The average wait time at driver service centers in the state of Tennessee for the first quarter of 2013 was nearly 32 minutes, which is up six minutes from the last quarter of 2012, reports Nooga.com.
These figures, released by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Wednesday, also show that the number of statewide transactions increased to 327,114 in the first quarter of 2013, compared to 295,444 in the last quarter of last year.
But the wait time for the first quarter of 2013 is slightly lower than the average wait time for last year’s first quarter, when the average was closer to 33 minutes.
“We are committed to reducing wait times at our driver service centers,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said in a prepared statement. “We are concerned about the uptick in wait times, especially after making such great progress in the last three months of 2012. But we are taking proactive steps to help reverse this trend and help create a more satisfying experience for our customers.”
Gibbons also said that the increase was because of an increase in handgun permit applications, vacant management positions at several driver service centers and equipment failures. Meanwhile, in other news….
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state is closing its driver license center in Lawrenceburg.
An announcement from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said operations will be merged with the driver service center in Columbia on May 15.
There will be, however, a self-service kiosk in the City of Lawrenceburg Administrative Services Building, where drivers can renew expiring licenses or apply to get lost licenses replaced. The kiosk will take photos and accept credit card and debit card fee payments.
First-time drivers or people who recently moved to Tennessee can travel to Columbia or to centers in Hardin or Lincoln counties.
The department is also working with the Wayne and Giles county clerks to offer license renewal and replacement services in those counties.
From Richard Locker:
The state Senate approved a bill Wednesday closing public and media access to Tennessee’s handgun-carry permit records in most cases, making confidential the identities of nearly 400,000 Tennesseans licensed to go armed in public.
The House approved it 84-10 last month and the Senate followed suit on a 27-2 vote. Senators added an amendment providing limited circumstances when the public may ask if a specific individual who has some brush with the law has a permit, which sends the bill back to the House for concurrence with the amendment only. Approval there is expected, possibly Thursday. It then goes to the governor, who is expected to allow it to become law.
“This is a bill that protects the handgun permit carriers. It also protects the non-handgun permit carriers,” the sponsor, Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, told his colleagues. “What we’re doing here is prevent the publication of carry permit holders in a news media or on the Internet where that their name and address is put on a map, and that allows those that would come in and steal guns to know where those guns are.
“Also in addition to that, those that are not permit carriers are also identified through this in that the thieves would know perhaps that home has no protection. So this is for the public welfare,” Haile said.
The Senate amendment allows access by law enforcement as needed and to child-support agencies for child-support enforcement.
It allows “any person or entity” to ask the state Department of Safety to search the permit database to determine if a specific named person has a permit, but only if the requester presents a court judgment of a conviction, a criminal history report, order of protection or other official government document or record that indicates the named person is not eligible to possess a gun-carry permit.
In earlier committee discussions of the bill, legislative lawyers said that could include an arrest warrant charging a person with a felony but a misdemeanor.
The Commercial Appeal maintains on its website a searchable database of names and hometowns of Tennesseeans holding handgun-carry permits, but not street addresses. No Tennessee media outlet has published or posted maps displaying addresses of permit holders.
And referencing Haile’s argument that the bill protects identification of people without carry permits, no permit is required in Tennessee to keep guns at home.
— Note: This updates and replaces earlier post, part of the CA’s ‘State Capitol Wednesday’ HERE.
CROSSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The State Fire Marshal’s office has declared a huge treehouse built by a Crossville minister to be an imminent safety hazard and ordered it to close.
The popular attraction was built by Horace Burgess of Crossville over 11 years as a ministry. He said about 1,000 people per week visited his 100-foot-tall Minister’s Treehouse.
Burgess told The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/OSyKf7) that he received a certified letter last week ordering him to close the treehouse.
A copy of the letter released by the state Wednesday said the treehouse is 60 feet too tall, doesn’t appear to have proper structural support, contains several falling hazards and lacks a fire safety plan. It said the structure was so tall, local fire department equipment likely couldn’t reach the top levels.
— Note: A copy of the letter from a state Department of Commerce and Insurance official is HERE.
This post updates and replaces previous post
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey isn’t sold on state Rep. Tony Shipley’s call for closed primaries in the aftermath of Shipley’s 10-vote victory over former Kingsport Alderman Ben Mallicote in the 2nd House District GOP primary. So begins a Hank Hayes story today. The rest of his report::
“I’m hesitant about that because we have gained (Republican) majorities in the state Senate and state House, and the way we’ve done that is literally hundreds of thousands of people across this state decide they are no longer Democrats and they want to be Republicans,” said Ramsey, R-Blountville. “When I came in the state House (in the 1990s), I’m not sure there were one or two Republicans serving west of the Tennessee River, and now it is almost all Republicans. I’m not sure we want to tell those (Democratic voters) they are not welcome in our party.”
Earlier this week, Shipley met with Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell to pitch the idea of closed primaries after his election review showed more than 1,200 GOP primary voters had previously voted in one or more Democratic primaries, and that he believed most were Democrats who voted for Mallicote.
Shipley, R-Kingsport, called his number a “guesstimate” although he didn’t have complete data from the Sullivan County Election Commission.
“The more accurate number would be a broad number from 200 to 2,000 (voters), but you can’t define it too precisely yet…” Shipley said. “We’re working on the numbers because we’re going to need it for closed primaries.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators have seized 3 banks, one each in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, bringing to 31 the number of U.S. banks that have failed so far this year.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Friday that it closed Putnam State Bank in Palatka, Fla., Security Exchange Bank, in Marietta, Ga., and The Farmers Bank of Lynchburg, in Lynchburg, Tenn.
(Note: The Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions news release on the Lynchburg bank is at the end of this post.)
The FDIC lined up other lenders to assume the deposits and assets of each of the banks.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill to close public access to teacher evaluation records is headed for the governor’s signature.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Richard Montgomery of Sevierville passed the House on a 93-0 vote on Thursday without debate.
The Senate previously passed the bill on a 27-0 vote, meaning it now heads for Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk. Haslam has said he supports the measure to keep the evaluations confidential, even though it would deny parents the ability to find out whether their children are being instructed by poorly-performing teachers.
Under recent changes to state law, half of a teacher’s assessment must derive from testing data, while the rest comes from classroom observations. The new system has been heavily criticized by educators.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The sponsor of a proposal to close teacher evaluation records to parents and other members of the public said Thursday that doing so will keep the process honest.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville was unanimously approved 27-0 in the Senate. The companion bill is scheduled for a vote on the House floor next week.
Tracy said access to the data should be limited to school officials and not available to the general public.
“The principal would be much more honest if he knows it’s not going to go into the public record,” he said after Thursday’s vote. “We’re all about teacher performance, and that’s what evaluations are, to improve a teacher to be the best that they can be.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill to close public access to teacher evaluation data is headed for a full Senate vote.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 7-0 on Tuesday to advance the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville.
Tracy said access to the data should be limited to school officials and not available to the general public. In the senator’s words: “Evaluations are supposed to be used as a tool to help teachers, it’s not going to be used for anything other than that.”
Under recent changes to state law, half of teachers’ assessments must derive from testing data, while the rest comes from classroom observations.
The companion bill was awaiting a vote in the House State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday.
By Erik Schelzig
The executive committee of the state Republican Party on Saturday voted down a proposal to require party registration to vote in Tennessee primaries.
The policy panel rejected the proposal sponsored by committee member Mark Winslow, a former executive director of the state GOP, on a voice vote.
Tennessee voters aren’t registered by party, and voters often decide in which primary to participate depending on campaign developments. The law allows for challenges of people who are not a “bona fide member” of political party, though that status is not clearly defined.