly. In the State of the State Address, Governor Bredesen recognized several soldiers who were deployed, including some who have served multiple missions. Lawmakers stood in silence to recognize the 11 Tennesseans who lost their lives in the War on Terror over the past year and the 114 who have made the ultimate sacrifice since 2001. In addition, the yearly informational Tennessee Blue Book published by the Secretary of State’s office dedicated this year’s publication to those fallen brave men and women.

Comptroller's Office Makes County Financial Information Available Online

February 4, 2010

Citizens can now look up financial information for most counties across Tennessee online, thanks to a new service that is being offered by the state Comptroller’s office.

By clicking to a page on the Comptroller’s web site, it is now easy to find detailed financial information about revenues and expenditures for 89 of the state’s 95 counties. The web address is: www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/TAG/

“I am very pleased that we are able to offer this new service,” said Comptroller Justin Wilson. “This is an excellent way to follow the money or to see where it comes from and where it goes. Citizens will find that there is a great deal of information about their county governments that is now available at their fingertips.”

The information is compiled from the annual audit reports done by the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit. Jim Arnette, the division’s director, said revenue and expenditure data from the last four fiscal years is now available at the site, which is called Transparency and Accountability for Governments (TAG) in Tennessee. Arnette said several years’ worth of data will be kept available for access through the TAG Tennessee archives.

“We envision this as a tool citizens can use to keep up with what their local governments are doing,” Arnette said. “And local and state government officials should find it helpful to have easy access to this information as well.”

The TAG Tennessee site includes information about school departments, but not other agencies, component units or enterprise funds that are accounted for separately from the counties’ main budgeted operations.

Six counties are audited annually by private certified public accounting firms rather than the Comptroller’s office, so their financial information isn’t available on the site at this time. Those counties are: Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, McMinn, Shelby and Washington.

Roses Store Grand Opening set for February 25th

February 3, 2010
Dwayne Page
Steve Swenson, Senior Vice President of Roses Store Operations and Chamber Director Suzanne Williams

The new Smithville Roses store will be having a Grand Opening on Thursday, February 25th at 8:30 a.m. at 750 South Congress Boulevard.

Steve Swenson, Senior Vice President of Store Operations, made the announcement on WJLE's Chamber Chat program Wednesday morning. "We want everyone to come out and help us celebrate our grand opening and ribbon cutting."

"We're a value priced merchant and we offer apparel, shoes, and accessories for the entire family. In addition, we offer housewares, home decor, health and beauty aids, food, toys, lawn and garden, and this fall Christmas decor."

"We're excited to be here. It gives us an opportunity to continue to grow in the market where we already have stores operating in McMinnville and Murfreesboro, Memphis, and Bowling Green. We have another new location opening the same day as Smithville in Livingston. Stores hours will be 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Sunday."

"We'll have a quiet store opening next Tuesday, February 9th at 9:00 a.m."

"I hope everyone comes out to help us celebrate this big event. We're extremely excited to be in Smithville and we look forward to being here for a long time."

DeKalb Community Hospital and Senior Citizens Center Celebrate Healthy Heart Month

February 3, 2010
Tammy Freeze

DeKalb Community Hospital and Senior Citizens Center Celebrate Healthy Heart Month

On Tuesday, February 16th at 11 a.m., Tammy Freeze, the Director of the Cardiopulmonary Department at DeKalb Community Hospital, will present information at the DeKalb County Senior Citizens Center on Heart Disease, symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, as well as things that can to keep your heart healthy. Those who attend will enjoy heart cookies and red punch compliments of the hospital.

February is recognized as National Heart Health Month. Here is some of the valuable information from the American Heart Association that can save your life:

Heart Attack Warning Signs

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense - the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

"Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

"Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

"Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

"Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Tammy states, "Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out. Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives - maybe your own. Don't wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1. It is always better to come to the E.R. and be safe rather than sorry".

Stroke Warning Signs

The American Heart Association says these are the warning signs of stroke:
"Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

"Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

"Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

"Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

"Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

If you or someone with you has one or more of these signs, don't delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent for you. Also, check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared. It's very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

Heart-healthy nutrition, daily physical activity, eliminating tobacco, controlling diabetes and a commitment to follow your healthcare professional's recommendations (including for cholesterol and high blood pressure) are all part of reducing your risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

If you have any questions about heart health, please talk to your doctor or visit the American Heart Association's website at www.americanheart.org.


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