Monthly Archives: June 2010

New TN Laws Taking Effect Thursday, July 1

Below is a list of new state laws enacted by the Legislature that take effect on July 1, as compiled by the House clerk’s office. By a quick count, there are 137 on the list.
The first number is the Public Chapter number of the new law, the second is the House or Senate bill number under which it passed. There follows a description as appears in the official ‘caption.’ You can use the bill or public chapter numbers to get more information from the legislative website.

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Freeman Is New TRA Chair

TRA news release:
Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) Directors elected Director Mary Freeman to serve as Chairman of the Agency for the upcoming fiscal year. With this election, Director Freeman becomes the first African-American woman to serve as Chairman of the Agency whose mission is to promote the public interest by balancing the interest of utility consumers and providers.
Beginning July 1st, Director Freeman will serve as the TRA’s chief administrative officer, responsible for all administrative and fiscal operations of the Agency.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Tennessee as TRA Chairman for the next year. The role of the TRA is vitally important to consumers and the utilities we regulate”, said Freeman. “This agency prides itself on operating efficiently and orderly, and I will ensure that we continue to do so.”
Director Kenneth Hill, who seconded the motion to elect Freeman, stated “I believe Director Freeman has the skill, the intelligence, and the vitality to lead this agency. I know that Director Freeman is a strong advocate for consumer rights, and I believe that Tennesseans will benefit from her leadership.”
A joint appointment of Governor Phil Bredesen, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, and Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, Director Freeman, a Memphis native, began her term on July 1, 2008. She is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment and Committee on Consumer Affairs; Board of Directors for the Organization of PJM States, Inc. (OPSI); and a member of the Eastern Interconnection States’ Planning Council (EISPC). She also serves on the Executive Committee for United Ways of Tennessee and as Chairman of the state’s 2-1-1 Advisory Council.
The TRA has jurisdiction over privately-owned utilities including electric, telephone, water and wastewater, natural gas and methane gas. The TRA is also responsible for safety inspections of the state’s natural gas pipelines and several programs that assist Tennesseans through the Consumer Services Division, including the Telecommunications Devices Access Program (TDAP), the Lifeline and Link-up telephone assistance program, and the Tennessee Do Not Call program.
The mission of the TRA is to promote the public interest by balancing the interests of utility consumers and providers. For more information on the TRA, visit online at www.tn.gov/tra.

TBI: School Crimes Down in TN

TBI News release:Nashville, TN- The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today released its second study dedicated to crime in Tennessee’s schools. Produced by TBI’s Crime Statistics Unit, the study spans a three-year period between 2007 and 2009 and is based on numbers submitted by Tennessee law enforcement agencies to the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System (TIBRS). The state’s first ever school crimes study was released in May of 2009.
Excluded in the study are statistics from Tennessee’s college and university law enforcement agencies. Those statistics are compiled in TBI’s “Crime on Campus” report that was released earlier this year. During the timeframe of this study, there were 2.2% of the total statewide offenses submitted that occurred at a school. 2007 recorded the highest number of offenses at 13,989. Some incidents involve student offenders and student victims who are at a school activity and commit a crime. However, there are other instances where adult and/or juvenile victims and offenders happen to be at a school, but neither are there to participate in a school function. All are included in this study.
“School Crimes Study” Fact List
2.2% of total crime committed across the state, or approximately 13,000 incidents each year during the study, occurred at schools.
In 2009, there was a decrease of 2.3% of total crime reported at schools.
The most frequently reported offense was simple assault with 54% of offenders being male. The majority of victim/offender relationships was Acquaintance at approximately 50%.
The most frequently reported weapon type was Personal Weapons at 76%. Firearms account for nearly 3% of the weapons.
Most offenses were cleared by arrest at 88%.
Crime in schools is a concern for Tennesseans. It is important to understand the characteristics surrounding school crime and its offenders and victims. This understanding will help schools, policy makers, law enforcement and the public learn how to better combat crime in schools. To view the “School Crimes Study” in its entirety, go to the TBI website at www.tbi.tn.gov. Click on “Crime Statistics” from the homepage.

Lawsuit Filed Against State Indian Tribe Recognition

A lawsuit filed Wednesday contends the Tennessee Commission on Indian Affairs violated the state’s “open meetings law” in two ways in granting recognition to six Indian tribes earlier this month.
The lawsuit, filed in Davidson County Chancery Court by Nashville attorney Bob Tuke, asks that the state recognition granted on June 19 be declared “void and without effect.”
It lists Mark Greene as plaintiff in his capacity as a Tennessee citizen and lobbyist for the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation, a federally-recognized tribe that has adamantly opposed state recognition.
The lawsuit was filed on the last day that the Commission on Indian Affairs will legally exist and it was to officially “sunset” at midnight. State law requires that all state boards and commissions be periodically renewed by the Legislature.

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For the Record: I Do Not Endorse Joe Carr

As R. Neal initially pointed out today, state Rep. Joe Carr’s website has listed yours truly as giving him an endorsement.
Not so.
I called the Rutherford County Republican today and he immediately apologized for the mistake. Seems he has a new web designer who decided to do an ‘endorsements’ page and threw me into the mix, based on a 2009 column on ‘legislative superlatives.’ (Link to the column is HERE)
Carr was deemed Republican freshman of the year in the commentary piece. Here’s a cut-and-paste of what was said about him:
Freshman of the year, Republican – Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas displayed considerable determination and a dash of diplomacy in overcoming vocal, bipartisan opposition to legislation legalizing liquor distilleries around the state. Also, he overcame head-scratching and consternation, mostly from Democrats, in successfully sponsoring a bill outlawing “sanctuary cities” in Tennessee, a measure which does nothing except make a political statement by declaring cities must follow federal immigration laws. In other words, he could cover all the bases.
“That’s not at all an endorsement,” said Carr when contacted. “I understand that and it’s my fault. I didn’t even think about that when we put it under endorsements. I apologize.”
He said the website would be changed promptly.
Carr is one of the top Democratic targets in the coming fall campaigns that will decide partisan control of the state House. He faces a stiff re-election challenge from David LaRoche of Murfreesboro.

Policy Research ‘Pork’ Listing for 2010

The annual Tennessee Center for Policy Research “pork report” claims $260 million in wasteful spending by state and local governments in Tennessee in 2010.
Instances highlighted by the group in a news release include:
• $15 million for a swimming pool in Kingsport.
• $3.95 million in excess fees collected by state professional regulatory boards.
• $1.6 million to fund state-owned golf courses.
• $1.5 million to help smokers kick the habit.
• $450,481 for two statues in downtown Nashville.
Gov. Phil Bredesen’s Books From Birth Foundation and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library are also in the pork category, the report says.
The full report (pdf) is HERE.
Further, from WPLN Public Radio:
Justin Owen is the Tennessee Center for Policy Research’s acting executive director.
“The bulk of the state spending came from a very few programs. We looked at, obviously, the Pre-K program, as well as Tenn-Investco. So that alone counts for about…$163 million of it, there.”
TNInvestco is a tax-credit program for insurance companies that supporters consider a way of encouraging investment in small businesses. Most of the program’s details are kept out of the public record, which has lead to complaints.

See also the News Sentinel, which notes Knox County dog parks are porked by the report.

Bredesen: Veto of Immigration Bill Would Have Been ‘Throwing Gasoline on the Fire’

Gov. Phil Bredesen said Tuesday he signed a bill requiring local jailers to try and determine the immigration status of prisoners in part to keep the issue from “throwing gasoline on the fire” in this year’s political campaigns, reports Andy Sher.
While saying he doesn’t like how the bill is being used “symbolically,” Bredesen said its requirements are not unreasonable in light of similar local-federal partnerships already under way in the state’s four biggest counties.
“I guess you could do it (veto) as a symbolic act, but if you do so you’re just throwing it out, you’re throwing gasoline on the fire, and now there’ll be a whole bunch of political campaigns this fall about ‘we’re going to toughen up this kind of thing,'” Gov. Bredesen told reporters.
“In the end, I didn’t think what it did was unreasonable. Symbolically, I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was necessary.”
He said, however, that “there’s nothing in that bill that sheriffs can’t do today if they want to.

Capitol ‘Coon Closes Cafeteria, Evades Capture

The cafeteria at the Legislative Plaza has been closed for the week because of damage inflicted by a raccoon — dubbed “Rocky” by some staffers — that has hiding out in the state capitol’s legislative office area now for a couple of weeks.
Andy Sher reports that “stealth, cunning and daring often are considered prized attributes in the political world,” but when it comes to nighttime raids on the cafeteria kitchen and tearing up tiles in the ceilings. Even if the raccoon is the official Tennessee state wild animal, thanks to a legislative enactment years ago.
“Due to the damage done to the kitchen by Mr. Raccoon, the cafeteria will be closed the rest of the week,” said a sign posted Tuesday.
The sign features a cartoon rendition of a grinning, bushy, ring-tailed animal with the characteristic mask of black fur around its eyes.
Connie Ridley, director of legislative administration, said employees with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are trying to capture the raccoon. So far the efforts to capture with baited live traps have failed.
“We want to be able to relocate this animal,” Ms. Ridley said.
Ridley said the animal appears to have been attracted to the first floor of the underground facility’s parking garage, where cafeteria food dumpsters are located. From there, Rocky apparently moved into the plaza through a series of ceiling ducts, she said.
“It scratches and makes all kinds of racket,” said legislative secretary Sharon Peters, gesturing toward the ceiling in the office suite where she works. “This isn’t like a little mouse skittering across. This is like ‘whompf.'”

Haslam ‘Leadership Team’ Complete

From a Haslam news release:
KNOXVILLE – Darrell Freeman, Newt Raff and Jayne Creson, three active members in their respective communities, joined Knoxville Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam’s campaign, completing his statewide leadership team.
Freeman is an entrepreneur and former President of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. Raff is a banker and member of various boards including health care-related boards and the Regional Alliance for Economic Development. Creson is a former Shelby County Clerk and a long-time GOP leader in the area.
Creson, Freeman and Raff join Haslam’s leadership team with Honorary Chairman former Sen. Howard Baker and Honorary Co-Chairman U.S. Representative John J. Duncan. The team also includes former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff; current State House Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Beth Harwell, R-Nashville; longtime pro-life advocate Cyndi Bryant; businessman and education philanthropist Scott Niswonger and Hamilton County businessmen Scotty Probasco and Mike Walden.
Full release below.

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