Among celebration parties in Bartlett, Germantown and elsewhere, suburban school supporters sipped soft drinks and toasted their success Tuesday night after voters again approved the formation of municipal school districts, reports The Commercial Appeal. Back at the polls because a federal judge threw out last year’s vote approving the districts, voters turned out in smaller numbers in Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington but approved the districts by an overwhelming margin.
Approval numbers ranged from a high of 94 percent in Collierville to a low of almost 74 percent in Millington. About 20 percent of the 143,000 registered voters cast ballots with about half voting early.
“It’s higher than a typical special election,” said election administrator Richard Holden.
If the districts ultimately pass legal muster, Bartlett would be the largest suburban school district with 9,000-plus students in a dozen schools. Lakeland would be the smallest with roughly 2,500-plus students in one elementary school.
At Garibaldi’s Pizza in Germantown, supporters in YES shirts supporters smiled as they took pictures, cheered and applauded as precinct totals came in.
The “Addison Sharp Prescription Regulatory Act of 2013,” named after a Knoxville Catholic High School graduate who died of a prescription drug overdose, won final approval in the House and Senate in the windup of the legislative session.
Theh bill (SB676) makes multiple changes to state laws dealing with prescription drugs, including a mandate that no more than a 30-day supply of some frequently-abused drugs can be issued by a pharmacist at one time. It also requires the state health commissioner to develop a “standard of care” for dealing with commonly abused medications and requires all medical professions to have two hours of training every two ears on tho standards, once issued.
Jessica Akhrass, Addison Sharp’s sister, and Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch were among those actively pushing for passage at the Legislature. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, who described it as a good step forward toward curbing the growing abuse of prescription drugs.
Legislation putting restrictions on law enforcement use of drones was revised by House-Senate conference committee on the final day of the 2013 legislative session, then approved by both chambers and sent to Gov. Bill Haslam.
Differing versions of the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” (HB591) had been approved earlier by the House and Senate. The final version, approved late Friday, declares that drones can be used by law enforcement only when a search warrant has been obtained with four exceptions:
To “counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization” identified by the Department of Homeland Security.
When the law enforcement agency “possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent imminent danger to life.”
To “provide continuous aerial coverage when law enforcement is searching for a fugitive or escapee or is monitoring a hostage situation.”
To “provide more expansive aerial coverage when deployed for the purpose
of searching for a missing person.”
The House version earlier had contained a provision allowing use of drones “to protect life and property during crowd monitoring situations,” which proponents at the time said would cover crowds during University of Tennessee football games. That was deleted in the final version.
The bill’s sponsors were Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet. They said the final product strikes a balance between allowing use of drones where needed for a legitimate purpose and avoiding governmental intrusion.
Tennessee currently has no statute dealing with drones, which are expected to become more widely used in the near future. The bill does not address use of drones by individuals or corporations, but the sponsors said they may propose legislation on that topic next year.
At least a few teachers and other school personnel could take their guns to class under legislation approved Wednesday by the state Senate, but their identifies will be kept secret.
The bill touched off lengthy debate before being approved 27-6 with an amendment declaring that only the school principal, the school superintendent and local law enforcement authorities will know those authorized to carry weapons.
The House, which had approved the measure earlier, approved the Senate revisions on a 75-15 vote without debate. That sends the bill to Gov. Bill Haslam, who negotiated with legislators in drafting the overall bill.
“If I’m a parent, don’t I have a right to know if a teacher is carrying a gun or not?,” asked Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, in the Senate debate.
Sens. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, said keeping the names confidential would be a deterrent to anyone planning an attack.
“For a person who is intent on assaulting a school, one of the best pieces of information that person could have is who has a gun in that school,” said Green. “Secrecy protects the safety of students.”
The Senate Finance Committee has approved, 7-4, legislation that would authorize sale of wine in grocery stores.
The bill (SB837) was approved in a Wednesday evening meeting of the panel, which has been debating it for some time. On April 2, it failed on a 5-5-1 tie vote in the committee.
Those changing their position Wednesday from the first vote were Sen. Doug Henry, D-Nashville, who voted yes instead of no, and Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, who abstained the first time and voted yes on Wednesday.
The House companion bill failed earlier in committee, so the bill is dead for the year. Approval by the Senate committee, however, means that it will be poised for a vote on the Senate floor when legislators return for the 2014 session.
“We’ll wait and see what the House does in January,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, in a brief Senate floor speech.
— Note: A statement from proponents of the bill is below.
Sponsors say Tennessee will become the 18th state in the nation to require first-time drunken driving offenders to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle under legislation approved by both the House and Senate on Tuesday.
The bill first passed the House 95-0 under sponsorship of Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, then passed the Senate later in the day 31-0. It now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam, who is expected to sign it.
Under current law, only repeat DUI offenders or first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher can be required to install an interlock device. The bill (HB353) lowers the threshold to .08 blood alcohol content, the same level required to create a legal presumption of driving under the influence.
The devices require a driver to take a breath test for alcohol before starting a vehicle, which will not start if any alcohol is detected.
While required to have an interlock device installed, DUI offenders do not have to go through a year’s suspension of their license as the case under present law. Beavers said the effect is to allow them to be “getting their lives back together” while at the same time protecting the public by preventing drunken driving.
“With this bill, we know we can reduce the number of deaths on our highways,” said Beavers on the Senate floor with Shipley at her side.
Other states that have mandated interlock devices for first offenders have seen a 30 percent decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, Beavers said, and a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that those required to have an interlock device are 67 percent less likely to become a repeat offender.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House has approved Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill to change the way the state considers injured workers’ claims after defeating several attempts by Democrats to dial back the proposal.
The chamber voted 68-24 to approve the bill. The Senate would have to agree to minor changes before the measure can head for the governor’s signature.
Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, the House Democratic leader, argued that the bill would give governors too much power over the workers’ compensation program in the state because the executive branch would have complete power to select judges considering injured workers’ claims and appeals.
He also argued the maximum allowable compensation under the bill levels would fall below the average benefits under the current law. But his efforts to change the bill failed.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The mother of a Middle Tennessee State University freshman who died after contracting meningitis says she hopes legislation headed to the governor for his likely signature will prevent the deaths of other college students.
The measure would require incoming students at public higher education institutions to show proof they have gotten a meningitis shot. It passed the House 94-1 on Thursday and was unanimously approved by the Senate 30-0 earlier this month
“I know the bill is not going to bring my son back, but it will save someone’s life,” Shawna McIntosh said at a press conference after the bill passed the House. “I would suggest everyone get the vaccine.”
Jacob Nunley died last year less than 24 hours after contracting meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
Currently, MTSU and most other public colleges and universities in Tennessee only recommend getting the vaccination to prevent the contagious disease.
PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (AP) — Voters in Pigeon Forge have again approved liquor by the drink. This time, the margin was 154 votes.
The Mountain Press (http://bit.ly/ZtC0Uc ) reported Ken Maples, who led the pro-liquor initiative, said the election Thursday validated the choice voters initially made on Nov. 6.
Results of that referendum were thrown out by a court over confusion about who was allowed to vote. The question was on a crowded general election ballot, headed by the presidential race.
Jess Davis, who is co-chairman of Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge, said his group was disappointed in the outcome and might contest the results.
The Sevier County Election Commission meets March 21 to certify the vote.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The House on Thursday voted to send to the governor a contentious bill that would allow the state’s nearly 400,000 handgun carry permit holders to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked.
Before the vote, Speaker Beth Harwell assured Republican colleagues that the measure is endorsed by the National Rifle Association and that members of the business community are “holding their noses” about its passage.
The chamber voted 72-22 to pass the measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, after rejecting a series of Democratic proposals to maintain business owners’ rights to ban weapons on their property and to create exceptions for schools and colleges.
“We have just under 400,000 law abiding citizens who have gone through the necessary process to obtain a handgun carry permit and have proved their worth to carry a gun,” Faison said. “The least we can do is allow them to keep this gun locked in their car as they go to work and carry in their daily lives.”