A bill already given unanimous approval in the state Senate gives teachers and other school personnel more authority to use in controlling unruly students with less fear of liability, reports Rick Locker.
The bill, scheduled for a House committee hearing Tuesday, requires local school boards to adopt policies authorizing teachers and others to temporarily relocate a student with “reasonable or justifiable force,” if required, or for the students to remain in place until law enforcement or school resource officers arrive.
Senate Bill 3116, sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, also requires principals to fully support teachers in taking action when it is done according to the policy. Gresham said she filed the bill after hearing from teachers concerned about liability or a lawsuit if they try to remove a student during an altercation.
“Teachers should not have to fear they will be found personally liable for standing in a doorway to stop a physical altercation between two students. They should have full authority to remove a student to another location even if it involves the use of force,” Gresham said. “This bill would apply to acts committed on school property, as well as those at official school functions, including sporting events and approved field trips. In addition to teachers, it would apply to administrators, school support staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, school resource officers, and others working in the school who interact with students.”
(Note: This is a column written for the Knoxville Business Journal, also appearling HERE.)Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Gov. Bill Haslam in his dealings with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, now that he has results from a ‘top-to-bottom review’ of the agency created as one of former Gov. Don Sundquist’s most-heralded accomplishments.
The TRA’s functions have been reduced considerably since 15 years ago, when it regulated the trucking industry and set rates for telephone customers. Those functions are gone.
But it still has significant duties, ranging from refereeing disputes within the telecommunications industry to oversight of sewer systems in subdivisions. And it still sets significant utility rates, an example being the privately-owned monopoly water company that serves Chattanooga.
Sundquist succeeded in his first legislative session abolishing what his office’s news releases always labeled ‘the scandal-plagued Public Service Commission,’ which in 1995 was headed by three Democrats elected by statewide popular vote. He got a couple of key Democrats — including now-Congressman Steve Cohen — to go along with the then-Republican minority to kill the PSC and replace it with the TRA.
Haslam, in his first legislative session this year, made two attempts to tinker with the TRA. Both fizzled.
Tennessee Regulatory Authority Chairman Eddie Roberson has announced his from the panel. This comes as Gov. Bill Haslam is engaged in a study on how to overhaul the agency that oversees many utilities in the state.
“Over this almost four decades, a sea of change has occurred in the field of utility regulation and I believe the TRA has navigated well through these changing times,” Roberson said in a letter of resignation to Haslam. The resignation is effective Oct 1.
Roberson’s term had actually expired on July 1, but he had agreed to stay on for an indefinite period as the governor’s study of the agency continues.
Haslam has assigned his senior advisor, Mark Cate, and legal counsel, Herb Slatery, to research the TRA with an eye toward revisions. They have interviewed all directors and some staff of the agency and are expected to draft legislation for next year’s legislative session.
Haslam’s administration introduced a bill in the Legislature earlier this year that would have reduced the number of TRA directors from four to three while making other changes, but he abandoned attempts at passage. The governor also nominated Andre Fowlkes, owner of a Memphis business named Innpowerment, as a director of the TRA, then withdrew the nomination after Republican lawmakers objected.
In addition to Roberson, Director Mary Freeman is also serving on the current four-member panel though her official term ended on July 1. The other two directors are Sara Kyle of Memphis and Kenneth Hill of Blountville.
Under the present TRA system, the governor, the speaker of the House and the speaker of the Senate each appoint one director and the four director is chosen by consensus of all three.
Asked for comment recently on the review by Cate and Slatery, Haslam spokesman David Smith sent this statement by email:
“As part of our review of boards and commissions, we’re having conversations with a number of stakeholders to understand the roles and functions from the perspectives of those involved including board members, staff, executive directors and representatives from the industries that are regulated. The TRA review is part of this overall process.”
Roberson served on staff of the TRA and its predecessor agency, the Public Service Commission, prior to his selection as a director. The old PSC, which had three commissioners elected by statewide vote, was replaced by the appointed commission in 1995 at the urging of then-Gov. Don Sundquist.
The TRA’s role has been substantially reduced with deregulation of the telecommunications industry and other developments, but it still has some oversight functions in telecommunications and oversees such industries as natural gas companies and private water utilities.
Roberson’s resignation letter may be found HERE.
UNION CITY, Tenn. (AP) — Construction of a highly anticipated Mississippi River port project in northwest Tennessee is expected to start in a few weeks, an official said.
Jimmy Williamson, chairman of the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority, said the Port at Cates Landing in Lake County will immediately create 234 jobs when construction begins. The deep-water port is expected to create 1,700 jobs in all, with business revenue of $354 million, he said.
Williamson and other northwest Tennessee officials are eager to see the project move forward after U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher said last week that a $13 million federal grant for the project had been approved. Gov. Bill Haslam says he has included $7 million in his state budget for the port.
The facility would be the deepest port on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Baton Rouge, La. It would include a 9,000-square foot harbor and cover 1,200 acres, including a 500-acre industrial park.
Construction is expected to take about 18 months, and four industrial prospects have already expressed interest in the port, the Union City Messenger reported.
Haslam and several area politicians spoke about the port project at the Obion County Library in Union City last Thursday. Haslam said the port makes sense because it will create jobs for the region and change the future for northwest Tennessee and the state.
Fincher told the Dyersburg State Gazette that job creation is important for the area, where unemployment is higher than the national average. The Republican first-term Congressman said he placed the project high on his priority list.
“Jobs are not Democrat or Republican, they are Tennessee,” said Fincher.
Williamson and others are expected to soon finish the contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration. Once that happens, jobs will then be offered for bids.
There was some concern that the federal funding would not come through. The Jackson Sun reported earlier this month that some northwest Tennessee officials feared that Congress would eliminate a $600 million Department of Transportation program that was the source of the Cates Landing grant.
Tennessee’s two U.S. Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, issued statements last week praising the grant.
“I’m particularly proud of the hard work done at the local, state and federal levels to secure these competitive grant funds,” Corker said. “At a time when everyone knows we need to do more with less and dramatically reduce spending in Washington, this effort is a good use of existing resources.”