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

March 6, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

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

Greetings! Tennessee was named a “Race to the Top” finalist this week. We are one of the 15 states that will move forward in the process. Final winners will receive a boost in education funding from the federal government. Tennessee is considered a top tier candidate for the funds.

Tennessee submitted its application to compete for up to $501.8 million in funds back in January. The program currently has $4.3 billion allocated to reward states which are implementing significant reforms in four education areas: enhancing standards and assessments; improving the collection and use of data; increasing teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution; and turning around struggling schools.

House Bill 2685 moved out of the Employee Affairs Subcommittee, and will next face the House Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee. This bill clarifies that it is not illegal for businesses to require English be spoken on the job moved forward this week. The proposed law is designed to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits that emerge when private business policies are legitimately set.

This bill also serves as a safety precaution for workers. Businesses where employees continuously handle toxic products or food containers need to require English. Other businesses, such as most factories, have signs displayed in English that communicate critical safety information. The bill is designed to protect these business practices. To me it is a no brainer! You do not go to live in another country to be a citizen and then expect the citizens of that country to speak your language and not their own. Hopefully, more immigration bills will follow such as: requiring photo identification to vote or verifying citizenship before any benefits are distributed as my House Bill would require (House Bill 0841). We must continue to bring more immigration reform to Tennessee.

Representative Bill Dunn’s House Bill 2625, which passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this week, helps protect consumers from fraudulent contractors. This bill creates a criminal offense for a home contractor who defrauds a homeowner by not making substantial progress on a home improvement project within 90 days and then fails to refund money paid under a contract within 10 days of a written request. Consumers will be able to file complaints with the state’s Consumer Protection Division.

Violators will be punished based upon the value of the property or services and will be subject to punishment from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class B felony. Within 30 days of a conviction, the Board of Licensing Contractors will be required to revoke a contractor’s license and to post their name, license number, and violation on the state’s website for three years. This will serve as a resource for consumers to check when selecting a contractor. Furthermore, the legislation will prohibit a contractor from receiving a new license during the term of their imposed sentence.

In brief...
House Bill 3063 prohibits physicians on the sexual offender registry from treating children.
House Bill 2438 will be heard in Judiciary Committee next week. This bill adds aggravated rape of a child to the list of offenses for which a juvenile may be transferred from juvenile to adult court.

House Bill 2552 clarifies the law on the purchase of used or secondhand items purchased by local government. As the law is currently written, local governments could not purchase equipment that is more than 10 percent above or below market value. This bill will mean that there is no floor on how much a local government may pay or save.

House Bill 3495 specifies that when someone commits a homicide or assault against a pregnant woman, the woman's fetus, regardless of viability, is also considered a victim of the offense. The legislation passed out of the Public Health and Family Assistance Subcommittee and will next be heard by the House Health and Human Resources Committee.

In closing, this week my office was busy with fabulous folks from the Fortieth District: Air-E-Vac Life Teams, the Upper Cumberland Tennessee Electric Co-op, and Girl Scout Troop1623 who spent Monday night on the House Floor during session assisting fellow House member as pages. Anyone from the 40th district is welcome to call my office or come to visit. I am honored to serve you and remain faithful to our values.

Smithville Police Department Crime News

March 6, 2010
Dwayne Page

In Smithville Police Department crime news this week, 44 year old Terri Lynna Hooper of McMinnville was issued a citation by Officer Scott Davis for shoplifting and criminal trespassing at Wal-Mart on Thursday, February 25th. She will appear in court April 1st

47 year old Berna D Barnes of New Home Road was arrested for public intoxication on Tuesday, March 2nd. Corporal Travis Bryant was advised that an intoxicated female was walking out of the courthouse and going to get in her car and drive off. After arriving on the square, Corporal Bryant saw the woman walking to the driver's side of her car with the keys in hand. It was at that point, that Corporal Bryant stopped the woman, identified as Berna Barnes and noticed she had slurred speech and she was unsteady on her feet.. Barnes was arrested. Her bond is $1,000 and her court date is March 18th.

23 year old Brandi Nichole Hale of 114 Highland Drive was cited by Detective Jerry Hutchins on Wednesday, March 3rd with shoplifting and criminal trespasssing at Wal-Mart. Her court date is March 11th.

51 year old Robert Morris Turner of 446 West Main Street was arrested by Sergeant Randy King on Thursday, March 4th for aggravated rape. Bond is set at $75,000. His court date is March 18th..

32 year old Stephanie Toi Williams of 1315 Buckner Road, Monterey was arrested on Thursday, March 4th by Detective Jerry Hutchins for a failure to appear warrant in Putnam County. Ms. Williams is to be held without bond pending her court date.

Meanwhile anyone having any 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 1st Officer Matt Holmes took a report at the DeKalb County 911 Center where someone had vandalized a 1996 Jeep Cherokee. The damage appeared to have been caused by rocks striking the windshield.

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

Curtis Wins State Award

March 6, 2010
William Freddy Curtis

The Tennessee Council for the Social Studies has named Smithville resident and Cannon County High School Teacher, Mr. William Freddy Curtis, as one of the Tennessee Outstanding Social Studies Teachers of the Year for 2010. Mr. Curtis will be honored at a luncheon and recognition at the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies Conference on Friday, March 12, 2010 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Mr. Curtis was nominated by CCHS Principal Tim Knox and Assistant Principal Bonnie Patterson, which consisted of a detailed application. The application included: letters of support, a professional resume’, current teaching assignment, and a narrative describing the organization’s criteria requirements. The narrative demonstrated academic excellence, utilization of the National Council of Social Studies curriculum standards, inquiry based skill development, democratic beliefs and values, citizen and community participation by students, and evidence of professional involvement in education activities.

Curtis stated, “I am honored and truly humbled to be nominated for this prestigious award. My superiors and colleagues have encouraged me in this endeavor. I am truly “blessed” to be doing something that I deeply love to do – teaching students about US Government and Sociology!”

Mr. Curtis is a 24 year veteran of the Cannon County School System serving as a teacher and principal at West Side Elementary School from 1986 to 2008, and currently serving as US Government & Sociology Teacher at Cannon County High School. He is married to Trena Braswell Curtis, 2nd Grade Teacher at Smithville Elementary School, and has four sons – Matt, Trent, Casey, and Evan Curtis. They reside at 288 Dogwood Circle in Smithville, TN.

The Tennessee Council for the Social Studies is an association devoted to providing information, resources, and support for all those involved in social studies education. This includes K-12 teachers, supervisors of instruction, and college professors, in the various disciplines interested in and involved in the social studies.

DeKalb County Farmers Eligible for USDA Disaster Assistance

March 5, 2010
Dwayne Page
Congressman Bart Gordon

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a disaster designation for several Middle Tennessee counties in recognition of losses incurred by farmers due to the excessive rainfall in 2009. These declarations will allow farmers to apply for federal assistance and loans to help recover from losses related to heavy rainfall and flooding.

“This disaster designation will offer a boost to farmers whose crop yields took a hit from the heavy rainfall of the past year,” Gordon said. “Federal assistance will help many affected farmers begin to rebuild and prepare for the start of the next season.”

The USDA listed Putnam County as primary disaster area. It also designated several other counties as contiguous disaster counties, including DeKalb, Jackson, Marshall and Overton. Farm operators in affected counties will be eligible to apply for assistance from the Farm Service Agency, including emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program.

“Middle Tennessee depends on its strong farming community,” Gordon said. “This assistance will help not only farmers and their families, but also the local county economies.”

Farmers in DeKalb County are encouraged to contact the county’s Farm Service Agency office in Smithville for more information about the assistance they might be eligible for. The office’s phone number is (615) 597-8225.

Support Project Graduation by Bidding on Opportunity to have a Quilt Top Put Together for your Senior

March 5, 2010
Quilt Made for High School Senior

You can help Project Graduation and give your high school senior the gift of a lifetime.

If you have the winning bid, you can have a quilt top put together that represents your senior's life. Using old t-shirts or other items, you will have a gift your senior will have forever that truly belongs to him or her.

You provide all of the materials for the quilt and Bessie Jones, grandmother of Layne Mathis, will put it together. Then you have it quilted to give to your senior.

The minimum bid is $110

Contact Kelly Garrett at 215-4455 to place your bid. You have until March 12th at 5:00 p.m. to place your bid.

Project Graduation Radiothon Raises $5,300

March 5, 2010
Dwayne Page
DCHS Teacher Chris Vance Interviews Senior Caroline Carter during WJLE Radiothon
DCHS Teacher Chris Vance Interviews School Board member Kenny Rhody-
DCHS Teacher Chris Vance Interviews Senior Whitney Gann
Inga Johnson Takes a Pledge during WJLE Project Graduation Radiothon
DCHS Senior Layne Mathis Takes a Pledge during WJLE Project Graduation Radiothon
Senior Class President Amanda Ours (left) and Vice President Kendra Foutch
Parents Donna Mathis, Kelly Garrett, Melinda Willoughby, and Teacher Chris Vance Organize Project Graduation Radiothon

More than $5,300 was raised during a three hour radiothon Friday morning on WJLE for the DCHS Class of 2010 Project Graduation.

DCHS teacher Chris Vance hosted the program and parents of high school seniors who serve on the Project Graduation committee answered phones, taking pledges during the drive. Several seniors were also permitted to leave school long enough to make a brief appearance on the radiothon to talk about their school activities and future plans and to answer phones.

Parents and students wish to thank everyone who supported the radiothon.

Project Graduation is an all night drug-free, alcohol-free graduation party for members of the DCHS Class of 2010 committed to having a safe, wholesome, yet entertaining celebration together for the last time as a class.

Amanda Ours, Senior Class President, says she is pleased with the results. "I'm very proud of the radiothon. I think we did an awesome job. We didn't reach our goal but we still made an awesome profit. I'm really looking forward to project graduation. It's the last time the senior class will be together as a whole so it's very important to us and we're very glad that DeKalb County has offered their support."

Kendra Foutch, Class Vice President, says the support of the community is greatly appreciated. "It means a whole lot to us that so many have given to project graduation. It will keep all of the students who are graduating off of the streets. It will also keep us all together and have one last memory all together. Again, I want to thank everyone for supporting us today, pledging their donations, and helping us reach more than half of our goal."

Donna Mathis, one of the parents, also expressed her appreciation. "We really appreciate everyone chipping in to help our seniors. As one grandmother put it, she just wanted us to keep her baby safe. That's what our goal is, to make sure they have a safe place and a fun time while they're there."

Caroline Carter, secretary of the senior class, says the money will be put to good use. "It's our last time to get together as seniors as a class. Sometimes when seniors get excited, their judgment can be clouded by excitement and that can lead to reckless decisions but our Project Graduation is drug free and alcohol free."

" Each of our attending graduates, they're going to receive a graduation goody bag and each one of the bags has the exact same thing in it. In the bags, there will be gift cards, gas cards, gift cards from clothing stores, restaurants, etc. Last year we had 110 attend (Project Graduation). This year we have 172 graduating seniors so we hope to get that number (attendees) up a little bit."

"We'll have drawings including one for seniors who have attended Project Graduation meetings. However many times you have attended the meetings, that's how many times your name is put in the drawings."

"The seniors will gather right after the commencement the night of May 21st and we will stay there (at the high school) from 11:00 p.m. until a certain time the next morning. Our theme this year is Mardi Gras. We're going to design a tee shirt. The senior class will design it themselves and each attendee of Project Graduation will receive one."

"We've asked to get some activities such as blow up rock climbing, the blow up slides, karaoke, a LIVE band or LIVE dee jay. We'll probably have games like volley ball, basketball, and stuff that everyone likes."

"I hope we have a good turn out because this is our last time together."

President Extends Unemployment Insurance Deadline

March 4, 2010

An emergency act signed into law Tuesday night by President Obama will allow many of Tennessee's unemployed more time to receive unemployment benefits. The measure extends the eligibility period from February 28 to March 30 to transition into existing extended benefit programs. The new law; however, does not add additional weeks of benefits to any of the existing federal extensions of unemployment insurance.

Beyond the first 26 weeks of Tennessee Unemployment Compensation, a claimant must complete each tier of extended benefits before moving on to the next. There were five extensions of benefits, and the deadline to transition into any new tier expired at the end of February. If the deadline delay had not been approved, approximately 14,000 claimants would have only been able to complete their current tier of benefits. All Federal extensions, including Emergency Unemployment Compensation (Tier 1-4) and the state Extended Benefits Program are paid by the U.S. Department of Labor.

“This is very good news for a great number of claimants who were approaching the end of their benefit period,” said Labor Commissioner James Neeley. “These individuals should know they’ll continue to receive their weekly checks without a break, and they won’t have to apply for anything to continue receiving benefits. The bottom line is this gives Tennesseans more time to ramp up their job search.”

Claimants drawing unemployment will continue to certify to the Tennessee Department of Labor and will receive a letter when their benefits are transitioning from one tier to the next. Claimants exhausting their benefits before March 30 will automatically transition and will not need to contact the Tennessee Department of Labor to apply for new tiers of unemployment benefits.

In addition to extending the transition deadline for all tiers of benefits, the deadline to apply for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Federal Additional Compensation program (FAC) was also extended to March 30. This program adds $25 per week to all unemployment benefits. Beneficiaries who enroll prior to March 30 will continue to receive the FAC payments until October 9, 2010.

Grant for DeKalb County Fire Department Will Help Lower Local Homeowner Insurance Rates

March 3, 2010
Congressman Bart Gordon

Congressman Bart Gordon announced the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program will award $100,000 to the DeKalb County Fire Department for new firefighting equipment, which will help improve the county’s fire safety ratings and lower homeowner insurance premiums.

The grant totals $107,188 funded 95% ($101,829) in federal and 5% ($5,359) in local monies.

“Every day, countless lives are saved by the courageous efforts of Tennessee’s firefighters,” Gordon said. “Programs like the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program ensure our first responders have the equipment to work as quickly and safely as possible.”

The DeKalb County Fire Department will put the funds toward the purchase of new fire hose that will allow each truck to carry the required 1,000 feet of supply hose to improve the department’s ability to reach houses set far back from hydrants. The funding will also allow the department to purchase new nozzles, hand tools and an automatic hose washer to better maintain fire hoses.

The new package of equipment will help the county move toward lowering homeowner insurance premiums for DeKalb residents by improving its grade with the Insurance Services Office, which evaluates fire protection levels, according to County Fire Chief Donny Green.

“We’re very appreciative of Congressman Gordon’s help. He’s visited us at our department and come to our functions, and his support over the years has meant a lot,” Green said. “Without this funding, we wouldn’t be able to make these improvements and lower premiums for DeKalb County homeowners. With the economy being like it is, every little bit helps.”

Gordon has been a strong supporter of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, which has awarded more than 1,300 grants to Tennessee first responders since 2000, totaling more than $108 million. In November, Gordon, chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, helped to pass the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act, which strengthens the AFG program and makes it more accessible to stations and departments suffering economic hardship.

State Department of Health to Change Immunization Requirements for School Entry

March 3, 2010
Dwayne Page
Cindy Childers

The Tennessee Department of Health has changed and updated its immunization requirements for child care, pre-school, and school entry.

Cindy Childers, Assistant School Health Coordinator, says the effective date of most changes is July 2010. "For the first time in ten years the state has required different immunizations for children entering school plus the seventh grade. They're going to be on one form that is required by all schools by the state of Tennessee. The only place you can obtain that form is from your personal physician or the health department. We're not allowed to accept anything else but that specific form. Those forms will not be ordered or available to be ordered until April 1st and should be available at all health departments and our physicians offices by the first of July."

"During our registration for Pre-K and Kindergarten, we normally ask that parents bring those immunization records. This year, and for this year only, we are asking them not to bring them (records) then, and we will ask them to bring them (records)on the first day of school, because all of those forms should be obtainable by that time."

"The changes that we're seeing with the children are, the children in preschool and Pre-K, along with their ones that we already require, we are asking for an additional Hepatitis B, a Haemophilus type B or (Hib), which is actually for meningitis, and additional Pneumococcal, and an additional Hepatitis A. And those will be required for them to get into preschool, or any kind of daycare, basically. For Kindergarten, along with those that I have just mentioned, a new one that is going to have to be required is the second Varicella, which is actually the chicken pox shot. That, or you're going to have to show proof of somehow that your child has had an active case of chicken pox. Also, we're going to have to have another polio, and what's going to happen is, we're going to stretch the polio out. We used to have four doses by the time that they were three. Now, we would like that fourth dose on or after their fourth birthday if possible. And also, an additional Hepatitis A, that will bring them to two doses."

"Now, the big one is the seventh grade. Normally, children at the age of twelve are due another Tetanus shot, or (DTaP). That has not been required up until now. This year, it will be required in order to enter seventh grade. Also, along with that, you'll have to have verification of that second Varicella, which is the chicken pox shot. So that means that they will have two doses by the time they're in seventh grade. And actually, this will be their fifth Tetanus by the time they're in seventh grade. And both of those will be required upon entering seventh grade this year."

"As I've mentioned, kinda be patient with your physicians. I know that a lot of moms and dads get those physicals done early so that they don't have to wait until the last minute. Check with your health care provider, whether it be your personal physician or the health department. See when those forms are going to be available, and get those appointments that are going to be able to help you. Like I said, they're not going to be required at registration, but they will be required the first day that they come to school."

IRS Has $19.8 Million for Tennesseans Who Have Not Filed a 2006 Tax Return

March 3, 2010

Unclaimed refunds totaling nearly $19.8 million are awaiting more than 22,000 Tennesseans who did not file a federal income tax return for 2006, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. However, to collect the money, a return for 2006 must be filed with the IRS no later than Thursday, April 15, 2010.

The IRS estimates that the median unclaimed refund for tax year 2006 is $598 for Tennesseans.

Some people may not have filed because they had too little income to require filing a tax return even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly estimated payments. In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.

For 2006 returns, the window closes on April 15, 2010. The law requires that the return be properly addressed, mailed and postmarked by that date. There is no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund. Though back-year tax returns cannot be filed electronically, taxpayers can still speed up their refunds by choosing to have them deposited directly into a checking or savings account.

The IRS reminds taxpayers seeking a 2006 refund that their checks will be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2007 or 2008. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS and may be used to satisfy unpaid child support or past due federal debts such as student loans.

By failing to file a return, people stand to lose more than refunds of taxes withheld or paid during 2006. For example, most telephone customers, including most cell-phone users, qualify for the one-time telephone excise tax refund. Available only on the 2006 return, this special payment applies to long-distance excise taxes paid on phone service billed from March 2003 through July 2006. The government offers a standard refund amount of $30 to $60, or taxpayers can base their refund request on the actual amount of tax paid. For details, see the Telephone Excise Tax Refund page on IRS.gov.

In addition, many low-and-moderate income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds, which in 2006 were $38,348 for those with two or more children, $34,001 for people with one child and $14,120 for those with no children. For more information, visit the EITC Home Page.

Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of IRS.gov or by calling toll-free 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for 2006, 2007 or 2008 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer. If these efforts are unsuccessful, taxpayers can get a free transcript showing information from these year-end documents by calling 1-800-829-1040, or by filing Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, with the IRS.


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