Local News Articles

Riley Brothers Indicted in Local Burglaries and Thefts

April 6, 2010
Dwayne Page
Martin Riley
Timothy Riley

The Grand Jury Monday indicted two brothers on several burglary and theft charges stemming from break-ins which occurred late last summer in DeKalb County.

44 year old Martin Riley and 50 year old Timothy Riley are co-indicted on two charges of aggravated burglary, one count of theft over $1,000, one count of theft under $500, and vandalism under $500.

Meanwhile Martin Riley is indicted on two charges of aggravated burglary, three counts of theft over $1,000, and one count of theft over $500.

The indictments against the two brothers together allege that:

Martin and Timothy Riley, on or about September 4th, 2009, entered the home of John Trobaugh and stole a stove, refrigerator, microwave, television, radio, and a telescope over the value of $1,000.

Martin and Timothy Riley, on or about August 20th, 2009, entered the home of Joyce Murphy, stole a leaf blower under the value of $500, and damaged a metal door .

The indictments against Martin Riley allege that:
Martin Riley, on or about September 1st, 2009, entered the home of Rand Fredrickson and stole a stove, refrigerator, microwave, television, radio, and telescope, over the value of $1,000

Martin Riley, on or about September 1st, 2009, entered the home of Katy Elean and removed a stainless freezer, stainless refrigerator, a gas range, television, microwave, and a wicker night stand, over the value of $1,000.

Martin Riley, on or about September 9th, 2009, stole a lawn mower, a six foot trailer, a generator over the value of $1,000, and a Troy Built riding lawn mower over the value of $500 belonging to Kelly Hollingsworth

Last September, Sheriff Patrick Ray said the Riley brothers were believed to have been responsible for several burglaries and thefts in DeKalb and other counties.

According to Sheriff Ray, the Riley brothers didn't just allegedly steal small things, they also allegedly took large expensive household appliances. "We've recovered all kinds of stainless steel refrigerators, stainless steel stoves, stainless steel freezers, radios, cd players, microwaves, toaster ovens, anything they could go into a house and get."

Sheriff Ray says the Riley's favorite targets were lake homes although they allegedly burglarized other residences as well "They would make entry into the houses, mostly lake homes, where people are not there everyday, push all these appliances up next to the door or on the front porch, and then they would go, get a vehicle, come back and load it all up, and sell it right then."

A couple of the break-ins, for which the Rileys are believed to have been responsible, were on Shady Drive and Ponder Road. "On September 9th, detectives investigated a break-in at a residence on Shady Drive where someone had stolen a lawn mower, a six foot trailer, and a generator. Another was on Ponder Road where they had broken into a cabin and stolen refrigerators and other appliances."

Sheriff Ray says the Rileys also allegedly burglarized homes in the City of Smithville. "There have also been some cases in the City of Smithville with which we were able to help the Smithville Police Department. They (Rileys) took some of the same things they were taking out in the county such as lawn mowers. In one case they took lots of health and beauty aids that an individual had bought by the boxes, things like shampoo and toothpaste, and they (Rileys) sold that to an individual."

The investigation also implicated the Rileys in a scheme to steal a bobcat. "There was a bobcat that was rented in Warren County. It was delivered here in the City of Smithville. These two individuals were involved with that. Martin Riley went up there (McMinnville) and gave the people at the rental center some fake information and when they brought the bobcat down here he and his brother Tim loaded the bobcat on a trailer and sold it to a man in Indiana."

After stealing the goods, Sheriff Ray says the Rileys then tried to sell them as quickly as possible. "We believe they went around the county, asking people if they wanted to buy a lawnmower or refrigerator or whatever, but the people who bought the items didn't realize they were stolen. At one of the places where they sold some of the items, the guy (buyer) had a vehicle tag that was laying over on the ground, which was still in date. They (Rileys) took the tag, stole it from him, and put it on their vehicle."

According to Sheriff Ray the Rileys didn't just peddle the stolen goods locally. " In one case, they took a lawnmower from one of the break-ins and sold it to a guy on the street in Nashville."
He says in some cases, the Riley's were so anxious to make a sale that it aroused the suspicion of the buyers. " At two places in the county where they had made a sale, the people noticed something strange about the refrigerators because they were still cold. Some of them actually had ice still in the ice box."

City to have Blighted Building Demolished

April 6, 2010
Dwayne Page
City to have Blighted Building Demolished
City to assist with Sidewalk Project at downtown Park

An old building downtown will soon be coming down.

The Smithville Aldermen Monday night voted to take advantage of a Neighborhood Stabilization Program through the Tennessee Housing Development Agency which provides funds to cities and counties wanting to demolish blighted properties.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says the city owned building, located across the street from city hall on the north side, qualifies for the program."I was approached by the Upper Cumberland Development District. They have some THDA funds, which in turn is HUD money for blighted areas and blighted buildings. I was approached about our white building over here. I took the liberty to make sure it (building) wasn't on an Historical site and it's not. It (building) was probably erected sometime in the 1920's. The only thing we're using that for is (storing) a bunch of old stuff that probably needs to be thrown away anyway. We also have in there trash cans for the Jamboree and there's an impound lot over there (behind the building) for the seized vehicles. They will remove this building. I don't know if they'll pave it (property) but they will at least sow it down. The city cannot sell or lease it (property) for a period of time depending upon the (demolition) costs of the building. I'm assuming that the city would not want to sell it anyway. If we want to get rid of it (building) it's a good deal for the city"

Once the building is removed, the property may be used for any city purpose, but under terms of the program, the property cannot be sold or leased for private purposes for a period of time, otherwise the city would have to refund all or a portion of the funds used to demolish the building..

In other business, the aldermen awarded the hay contract at the airport to V & V Farms for $551 per year for two years. V&V Farms will cut hay off the city property at the airport.

In other business, the owners of a small park, located across the street from the post office behind city hall are planning to put in sidewalks there and want the city to pour the concrete. Once the development is complete, the family plans to donate the park to the city. William Kooienga, speaking on behalf of the park owners, addressed the city council Monday night to make the formal request of the mayor and aldermen. "I've volunteered my time to design and develop the park for the Evins sisters (daughters of the late Joe L. Evins) and I would like to note that the plan is to donate that land to the city as soon as we get it presentable in a way that nothing else has to be done to it. We're hoping to put a sidewalk in. We're proposing a sidewalk (on the property) across the street from the post office and on the side (property) across from the fire hall which currently do not have sidewalks. There is a sidewalk by Highway 56 and a sidewalk on this street (Don Cantrell Way). We'll put in the forms (for the sidewalks), do all the digging and soil moving if the city will just provide the concrete and pour it.'

The aldermen approved the request.

Vinca Indicted for Aggravated Sexual Battery of a Child

April 5, 2010
Dwayne Page
 James Vinca

A 42 year old Smithville man has been indicted on a charge of aggravated sexual battery.

James Aaron Vinca of East Main Street is accused of having sexual contact with a four year old child.
Vinca was charged with the offense on August 18th, 2009. The case went before the DeKalb County Grand Jury on Monday.
Sheriff Patrick Ray said at the time of Vinca's arrest that in mid July, 2009 Vinca was accused of having unlawful sexual contact with the child at his residence. The child is a member of his family.
Vinca was one of thirty two people who were indicted on various charges Monday. All are to appear in DeKalb County Criminal Court for arraignment next Monday, April 12th.

Others indicted and their charges are as follows:

Trinity J. Anderson- aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and vandalism under $500

Roy Douglas Atnip- theft under $500 & public intoxication

Berna Dean Barnes- possession of paraphernalia and driving under the influence

Jessica Barrett- theft over $1,000 and promoting the manufacture of methamphetamine

Dawn Beavers- theft over $10,000

Anthony W. Cantrell- driving under the influence

Virginia Carrier- aggravated burglary and theft over $1,000

Flint Wilson Gilley, II- driving under the influence (2 charges), possession of a schedule IV (3 charges), possession of a schedule III controlled substance, and speeding

Joe Ray Hall- driving under the influence

Silvia Hawkins- driving under the influence, possession of a schedule II controlled substance, violation of the financial responsibility law, failure to maintain proper lane of travel, and violation of the implied consent law

Karri Jewell- theft over $500

Amy J. Lawson- aggravated burglary & theft over $500

Justin Lohorn- vandalism over $1,000, theft under $500, driving on a suspended license, and vandalism under $500

Samuel McClure, Jr.- burglary and theft under $500 (2 counts)

Heather Perkins- tampering with evidence, possession of a schedule VI controlled substance for resale and possession of a schedule II and schedule IV controlled substance

Travis Rich- aggravated burglary, theft over $10,000, and vandalism over $10,000

Martin Riley &
Timothy Riley- aggravated burglary (2 charges), theft under $500, vandalism under $500, theft over $1,000

Martin Riley- aggravated burglary (2 charges) and theft over $1,000 (3 charges), theft over $500

Derrick Reeder- driving on a revoked license (5th offense)

Mark Robinson- possession of drug paraphernalia

Raymond Rollins- driving on suspended license

Daniel Sanchez- leaving the scene of an accident, driving with no drivers license, and failure to

Thomas Sims- aggravated burglary and theft over $1,000

Charles Wayne Smithson- driving under the influence (2 charges), resisting arrest, reckless driving, possession of a weapon while under the influence, violation of the open container law, and violation of the implied consent law

Steve Stanley- burglary, theft over $500 (2 charges)

Freddy Stringer, Jr.- driving on a revoked license (4th offense)

Melodie Stussee- tampering with evidence, possession of a schedule II controlled substance, assault, and resisting arrest

Eddie Lynn Taylor- driving under the influence (4th offense) and violation of the open container law

Travis Clint Tramel- driving under the influence, failing to maintain proper lane of travel, and violation of the implied consent law

James Vinca- aggravated sexual battery

Jimmy Walker- driving under the influence and violation of the implied consent law

Felicia Walz- driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license

Woman Arrested on Drug Charges during Traffic Stop

April 5, 2010
Dwayne Page
Lindsay Lee Stribling
Amanda Kate Covington
Mark Fish,Jr.
Shelia Curtis-

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department made a traffic stop on Thursday and arrested a woman on drug charges.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 27 year old Lindsay Lee Stribling of Felts Road Sparta was charged April 1st with possession of a schedule II drug (Methamphetamine) and possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bond was set at $5,000 and she will appear in court on April 22nd. Sheriff Ray says a deputy stopped a vehicle on Highway 70 East for weaving and asked the driver for consent to search. The officer noticed Stribling trying to tuck something in her waist line area. A female correctional officer conducted a search of Stribling's person and found a black bag that contained two small baggies of a white powdery substance believed to be Methamphetamine, a cut straw, and 4 hypodermic needles.

25 year old Amanda Kate Covington of Towles Avenue, McMinnville was arrested on Sunday, April 4th after deputies responded to a domestic violence call on Cripps Lane. After arrival, officers met Covington who was belligerent and throwing items from a vehicle that was at the residence. After being asked several times to calm down, Covington refused. She was placed under arrest for disorderly conduct. Found in Covington's purse were 4 white pills in a cellophane wrapper that are believed to be Xanax. Covington was charged with disorderly conduct and possession of a schedule IV drug Xanax. Her bond was set at $3,000 and she will appear in court on April 29th..

23 year old Mark Fish Jr. of Bell Street Smithville was arrested on Sunday, March 28th for leaving the scene of an accident. His bond was set at $2,500 and he will appear in court on April 22nd. Deputies were dispatched to an automobile accident on Capshaw Road. Sheriff Ray says Fish was allegedly in his vehicle chasing someone in another vehicle when the accident occurred. The victim stated that Fish passed and then hit their automobile and left the scene. Fish was later found and arrested.

47 year old Shelia Curtis of Richland Road, Murfreesboro was arrested on Tuesday, March 30th for theft of property under $500. On January 15th while Curtis was at the DeKalb County Jail trying to bond a friend out of Jail she stole a correctional officer's jacket, which was hanging on the back of an office chair in the front lobby. Curtis admitted to the theft. The jacket and belongings in the jacket were valued at $140. Bond for Curtis was set at $2,500.

Weekend Fire Causes Damage to Double Wide Mobile Home

April 5, 2010

A midnight fire caused some damage to the home of Wesley and Gail Becker at 138 Delong Road Saturday night/Sunday morning.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says passers-by saw heavy smoke coming from the double wide mobile home and alerted DeKalb 911 around midnight. Because there were two vehicles parked in the driveway, they feared people could be inside and attempted to enter the home to wake up occupants. Unable to enter because of heavy smoke and extreme heat, they used a garden hose to attempt to control the fire until firefighters arrived.

Shortly after arrival, firefighters were able to make entry and quickly extinguished the fire in a back bedroom. Firefighters performed a search of the residence and determined that no one was at home. This was confirmed after a family member informed the fire department that the couple was out of town. The couple's 5 year old child was staying with a family member during this time.

Firefighters were successful in containing the fire to the bedroom, but smoke and heat damaged the remainder of the home. Firefighters from the Keltonburg, Belk, Blue Springs, Short Mountain, Cookeville Highway, Midway, and Main Station responded to the scene and were assisted by the DeKalb County EMS and Sheriff's Department.

Rabies Vaccination Clinics Scheduled This Month

April 3, 2010
Dwayne Page

Spring and summer mean having fun in the sun and enjoying many outdoor activities. Keeping your family safe is also important. The Tennessee Department of Health reminds Tennesseans that preventing exposure of people and their pets to the rabies virus is a priority, especially during this time of year.

Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs and cats, as required by Tennessee law and local ordinances. Many county health departments offer vaccination clinics in the spring. Annual Rabies Vaccination Clinics will be held April 14th-17th. Inoculations will be administered by local veterinarians. A fee of $7.00 will be charged for each inoculation. Owners are urged to take their dogs (3 months of age or older) and cats (6 months of age or older) to one of the following clinics:

April 14th: 8:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.
Animal Clinic, Highway 70, Smithville
DeKalb Animal Clinic, West Broad Street, Smithville
Wheeler Veterinary Clinic, North Congress Boulevard, Smithville

April 15th & 16th: 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
Animal Clinic
DeKalb Animal Clinic
Wheeler Veterinary Clinic

April 17th: 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
Liberty Community Center
Alexandria Parking Lot
DeKalb Middle School Parking Lot

If you miss your local clinic, you may bring your dog or cat to any of the other clinics. Store purchased vaccines are not legally acceptable.

For more information contact an Environmental Health Specialist at the DeKalb County Health Department at 597-7599.

Humans can be exposed to rabies when attempting to assist, feed or handle wild animals. If a wild or domestic animal is seen as ill or acting strangely, it should be reported to your local animal control agency. Bats in particular should not be handled. If a bat is found inside, in a swimming pool, or brought home by your pets, use precautions and consult your local health department.

Rabies is a deadly virus transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. Rabies infection occurs primarily in wildlife in Tennessee, but it can be transmitted to any mammal, including humans and family pets. Bites are the most common means of transmission; contact with saliva from an infected animal can also be a concern.

Citizens can take the following actions to help prevent the spread of rabies:

Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come into contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.

Keep children away from any wild or dead animals. Educate them not to touch or attempt to pick up, feed or handle any wild or unfamiliar domestic animals, especially those that are or appear to be sick or injured.

Do not disturb bats. Instead, consult your local health department or animal control agency for assistance in dealing with potential exposure to bats.

For more information or assistance with a potential rabies exposure, call your local health department or the Tennessee Department of Health emergency line at 615-741-7247.

Smithville Police Make Arrest after Receiving Tip about Suspected Drug Activity

April 2, 2010
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police arrested a Warren County woman on Wednesday after receiving a tip about possible drug activity at a local ball park.

32 year old Amy Denise Ferrell of 4953 West Green Hill Road, McMinnville is charged with simple possession of a schedule II and IV controlled substance. Sergeant Randy King and Officer Matt Farmer were dispatched to the Joe L Evins Ball Park to investigate possible drug traffic there. Sergeant King spoke with Ferrell. He told Ferrell that he was responding to a call about possible drug traffic and asked if she had any illegal drugs with her. She replied that she did not. Ferrell was asked to exit her vehicle and to empty the pockets of her jeans onto the trunk lid of the vehicle. Ms. Ferrell complied. Officers asked if there were any drugs in the vehicle. She replied no and gave consent to search the automobile. On the passenger side front seat, a bottle of Equate brand Stay Awake pills were found. Inside the bottle were two Hydrocodone 7.5 mg tablets. Inside the center armrest was a cellophane bag that contained three Phentermine 30 mg capsules. Ferrell said she had received the Phentermine from a friend and that she did not know what the other pills were. Ferrell's bond is $3,000 and her court date is April 22nd.

43 year old Susan Marie Seber of 100 Village Square, Dowelltown was arrested on Friday, March 26th and charged with driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license. Sergeant Randy King was dispatched to West Broad Street to look for a vehicle that was reported to be driving erratically. After locating the car, a bluish gray Jaguar, Sergeant King followed it for about one mile during which time he observed the vehicle weaving left and right. The car traveled across the center line four times. Sergeant King activated his lights and sirens to signal the driver to pull over. The vehicle stopped on Atnip Street next to Sunshine Cleaners. Sergeant King approached the car. Constable Johnny King also arrived on the scene. Sergeant King requested from the driver and received a license, proof of insurance and bill of sale of the vehicle. Mrs. Seber, the driver, was asked if she was having any problems. She replied that she was tired. Seber submitted to a field sobriety check but performed poorly on each test. Police learned that Seber's license had been suspended for failure to pay child support. She was taken into custody. Her bond is set at $2500 and her court date is April 15th

31 year old Lonnie Russell McCloud of 848 Foster Road was arrested on Saturday, March 27th for simple possession. While assisting CPS at the residence, Officer Matt Farmer asked McCloud and Amber Brown, the residents of the home, if there was anything illegal in the house such as drugs or weapons. They replied "no" but told authorities that they could search if they wanted to. Police found two small bags containing a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana. Both McCloud and Brown said that it was marijuana. McCloud's court date is April 22nd.

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 Monday, March 29th, at approximately 4:18 p.m. Corporal Travis K Bryant met with Tyler Caldwell who informed him that around 3:45 p.m. he was at the car wash behind Paparoni's washing his truck. He then went to the pool hall. Caldwell later discovered that all his baseball equipment was missing from the back of his truck. Items missing are two catcher mitts, first basemen mitt, pair of cleats, black bag with paw print & the number 7 in the paw, pair of batting gloves and one black fielder's glove.

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

State Senator Mae Beavers Legislative Update

April 2, 2010
State Senator Mae Beavers

The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers

The State Senate continued to hear important legislation this week on top of trying to figure out ways to balance a budget which becomes more troublesome as the year progresses. In addition, April 1 was the filing deadline for those seeking state office, and Senator Beavers is proud to have filed her petition to run for re-election.

“I look forward to continuing to represent the citizens of the 17th District,” said Senator Beavers. “The people of this district know that I am a consistent conservative who continues to fight for individual freedoms and who combats government encroachment into our lives. It’s about time people in Washington and Nashville stop trying to appease the special interests and government bureaucracies and start listening to the people of this state and country, and I am honored to have been a legislator who holds my colleagues accountable and always votes my principles.”

Senate votes to let people ban income tax through Constitutional Amendment

The State Senate approved 25 to 7, a major resolution this week that would allow Tennesseans to vote on a constitutional amendment to clarify the state’s prohibition of an income tax and a payroll tax in Tennessee. The amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 763, which was co-sponsored by Senator Beavers, specifies that the legislature shall be prohibited from passing either an income tax or a payroll tax, which is a tax on employers that is measured by the wages they pay their workers.

A payroll tax has been proposed in recent years by elected officials in Shelby County and elsewhere as a way around an income tax. A state income tax proposal has repeatedly come before state lawmakers over the last several decades, including failure by only five votes in the House of Representatives in 2002. In January of this year, eight state lawmakers, seven of whom represent Shelby County, filed legislation, House Bill 3597, to implement a state income tax.

There have been three cases before the Tennessee Supreme Court throughout the state’s history that have upheld that the income tax is unconstitutional. The most recent case was decided in 1964 and this case has never been overturned. However, an attorney general opinion in 1999 opined that the tax is legal. The opinion has prompted elected officials in Tennessee to continue to propose both an income tax and a payroll tax in recent years.

In order for a constitutional amendment to pass, it must first be approved by a simple majority in both the House and the Senate this year. Then, it must be approved by a two-thirds vote in each chamber during the next General Assembly in 2011-2012. After that the amendment would be placed on the next gubernatorial ballot for ratification by the people in November 2014.

Issues In Brief:

Additional revenue shortfalls – The State Funding Board met this week to update their revenue estimates for both the current and next fiscal year's general fund. The Board estimates revenues will be at a -1.78 to -2.31 percent loss for the current budget year, and are projected to grow at 2.05 to 2.3 percent in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. The new estimates mean Tennessee will need to make up at least $75 million more to cover the estimated revenue shortfalls to the proposed 2010-2011 budget. Finance officials anticipate an additional $28 million shortfall will occur as a result of losses in the cigarette tax, bringing the total shortfall to over $100 million.

Abortion / Coercion – Legislation to educate women that coercion to have an abortion is a crime in Tennessee passed the full Senate by a vote of 29-2-1. The bill, Senate Bill 3812, would require a physician’s office, ambulatory surgical treatment center, or other clinics in which abortions other than to save the life of the mother are performed to post signs to provide women with this information about the state law and their option to receive help if they are being threatened. According to a survey published in the Medical Science Monitor, over 64 percent of women who received abortions said they felt pressured or coerced into having an abortion. The sign would be posted in the waiting areas and patient consultation rooms, and would not apply to clinics where an abortion is performed to prevent the death of a pregnant female.

Tennessee Health Freedom Act – The Tennessee Health Freedom Act, Senate Bill 3498, overcame a major hurdle this week with approval by the House Industrial Impact Committee. Senator Beavers who is the Senate sponsor of the bill, as well as Lt. Gov. Ramsey and the Senate Republican Caucus, held a press conference last week urging the state’s House of Representatives to pass the bill, which was approved by a vote of 26-1-5 in the Senate in February. The bill would prohibit the federal government from imposing fines or penalties on a person’s decision for deciding not to participate in the federal plan. It also calls on the state’s Attorney General to take action in the defense or prosecution of rights protected under this legislation.

Advocating for small business – The Senate Commerce Labor and Agriculture Committee has voted to create a small business advocate within the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury, utilizing existing personnel. Senate Bill 3484 calls for the advocate to mediate and assist with resolution of issues concerning small business owners and state departments and agencies. The bill also requires the small business advocate to prepare an annual report on their office’s activities, findings and recommendations to the governor, members of the General Assembly and the heads of the affected departments and agencies to make sure officials are notified about any problems or concerns.

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

April 2, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

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

Greetings, Fellow Folks of the Fortieth! My thanks go out to the 4-H groups, from all three of my counties, who spent the day with me this past week. I love it when our youth come to the Capitol.

Also, I am blessed to have such wonderful water resources in my district. I called for an informational meeting involving Dale Hollow Lake and all marina owners of Center Hill Lake. It was a positive proactive turnout with emphasis on keeping our water clean for generations to come. Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), the Corp of Engineers, and local officials joined us for lunch and discussion.

On another note, this week has been very busy here at the state capitol both for me and my fellow colleagues. I struck back at the Tennessee Democratic Party (TNDP) today after they made false allegations about a bill I am currently sponsoring in the Tennessee General Assembly. House Bill 3627 would encourage the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to take into account quality of life and economic impact when prioritizing road projects. The TNDP falsely accused me of jeopardizing federal funding by requiring the General Assembly to approve road projects.

It is clear to me that the Tennessee Democratic Party has no interest in the truth. This legislation would simply encourage TDOT to consider certain important factors when prioritizing road projects. There is no price tag on the bill, and the Tennessee Democratic Party would have realized this if they had actually read it.

The bill specifically encourages TDOT to prioritize projects with the following objectives in mind:
Ensuring the continued viability of and improving the quality of life in rural communities affected by any projects;

Promoting economic development and tourism in affected communities;
Improving public safety;

Improving the efficiency of transportation routes and

Coordinating the traffic flow between local communities to maximize opportunities for all of the state.

While the Tennessee Democratic Party plays deceitful politics, I have been working tirelessly with TDOT and the constituents in my community to make District 40 an even better place to live, work, and raise a family. It is disappointing that they are taking cheap political shots, but it will not deter my work for the people of Macon, Smith, and DeKalb Counties.

Also, this week the House Industrial Impact Subcommittee passed the ‘Tennessee Health Freedom Act’ this week, which is aimed at protecting the right of an individual to purchase—and the right of doctors to provide—lawful medical services without penalty. The bill would also require the state Attorney General to take the necessary steps to defend these rights.

House Bill 3433 was presented as a crowd lined the aisles and the hallway outside of the committee room in support of the bill. The measure is just one of many that Republicans hope will protect individuals from an increasingly heavy-handed federal government. Other states have passed similar legislation, and many are already in the process of filing a lawsuit against the federal government regarding the healthcare overhaul.

Concerned that expanding government programs are rarely effective solutions to efficient complex issues, we have argued that the federal government takeover of healthcare will only prove to balloon the cost of healthcare services to the states. Having passed the subcommittee, the bill will be presented to the full House Commerce Committee next Tuesday morning.

Another measure that achieved passage by the Industrial Impact Subcommittee Wednesday would put into Tennessee’s Constitution language that prohibits laws that would compel a person, employer, or healthcare provider to participate in any healthcare system. Similar to the bill in context, House Joint Resolution 745 has now cleared one hurdle, but faces Tennessee’s lengthy constitutional amendment approval process, which can take up to four years.

A constitutional amendment must be approved by one General Assembly by a majority, and a subsequent General Assembly by a two-thirds vote. Following its passage by the legislature, the amendment goes on the ballot in the next gubernatorial election, and must receive approval from a majority of those voting in the gubernatorial race.

The House Commerce Committee also approved two measures this week that Republicans hope will send Washington a message. House Bill 2681 would prohibit using tax dollars for abortions. The legislature’s Fiscal Review Office has said the bill does not put the state in jeopardy of losing any federal funds, and the sponsor impressed upon the committee the need to be proactive. Due to its passage out of Commerce this week, the bill could be scheduled for a floor vote as early as next week.

Finally, the House Commerce Committee also approved a resolution that expresses opposition to the government takeover of healthcare, and the creation of a public option healthcare plan. House Joint Resolution 704 will be heard in the House Calendar and Rules Committee which will schedule the resolution for a floor vote should it pass.

The United States Department of Education announced Monday that Tennessee has been chosen to receive millions of dollars from the federal government’s “Race to the Top” program. Only two of 16 finalists—Tennessee and Delaware—were ultimately selected. Tennessee hoped to receive $500 million, and early reports indicate the state stands to receive approximately that amount. The Tennessee General Assembly met for two weeks in early January for an Extraordinary Session to pass a bi-partisan, comprehensive education reform plan.

We stood together Monday and praised the efforts of everyone involved who had worked together toward true education reform. Tennessee presented their plan to a panel of independent evaluators in Washington, D.C., who reportedly were impressed by the strong accountability measures in Tennessee’s proposal.

The “Race to the Top” competition is designed to reward states that are leading the way in comprehensive, coherent, statewide education reform across four areas:
Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;

Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and informing teachers and principles how to improve instruction;

Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principles, especially where they are needed most; and

Turning around their lowest-performing schools.

The Transportation Committee approved the “English Only” legislation this week, which would require driver’s license exams to be given only in English. The Republican sponsor argued that House Bill 262 is needed so that drivers can read road signs and other critical information. Republicans also say drivers need to be able to communicate with police and other emergency personnel in case of an emergency.

In the same vein, the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee approved House Bill 270, which would require voter registration forms to carry a disclaimer that clarifies giving false information to register to vote carries a criminal penalty, and also requires that the applicant affirm that they are lawfully in the United States. The bill will now move the House Calendar and Rules Committee.

We also scored a majority victory on Wednesday, after passing House Bill 2685. The “Protecting English in the Workplace” proposal experienced no resistance on the House floor and passed by an overwhelming majority.

The legislation clarifies that employers can require that English be spoken on the job, but does allow for some exceptions such as lunch hours or other designated breaks. The bill would protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits that can emerge when private policies are set perfectly within their rights.

The Republican sponsor said requiring English is often a safety precaution. Businesses where employees are continuously handling toxic products or food containers have a need to require English. The sponsor also cited industrial businesses, where signs in English often display critical safety information.

For many years, all three bills have faced resistance by Democrat-controlled subcommittees, but due to a Republican majority in the House and Senate, the legislation has been successful thus far this year.

Tennessee celebrated ‘Tax Freedom Day’ on April 1st this year, which according to the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day answers the basic question, “What price is the nation paying for government?” Based on their calculations, Tennesseans worked for 91 days before they earned enough money to pay this year’s federal and state tax obligations. In addition, Tax Foundation reports that Americans will pay more taxes in 2010 than they will spend on food, clothing and shelter combined.

House Bill 3576 places restrictions on the amount of reimbursement legislators can receive for in-state flights. Currently, legislators have the option of flying or driving from their respective districts to Nashville to serve in the legislature. This legislation would limit the reimbursement to simply mileage or the cost of the airline ticket, whichever is less. The bill passed out of the House State Government Subcommittee and will next be heard in the full State and Local Government Committee.

House Bill 2885 will next be heard in the House Budget Subcommittee. A bill that would create a “small business advocate” within the state Comptroller’s office passed out of the House Commerce Committee this week.

House Bill 3301 passed on the House floor this week, and would enact the “Freedom from Coercion Act.” If a pregnant female is a minor, the attending physician or health care professional must inform the minor that no one can force her to have an abortion and the procedure cannot be done unless she provides her freely given, voluntary and informed consent. The legislation has already passed the Senate.

DeKalb Jobless Rate 11.2% in February

April 1, 2010
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for February was 11.2%, down slightly from 11.6% in January and down from 12% in February, 2009

The local labor force for February was 9,590. Employment was at 8,510 and a total of 1,080 were unemployed. Among the fourteen upper cumberland counties, Pickett County had the highest jobless rate at 18.8% followed by Van Buren County at 15%, Smith County, Clay, and White County at 14.2% each, Jackson 13.9%, Fentress 13.6%, Warren 13.4% Overton 13.2%, Cumberland 13%, Trousdale 12%, DeKalb 11.2%, Cannon 10.5%, and Putnam County 10.3%.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February 2010 was 10.7 percent, unchanged from the January rate of 10.7 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of February was 9.7 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for February 2010 show that the rate decreased in 78 counties, increased in 10 counties and remained the same in seven counties.

Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 8.0 percent, down from 8.3 percent in January. Marshall County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 19.1 percent, down from 20.2 in January, followed by Henderson County at 19.0 percent, down from 19.8 percent in January.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 8.4 percent, down from 8.5 percent in January. Davidson County was 9.3 percent, down from 9.5 in January. Hamilton County was at 9.7 percent, down from 9.9 in January, and Shelby County was 10.8 percent, down from 11.3 in January.


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