After six years, Red Bank has given its traffic cameras the red light, says the Chattanooga TFP. Minutes after a handful of residents spoke out Tuesday against how the cameras have hurt the city’s image and businesses, Red Bank commissioners voted 4-1 to ax the city’s four traffic cameras, which cite motorists who speed and run red lights at the city’s busiest intersections along the city’s main artery, Dayton Boulevard.
The lone holdout for keeping the cameras was Commissioner Ruth Jeno, who said that the cameras’ effect on safety was more important than their impact on business or city coffers.
“I don’t feel like that we can afford to hire more police officers to patrol Dayton Boulevard,” she said. “The majority of citizens in Red Bank have asked me to vote to keep the cameras and keep the police officers off Dayton Boulevard and in our neighborhoods, because crime is rising.”
The vote allowed Mayor Monty Millard to make good on a campaign promise that he had so far been unable to fulfill because of the contract the city had with American Traffic Services, the Arizona-based company that runs the program.
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Significant reforms of how the state operates and a responsible budget that includes strategic investments, reductions and savings for the future highlighted Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s second legislative session as the state’s chief executive.
Haslam introduced his comprehensive 2012 agenda on January 10, the first day of this year’s legislative session. His legislative priorities included a limited number of significant changes, which built upon his efforts in 2011 to reform teacher tenure and tort laws.
“This administration heard the Lt. Gov. and House Speaker’s call for an efficient and effective legislative session this year, and I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished in working together,” Haslam said. “Our focus continues to be on making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, which goes hand in hand with an ongoing emphasis on improving education. I’m also committed to making sure state government does its job of providing services to Tennessee taxpayers at the lowest cost in the most customer-focused, efficient and effective way possible.”
By Lucas Johnson & Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The 107th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned Tuesday without a final showdown over a contentious gun issue and the governor said he may decide in the next couple of days whether he will veto another controversial bill headed to his desk.
Democratic Rep. Eddie Bass of Prospect refused to say until the end whether he would try to pull the measure backed by the National Rifle Association directly to the floor. In the end he didn’t.
(Note: But he did make a joke about it, rising on the floor to begin reading a motion as if to force a vote — then stopping with a “never mind.” It got a big laugh.)
The bill seeking to overrule businesses’ objections to allowing employees to store weapons in vehicles parked on company lots was opposed by Gov. Bill Haslam and the Republican speakers of the House and Senate.
Lawmakers passed a more than $31 billion spending plan that begins phasing out Tennessee’s inheritance tax and cutting the state’s sales tax on groceries.
By Erik Schelzig, Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers are preparing for what they hope is the last week of the 107th General Assembly, though issues that still need to be worked out include the state’s annual spending plan, proposals to change the way the state selects Supreme Court justices and a resilient effort to ban teaching about gay issues in schools.
Also still pending is a dispute between business groups and gun advocates over a bill seeking to guarantee that employees have a right to store firearms their cars while at work.
Republican leaders nevertheless express confidence that the session can draw to a close by the end of the week.
“There are about 60 or 70 bills that are still there,” said Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville. “I think we’re right on course to adjourn.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development is warning more than 10,000 people that their extended unemployment benefits will expire soon.
The Extended Benefit program is tied to the state’s unemployment rate. Since that rate recently dropped to 8 percent, the program is coming to an end.
Those affected are claimants in the last 20 weeks of the 99 weeks previously available. They will receive their last benefit payments the week of April 12.
Approximately 10,000 people should receive notices in the coming days of their benefit expiration. They will not be eligible for benefits again until they earn qualifying wages.
Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis said in a news release that as Tennessee’s employment opportunities improve, other federal benefits could be reduced as well.
As state lawmakers prepare to move forward this week with plans to evict Occupy Nashville from Legislative Plaza, the Tennessean reports that protesters are considering the idea of temporarily shutting down the encampment on their own as a possible next step. “I think being out here during the winter months is risking people’s health,” said D.J. Hudson, 23, one of the Occupy Nashville protesters arrested during the state’s first ouster attempt in October. “I think we should plan for the spring, keep ourselves rested and return later stronger than when we left.”
Hudson, a student at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, was one of about 30 protesters who attended Occupy Nashville’s “next steps” meeting on Saturday. She said she came up with the idea for the group to strategically withdraw from its Legislative Plaza encampment while discussing the Occupy movement late last year with civil rights activist James Lawson.
The idea was one of four main options discussed at the meeting. Others are staying on state-owned land at Legislative Plaza, the Capitol or another building; relocating to a Metro-owned property; or dropping the government angle altogether in favor of occupying privately owned land, said protester Lindsey Krinks, also a Vanderbilt divinity student.
The Tennessee Valley Authority begins the new year with one third of its board seats vacant, reports the Chattanooga TFP. When Congress adjourned on Christmas Eve, three of TVA’s most senior and active board members left the agency’s 9-member board. President Obama has yet to nominate any successors to fill the three vacancies.
Three retired bankers — former TVA chairman Dennis Bottorff of Nashville, former TVA chairman Mike Duncan of Kentucky and TVA Director Tom Gilliland of Blairsville, Ga., — ended their TVA employment at the end of the year after their normal terms had already expired in May.
Under the TVA Act, directors may stay until their successor is confirmed or until the end of the congressional session in the year in which their terms end
More superlatives from the 2011 session of the 107th General Assembly:
* Interfaith Dialog Award: To Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Judd Matheney, who brought hundreds of Muslims to the Legislative Plaza – a place most had never been before – to engage in discussion on the merits of their “anti-terrorism” bill, supported by some evangelical Christian activists. The dialog resulted in deletion of a reference to Sharia law in the original version, but still left supporters hailing the measure as passed.
Witness this comment from the Eagle Forum’s Bobbie Patray, perhaps the leading conservative Christian crusader of Legislatorland: “Once more we want to praise God for the multiple times that he intervened on behalf of this legislation and to express our deep appreciation of to Republican Senate Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron and House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny for their courage and tireless efforts to see this important legislation through to victory.”
* Czar With a Gavel Award: Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, who chaired the House State and Local Government Committee with aplomb and, sometimes, abruptness and sharp commentary. He was even-handed, slamming down the gavel and dismissing discourses by aggressive freshman Republicans and argumentative Democrats with equal fervor. “An equal opportunity offender,” says one staffer.
* Bystander of the Year: Gov. Bill Haslam. Contrary to his predecessors of decades past, the new governor pointedly declared at the outset that he had a limited agenda in legislation, then proceeded to prove his honesty and foresight. Indeed, if one views the Legislature as a Republican railroad, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey may be seen as the engineer, House Speaker Beth Harwell as the brakeman (or brakewoman?) and Haslam as a fellow sitting in the dining car commenting on the passing scenery.
It appears he will sign every bill legislators send to him, even if with some misgivings as indicated in comments last week on legislation (SB923) that shaves two days off the early voting period in next year’s presidential primary: “My personal feeling is that a little longer early voting periods are good because it does give citizens that flexibility.” In other words, he would have preferred longer – not shorter – early voting periods. But he signed the bill last week.
* Norma Rae Memorial Award: To House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart. For 1979’s “Norma Rae,” Sally Field won Best Actress honors at the Oscars for her portrayal of a union organizer. Maggart performed well in 2011 as a leading union disorganizer, most notably as sponsor of legislation to abolish collective bargaining for teachers. A sample line from Maggart’s performance: “For too long under the old order, selfish political interests, the unions, have been allowed to dominate the discussion when it comes to setting the course of education in our state.”
* Controversy King: He had a lot of competition in his freshman year as a senator, but Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, is still the champion of gaining national attention for service on conservatism’s cutting edge. Need we say more than “don’t say gay?” If so, maybe “guns on campus.” Or “nullification committee,” the panel envisioned by the senator to study all federal laws and regulations, then recommend which ones should be nullified by the state Legislature.
* Don’t Get Mad, Get Even Award: Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, for moving to throw three people off the state Board of Regents because they didn’t attend a meeting of her committee when requested. She graciously consented to leave two of them on the board and withdrew the ouster resolution after they publicly apologized in writing and the other agreed to step down.
* Against the Wind Award: To the Republicans voting no on the teacher collective bargaining bill, namely Reps. Scotty Campbell of Mountain City, Jim Coley of Bartlett, Michael Harrison of Rogersville, David Hawk of Greeneville, Dennis Roach of Rutledge and Curry Todd of Collierville, plus Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville. And the Democrat voting yes, Rep. G.A. Hardaway of Memphis.
(as posted on Facebook)
The first session of the 107th General Assembly adjourned late Saturday night, May 21st, after we aggressively worked the last several days to finish our business. We have a long list of accomplishments to point to, proving that it does matter who governs.
Governor Bill Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and I were united in our belief that in order to make government sustainable, we had to transform the way we did business. We made significant progress this year reducing the size of government, paving the way for job creation, and reforming education.
In addition, we adjourned earlier than we have in the past couple of decades. Compared to last year, our early adjournment saved taxpayers nearly half a million dollars in legislative operational expenses. We have shown that we take the responsibility of governing very seriously, and we will stay true to our principles as we do so.
Jeff Woods is the latest reporter — maybe the last, surely not the least — to weigh in with a post-legislative session piece. He includes the colorful comments of state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester to illustrate the theme. Forrester is selling the notion that Haslam is a weak, poll-driven leader whose mind changes with the political winds, while Ramsey is a wingnut bully who has muscled his way into the role of that man behind the curtain. To illustrate his line of attack, Forrester now refers to the governor and Ramsey with nicknames.
“Power abhors a vacuum, and Waffle House Bill Haslam has not stepped up to lead this state, and that vacuum has been filled by Tea Party cowboy Ron Ramsey,” he said.
….Forrester may be guilty of exaggeration, but the conflict within the Tennessee Republican Party between its rowdy right wing (led by Ramsey) and its more orthodox business-oriented conservatives (as represented by Haslam and Harwell) was real and on full display this year on Capitol Hill.