NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state is seeking comment from the public on proposed rules regarding the use of the War Memorial Plaza across from the state Capitol.
The Department of General Services held a hearing on Monday to discuss the rules. The hearing follows the signing of a new law by Gov. Bill Haslam that aims to keep Occupy Nashville protesters from staying overnight on the plaza.
The law prohibits camping on state property that is not specifically designated for it.
Thad Watkins is general counsel for the General Services Department. He said all written and verbal comments will be reviewed before the rules are adopted. He said they will then be reviewed and approved by the state attorney general and sent to the secretary of state’s office where they will be on file for at least 90 days before taking effect.
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich will have a “town hall” meeting at the state Capitol complex in Nashville as part of a presidential campaign trip to Tennessee on Monday, according to the Gingrich Tennessee campaign.
From an email to supporters:
Speaker Newt is holding a public, Tennessee Town Hall on Monday, February 27th beginning at 3PM CST. He will personally be there and address those attending. The location is the Tennessee State Capitol Building, the East Side Grounds. A flyer is attached for your websites and mailings. This is a family friendly event, so kids are welcome. Home-schoolers … here’s a great chance to observe the political process up close and personal.
An evening fundraiser at a Franklin home had been previously announced. State Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, co-chairman of the Gingrich campaign in Tennessee, says the candidate will spend a good part of the day in Tennessee with more details on events to follow.
Occupy Nashville protesters are warning Gov. Bill Haslam, state lawmakers and the highway patrol that, if evicted from Legislative Plaza, their members will occupy the state Capitol, other public areas and even restrooms at the Haslam family-owned chain of travel centers.
More from Andy Sher:
In an “open letter,” the protest group denounces legislation they say is designed to oust protesters from the plaza, where members have camped since October. The bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland.
“If you pass this bill to evict Occupy Nashville and criminalize our un-housed friends, then you have chosen to escalate the conversation,” the letter states. “If you pass this bill, we will prevail in the courts and on the streets.”
Passing the bill, the letter states, will lead to protesters moving to occupy the state Capitol, other public property and foreclosed homes. Protesters also “will occupy the restrooms of all Pilot Travel Centers.”
The Pilot Flying J Travel Corp. chain is owned in part by Haslam and other Haslam family members. Haslam spokesman David Smith on Tuesday said he had no comment on the threatened action, which protesters say they will take if the legislation passes and Haslam signs it.
“We’re tracking the language of the bill, but we’re focused on the rule-making process,” Smith said of Haslam’s move to use emergency rules to prevent protesters from continuing to live in tents on the Legislative Plaza.
A Pilot Flying J spokeswoman had no immediate comment about the threat Occupy Nashville made about the prospect of protesters moving to the company’s travel centers.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has lit the Capitol Christmas tree in a ceremony moved inside because of rain.
He and his wife, Crissy, lit the 27-foot-tall Norway spruce Monday evening in the first such ceremony for the governor, who took office last January. The tree was donated by Ed Mascolo of Nashville.
The tree is decorated in red, silver and blue with Tennessee flags. It features an oversized tree topper bow, which was handmade in the state. There are more than 3,000 LED lights on the tree.
Two years ago, the state Christmas tree toppled over at one point during high winds.
A Kurdish group making a good will tour of the U.S. visited with officials at the state capitol in Nashville, reports WPLN.
Yusief Mati is a pastor of a Christian evangelical church in northern Iraq. He says the group is looking at American approaches to justice, education and political representation.
Mati says he’s helped start American-style schools in Kurdistan, and now the region is looking at setting up an American-style university.
Nashville is home to a sizeable Kurdish population, having been chosen as one of nine balloting sites for last year’s Iraqi elections.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A spokeswoman for the Nashville Electric Service says power outages to about 20 downtown buildings — including the state Capitol — are the result of a work crew accidentally cutting underground cables.
Laurie Parker told The Associated Press the accident occurred around 11:30 a.m. Thursday. It affects about a six-block radius, including state buildings the War Memorial, Tennessee Towers and Legislative Plaza.
Legislative staffers gathered in hallways with candles, flashlights and the illuminated screens of their mobile phones, after the outage. The staffers and all state employees in affected buildings were sent home for the day.
Parker said the damage was being repaired and power to most of the buildings was expected to be restored by about 4:30 p.m. Meanwhile, some buildings, like the Capitol, were running on backup generators.
News release from state Department of Safety
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons announced Tuesday that the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) had issued an arrest warrant for a suspect charged for vandalizing the Tennessee State Capitol Building last month.
The THP’s Criminal Investigation Division issued an arrest warrant for Barbara Ann Smith, 37, of Murfreesboro on one count of vandalism over $1,000 (a class D felony). Smith is currently being held in the Rutherford County Detention Center for unrelated vandalism charges filed by the Murfreesboro Police Department. Upon being released from Rutherford County custody, Smith will be transported to Davidson County to face the charge in the Capitol graffiti case.
“I am proud of the work our Criminal Investigation Division put into this case. Initially, there was not much information to go on, but they followed up several leads and, ultimately, solved the case,” said Commissioner Gibbons.
In the early morning hours of June 19, state troopers on duty at the State Capitol discovered graffiti spray painted on the exterior walls of the building. The graffiti included hand-drawn pentagrams and the words “RIP TONY AL” and “WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE” spray painted in black. Surveillance video showed a hooded suspect near the scene.
“The State Capitol is the people’s house, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Capitol Security Unit is committed to securing it. We have taken increased steps to help ensure the safety of the building and those who work and visit there,” Commissioner Gibbons added.
The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public. The department encompasses the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security and Driver License Services. General areas of responsibility include law enforcement, safety education, motorist services and terrorism prevention.
Two weekends in a row, vandals have attacked the historic state Capitol, notes Gail Kerr in a column.
The first time, they splatted it with margarine and eggs — were they planning on baking a cake? This past weekend, at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, a lone vandal was caught on three surveillance videos spray-painting the Capitol for about five minutes with odd graffiti messages like “RIP Tony Al” and “GET OUT.”
There were also anarchy symbols near the sidewalk entrance, and “Welcome to the Jungle” painted on another side of the building. Cleanup was set to be completed Tuesday night. What’s shocking is not just the vandalism — it’s the apparent lack of outrage by state officials.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol handles security for the building, and it is investigating. Gov. Bill Haslam’s spokesman said the investigation was “being handled by the appropriate authorities.”
Shoot, if I were the governor, I’d be standing on the Capitol’s front steps and hollering at the top of my lungs that we won’t stand for our home to be treated like this.