Local News Articles

DeKalb County Jobless Rate Inches Up to 5.2% In January

March 8, 2008
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for January was 5.2%, up from 5% in December and 4.9% in January, 2007.

DeKalb County's Labor Force in January was 10,330. A total of 9,790 were employed and 540 were unemployed.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January 2008 was released last week at 4.9 percent, 0.1 percent lower than the revised December 2007 rate of 5.0 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of January was also 4.9 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for January 2008, show that 89 counties increased. The rate decreased in four counties and remained the same in two counties. County unemployment rates are not be seasonally adjusted and therefore reflect seasonal expansions and layoffs that occur during the year. The state and U.S. unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted to eliminate normal seasonal fluctuations and to indicate a more accurate measurement of actual economic change.

Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 3.5 percent, the same as the December 2007 rate. Pickett County had the state's highest at 10.7 percent, up from 9.5 in December, followed by Perry County at 10.2 percent, up from 9.0 in December.
Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate at 3.8 percent, up from 3.7 in December. Davidson County was 4.2 percent, up from 4.1 in December. Hamilton County was at 4.6 percent, up from 4.3 in December, and Shelby County was 5.6 percent, up from the December rate of 5.4.

Andrew Cooper Wins Tennessean Regional Spelling Bee

March 7, 2008
Dwayne Page

Andrew Chaffin Cooper, a fourth grader at Northside Elementary School, won the Tennessean Regional Spelling Bee Friday at the Massey Performing Arts Center at Belmont University in Nashville.

Cooper correctly spelled the word "kielbasa" to claim the championship.

He is the son of Dr. Steven and Martha Cooper of Smithville.

Both Cooper and Ashli Chew represented DeKalb County in the Regional Spelling Bee. Students from thirty nine other counties also participated.

Chew, another fourth grader at Northside Elementary, was winner of the 5th Annual DeKalb County Spelling Bee held last month at the high school. Cooper was the runner-up.

Chew is the daughter of Lori and Kelvin Page of Smithville and George and Janna Chew of Murfreesboro.

As the winner of the Regional Spelling Bee, Cooper received a one hundred dollar savings bond, a Webster's Third New International Dictionary, and a first place trophy. Andrew will compete in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. May 25th through May 31st with all expenses paid by the Tennessean Newspaper.

State Takes Action Against Man and Related Businesses Who Provided Unlicensed Legal Services to Hispanic Immigrants Here

March 7, 2008

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper, acting on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs, has filed a civil law enforcement action against Elmer Virula for allegedly providing legal services without a license to members of the Hispanic immigrant community in Smithville and Davidson County.

The Attorney General has filed suit against Elmer Virula, TPS Tax Professional Services, Inc., and Office Professional Services, Inc. in Davidson County Circuit Court. The defendants are charged with the unauthorized practice of law for allegedly providing services from their
offices located on South Mountain Street in Smithville, Billingsgate Road in Antioch, and Nolensville Pike and Thompson Lane in Nashville. The State's lawsuit alleges the defendants falsely told consumers that Elmer Virula is an attorney and certified public accountant in the State of Tennessee.

The complaint also alleges the defendants misled consumers, claiming they could provide legal services such as immigration document preparation, marriage licenses and other government certificates, which were falsified.

State officials said if you paid Elmer Virula, TPS Tax Professional Services, Inc., or Office Professional Services, Inc. for services, please contact the Tennessee Attorney General's Office at (615) 741-1671 or toll free within Tennessee at 1-877-275-7396. The State is still trying to
determine how many consumers may have paid Virula and the related businesses
for services he allegedly did not provide.

Senate Judiciary Approves Sen. Beavers’ Bill to Automatically Revoke Driving Privileges of Drunk Drivers

March 7, 2008

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation, sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) that would allow law enforcement officers to immediately confiscate the licenses of drunk drivers upon arrest. Called Automatic License Revocation, or ALR, this program would be the administrative process by which the Department of Safety suspends the driver licenses of individuals who are arrested for the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“The number of victims at the hands of drunk drivers in Tennessee is unacceptable,” said Beavers. “One problem is that about one-third of all drivers arrested for DUI each year are repeat DUI offenders. The National Transportation Safety Board research shows ALR is a major factor proven to reduce DUI offenses among convicted drunk drivers, therefore reducing recidivism and many unnecessary alcohol-related car crashes. This bill will go a long way to help reduce the number of drunk drivers on our roads.”

Specifically, an individual could be suspended under the bill for a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) greater than allowed by law, which is .08 for drivers 21 years of age or older; .02 percent for those under the age of 21; and .04 percent for a person operating a commercial vehicle. The bill would also apply to those who refuse to take the BAC test. In addition, the legislation would allow for an issuance of an interim permit, valid for up to 90 days after the date of issuance or until the Department or Safety revokes a driver’s driving privileges, whichever comes first.

“A state that does not have a law that requires on-the-spot license suspension of a drunk driver’s license is simply not doing all that it can to combat the tragedies drunk driving," Beavers added. “It deters drunk driving by addressing dangerous behavior outside trial delays and plea bargains that can often plague criminal DUI prosecutions."

In 2006, there were 1,287 fatalities on Tennessee roads with 509 due to alcohol-related crashes. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among persons between the ages of 3 and 33, with 50 percent of those being alcohol-related.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 9-0 vote. The bill must be heard and passed by the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee before heading to the Senate Floor for a vote.

Court of Criminal Appeals Orders Amended Judgment in Carter Case

March 7, 2008
Dwayne Page

Unless there is a further appeal, it appears a jail sentence imposed against Gary Carter will have to be reduced from 9 months to no more than 7.2 months based on an opinion by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Middle Division.

Criminal Court Judge Leon Burns, Jr., in September 2006, sentenced Carter to two years to be served in split confinement with nine months incarceration followed by four years probation, after Carter entered a guilty plea to one count of statutory rape, involving a female, who was seventeen years old and only a few months shy of turning eighteen when the incident allegedly occurred.

Carter has remained free on bond since filing the appeal over a year ago. His name is also listed on the Tennessee Sexual Offender Registry.

In the appeal, the attorney for Carter, Hilton Conger, asked that Carter be granted probation, and not be made to serve nine months in jail.

In a February decision, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that "the judgement of the trial court is affirmed as to the denial of judicial diversion and full probation." However, the court further ruled that "the trial court erred in the imposition of nine months of incarceration."

According to the court, "The period of time ordered to be served in split confinement cannot exceed the defendant's release eligibility date. The release eligibility date for a Range I standard offender receiving a two year sentence is 7.2 months less certain sentence credits. The record clearly establishes that the defendant was sentenced to nine months, this sentence breached state law and the defendant's liberty would be restrained longer than permitted by law, the issue was not waived, and consideration of the error is necessary to do substantial justice. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment to the extent that the defendant was ordered to serve nine months of incarceration and remand this matter to the trial court to enter an amended judgment setting the defendant's split confinement sentence at 7.2 months. All other portions of the judgment are affirmed."

Conger, in his written argument filed with the higher court, said the trial court erred in denying Carter probation, especially since Carter had no previous criminal record. Conger wrote, " Despite the overwhelming evidence in the record that the appellant (Carter) was a favorable candidate for alternative sentencing, the trial court ambiguously ignored the presumption and failed to articulate in the record its reason or reasons for doing so."

Conger also claimed that the trial court "abused its discretion when it summarily denied the appellant's application for Judicial Diversion without specific consideration, on the record, of the relevant factors required under Tennessee Law. Even if sufficient evidence exists to support the denial of Judicial Diversion, the trial court must state its reasons for its denial of Judicial Diversion. It is clear from the record that the trial court failed to weigh all of the factors necessary prior to making its determination that the appellant's application for Judicial Diversion would be denied."

According to Conger, "requiring the appellant to serve nine months would require a complete disregard for the laws and statutes of the State of Tennessee and would cause the appellant and his family to suffer without his income to support them. The appellant has learned a humiliating, humbling and frightening lesson in life which has taken it's toll on him emotionally and physically. The comments of the Assistant District Attorney and of the trial court, on the record, support the appellant's contention that he will return to the exemplary life that he enjoyed prior to the date in question. The chances that the appellant will engage in future criminal conduct are extremely remote. Additionally, the appellant has expressed sincere remorse for his actions, and has taken full responsibility."

Sosa Pleads Guilty to Abuse of a Corpse

March 4, 2008
Dwayne Page

Lillian Elezabeth Sosa will be released from jail on Monday.

The 18 year old woman who gave birth to a stillborn child on October 26th at the El Rancho Restaurant on West Broad Street where she worked, pleaded guilty by information to "abuse of a corpse" Tuesday in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Judge David Patterson sentenced Sosa to two years, all suspended to time served. She was given credit for the 130 days she has been in custody from October 26th, 2007 to March 4th, 2008. She will be released on Department of Corrections probation Monday, March 10th.

Sosa was represented by April Craven, Assistant Public Defender, and Ben Day served as the court interpreter for Sosa, who speaks little or no English.

Sosa was initially charged with second degree murder in the death of her child, but the charge was dropped after an autopsy revealed that the infant was stillborn. Instead, Sosa was charged with abuse of a corpse, which is a class E felony.

According to Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings, Sosa apparently locked herself in the ladies restroom of the restaurant and gave birth to the child on Friday night, October 26th. She then came out of the restroom, told her boss that she needed to leave because she was sick, and called for someone to give her a ride home. Sosa's aunt reportedly came to the restaurant and picked her up.

Jennings says the child was discovered around 9:20 p.m. by a waitress, Karla Leon, who went into the ladies rest room to clean up, as staff were preparing to close the restaurant for the night.
Leon then reported her discovery to the manager and they called 911. Customers had already left the restaurant when she discovered the body.

Agents Billy Miller and Dan Friel of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were notified and joined the Smithville Police Department in the investigation later that night, and after interviewing employees, decided they needed to talk to Sosa.

After discovering where she lived, Sheriff Patrick Ray went to the address on Talley Road and picked her up around 4:00 a.m. Saturday. She was brought to the Smithville Police Department, where she was interviewed by the TBI agents.

During the questioning of Sosa through an interpreter, agents determined she was a likely suspect in the case and took her to DeKalb Community Hospital for an examination. The emergency room doctor found that she had recently given birth and suggested that she undergo emergency surgery, because she had suffered some potentially life threatening complications during the delivery.

Sosa was then transported to the Cookeville Hospital early Saturday morning, October 27th. She came through the surgery fine and was released on Monday, October 29th after which she was taken into custody.

The infant, a male, fully developed child, weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces, and was 19 inches long. Chief Jennings says it appears the mother carried the child about eight months.

EMS personnel initially thought the baby was alive but Bill Locke, Assistant District Attorney General, says the autopsy concluded that the child was dead at the time of birth.

Meanwhile, in other cases, 44 year old Denise Juareqi pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and will be on supervised probation for six months. She must perform 25 hours of community service work. She was given credit for time served since December 28th, 2007.

36 year old Tina Young pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and received a three year sentence, to serve 30 days and then be on Department of Corrections Probation. She must perform 100 hours of community service work.

24 year old Johnny Devault pleaded guilty by information to reckless driving and simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on the drug charge, suspended to time served and six months probation. He must pay a fine of $250. He was given jail credit from December 12th, 2007 to March 4th, 2008. Devault received a six months suspended sentence on the reckless driving charge.

25 year old Elizabeth Chalfant pleaded guilty to theft and received a two year sentence, all suspended. She must make restitution to the victim in the amount of $1,956 and perform 100 hours of community service work. She was given jail credit from July 19th to August 24th, 2007 and from January 2nd to March 4th, 2008. She also pleaded guilty to sale of a schedule II controlled substance and received a three year sentence, all suspended to six months to serve. She was fined $2,000 and must make restitution of $50 to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department. As part of her sentence, Chalfant will be on probation and or must successfully complete in-house treatment at a facility. Chalfant pleaded guilty to driving on a suspended license and received six months to serve. She also pleaded guilty to casual exchange and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to six months to serve. Chalfant's sentences will run concurrently, except for the theft case, which will run consecutively with the others.

34 year old Larry L. George pleaded guilty to escape, aggravated burglary, theft over $1,000, evading, and driving on a suspended license. All the cases run concurrently except the escape conviction, which runs consecutively with the others. George received a total sentence of six years to serve one year and then be on probation for five years. He will be on supervised probation by the Department of Corrections, must make restitution to the victim, perform 100 hours of community service work, and pay a $50 fine. He was given jail credit of 131 days.

37 year old Amiee D. Jobe pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and received a 30 day suspended sentence and four months of good behavior probation.

41 year old Lisa Kylene Frazier pleaded guilty to forgery and aggravated burglary. She received a two year sentence on the forgery charge and four years on the burglary offense. The cases are to run concurrently with each other and with cases against her in Macon and Sumner Counties. She must make restitution of $550 to the victims here. Frazier was given jail credit of 231 days.

52 year old Larry Lepley pleaded guilty to attempting to violate the sex offender registry. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to probation. He must perform 50 hours of community service work which can be waived if he is unable to complete it due to a disability.

35 year old Bill Bailey Swaner III pleaded guilty to theft and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days to serve 30 days. The case is to run consecutive to a Warren County case against him. Swaner must perform 25 hours of community service work on PSI probation. He is also restrained from going into the Walmart store. Swaner was given jail credit for January 20th through March 4th.

21 year old Kara L. Funk, charged with possession of a schedule II, III, and VI controlled substance for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia, was granted judicial diversion for three years. She will be on supervised Department of Corrections Probation and must perform 100 hours of community service work, and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow the prescribed treatments.

33 year old Charlotte Marie Hill pleaded guilty to theft under $500 and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days. She will be on PSI supervised probation and must perform 25 hours of community service work. She must also stay away from Walmart. Hill was given jail credit of 16 days.

City Attorney Advises Against Making Significant Changes In Golf Course Lease

March 3, 2008
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen Monday night left unresolved two issues they will soon have to face, setting a pay scale for the police investigator position, and the status of the golf course lease with tenant Jimmy Lewis.

On the golf course issue, Lewis has a lease with the city to operate the golf course and swimming pool through 2017 at $2500 per month. Faced with the possibility that Lewis might want to give up the lease, Mayor Taft Hendrixson, at a workshop last week, proposed that Lewis' lease be amended.

Under Mayor Hendrixson's proposal, Lewis would continue operating the golf course through the year 2017, but he would be relieved of his responsibility for operating the swimming pool. Hendrixson proposed cutting Lewis' rent in half from $2,500 per month to $1,250 per month, but Lewis would be responsible for all upkeep and maintenance of the golf course. Mayor Hendrixson further proposed that the swimming pool operation and maintenance be funded from the city's recreation budget.

However City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr., on Monday night, said these proposed changes are so significant that the lease, in his opinion, cannot be amended. "I've looked over the lease agreement that you have with Jimmy Lewis that was entered into on March 22nd, 2006. Although it does have a provision for modifications, I don't think it's contemplated that we would make a major deviation from the current contract. Currently, Mr. Lewis is supposed to be paying $2,500 per month and there was discussion about reducing that in half and then also the (city) taking over the swimming pool which Mr. Lewis currently has to manage. My feeling is that because this is such a major deviation from the contract, the city would probably have to re-let that contract if they were going to do that and if Mr. Lewis opts to say he is going to terminate his agreement with the city then I think the city has no option other than re-letting and let others vie for that contract. You're talking about a significant deviation from the contract. This contract goes through 2017 and there is no provision to have that big a deviation so I feel like that it would be ill advised for the city to deviate and make those major changes since other people may want to vie for that contract."

Alderman Tonya Sullivan asked Parsley about the section in the lease referring to "‘modifications" and what that might cover. Parsley said it was his opinion that minor changes could be made subject to a written agreement signed by the parties but nothing major. " Here we're not only talking about losing income, we're also talking about taking on a new liability of managing the swimming pool which entails hiring personnel and paying all their salaries, workers comp, and whatever is necessary."

Parsley further advised the aldermen to be careful about modifying it's contracts. "For example, we had a hay contract (awarded) last time (last meeting). Somebody might come back next time and say ‘I don't like my agreement and I want to cut it in half'. Are we going to start modifying all our contracts for people who are really not having good luck with their contracts. I don't think the city wants to get in that posture."

Mayor Hendrixson said "I was proposing something to try to keep the golf course viable. Jimmy has done a good job with the golf course and maybe the city could take over (pool operation) and have some recreation, a cheaper rate or something at the swimming pool for the children. But I certainly don't want to go against our legal advice and I'm not going to."

Alderman Sullivan made a motion that the mayor and aldermen have another workshop with Lewis to discuss the issue further. The motion carried 5 to 0. The workshop will be held following the 6:00 p.m. planning commission meeting Thursday night at city hall.

Also during that workshop Thursday night, the mayor and aldermen will try to agree on a pay scale for the police investigator position.

When the aldermen hired Jerry Hutchins', Jr as police investigator in January, they did not specifically address his rate of pay, apparently unaware that the city budget currently does not provide a pay scale for the position of "investigator".

Two weeks ago, the board voted 5 to 0 to start Hutchins at a sergeant's rate of pay, $11.89 per hour and increase it to $13.13 per hour after sixty days. Once the pay scale is set, Hutchins may earn more than sergeants pay.

On Monday night, City Attorney Parsley said he had done some research on what the city has paid other officers in the past who have performed similar duties based on their experience. "The last investigator we had was officer Bill Elliott. It's my understanding, he started as a patrolman in probably March, 2006. At some point along the way, about May 14th, 2007, he was appointed to investigator and received a pay rate at that time of $12.28 per hour. Thereafter, he received, by virtue of the budget, an increase in pay to $12.62. He received a pay raise on July 17th, just seven days later, to $13.76."

"The next investigator after him (Elliott) was officer Steve Deffendoll who began his work here as a patrolman. He started out as a patrolman at $11.13, then he went to $12.30 at sergeant's pay in June, 2006. In July, 2006, he went to $13.39 by virtue of the raise they got through the budget process. The following year, on April 20th, he went to $15.20 at Lieutenant's pay, then on July 10th, he received another raise up to $15.95 and that was the pay rate he had according to the records here when he left the service of the city."

"Prior to that, You had officer Chris Russell, who also started as patrolman. I don't know exactly when he was appointed as investigator, but when he left his service here in July, 2006 he was making $14.60. I don't know if that was comparable to sergeant's pay, or whatever. There was no notation."

"Prior to him was Don Wilson. He started out in November, 2000 at $8.81 and after he completed his probationary period, he was making $9.85 in March, 2001 and he left employment with the city sometime thereafter."

"Charles Dennis is the last one I could find and he was making $9.85 by the time he left."

Alderman Sullivan made a motion that the workshop be held to resolve the pay dispute. The motion was approved on a 5-0 vote. Again, the workshop will be held following the 6:00 p.m. planning commission meeting Thursday night at city hall.

Three Charged In Recent Copper Theft Investigations

March 3, 2008
Dwayne Page

Recent copper theft investigations by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department have resulted in three arrests.

23 year old Edward Lee Judkins Jr. and 26 year old Marie Biddle, both of Fisher Avenue, Smithville, were charged on February 26th with theft of property over $1,000.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says both Judkins and Biddle were charged as the result of an investigation into the theft of copper guttering down spouts from a residence in the Hillcrest area in DeKalb County. Judkins, employed by a tree service business, was doing some work at a residence and spotted the copper at the victim's home next door. He allegedly stole the down spouts and sold them. Detectives were able to locate the copper which was sold to Ivy Bluff Scrap Metal in Morrison. Bond for both Judkins and Biddle was set at $10,000 and their court date is March 13th.

Meanwhile, Judkins and 27 year old Rickey Lynn Martin of Judkins Lane Smithville were charged on February 27th with theft of property under $500. Sheriff Ray says Judkins and Martin were visiting friends on Colvert Lake Road in Smithville when they took 100 feet of copper wire from the residence. The copper wire was also sold to Ivy Bluff Scrap Metal in Morrison. Bond for both Judkins and Martin was set at $2,500 and their court date is March 13th.

21 year old Zack Ross Hendrixson of West Main Street, Hickman was charged on February 26th with leaving the scene of an accident and driving on a suspended driver's license. Sheriff Ray says Hendrixson was the driver of a 1999 GMC pickup truck which left the roadway on Highway 56 north near the Briarwood subdivision. According to Sheriff Ray, Hendrixson did leave the scene and was arrested later. He also admitted to being the driver of the vehicle. Bond was set at $4,000 and his court date is March 12th.

51 year old Steve Franklin Mabe Sr. of Hall Road Alexandria was arrested on February 27th on two counts of possession of a schedule drug for resale, simple possession, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Sheriff Ray says Mabe was stopped on Nashville Highway around the Snow Hill area for a traffic violation. Upon consent to search, Detectives found an unmarked pill bottle containing six 10 milligram Hydrocodone pills, ten 10 milligram valiums, marijuana, and rolling papers in Mabe's shirt pocket. Detectives also seized a 1988 Ford Escort and $1,252 in cash from Mabe. His bond was set at $90,000 and his court date is March 13th.

47 year old Donna Harry and 56 year old Charles Harry of Miller Road, Christiana, Tennessee were arrested on February 29th after detectives stopped them for erratic driving on Nashville Highway in Liberty. Sheriff Ray says Donna Harry was charged with a second offense of driving under the influence after detectives administered field sobriety tasks on her which she failed. Harry and her husband ,Charles, were also arrested for possession of a schedule VI drug (marijuana) for resale after detectives found over an ounce of marijuana in their vehicle. The Harry's 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo was also seized. Bond for Donna Harry was set at $13,000 and Charles Harry's bond was set at $10,000. The court date for both was set for March 20th.

20 year old Gustavo Torres of Blue Springs Road, Smithville was charged on March 2nd with DUI 2nd offense after county deputies found him passed out and behind the wheel of his vehicle on Ferrell Road. Sheriff Ray says Torres had run his vehicle off in the ditch. Bond was set at $3,000 and his court date is March 20th.

Also on March 2nd, Deputies responded to a call on Cookeville Highway of a man standing in the middle of the road. When Deputies arrived, they found 37 year old Bobby Marsh of Dedham Street, Rockville Tennessee standing in the roadway. Deputies noticed a strong smell of alcohol on Marsh's person and he was unsteady on his feet. Marsh was charged with public intoxication and bond was set at $1,000. He will appear in court on March 20th.

Senator Beavers says Commerce Committee Debates Legislation to cut Down Auto Theft

March 3, 2008

The Senate Commerce Committee debated legislation last week aimed at reducing auto theft in Tennessee. The bill would require scrap metal processors who purchase vehicles with the intention of dismantling or salvaging them to provide proof of ownership.

“This bill will make it much harder for thieves to fence stolen cars” said Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), a member of the committee. “It simply requires those who scrap cars to get identification and a title from the seller, and to keep a record of the transaction for later review.”

Under the bill as amended by the Committee, any scrap metal dealer purchasing a motor vehicle less than five years old must be given a title by the seller. Any vehicle bought over five years old which does not contain the motor or is inoperable, would not require a title but must have a written statement signed by the seller or their agent stating they have a lawful right to sell and dispose of the vehicle. The title must be accompanied by a photo copy of the seller’s driver’s license. It also requires records on those transactions be kept for five years, including the name and address of the buyer and the amount they paid for the vehicle, date of sale, description of the auto, VIN number, and the license plate number of any vehicle transporting the automobile.

If the seller does not have the identification prescribed in the bill, the sale could not be completed. Those found guilty of violation of the proposed law would be subject to a class A misdemeanor. Any vehicle used to transport a vehicle sold in violation of the act could also be subject to confiscation under the legislation.

“Hopefully, this legislation will serve as a deterrent when thieves realize that they cannot steal and strip a car, and then sell the body to be crushed before law enforcement can trace their steps,” Beavers concluded.

Debate on the bill will continue in the committee next week.

SJR 127 giving citizens a say in protections for abortions rejected in House Subcommittee

The House Public Health Subcommittee rejected legislation overwhelmingly approved by the State Senate earlier this year that would have given Tennesseans the opportunity to restore their voice in determining what state law should be regarding commonsense protections for abortions. The resolution failed by a vote of 6 to 3, despite strong support among members of both the House and Senate.

The measure has repeatedly failed in the House Subcommittee where rules allow for legislation to be killed there by a handful of legislators. Senate rules provide that subcommittees may only make recommendations to the full committee regarding passage of a bill, but legislation cannot be rejected there.

“I am very disappointed that this resolution was rejected in the House,” said Beavers, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Every bill deserves a fair hearing in committee, especially when it is such an important issue and you have the support needed for passage by the full body.”

The resolution addresses a State Supreme Court decision in 2000 that struck down provisions in Tennessee law allowing women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and to wait 48 hours before they receive an abortion. The court also ruled against a state requirement that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital. That ruling made Tennessee more liberal than the courts required in “Roe v. Wade” and made the right to abortion a “fundamental right” in Tennessee.

Rejection by the House Subcommittee means the next opportunity for the measure to be placed on the ballot would be the year 2014.

Senate votes to change spring sales tax holiday to April 25 - 27

The full Senate gave final approval to legislation this week to move the state’s spring sales tax holiday to the last weekend in April so that it will not interfere with businesses that close for Easter. The holiday, which was designed to provide relief to taxpayers by instituting a temporary sales tax exemption on certain items, was scheduled by law for the weekend of March 21 – 23. Those dates coincide with both Good Friday and Easter this year.

Senate Republicans were instrumental in the passage of several tax reform initiatives during the past legislative session. This includes the August and spring sales tax holidays, a half cent reduction on the sales tax on food, and implementation of property tax relief for senior citizens and disabled veterans.

“I am pleased the Senate has approved this legislation,” said Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), a key supporter of the sales tax holiday. “This will give more citizens an opportunity to take advantage of the sales tax holiday in Tennessee since many businesses in our district close for Easter.”

Issues in Brief

Hargett confirmed as TRA Director – The full Senate voted 30 to 0 this week to confirm Former House Republican Leader Tre Hargett as Director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) nominated Hargett to serve on the body, which sets the rates and service standards of privately owned telephone, natural gas, electric, and water utilities. The Senate also confirmed Eddie Roberson, Mary Freeman and Sara Kyle.

DUI / BAC Test -- State Senators have approved legislation that would eliminate the two-hour period in which a blood alcohol test must be administered to be used as evidence in court. The bill, sponsored by Senator Diane Black (R-Gallatin), would change current law which mandates that the blood alcohol content (BAC) test must be administered to a person within two hours following their arrest or initial detention. Some remote areas of the state have difficulty in securing the medical professionals needed to draw the blood for the test. This bill removes that requirement and leaves such decisions about admissibility after a longer period of time in the hands of the court.

Illegal Immigration / Terrorism -- The full Senate has approved two bills that would make it a Class B misdemeanor offense to create or use fake identification for the purpose of obtaining or maintaining employment. The legislation would make the production or use of each false identification document a separate offense under Tennessee law if it is determined that any person in connection with the violation is not legally present in the United States. It also requires the court to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “We must begin a comprehensive approach to attack illegal immigration in Tennessee,” said Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet). “This bill addresses a growing problem we have seen in our state with the production of fake identification for illegal aliens in the workplace.”

Hunting and fishing rights -- The State Senate heard on final reading a resolution on Thursday to amend the Tennessee Constitution by protecting the right to hunt and fish. The measure would be voted on in the same manner as the "Victim's Rights Amendment" in 1998, the “State Lottery Scholarship Amendment” of 2002, or the recent amendment to give property tax relief to the elderly. If approved by the legislature this year and by a two-thirds majority in the next General Assembly in 2009, citizens could expect to see the resolution on the ballot in November.

Toll roads / American-owned -- If Tennessee approves the use of toll roads in the state, they would have to be “American-owned” under legislation sponsored by Senator Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) and approved by the full Senate. The measure would emulate Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that require radio stations to be American-owned to prevent foreign interference in cases of national emergency. The bill requires that any contract, understanding, or agreement entered into for the operation of a tollway or toll facility be made with a U.S. citizen or with a business entity in which more than 50 percent of the equity is owned by U.S. citizens. All members of the State Senate were added as sponsors of the bill.

Animal Abuse Registry -- An Animal Abuse Registry would be set up under legislation approved by the full Senate this week. The bill creates an Internet registry, like the Sexual Offender Registry, that would identify people convicted in Tennessee of aggravated cruelty to animals. Under the bill, the county court clerks would send information to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation who would post it on the website.

Underage drinking – Two bills passed this week dealing with the issue of underage drinking. The first bill, sponsored by Senator Tim Burchett, and approved by the full Senate, would require birth dates to be printed in red and in larger print to make them more visible to clerks or servers who must check the information before selling or serving alcoholic beverages. The second bill, which was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee, would extend indefinitely the state’s beer carding requirement. That law requires clerks to look at picture identification for those buying beer in stores.

Election of Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State -- The full Senate heard on first reading Thursday a resolution to elect Tennessee’s lieutenant governor and secretary of state. The lieutenant governor is currently elected by the State Senate every two years, while the secretary of state is elected by House and Senate members in a joint session every four years. The proposal to change the state constitution would have to pass both chambers this year, and then again by a two-thirds vote in the next General Assembly before it could be voted on by Tennesseans in the 2010 election.

TBI – Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Mark Gwyn, who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, told lawmakers he expects the next drug epidemic in the state will be illegal use of pharmaceutical drugs. Gwyn said TBI agents are already seeing a proliferation of teen parties where pharmaceutical drugs are a pre-condition for entry into the event. Gwyn said the other growing crime in Tennessee is “cyber crime.”

Mayor Makes New Proposal for City Swimming Pool & Golf Course

February 27, 2008
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen Monday night may consider a proposal for the city to take over operation of the municipal swimming pool and cut the rent of the golf course tenant in half.

This proposal is being offered by Mayor Taft Hendrixson, who presented it during a brief informal workshop session with members of the council Wednesday afternoon at city hall. Aldermen Cecil Burger and Tonya Sullivan were in attendance along with City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. and Jimmy Lewis, golf course tenant.

Lewis has the golf course and swimming pool leased until 2017 at $2,500 per month, with a five year renewal option.

Sources say Lewis has been considering giving up the lease under certain conditions. Lewis has apparently not publicly confirmed that but if he did surrender it, the city would possibly have to re-bid the lease or take over operation of both the golf course and swimming pool and hire an operator to manage them.

Mayor Hendrixson says he doesn't believe the city should get in the golf course business, but the city could assume operation and maintenance of the swimming pool as a service to the people of the city, especially the youth, and possibly reduce the admission price to swim to around a dollar per person.

Under Mayor Hendrixson's proposal, Lewis' lease would be amended allowing him to continue operating the golf course through the year 2017, but Lewis would be relieved of his responsibility for operating the swimming pool. Hendrixson proposes to cut Lewis' rent in half from $2,500 per month to $1,250 per month, but Lewis would be responsible for all upkeep and maintenance of the golf course. Mayor Hendrixson was complimentary of Lewis, saying he has taken good care of the golf course.

Hendrixson proposes that the swimming pool operation and maintenance be funded in the city's recreation budget. Costs incurred to the city would include hiring someone to manage the pool, chemicals, utilities, etc.

Mayor Hendrixson says the city could possibly hire someone for the summer, maybe a college student for example, to manage the pool, keep chemicals up to date, be responsible for making sure life guards are on duty, and whatever else is needed.

The proposal is expected to be discussed during the city council meeting Monday night. WJLE plans LIVE coverage and LIVE audio streaming at www.wjle.com.


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