A 13-month partial moratorium on property annexations by Tennessee towns and cities is now in effect after Gov. Bill Haslam signed the measure brought by two Hamilton County legislators, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “I very much appreciate the governor signing the bill in that it has the minimum restrictions on the cities and it does not restrict the growth of or development in commercial, industry and retail areas,” Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, the House sponsor, said Monday. “It only protects homes and farm property used primarily for agricultural process. It only protects ma and pa and ma and pa’s farm.”
Carter emphasized commercial, industry and retail property is “specifically exempted.”
But Margaret Mahery, executive director of the Tennessee Municipal League, said towns and cities remain nervous about the moratorium’s impact on cities’ business recruitment efforts.
“My main concern is economic development and opportunities that might come along this year [and the moratorium] prevent a city from helping” make that happen, Mahery said.
Noting that job creation is one of Haslam’s top issues, Mahery said, “There could be some damage done. Don’t know where it’s going to be, but the possibility lies there.”
Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor, “deferred [to legislators] on the legislation, and after reviewing the bill in its final form, he was comfortable with the language,” said David Smith, the governor’s spokesman.
City annexations across most of Tennessee would be stopped dead in their tracks for up to 27 months under bills scheduled for final consideration this week in the General Assembly, reports the Chattanooga TFP. The bills are a compromise from initial plans by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, to require voter consent before cities could annex territory.
After cities and their lobbyists objected fiercely to the original bill, the legislation now blocks annexations of unwilling property owners while a comprehensive study of Tennessee annexation laws is conducted by June 30, 2015.
The bill’s effects are back-dated to April 1 to block cities such as Collegedale, which in February began annexing dozens of properties in response to the original bill.
…Watson’s bill is up for consideration this afternoon on the Senate floor. He said he’s not sure whether he will move on it or wait to see what happens to Carter’s bill in the Calendar and Rules Committee, the last hurdle before hitting the House floor.
Carter, a freshman lawmaker, has been driving the legislation, adjusting it to accommodate legislative critics.
“Things look good,” said Carter, an attorney who was a top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s deputy.
“Things look good,” said Carter, an attorney who was a top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s deputy.
“I think we’re going to make it to the floor, and I think we’re going to win the vote on the floor,” he said, adding that little differences in the House and Senate bills would need ironing out.
Carter’s amended bill includes the moratorium but only for residential and farm properties, not commercial properties. The study would be conducted by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
The bill has its origins in Chattanooga’s recent annexation efforts. Carter said he and Ramsey managed to stop three annexations by Mayor Ron Littlefield, but seven others went through.
All were within Chattanooga’s urban growth boundary created under a 1998 state law aimed at providing for orderly growth rather than simply revenue-snatching land grabs.
Stunned lobbyists for Tennessee cities are trying to regroup after Rep. Mike Carter’s bill upending the state’s 15-year-old urban growth boundary law barreled through the House Local Government Committee on Tuesday despite their concerns,reports Andy Sher. The freshman Ooltewah Republican says he brought the bill affecting annexation (HB231) because of Chattanooga officials’ previous efforts to amend its growth plan in order to, in Carter’s words, “cherry pick” affluent suburbs. But he says the problems extend well beyond Chattanooga, and so does his bill.
Calling it the “Ryan’s buffet rule” after the all-you-can-eat restaurant chain, Carter says the bill requires cities to “clean” their “plates” by annexing everything in their current urban growth plans before seeking to amend them.
Another bill provision requires cities to meet their requirements to provide services to all previously annexed areas before amending the plans. Because the bill affects every town and city in the state, that brought officials from the Tennessee Municipal League, which represents them, running to the full committee after the measure passed subcommittee last week.
“This is not limited to Chattanooga,” TML Deputy Director Chad Jenkins told committee members. “It’s not limited to Hamilton County. It’s not limited to big cities. It’s every city in the state.”
Jenkins warned of “unintended consequences if this bill is passed” with impacts far beyond Hamilton County.
He also said the 1998 law, which requires cities to create urban growth plans as a solution to urban sprawl, worked in Chattanooga’s case because other cities and Hamilton County easily blocked the city’s effort on the local coordinating committee comprised of local mayors.
Jenkins also warned Carter’s bill would block cities from annexing property held by property owners who wish to come into the city for various reasons. He cited as an example a farmer who wants to increase the value of his land by obtaining services like water and sewage to entice developers.
Smuggling or possessing tobacco and tattoo-making equipment at a state prison or local jail would be a crime under legislation introduced by two Hamilton County lawmakers, reports the Chattanooga TFP. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, (HB1165) updates and adds to the list of items deemed contraband under state law. The legislation applies not only to prisoners but everyone coming into the facility.
Carter said Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, a member of the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association’s legislative committee, brought the bill to the lawmakers.
An attorney and former judge, Carter said he can see the need for the legislation and is happy to sponsor it.
“Cigarettes are the currency for corruption in jails,” said Carter, also a one-time top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey.
Hammond said current law needs updating to cover emerging problems.
“We stopped smoking a long time ago,” Hammond said. Prisoners are prohibited from using tobacco products in prisons and jails. “But you still get it as contraband. This will not only assist us in dealing with the prisoners but in the event — and I’m not saying it has happened anytime lately — we had an officer who was slipping it into the jail.”
Hammond said the “biggest issue for us lately is the tattoo stuff, homemade tattoo equipment where you sit around and tattoo everybody from A to Z.”
ERWIN, Tenn. (AP) — The Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office has a better way of getting around in rugged terrain because of a military surplus donation.
Sheriff Mike Hensley told The Johnson City Press (http://bit.ly/TGB4ew ) the department now has two humvees that can be used to get to remote locations.
The department already had some four-wheel-drive SUVs, but they don’t have the off-road capabilities of the military vehicles.
“We use them on patrol, and we don’t want them to be torn up if we can keep from it, Hensley said of the standard sport utility vehicles. “They’re not designed to go into disaster areas like (the humvees) are.”
Hensley said his department recently picked up the vehicles in South Carolina at no cost to the county. Nearby Washington and Carter counties previously used the military surplus program to obtain vehicles. In fact, it was Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal who suggested Hensley look into the surplus program. Six weeks from when he applied, the vehicles were ready.
“It’s a good asset for the county,” Hensley said of the military’s surplus program. “That means we don’t have to buy it and we can use it. It is a good program.”
The four-wheel-drive Humvees have high ground clearance and will be used for off-road travel and also on snow-covered roads.
Hensley said maintenance records will be kept and the humvees must be kept by the department for a specified time, but then could be sold if no longer needed and the funds would go to the county. The sheriff said his department is checking what other surplus equipment is available.
“Since the war is winding down in Afghanistan, there’s more equipment coming in, and anything we can use here we’re going to try to get,” Hensley said.
In a radio ad, state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney is declaring the party’s backing for Elizabethton attorney Thomas Gray, who is opposing re-election of former House Speaker Kent Williams, the only independent member of the Tennessee Legislature.
Devaney earlier this year wrote election officials to declare Williams is not a “bona fide Republican” after the 4th House District incumbent picked up qualifying papers to run as a Republican. Williams was initially elected as a Republican, but joined with Democrats in 2009 to elect himself to a two-year term as House speaker and was subsequently booted from the GOP by former Republican Chairman Robin Smith.
The 30-second radio ad, sponsored by the Republican Party, is scheduled to run on two stations in the area, according to Adam Nickas, executive director of the state GOP. It doesn’t mention Williams.
“The election this November is the most important in our nation’s history,” says Devaney in the ad. “In Tennessee, we have a true conservative Republican running for state representative, and his name is Tom Gray.
“For the record, Tom Gray is the only Republican on the ballot in Carter County’s District 4. We need someone who can effectively work in Nashville to create more jobs for East Tennessee. Vote Republican. Vote Tom Gray this November.”
Williams, first elected in 2006, is rated a “probable” winner in the contest by the Tennessee Journal and enjoys a substantial financial advantage.
Gary has reported spending of about $5,700 so far in the campaign and had a cash balance of $3,304 on Oct. 1. He has guaranteed a $5,000 bank loan to the campaign and got $1,400 from Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough.
Williams’ reports show spending of more than $36,000 this year and an Oct. 1 cash balance of $47,242.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed three new attorneys to the Special Supreme Court to hear a case from which all five Tennessee Supreme Court justices have recused themselves.
The new special appointees join two previous appointees to make up a group of highly qualified and diverse legal minds representing the three grand divisions of the state. The governor’s new appointees are:
J. Robert Carter, Jr. is a criminal court judge in Shelby County, elected Judge of Division III in August 2010 after serving as an assistant district attorney general for 26 years before his election. Carter graduated magna cum laude from Christian Brothers College with bachelor’s degrees in English and Humanities. He received his J.D. from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphries School of Law.
James R. Dedrick retired in 2010 from the U.S. Attorney’s Office where he had served since 1993 as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. He began his career with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1983 and was a federal prosecutor for drug, corruption, white collar, tax and other felony investigations and trials. He received his Bachelor of Science degree with honors from East Tennessee State University and graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law with honors.
Monica N. Wharton serves as the chief legal counsel for the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, overseeing the risk management and legal affairs department since 2008. Wharton previously worked at the law firm, Glankler Brown PLLC, practicing in the circuit, chancery and federal court systems. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, graduating with honors, and she earned her J.D. from William & Mary School of Law.
Carter, Dedrick and Wharton join Andrée Sophia Blumstein and W. Morris Kizer on the Special Supreme Court. Blumstein and Kizer were originally appointed in July with three other appointees who recused themselves in late August. The Special Supreme Court will decide any appeal of Hooker et al. v. Haslam et al., a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Court of Criminal Appeals appointment by the governor.
News release from he governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Robert Carter as the District Attorney General to the 17th Judicial District, which includes Lincoln, Bedford, Marshall and Moore counties.
Carter will replace current 17th Judicial District Attorney General Charles Crawford, who is resigning effective July 31.
“Robert represents the full picture of what we were looking for as the new district attorney general, and I appreciate his willingness to serve the citizens of the 17th District,” Haslam said.
Raised in Lincoln County, Carter has been an assistant district attorney since 2010, working in the child support division and, most recently, as the state DUI grant prosecutor. In the child support division, he established, prosecuted, enforced, reviewed and, when appropriate, modified all child support matters for the district.
As the DUI prosecutor for the district, he prosecutes in all courts and has responsibility for all criminal charges associated with each DUI defendant.
News release from state comptroller’s office:
The former bookkeeper of Valley Forge Elementary School in Carter County misappropriated more than $8,000 from the school, an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Municipal Audit has revealed.
Investigators found that between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, Tabitha Street, the former school bookkeeper, misappropriated at least $8,542 in various collections from the school and manipulated school records to conceal the thefts.
Street employed what is commonly known as a check-swapping scheme in which certain checks payable to the school were intentionally not recorded into the school’s computer accounting system. Later, Street removed amounts of cash from school deposits and used the unrecorded checks to replace the cash she had taken.
Additionally, investigators found that Street failed to record and deposit at least $2,317 in cash collections specifically related to the school’s 2009 gourmet fundraiser and spring 2010 candy sale fundraiser.
The information uncovered during the audit was referred to the local district attorney general’s office and Street was indicted last month on one count of theft over $1,000 and one count of official misconduct.
The audit, which was released today, also found the school lacked proper safeguards in its collections and financial record keeping and also failed to prepare and maintain profit analysis reports for resale or fundraising activities.
“It is always disappointing when someone abuses a position of public trust, particularly when that position involves handling of funds intended to benefit schoolchildren,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “This case also illustrates, once again, what can happen when organizations don’t have proper safeguards built into their accounting and record-keeping practices.”
To view the full report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/RA_MA_Financial/Report_Investigative.aspx
Lucky, likeable or a combination of both are 25 Tennessee legislative candidates who made it through the state’s qualifying deadline this week with no opponent in either the Aug. 2 primaries or Nov. 3 general election, according to Andy Sher. Barring disaster or a very, very unlikely successful write-in challenge, these men and women are guaranteed election.
The luckiest one of them all may well be Republican Mike Carter, of Ooltewah, according to the secretary of state’s unofficial list of qualified candidates.
The list shows Carter, a businessman and attorney, is the only candidate to qualify for a vacant seat without an opponent.
The other 24 are all incumbents — 22 in the 99-member House and two among the 16 Senate seats up this year.
That breaks down like this: 14 House Republicans and eight Democratic incumbents have no opponents. Among them is Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell, of Nashville.
The two sitting senators with no opponent are both Republicans. They are Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, of Blountville, and Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, who represents Rhea County among other counties.
And everyone else? Sometimes they have token opposition from somebody in the primary or general election. Some have serious opposition, and some fall in between.
After all, it only takes a wing and a prayer and 25 signatures to get on the ballot. Moreover, Tennessee has no filing fees to run