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UCHRA Receives Additional $1.6 Million in Energy Assistance Funding

February 2, 2010
Dwayne Page
UCHRA Receives Additional $1.6 Million in Energy Assistance Funding

“The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency has been awarded a significant increase of $1,698,695 for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, $322,411 of which must be matched with non-federal funds,” announced Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director. “The total LIHEAP budget for year ending June 30, 2010 is now $4,181,248,” she continued. LIHEAP provides a one-time per year payment averaging $325 to the primary heating energy provider (electric, natural gas, propane, coal, wood, or kerosene) for qualifying low income households based upon a point system with priority given to households having elderly disabled members and those with children under the age of 3.

“We are delighted that with this funding increase UCHRA will be able to serve more than 3,400 additional households across the region, bringing the total that can be served to over 10,000 for the year,” stated Michael Nesbitt, Chairman of UCHRA’s Aging and Community Services Committee. “However, with the current economic conditions there are more eligible families that will need to be served,” he continued.

“The UCHRA Board of Directors is pleased with the additional LIHEAP funding allocated to the 14-county area,” commented Stephen Bilbrey, Board Chairman. Of the total funding approximately $227,235 will be allocated to DeKalb County to serve 553 households. “I am pleased to announce additional funding to provide energy assistance to low-income residents of DeKalb County. It is so important to help those people most in need during these difficult times,” Mike Foster, DeKalb County Executive stated.

“The additional $322,411 is designated by the State as “leveraging funds,” meaning that for every $1 of non-federal funds UCHRA can generate and document as having been spent to assist LIHEAP-eligible households, the agency will receive $2 of LIHEAP leveraging funds to be used to serve additional households,” explained Lee Webb, Community Services Director. In other words, if UCHRA is able to document the expenditure of $161,206 in non-federal funds used to assist income-eligible households with energy assistance it will be receive the $322,411 of LIHEAP funds, which will serve almost 1,000 additional households. “It would be a shame to not be able to draw down all of these funds when so many families are suffering,” Webb stated.

Some utility companies provide cash contributions that can be used as matching funds, collected through “round-up” and similar programs, directly to UCHRA for the provision of emergency energy assistance. However, non-federal funds do not have to flow directly through UCHRA in order to be used as match. For example, if a church, civic club, or local charitable organization assists households in paying utility bills and will provide the names of the recipients and amounts of assistance, UCHRA will determine if the expenditures can be utilized as leveraging match. Additional LIHEAP funds earned will be used to assist families in the counties where the matching funds were generated.

Organizations and individuals who are interested in assisting UCHRA to generate the matching funds necessary to earn an additional $322,411 to assist low-income families with heating expenses this winter are encouraged to contact UCHRA’s DeKalb County office at 615-597-4504.

CUTLINE: Members of the Aging/Community Services Committee review the contract for additional funding for the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program totaling $1.6 million. Pictured from left to right: Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director; Brock Hill, Chairman of Finance Committee; Michael Nesbitt, Chairman of Aging/Community Services Committee; and Stephen Bilbrey, Chairman of Board of Directors.

Pedestrian Struck by Car on Anthony Avenue

February 1, 2010
Dwayne Page

A 30 year old pedestrian was seriously injured Monday night when he was accidentally hit by a motorist on Anthony Avenue.

Central dispatch received the call at 6:42 p.m.

Sergeant Mark Dial of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Jonathan Lesley Lewis of Gentry Avenue, Smithville was apparently walking on the edge of the northbound lane of Anthony Avenue when he was struck by a northbound 2002 Ford Taurus, driven by Catherine Newby of Smithville.

Sergeant Dial says the accident occurred in a dimly lit area just north of Morgan Drive and Lewis was wearing dark colored clothing, which apparently made it difficult for Newby to see him.

Lewis was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was later airlifted by helicopter ambulance to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. Newby was not injured.

The investigation continues.

Aldermen Vote to Update Ordinance Regulating Fund Raising Roadblocks

February 1, 2010
Dwayne Page

The Smithville aldermen Monday night approved a revised ordinance on first reading establishing regulations for charitable and other non-profit groups who collect donations at city street intersections.

Aldermen are concerned that more people could get hurt if stricter rules and enforcement are not put in place.

Under the proposed ordinance, non-profit organizations would be limited to not more than two charitable roadblocks per year; all participants would be required to wear orange or yellow vests or jackets; groups would be required to show written proof that they are a legitimate non-profit 501C3 or 4 organization; solicitors would be prohibited from standing in the road ( they would be required to stand on the sidewalks near the intersections); solicitors would have to be at least 14 years of age or older to participate in the roadblocks); and a four hour per day time limit would be established for any group to solicit donations at intersections. Groups would be required to submit, in writing, to the Chief of Police, a proposal for the specific time and place of the road block and the precautions to be implemented by the organization; and the groups must receive prior written approval by the Chief of Police to have the roadblocks.

Second and final reading passage of the ordinance will be scheduled following a public hearing at the February 15th meeting.

Ordinance #424 states as follows:

An ordinance regulating the obstruction of highways and other passageways.

Whereas, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville are deeply concerned for the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the City of Smithville; and,

Whereas, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville, acknowledge that, from time to time charitable, eleemosynary, or non-profit organizations wish to raise funds by obstructing the highways and other passageways of the City of Smithville by soliciting charitable donations from those utilizing said highways and passageways.

Now, therefore, be it resolved, by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville:

1. No organization shall be eligible to obstruct any highway or other passageway for the purpose of soliciting or collecting funds at a highway or street intersection unless said organization has received a determination of exemption from the Internal Revenue Service under 26U.S.C. 501 (c) (3) or (4) as a charitable, eleemosynary, or non-profit organization.

2. Any organization seeking to obstruct a highway or other passageway for the purpose of soliciting or collecting funds at a highway or street intersection must present written proof of its exemption from the Internal Revenue Service under 26 U.S.C. 501 (c) (3) or (4).

3. The members of any charitable, eleemosynary, or non-profit organization seeking to obstruct a highway or other passageway for the purpose of soliciting or collecting funds at a highway or street intersection shall undertake reasonable and prudent precautions to prevent both disruption of traffic flow and injury to persons or property.

4. The charitable, eleemosynary, or non-profit organization seeking to obstruct a highway or other passageway must limit time of soliciting or collecting funds to four (4) hours per day, and limiting to two (2) times (days) per year organization. Must not be in roadway, and must stay on sidewalks, must wear orange or yellow vest or jackets. All participants must be fourteen (14) years of age or older.

5. The charitable, eleemosynary, or non-profit organization seeking to obstruct a highway or other passageway for the purpose of soliciting or collecting funds at a highway or street intersection shall submit, in writing, to the Chief of Police its proposal for the specific time and place of the obstruction and the precautions to be implemented by the organization.

6. Before undertaking to obstruct any highway or other passageway for the purpose of soliciting or collecting funds at a highway or street intersection, the charitable, eleemosynary, or non-profit organization must receive prior written approval by the Chief of Police. Said written approval must set forth with specificity the specific time and place of the obstruction, the highway or other passageway to be obstructed, and the intersection at which the obstruction is to occur. Additionally, the prior written approval must contain a finding by the Chief of Police that the precautions to be implemented by the charitable, eleemosynary, or non-profit organization for the purpose of preventing both disruption of traffic flow and injury to persons or property are reasonable and prudent.

In other business, the aldermen adopted on first reading an ordinance amending the city's municipal code with specific language as to what services for which the city firefighters are to receive compensation.

Ordinance #423 states as follows:

Section 1. Title4, Municipal Personnel, of the City of Smithville Municipal Code is hereby amended as follows:

(1) Chapter 2, Section 4-203 (6) is hereby inserted in-lieu of to read as follows:

6. Volunteer Firefighters. Volunteer Firefighters are selected by the Fire Chief. After successfully completing a 90 day probation period and after approval of the Fire Chief, their continuance is subject to approval of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Volunteer Firefighters are compensated for incidents, training, and workings with benefits of coverage under the Firefighters Insurance Coverage Policy.

a. Compensated Incidents to include but not limited to: fire, rescue, explosion, alarm, over pressure, motor vehicle accident, hazardous condition, service, good intent, false alarm, severe weather, landing zone, investigation, special incident, extrication, mutual aid, natural disaster, hazardous materials.

b. The minimum and maximum number of incidents, workings, and training can be accomplished in the fire department's standard operational guideline. A maximum of twelve (12) workings each paid as one (1) fire call and 240 hours training and/or thirty (30) training sessions per year with each session paid as one (1) fire call.

Second and final reading passage of the ordinance will be scheduled following a public hearing at the February 15th meeting.

The aldermen also voted to authorize back pay to the firefighters who did not receive the funds they claim were due for last year's training and other services rendered.

Smithville Water Treatment Rehab Project to Start Soon

February 1, 2010
Dwayne Page
Smithville Water Treatment Plant

The renovation of the Smithville Water Treatment plant is expected to begin soon.

The Smithville Board of Aldermen Monday night approved a resolution awarding the construction bid to W&O Construction Company of Livingston in the amount of $2,542,000. The actual costs will be more when taking into consideration fees for engineering and other related services. The city will receive a $500,000 community development block grant administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to help fund the project. But the bulk of the funding, $2,342,000 will have to be appropriated from the city's water and sewer fund.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson said the city would not have to borrow the money. There are sufficient funds in the city's water and sewer fund reserves to support the project.

In a letter to Mayor Hendrixson last week, Greg Davenport, Senior Vice President of the J.R. Wauford & Engineering Company, Consulting Engineers, recommended W&O Construction Company. "We have tabulated the five bids received in your presence at 2:00 p.m., January 26th for the subject contract and find W&O Construction Company, Incorporated is the low bidder. This contractor was a pre-qualified bidder and has successfully performed work for us, therefore, we recommend award of this contract to W&O Construction at $2,542,000

The project entails modernizing the water treatment plant and making improvements to the raw water intake. Mayor Hendrixson says W &O Construction has 365 days to complete the project and service to customers will not be interrupted while the renovation is underway. The following are specific cost estimates for each phase of the project:

1. Floating Intake at Raw Water Intake- estimated cost $100,000
2. Renovate Filters with New Underdrains and Media- $250,000
3. Blower and Accessories for Air Scour- $40,000
4. New 40 horsepower Backwash Pump, Rebuild Existing Pump for Standby- $90,000
5. Convert Filter Instrumentation including Water System Telemetry- $300,000
6. Modifications to existing 1967 Clearwell- $10,000
7. New Chemical Bulk Storage and Containment- $60,000
8. Electrical Work- $200,000
9. New Standby Generator at Intake and at Plant- $200,000
10. Three New Raw Water Pumps and Valves, Painting, and Sump Cleaning- $550,000
11. Three New High Service Pumps, VFD's and Valves- $600,000
12. Chlorine System Improvements- $50,000

Estimated Construction Costs- $2,450,000

1.Budgeted for Construction- $2,450,000
2.Engineering: Design- $140,000
Construction Administration and Observation- $135,000
3. Administrative- $23,500
4. Environmental- $1,500
5. Project Contingencies- $50,000

Total Estimated Project Cost $2,800,000

In other business, the aldermen voted to apply for funding through a Rural Development Grant/Loan program to help the city convert to a new automated water meter reading system.

Will Taylor of the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts, who addressed the mayor and aldermen Monday night, will assist the city in making the application.

Through Rural Development, the city could be eligible for up to a 45% grant for the total project, with the remainder to be funded through a low interest rate loan, which the city could carry for several years.

Taylor says benefits to the city by having an automated meter reading system are that it would reduce water loss by an estimated seven to fifteen percent and cut costs associated with the current manner of reading meters. For example, with an automated system, an employee could read all water meters in the city in just a day or two each month. This would also save fuel costs and wear and tear on city vehicles.

Many utilities are using AMR as a way of improving customer service while reducing the cost of reading meters. Some AMR systems use miniature radio transmitters attached to each water meter. These utilities are then able to collect the readings from handheld radio receivers and from moving vehicles. With this process, one driver in a vehicle is able to read more meters in one day. At the end of the day, the meter reader unloads the information to the city's billing system.

The police chief position remains vacant.

The issue was not on the agenda Monday night and the only discussion about it was during citizen comments when Ruth Johns asked Mayor Hendrixson what's been done so far.

Mayor Hendrixson: "No chief has been selected yet, we have some applications, they have not been interviewed yet."

Mrs. Johns: "Will this position be advertised"?

Mayor Hendrixson: "I'm not sure, it could be or it could not be"

Mrs. Johns: "If it isn't advertised, how will people who are interested in it, what will they do, if they don't know about it"?

Mayor Hendrixson: "As long as you have a cadry of applications, we do not have to advertise. I'm not saying it won't be advertised.

Mrs. Johns:"So you already have a lot of applications for the police chief"?

Mayor Hendrixson: "We have some applications"

Mrs. Johns: "Is POST certification a prerequisite?"

Mayor Hendrixson:"Yes ma'am, definitely"

In other business, the aldermen approved the officers of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department. The officers for the year are as follows: Chief Charles Parker,
Deputy Chief Hoyte Hale, Captain Jeff Wright, Lieutenant Danny Poss, Lieutenant Donnie Cantrell, and Lieutenant Anthony Wright.

Mayor Hendrixson appointed Dr David Darrah and Tim Stribling as citizen members to the Smithville Municipal Airport Committee. They will join Alderman Shawn Jacobs, who will serve as the city's representative on the board.

Smithville Woman Making Court Appearance Found with Drugs

February 1, 2010
Dwayne Page
Amanda Riley
Scott Douglas Griffin

A Smithville woman, making a court appearance last Monday, was arrested at the courthouse after she was found with drugs in her possession.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 30 year old Amanda Mae Riley of Bright Hill Road Smithville was charged with simple possession of a schedule II drug (Methamphetamine) and simple possession of a schedule IV drug (Xanax). Riley was in Circuit Court when her probation officer asked a deputy to stand outside of the bathroom doorway while she (the probation officer) administered a drug screen on Riley. During the test, the officer heard the probation officer shouting his name. He went into the restroom and found the probation officer and Riley in a struggle. The officer assisted the probation officer in bringing Riley under control. Riley was trying to flush down the commode a pill bottle. The deputy and probation officer retrieved the bottle and found 14 pills believed to be Xanax and a small plastic baggie of a white substance believed to be Methamphetamine. Riley was charged with the crimes and her bond was set at $10,000 on the drug charges. She will appear in General Sessions court on February 25th.

43 year old Scott Douglas Griffin of Logue Road, Mount Juliet was arrested Tuesday, January 26th for driving under the influence and simple possession of schedule VI drug (marijuana). Deputies were behind a vehicle on Highway 70 west when they noticed it weaving. Officers stopped the automobile and found Griffin to be the driver. He had a strong odor of alcohol on his person, slurred speech and very poor motor skills. Deputies also found in Griffin's front pants pocket a plastic bag that contained a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana. Bond for Griffin was set at $3,000 on the charges and he will appear in General Sessions Court on February 11th.

37 year old Sergio Sanchez of West Bryant Smithville was arrested Saturday, January 30th for driving a motor vehicle without a driver's license. Deputies received a report of an auto accident on Highway 70 east and found Sanchez to be the driver. Sanchez told the officer that he had a Kansas driver's license. Upon running Sanchez's name through the driver's license data base, authorities discovered there was no record of Sanchez having any kind of driver's license issued to him. Bond for Sanchez was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on February 18th.

DeKalb Jail Inmate Dies

January 31, 2010
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, along with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have been investigating the death of a DeKalb County jail inmate.

In a brief prepared statement, Sheriff Patrick Ray says that 34 year old Jackie Lee Snider of Hurricane Ridge Road Dowelltown, was pronounced dead at DeKalb Community Hospital Saturday at approximately 2:32 p.m.

Sheriff Ray asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in the case. An autopsy was performed by the State Medical Examiner’s office in Nashville.

On Sunday January 31st, Sheriff Ray said he was contacted by the District Attorney General Randy York and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation about the case. Both agencies reported that there were no findings from the autopsy that indicated any foul play. The cause of Snider’s death appeared to be of natural causes.

Smithville Police Arrest Two Men in Shoplifting Incident at Wal-Mart

January 30, 2010
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police made two arrests last week in a shoplifting incident at Wal-mart

56 year old Danny Petty of 225 East Bryant Street and 48 year old Roy Douglas Atnip of 232 Meadowbrook Drive were arrested on Saturday, January 23rd for theft and public intoxication. Corporal Travis K. Bryant was dispatched to Wal-Mart on a theft call. Upon arrival he saw Atnip on video surveillance leave the store with a 12 pack of Busch beer, without paying for it. Corporal Bryant found him a short time later in the field behind Restview Avenue consuming the beer. With him was Petty who Corporal Bryant determined had been an accomplice. Petty could be seen on the video tape with Atnip. Both appeared to be intoxicated. Each had an odor of alcohol on their persons and their speech was slurred. Bond for both was set at $1,000 and their court date is February 4th.

80 year old William R Mabe of 310 Locust Street was arrested on Saturday, January 23 for a first offense of driving under the influence. Officer Matt Holmes was dispatched to the area of West Broad Street where an off duty State Trooper was following a vehicle. Even though the tires were blown out, the vehicle continued traveling west bound. Officer Holmes stopped the automobile at Wal-Mart Drive and West Broad Street. Upon speaking with the driver, Mabe, Officer Holmes noticed he appeared to be disoriented. As Mabe exited the vehicle he was unsteady on his feet and fell to the ground numerous times. Due to the high volume of traffic on the highway and Mr. Mabe's unsteadiness, no field sobriety tests were given for his safety. A half full bottle of Peppermint Schnapps was found in the driver's side floor board. Mr. Mabe was arrested and transported to the Smithville Police Department where he was informed of the implied consent law. Mabe submitted to a breathalyzer test, the results of which were .178. Bond for Mabe was set at $1,000 and his court date is February, 18th.

27 year old Michael Ray Reeder of 754 Pine Orchard Road was arrested Saturday, January 23rd for simple possession of a schedule VI drug and driving on a suspended driver licenses. Officer Scott Davis was dispatched to Juniper Lane in reference to a suspicious vehicle parked in front of the complainant's house. Upon arrival, Officer Davis discovered that the vehicle was gone but the complainant gave him a description of it. Later, as Officer Davis was traveling down Highland Street, he saw the vehicle traveling north. He stopped the automobile and found that the passenger was not wearing a seatbelt. Upon making contact with the driver, Reeder, Officer Davis could smell a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. He asked Reeder if there were any illegal drugs in the automobile. Reeder replied that all he had was a joint. During the search incident to arrest, police found a plastic bag under the seat with a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana. A check of Mr. Reeder's driver licenses revealed them to be suspended for failure to satisfy a citation in Putnam County. Bond for Reeder is $2,000 and he will be in court on February 4th.

30 year old Christopher Pearson Myers of 848 Anthony Avenue was arrested on Tuesday, January 26th for driving on a suspended licenses and evading arrest. Officer Matt Farmer received a call about a domestic violence in progress at 848 Anthony Avenue. As he was approaching the residence he saw a vehicle that appeared to be leaving the scene. Central Dispatched informed Officer Farmer that the subject, Myers, was leaving in a small black vehicle. At that time Officer Farmer got behind the vehicle which made an abrupt left turn and when he activated his blue lights Mr. Myers ran a stop sign and turned south onto Luttrell Avenue where he finally stopped. Myers informed Officer Farmer that he shouldn't be driving because his license was suspended. After a check with Central Dispatch,. Myers was arrested for driving on a suspended, evading arrested and he was cited for failure to stop at a stop sign. His bond is $2,500 and his court date is February 11th.

23 year old Brandy Nicole Hale of 114 Highland Drive was arrested on Tuesday, January 26th for a Capias. Corporal Travis Bryant was traveling south on North Congress Boulevard when he saw a black SUV driven by Hale. He knew there was an outstanding warrant against her in DeKalb County for failure to appear in court on November 19th. She was arrested without incident.

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

On Sunday, January 24th around midnight a red dirt bike with a long front silver front fork with a broken rear fender was stolen from 425 Kendra Drive. It also has MTX & 100 on the right side of the seat with a 90 hp motor.

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

Winter Storm Causes Power Outages and Traffic Accidents

January 30, 2010
Dwayne Page
Charlie Parker

Many residents of Smithville and portions of DeKalb County were without power early Saturday morning because of the winter storm

Charlie Parker, DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator, says in most cases tree limbs weighed down by ice and snow, snapped causing them to fall across power lines. Caney Fork Electric also reported problems with a TVA transmission line. "Earlier this morning we had some power outages in the City of Smithville and in the county. We had some trees on power lines that knocked out service. There was also report of a TVA transmission line down. Since then all those (lines) have been fixed that we know of and everyone should have electricity in the city and county. There may be some interruptions throughout the day because the ice is still weighing heavy on power lines and tree limbs and they may continue to fall."

Road conditions remain hazardous and Parker is advising people to stay home today (Saturday) unless you have to venture out. "The roads are not the best. We're encouraging people to stay in today as much as they can and not be out and about on the roads. Secondary roads are still very slick due to ice and snow. As far as the primary roads, the city and state (TDOT) have done an excellent job trying to get those cleared off, but many of them are still icy in spots."

With temperatures expected to plummet tonight (Saturday) into the lower teens, Parker says standby emergency shelters will be established for anyone in need. "We do have some shelters available on stand by. We've been trying to get set up this morning (Saturday) where we could have some shelters in case we had to start moving people. If there are problems, we will set up some shelters. We don't want anyone freezing. If we do open shelters we will notify the radio station. You can call the non emergency number at (central dispatch) 215-3000 if it's a situation that gets crucial. Anyone with medical emergencies, we will try to address those needs first, make sure we get somebody to them and get them to a shelter or make sure they get heat. If it's an emergency, you can call 911, the emergency dispatch."

Sheriff Patrick Ray also cautions motorists not to travel unless it's absolutely necessary. He says several traffic accidents were reported Friday afternoon and Friday night because of the snow and ice, including some with personal injury.

Meanwhile, if you are an employee of the local hospital, nursing home, or other health care or emergency service in DeKalb County, Sheriff Ray says the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department will be glad to give you a ride to work today (Saturday) if you cannot drive to work on your own because of the hazardous road conditions.

DeKalb Jobless Rate Climbs to 11.3%

January 29, 2010
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County unemployment rate for December, 2009 was 11.3%, an increase from 10.6% in November. The rate for December 2008 was 9.2%

The local labor force for December, 2009 was 9,410. A total of 8,350 were employed and 1,060 were without work.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for December was 10.9 percent, up 0.7 percentage point from the revised November rate of 10.2 percent. The United States' unemployment rate for the month of December was unchanged at 10.0 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for December 2009, show that the rate increased in 91 counties, decreased in one, and remained the same in
three counties.

Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 7.1 percent, up 0.4 from its November rate. Lauderdale and Marshall counties had the state's highest unemployment rate at 18.9 percent. Lauderdale was up 0.4 from the November rate, and Marshall County increased from 16.8 percent in November.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 8.1 percent, up 0.4 percentage point from the November rate. Hamilton County was at 8.9 percent, up 0.5 percentage point from the November rate. Davidson County was 9.2 percent, up 0.4 from the previous month, and Shelby County was 10.3 percent, up 0.3 from the November rate.

Legislative Update from State Senator Mae Beavers

January 29, 2010
State Senator Mae Beavers

The following is a Legislative Update from State Senator Mae Beavers

The Tennessee General Assembly returned to Capitol Hill this week to close out the Special Session on Education and begin the work of the 2010 legislative session. Although the budget deficit will be the predominant driver for legislative action this year, among many issues that will headline the legislature’s agenda are unemployment, job creation, and preparing for Congressional action on health care that could have a huge negative impact on the state’s finances in the future. In addition, Thursday marked the last day in which Senators could file legislation to be debated throughout the coming months.

Senator Mae Beavers Files 2010 Legislation

This week Senator Beavers completed the filing of her 2010 legislative package. Legislation filed by Beavers included bills that address Tennessee’s DUI laws, healthcare, worker’s compensation, job creation, and the court system. Beavers once again hopes to pass an “ignition interlock” bill that would require a repeat DUI offender to purchase a device that would not allow that person to start his or her vehicle while intoxicated. In addition, Beavers filed bills that would encourage the purchase of certain health insurance across state lines, and also proclaim Tennessean’s constitutional right to not buy health insurance if a mandated and nationalized healthcare reform bill were to pass in Washington.

In addition, Senator Beavers continues to push for a repeal of a 2008 law that mandated worker’s compensation insurance be purchased on sole-proprietors and small contractors. Beavers also filed legislation that would encourage a “Tennessee-Made” logo be made available for businesses that employ Tennesseans and produce Tennessee goods and products. Finally, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Beavers filed many bills dealing with the courts and constitutional amendments, including a constitutional amendment that would make it harder for the administration to spend over the limits of the “Copeland Cap” as set forth in Tennessee’s Constitution, as well as a constitutional amendment that would require the Attorney General be held accountable to the people of Tennessee through an election every four years.

Resolution would ensure future generations have the right to hunt and fish in Tennessee

The State Senate approved a bill this week that would give Tennessee voters the opportunity to decide if the state’s Constitution should be amended to recognize that citizens have the right to hunt and fish. The resolution was approved after Senator Beavers and other members of the Senate were added as sponsors of the measure. Tennessee, like most other states, predicates wildlife conservation efforts on a user pay system supported by sportsmen. Protection of sportsmen’s right to hunt and fish will ensure wildlife preservation efforts in Tennessee continue indefinitely. In addition, sportsmen pump millions of dollars into Tennessee’s economy. The resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 30, will give sportsmen a voice in court on any future action that would deny their right to hunt and fish if approved by the voters.

Issues in Brief

Tennessee Prime Milk – The Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill this week to help Tennessee’s dairy farmers by establishing a category of milk to be called "Tennessee Prime Milk.” The voluntary use of this label and program is designed to promote Tennessee's new official state drink: milk. The bill, Senate Bill 1899, aims to help Tennessee's dairy farmers which have declined from 10,000 active farms at the height of the business to 500 today. This voluntary program allows marketing and sale of a "home grown" milk product and calls for the milk to be certified by the state’s Department of Agriculture for sale at retail stores as “Tennessee Prime Milk” if it meets higher standards. Bottling plants can label their milk as "Tennessee Prime Milk", as long as 80% of the milk is produced in Tennessee.

Veto Override on Restaurant Menu Mandates – The Senate voted 24 to 7 to override the governor’s veto of legislation approved last year to ban unelected local government regulatory agencies from imposing requirements on restaurants to post calories on menus. The Senate passed the measure, Senate Bill 1092, last year after many small businesses raised concerns that some unelected agencies will impose different standards, which will significantly increase costs to small restaurant owners.

Tourism – Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker appeared before the Senate Conservation and Environment Committee this week to update lawmakers on efforts to promote travel to and within the state. Whitaker said tourism is up from $14.2 billion to $14.4 billion over the last year, although some parts of the state have been hit hard by the recession. The state is in the top ten in the U.S. in tourism and is doing very well compared to neighboring states, some of which are in double-digit decline. Tennessee is promoting a scenic by-ways project to get tourists into the more rural areas of the state, which is already meeting with some success.


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