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Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

March 7, 2009
Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver has released her latest report on legislative issues before the Tennessee General Assembly.

House Bill 421 passed on the House floor this week, a move that will aide in expediting the Volkswagen and Hemlock projects in Chattanooga and Clarksville. Last week, Commissioner Matt Kisber from the Department of Economic and Community Development told the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee that the companies and the state had set an ambitious timeline to move things forward, and the passage of bond legislation was paramount.

The bill will bond the projects that will provide infrastructure for the sites, something the state committed to do when luring the companies to Tennessee. Analysts say the revenue stream from Volkswagen alone will cover the annual debt service, and exceed it once Hemlock is up and running. The two companies together are expected to directly provide about 2,500 new jobs in addition to countless others in related sectors from vendors and contracts.

Supporters say the economic impact of the companies will benefit the entire state. However, critics have accused the Administration of using taxpayer dollars to lure large companies to Tennessee, with no parameters in place to ensure that taxpayers are protected.

I expressed my concern over this legislation because it called for the state to go into debt to pay for a $268 million project with taxpayer funds. The bill gives the Governor the go-ahead to bond several projects in Middle and East Tennessee, instead of paying cash that had already been allocated by the legislature last spring. I voted “present not voting,” saying I could not vote in favor of the state going into more debt.

I realize the taxpayers of my district are already suffering, trying to keep their own jobs and small businesses afloat. I believe the state should lower the taxes on small businesses by the same $268 million for a year in order to spur jobs in every small town in the state. It still remains to be seen, if whether or not our district will see any job creation from these projects.

Another concern of mine is the possibility that these companies may eventually close or leave the state, leaving taxpayers to pay off the debt. I feel like we are putting this on a credit card when we have the cash, and I don’t feel like that is responsible. Why take out a car loan if you can pay for it with cash? While I greatly support and applaud economic development, we must be smart about how we pay our bills.

We are receiving up to $4.3 billion through the federal stimulus package—and this is exactly the type of one-time expenditure that the stimulus cash can be used for, we cannot continue to spend beyond our means, and grow government at this accelerated rate.

Gun legislation continues to advance in House committees…

Several bills that members have advocated for several years to expand the rights of gun owners in Tennessee cleared the Judiciary Committee this week. House lawmakers were pleased to see the passage of the legislation, which had been killed in previous years by a House committee. Legislators have argued that the common-sense provisions are needed to expand and protect the Second Amendment rights of Tennessee’s legal gun owners.
House Bill 961 will allow licensed carry permit holders to carry firearms in a refuge, public hunting area, wildlife management area, or forest land. Under current law, it is unlawful for a person to possess a firearm in these areas frequented or inhabited by big game, except during open hunting seasons on these areas. The bill expands that right to allow legal firearms the entire year, without exemption. Having passed Judiciary Committee this week, the bill now moves onto the Budget Subcommittee.

A second bill, House Bill 716, aims to expand the right to carry a legal firearm on the grounds of any public park, playground, civic center or other property owned, used or operated by the municipal or state government. The legislation was another one that cleared the Judiciary Committee hurdle, and will now face Calendar and Rules.

Two of the bills that saw passage in the subcommittee last week were delayed for a vote in the full committee this week. House Bill 959 would seal the records of handgun carry permit holders that are currently public record. The bill stipulates that anyone disclosing information about permit holders would face a $2,500 fine for the violation. Tennesseans became outraged earlier this month when the Commercial Appeal, a Memphis-based newspaper, published the handgun carry permit database in an easily searchable format on their website. Citizens and lawmakers criticized the paper, calling the action ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous.’ Some contended that in addition to printing a list that would make it easier for criminals to steal weapons, non-gun owners were also at risk because it would be easy for criminals to use the database to find homes that likely did not have a firearm.

Another bill, House Bill 962, would allow legal permit holders to take their weapons into restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages, as long as the permit holder does not consume alcohol. Firearms will still be forbidden in these establishments after 11 p.m., and each restaurant may restrict weapons in their establishment if they choose and clearly post the restriction. This legislation was also delayed in the full committee this week but will be before Judiciary Committee on March 11th.
House approves changes to civil service rules…

The legislature considered changes to the state’s civil service rules this week, giving the Administration more flexibility to manage the economic downturn. Originally in opposition the bill, the Tennessee State Employees Association (TSEA) worked with members of the General Assembly to iron out details and amendments that protected current state employees.

After passing the Senate handily, the House immediately took the bill up for consideration, where it overwhelmingly passed with a vote of 96 to 1. The new rule changes will give the Administration the flexibility to adjust the work week by eliminating days if needed, moving qualified employees between departments to open positions, and facilitating furloughs instead of layoffs. The legislation agreed upon stipulates that the new policies will only be in place for one year.

In brief…

The Criminal Practice and Procedure Subcommittee of Judiciary passed a bill this week that aims to strengthen sexual offender laws in Tennessee. House Bill 620 redefines “indecent exposure” to include knowingly engaging in the person’s own residence certain conduct in the presence of a child for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.

The Local Government Subcommittee stalled legislation that would ban open containers in vehicles this week. Currently, no driver may consume an alcoholic beverage or possess an open container of such while operating a motor vehicle, but passengers may consume alcohol. Had it passed, House Bill 387 would have freed up a portion of federal funds that could be used for roads. The bill died due to a tie vote.

The House honored Ron Campbell on Wednesday, via House Joint Resolution 15. Campbell has served for a number of years as the House Radio Broadcast Specialist, and has also been a leading voice on both country and gospel radio. Campbell is noted for his deep, legendary voice and has been a regular on numerous radio and television shows, as well as the world-famous WSM radio in Nashville, original home of the Grand Ole Opry.

Last year, the Department of Safety (TDOS) sent letters to all firearms instructors requiring them to furnish information such as the firearm owner, name of the student using the firearm, and the make, model, and serial number of the firearms used. TDOS acknowledged shortly after that it was a clerical error that sent the letters out. House Bill 46 seeks to prohibit TDOS from asking firearms instructors for certain information, and was approved by the Criminal Practice and Procedure Subcommittee. The bill will be heard in Judiciary next week.

Smithville Woman Airlifted to Erlanger Hospital after Thursday night Wreck

March 6, 2009
Dwayne Page

A 61 year old Smithville woman was injured in a one car crash around 10:30 p.m. Thursday night on Highway 56 south near the intersection of Keltonburg Road.

Lieutenant Randy Maynard of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Paula Gail Smith was driving north on Highway 56 in a 2000 Ford Contour when the car veered over the center line across the southbound lane and went off the road into a ditch and then struck a culvert. The car overturned and came to rest on it's top at the edge of the highway.

Lieutenant Maynard says Smith was wearing her seatbelt and the car's airbag deployed upon impact. She was removed from the vehicle by DeKalb EMS.

Members of the Keltonburg and Blue Springs stations of the DeKalb County Fire Department were also on the scene.

Smith was airlifted by a helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga where she was still in critical condition at last report.

DeKalb Jobless Rate Soars to 10.8% in January

March 5, 2009
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's Unemployment rate for the month of January soared to 10.8%, an increase from the revised rate for December of 9.2%, and up significantly from 5.7% in January, 2008

The DeKalb County Labor Force for January, 2009 was 9,890. A total of 8,820 were employed and 1,070 were unemployed.

Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January 2009 was released last week at 8.6 percent, 1.0 percentage point higher than the December rate of 7.6 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of January was 7.6 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for January 2009, released today, show that the rate increased in all 95 counties. All counties also recorded over-the-year unemployment rate increases.

Lincoln County and Knox County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.6 percent. Perry County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 27.3 percent, up from 20.1 in December, followed by Lauderdale County at 18.6 percent, up from 15.7 percent in December.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 6.6 percent, up 0.9 percentage point from the December rate. Davidson County was 7.0 percent, up 1.1 from the previous month. Hamilton County was at 7.4 percent, up 1.0 percentage point from the December rate, and Shelby County was 8.6 percent, up from the December rate of 7.4 percent.

Arrests Made by Smithville Police on Theft and Forgery Charges

March 5, 2009
Dwayne Page

Several persons have been arrested recently by the Smithville Police Department on forgery and theft charges.

32 year old Sharon K. Skinner of Dowelltown is charged with four counts of forgery.

Detective Jerry Hutchins, Jr. reports that Skinner allegedly forged checks and passed them at Jewel's Market in Smithville. The total amount of the checks forged was $548.00.

Her bond is $25,000.

Skinner allegedly forged a name on checks on the Wilson Motors account in the amounts of $256 on January 2nd and $175 and $117 on January 5th.

42 year old Eddie LeRoy Taylor is charged with two counts of forgery. He is accused of passing checks in amounts of $175 and $256 at Jewel's Market on the Wilson Motors account in January.

Meanwhile, 23 year old Melinda Beth Murphy of Smithville is charged with one count of forgery.

Her bond is $10,000

Detective Hutchins reports that on January 21st at PSI on Church Street, Murphy presented to her probation officer a forged instrument showing a prescription she had gotten from a local drug store. The owner of the pharmacy stated that he had not prepared the document or signed it.

25 year old Matthew M. Lawson is charged with theft under $500 and 42 year old Fowler Stoney Ramsey of 906 Rolling Acres Road was issued a citation for the same offense in connection with the theft of a purse from a vehicle at Walmart on Saturday, February 21st.

Bond for Lawson is $1,000 and he will be in court March 12th.

In his report, Officer Travis Bryant states that "On Saturday, February 21st, I responded to Walmart to take a report on a purse, taken from a vehicle in the parking lot. I went into Walmart and reviewed the surveillance tapes and was able to put together a description of both suspects. While I was in the office, an employee of Walmart advised me there were subjects in the parking lot that matched the description of the people (suspects) and he also advised me that the suspects had asked him what the cops were doing. I then went into the parking lot and made contact with the subjects and advised them that I had witnessed them, on camera, steal the purse. I identified the suspects as Matthew Lawson and Fowler Stoney Ramsey. The items taken were reported as a purse containing one ring, one cell phone, one wallet, miscellaneous ID cards, a key, Ipod, camera, and $115 in cash. All items were recovered except for the money."

40 year old Lisa Fay Gibbs of Dowelltown is charged with theft of property under $500 regarding a stolen purse taken from a customer's shopping cart at Walmart on Monday, February 23rd. Another woman, 21 year old Heather Marie Griffith of Dowelltown is also charged with theft for allegedly assisting Gibbs in the crime..

They will be in court April 9th. Their bond is $1,000 each.

In his report, Officer Matt Farmer reports that when the victim turned away from her shopping cart in the store, someone stole her purse from the cart. The suspect could be seen on the surveillance video with two purses, but she had entered the store with only one purse. The woman was later identified as Gibbs. The purse was recovered.

Officer Farmer further reports that Griffith assisted in the theft of the purse by keeping the victim's attention while Gibbs took the purse from the shopping cart.

Change your clock, change your battery for daylight saving time

March 5, 2009

As clocks move ahead this weekend for daylight saving time, Tennessee State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman would like to remind Tennesseans to change their homes’ smoke alarm batteries, as well.

“ ‘Change your clock, change your battery’ is an easy phrase to remember and practice, when you update your clocks this weekend,” says Newman. “Smoke alarms, even those that are hard-wired, should have their batteries replaced regularly and be tested monthly to ensure you have the protection you need,” Newman says. “Use this time to protect your home and family.”

A working smoke alarm will double your survival chances during a home fire by giving you the critical time needed to escape. Most home fires occur at night when people are sleeping. The smoke and toxic gases from a fire can cause you to sleep more deeply, diminishing the chances of survival.

More than 90 percent of all American homes have smoke alarms, but as many as one-third of them don’t work – because of old or missing batteries. It is critical to replace batteries regularly – even if they appear to be working fine. Twice a year is recommended. This helps prevent the warning, low-battery “chirp” emitted by alarms. All too often, alarm batteries are removed but not replaced, putting home occupants at risk. There is no way to predict when a fire will occur, and just one night in a home without a working smoke alarm can prove dangerous. Replacing batteries for daylight saving time is just one fire safety step. Here are a few more:

• Smoke alarms should be put inside and outside every room where residents sleep, and on each home level. All residents should know how the alarm sounds and what it means.
• Smoke alarms need to be cleaned and maintained according to their instructions.
• Have a fire escape plan with two ways out of every room; teach it to everyone in the home, especially children.
• When the smoke alarm sounds, get out of the home immediately and go to a pre-planned meeting place.

Many local fire departments have supplies of donated smoke alarms, and departments will help install them in the homes of the elderly and disabled. Visit The Department of Commerce and Insurance works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee.

Three Incumbents, Three Challengers Qualify for Smithville Aldermen Race

March 3, 2009
Dwayne Page

All three incumbent Smithville Aldermen up for re-election in June are now formally in the race.

Aldermen Jerry Hutchins, Sr., Tonya Sullivan, and Willie Thomas have all qualified to seek re-election along with three challengers, Gary Durham and former Aldermen Aaron Meeks, and W.J. (Dub) White.

Two other persons have also picked up qualifying petitions but have not yet returned them including Shawn Jacobs, who ran for Alderman two years ago, and Danny Washer, who ran for Alderman last year.

Lisa Peterson, Administrator of Elections, says candidates have until NOON on Thursday, March 19th to qualify. The deadline to register to vote in time for the election is May 18th.

The Smithville Municipal Election will be held Tuesday, June 16th. Each term is for two years.

Thirty Eight Donors Support Community Blood Drive

March 3, 2009
Dwayne Page
Jack Barton (Seated) One of 38 Blood Donors Tuesday

A total of 38 people came to donate blood Tuesday at the fellowship hall of the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Thirty two productive units of blood were collected. Three persons were deferred and there were three classified as "quantity not sufficient"

The next community blood drive, conducted by the American Red Cross, will be held in May.

Kyra Robinson Sentenced to House Arrest, then Probation in Cannon County Drug Case

March 3, 2009
Dwayne Page
Kyra Robinson

A DeKalb County woman and former nurse at the Cannon County Jail was sentenced on charges of theft and fraud Friday in Woodbury.

Kyra Robinson appeared before Chancellor Robert E. Corlew, III in Cannon County Circuit Court.

Kyra and her now ex-husband Mark (Truck) Robinson were indicted last year by a Cannon County Grand Jury on charges that they stole $10,500 worth of prescription medications from the Cannon County Jail. Ms. Robinson was accused of fraud for obtaining inmate prescriptions and then keeping them. Robinson was employed by the Cannon County Jail until shortly before her arrest.

In August, 2008 the Robinson's reportedly pled guilty.

The Cannon County Radio Station, WBRY reports on it's website that Friday's hearing was to determine if Ms. Robinson would be required to serve her eight year sentence or be placed on probation. After hearing all of the evidence, Chancellor Corlew ruled that she would be placed on house arrest for 6 months and would then spend the remainder of the 8 year sentence on supervised probation. Chancellor Corlew also denied Robinson's request for judicial diversion finding that she was not a proper candidate. The Robinson's reportedly were ordered to each pay half of the $10,000 restitution to Cannon County.

The Cannon County case stemmed from a local investigation.

In December, 2007 the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant at the home of Mark and Kyra Robinson on Anthony Avenue in Smithville.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says officers made at least one drug buy from Robinson's residence and during the search, they found 193 Xanax pills, 203 empty prescription bottles with numerous individuals' names on them, hemostats, rolling papers, roach clips, syringes, and a pill grinder.

In the December case, Mark Robinson was charged with possession of a schedule IV drug (Xanax) for sale and delivery and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Officers seized the cash from Robinson.

Sheriff Ray says it was during the December investigation that he learned that the empty prescription bottles found at Robinson's home had the names of several Cannon County inmates on them.

He then contacted the TBI and the Cannon County Sheriff's Department with this discovery.

During the April, 2008 term of the DeKalb County Grand Jury, Mark Robinson was indicted on charges of sale and delivery of a schedule IV controlled substance (Xanax), and conspiracy to sell a schedule IV controlled substance (Xanax).

Kyra Robinson was indicted for conspiracy to sell a Schedule IV controlled substance (Xanax).

New Automated Service Allows Crime Victims To Track Custody Status of Offenders

March 3, 2009
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has been awarded a grant to participate in a new statewide automated service that will allow local crime victims and their families to receive real-time information tracking the custody status of offenders.

Listen to Sheriff Patrick Ray discuss the new automated service. (See video public service announcement below by Charlie Daniels)

Sheriff Patrick Ray says the Tennessee Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification Service was established by the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence along with the Tennessee Sheriffs' Association. "I applied for a grant for the Sheriff's Department about six months ago with the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and the Tennessee Sheriff's Association is a part of that. I applied for that grant and we were able to obtain that grant. For the last month or so, they've been in the jail setting things up on our booking computer and it took effect today (Tuesday). So we're on line with it and ready to go."

"This service will tell if an offender is in jail and give you important custody information. It will also let you leave a phone number where if you want to find out if an offender is still in custody, you can call and leave your phone number and contact information in the system and when the offender gets released out of jail, it will automatically call you and tell you that they have been released from custody."

"It's primarily for domestic and sexual abuse cases where the victims. The victim will need to call 1-888- 868-4631. There will be some steps you need to go through. It's all an automated service. It's real easy to do. What it goes by at the jail is the offender's booking number. The system will give a number that will stay with the offender as long as he is in jail. That way then you call back the next time, if you want an update then you will type that number into that phone system and it will tell you if the offender is still in custody and where he is in custody. This system covers about 80 something counties here within the state so if the offender has moved from DeKalb County to another county in Tennessee then this service could be offered there too."

"There's a couple of different ways that victims will be able to get the phone numbers. You can call the Sheriff's Department. We'll give you a number there. You can get them from the deputies. When they go out on calls, you can request one from them then or the deputies will automatically hand you one, or you can call the toll free number."

As with other statewide systems, users can register to be notified of certain custody status changes such as release, transfer, or escape.

Users can call 1-888-TNVINE1 (888-868-4631) or log onto to find out if an offender is in a county jail. They can also register to be notified by phone, e-mail, pager, or TTD/TTY device when an offender is released, transferred, or escapes. Live operators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist victims who need help obtaining offender information or registering for notification. Technical support professionals monitor and maintain SAVIN to ensure high reliability and availability of this potentially life-saving service. SAVIN is free to the public.

Sheriff Ray says "Our goal is to ensure that victims and their families are given timely and reliable information that allows them to protect themselves and fully participate in the criminal justice process."

Users registering by telephone must provide a number where they can be reached and a four-digit
Personal Identification Number (PIN) will be assigned by the Victim Service Unit. If registering online, a valid e-mail address must be provided. The service is available in both English and Spanish.

The implementation of Tennessee SAVIN is being funded by a Federal grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Mayor Updates Aldermen on Tax Collections During Brief City Council Meeting

March 3, 2009
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen met briefly Monday night at city hall.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson gave a report on sales tax and property tax collections. "Over the last three months they (sales tax collections) have declined by about $20,000 for three months, which is not as bad as it is some places. But the way the trend is going, it will probably be more than that."

"As of today (Monday), we've collected about 90% of property taxes (for the year). There's about a 10% delinquency today which is fairly good for property tax collections. I think there's probably one or two of the larger ones that will come in within a day or two and that will cut it (delinquency) way on down."

Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson updated the aldermen on a new lease agreement with a tenant at the airport, who is renting a hangar and office space. "We've had a guy come in. He's out of New Mexico but he lives here in Smithville now and he's contracted with Averit Express, but he has some private planes. He is going to rent the airport hangar, the 8,000 square foot facility along with some office space for $500 per month, which is what we gave (agreement) to our last tenant. If they get enough people interested, they are thinking about offering a flight school. I believe they will be a good asset to the city and to the airport. They just started during the month of March, leasing out the airport for one year, and then we will go from there."

The city's agreement is with Phil D'Alfessio, President of D'Alessio Enterprizes, Inc.

D'Alessio will be leasing an 8,000 square foot hangar and a 20 x 39 foot office area at the airport at $500 per month beginning March 1st, 2009 for twelve months. D'Alessio will use the property for the storage of his aircraft and may, with written approval of the city by the Secretary–Treasurer, sublease a portion of the hangar for aircrafts other than those owned by D'Alessio.

According to the lease agreement, "D'Alessio shall be responsible for his own natural gas and any fees related to hookup of services. It is further understood and agreed that D'Alessio shall pay the city 20% of the monthly electric bill for the hangar and adjoining office space during the terms of this lease. D'Alessio may use an oil burning heater located inside the hangar, but all maintenance and service including fuel or repairs shall be the sole responsibility of D'Alessio. The city shall be responsible for providing water to the facility."

"The city shall be responsible for any major structural repairs to the exterior or interior. D'Alessio shall be responsible for the general maintenance of the lease property and to keep it clean during the terms of this lease."

"D'Alessio shall obtain and maintain a liability insurance policy in the minimum amount of one million dollars. Such policy shall name the city and the Smithville Municipal Airport, their officers, agents, employees, and assigns as additional insureds to the full extent of D'Alessio's insurance coverage. Such insurance shall include contractural liability insurance to insure D'Alessio's obligation to indemnify and hold the city, its agent and its employees harmless. Further, insurance shall include coverage for any aircraft present upon the premises by virtue of any sublease entered into by D'Alessio and any other party."

Either party may terminate the lease by giving sixty days written notice with or without cause.

(Click here to listen to the March 2nd Smithville City Council Meeting


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