Tag Archives: curtiss

On the Bill Rewriting ‘Cyberbullying Law’

A controversial law on “cyberbullying” that was enacted last year will be revised in an attempt to assure its constitutionality under a rewrite sent to the governor by the Senate.
Senators debated the bill (HB2641) only about 10 minutes before giving it unanimous approval. The House had a prolonged and spirited debate that included defeat of disabling amendments by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge.
The rewrite bill was brought by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, who had sponsored the 2011 law that drew heavy criticism after passage. Acknowledging their first effort raised constitutional questions, sponsors worked with the attorney general’s office, the American Civil Liberties Union and others to draft a rewrite.
The idea is to have electronic communications covered by the state’s anti-harassment law. The problem, the sponsors said, was that the 2010 law made it a crime to send an electronic communication that would “frighten, intimidate, or cause emotional distress.” That was deemed too vague. The rewrite basically changes that to simply “threaten harm.”
The need for such a law was illustrated by four suicides by Tennessee teenagers in the past year “all pointing to cyberbullying,” Ketron said.
In the House, Ragan led opposition and filed amendments, including one that would have repealed the general anti-harassment law that has been on the books since 1989.
Ragan said the law could be used to prosecute the display of religious symbols and brought to the floor a sheet with 11 printed symbols as examples. They included a swastika, which he said was used by some American Indians in ceremonies, and a cross with a flame, which he said was the symbol of the United Methodist Church.
Curtiss said Ragan was confusing “threaten” with “offend.”
The Ragan amendment was defeated 65-28. After defeat of that and another Ragan amendment, the bill itself was approved 76-14.

Rewrite of ‘Cyberbullying’ Law Goes to Governor

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), April 27, 2012 — The Senate has approved legislation, sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Charles Curtiss (D-Sparta), that revises a law passed last year regarding cyberbullying through the use of electronic devices. Senate Bill 2556 removes the words “frighten, intimidate, or cause emotional distress” to a victim in the state’s current cyberbullying law and replaces them with the word “threaten.”
Ketron said he enlisted the help of Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper and other legal experts in revising the law to meet constitutional muster, while maintaining the focus on deterring bullying through electronic means. The revision limits the offense of harassment by display of an image to cases in which the defendant communicates without legitimate purpose with the intent that it will be viewed by the victim with the malicious intent to threaten them. “It must also be in a manner in which the defendant knows or reasonably should know, would threaten a similarly situated person,” he said.

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Legislators Skipped Meetings of Troubled Board; Some Colleagues Want an Invesigation

Two Tennessee state lawmakers partly responsible for helping oversee the scandal-gripped Upper Cumberland Development District can count on one hand the number of board meetings they’ve collectively attended in the last two years, reports Andrea Zelinski.
Attendance records for meetings of UCDD’s Board of Directors and its Executive Committee dating back to 2010 show that Rep. Charles Curtiss attended one meeting in that time and Sen. Charlotte Burks made two appearances.
“We can’t always break loose” from prior engagements to attend UCDD meetings, Curtiss, D-Sparta, said in his Capitol Hill office during a recent interview with TNReport.
…UCDD’s executive director, Wendy Askins, and her deputy, Larry Webb, were recently placed on administrative leave after a WTVF NewsChannel 5 investigation revealed Askins had moved in to the agency’s million-dollar “Living the Dream” assisted living facility for needy seniors.
NewsChannel 5′s UCDD series has also raised questions not just about the “Living the Dream” facility, but management of the agency in general. UCDD doled out thousands of dollars for campaign events, booze, personal gifts and other potentially suspicious reimbursements under Askins’ leadership, WTVF reported.
After the WTVF “Living the Dream” story first broke last month, UCDD board members who previously voted for or vocally defended taxpayer-spending on the plush estate — or signed off on other curious agency spending — claimed they were duped into acquiescence by Askins and a UCDD auditor, whom board members now allege was incompetent.
Curtiss has missed every meeting since 2010 except this year’s Jan. 19 meeting, where board members voted to revise the official minutes from a previous meeting which occurred on Feb. 16, 2010 regarding discussions they’d had about the “Living the Dream” project. Curtiss was one of 16 members who voted “yes” on the revisions, which involved retroactively approving $300,000 for “Living the Dream,” even though he wasn’t at the 2010 meeting in question.
A number of Tennessee lawmakers are now calling for a thoroughgoing probe of UCDD by state auditors. The situation is raising concerns among lawmakers that this board, and possibly others like it, risk being poor stewards of government money and deserve focused legislative investigation as well

On the New ‘Cyberbullying’ Law

When White County Sheriff Oddie J. Shoupe heard that a murder-suicide had apparently been triggered by an anonymous blog posting on the female murder victim’s sexual relations, he contacted his state legislator.
“I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for him,” said Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, who proceeded to join with Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro in sponsoring two bills to address what they saw as a shortcoming in the state’s current criminal law.
“If somebody calls you every morning at 3 o’clock, just to wake you up and yell at you, you’d have a remedy — change your phone number or, if they’re saying something really bad, you could get law enforcement involved. There’s already a harassment statute on the books,” Curtiss said.
“But now we’ve got these websites where people can post anything they want, anonymously. They can say you’re a pedophile, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.”

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