NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state Department of Children’s Services will appeal a Nashville judge’s ruling ordering the agency to release records at 50-cents per page.
A group of media organizations including The Tennessean and The Associated Press is suing the agency for the records of children DCS was supposed to be helping who later died or nearly died.
DCS originally said it would cost the media more than $55,000 for about 200 records.
Last month, Chancellor Carol McCoy ordered the expedited release of 50 records. She said the agency cannot charge for redacting personal information from the records.
The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/11POgPw) DCS on Friday said it will appeal. The agency wants to charge almost $9,000 for 42 records. DCS says it is unable to provide records for the other eight children.
After much grumbling, state legislators on two government oversight committees have reluctantly acquiesced to fee increases that will extract millions of dollars from the Tennessee Valley Authority, dentists, veterinarians and an array of Tennessee businesses.
“We had a choice between bad and worse,” declared Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, after his committee and its House counterpart, meeting jointly, more or less signed off Wednesday on the fee increases.
He and other members of the panels also said they are looking for ways to give the committees more teeth and to hold government departments, boards and commissions more accountable.
“This is a place to fuss,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, speaking of last week’s special meeting for consideration of rules proposed by various state entities.
News release from Secretary of State’s Office:
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office has received inquiries about an official-looking notice from Corporate Records Service. It appears that these notices began arriving in mailboxes around January 22, 2013 and Tennesseans are continuing to receive them. Corporate Records Service is not registered, affiliated, or associated with the Tennessee Secretary of State.
The mailer is causing confusion for Tennessee corporations due to its appearance as an official document. Tennessee corporations are required to file annual reports with the Tennessee Secretary of State. Most corporations have also recently received annual report notices from the Secretary of State.
Corporate Records Services is requesting a $125 fee. The standard fee to file a corporation annual report in Tennessee is only $20.
“We can confirm that Corporate Records Service is not a business entity on file with our office,” Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “I strongly advise corporations to exercise caution before providing their private and confidential information or credit card information to this or any company that is representing itself in this manner.”
Sales tax on certain goods sold in downtown Nashville would effectively increase by a small fraction under state legislation Mayor Karl Dean’s administration supports as a way to generate new funds to recruit conventions to the Music City Center, according to the Tennessean. The proposal, which originated with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau and a handful of Lower Broadway merchants looking for new ways to attract large conventions, would institute a new 0.025 percent fee on goods and services within Nashville’s downtown business district.
Tourism officials plan to use the funds to underwrite the rent of Music City Center as an incentive to lure conventions here. Sales tax in Davidson County is currently 9.25 cents on every dollar.
The legislation calls the measure a “fee,” one that would produce an estimated $1 million to $1.5 million annually. It would go into effect in 2014.
“The CVB and downtown business owners brought forward this idea and we support it as something that will further bolster our tourism industry,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said in a prepared statement.
The bill, introduced by state Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, and co-sponsored by the majority of Davidson County’s state delegation, heads to the State Government Subcommittee this week.
Doctors who treat TennCare patients are getting a big New Year’s pay raise, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Practitioners in family medicine and some other subspecialties, including pediatrics, will be reimbursed at Medicare rates — on average, more than 25 percent above what they’re paid now, state figures show. TennCare officials calculate that the boost will put $55 million in physicians’ pockets this year and next and help to keep them in the state’s version of Medicaid, the health care program for 1.2 million disabled people, pregnant women and poor children.
That’s going to be important because of what health experts are calling the “woodwork effect:” When the requirement that everyone have health insurance kicks in next year, as many as 300,000 eligible but unenrolled people are expected to come out of the woodwork and sign up for TennCare.
TennCare is “going to have a capacity problem, and they’re going to need more health care providers in the government system,” said state Sen. Bo Watson, vice chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and speaker pro tempore.
TennCare figures show current reimbursement rates, on average, are about 79 percent of Medicare rates. That’s compared to 66 percent for Medicaid programs nationwide. The federal government is putting $11 billion into the reimbursement boost across the country.
TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson said it’s hard to say exactly how reimbursements will change since they are negotiated in the managed-care system.
But, she said, “I’m sure if you talk to primary care physicians, they’ll say they’re very much anticipating that rate increase.”
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is changing its backcountry reservation and permitting process.
Beginning early next year, the park will collect a $4 per person per night fee for backcountry camping.
The money collected from the fees will be used to improve customer service for backcountry trip planning, reservations and permits.
Backcountry Office hours will be expanded with additional staff available. In addition, there will be greater enforcement of issues like food storage from park rangers assigned to the backcountry.
The park will also begin allowing backcountry campers to make reservations and obtain permits online. The new website should be available within the first few months of 2013.
Responding to a request from Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper has opined that the state’s $115 fee for a handgun carry permit does not impose an unconstitutional burden on a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms under either the state or federal constitution.
The short version of Campfield’s question: “Do the fees charged for obtaining a handgun carry permit or the fines imposed for unlawfully carrying a weapon impermissibly burden the right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the United States and Tennessee Constitutions?”
The short version of the answer: “No. A permit fee that defrays expenses incident to regulating the exercise of a constitutional right does not per se infringe that right. Fines for unlawful weapon possession do not burden the constitutional right to keep and bear arms but instead penalize violations of a legitimate regulatory measure.”
The penalty for unlawful possession of a firearm is $500 and up to 30 days in jail.
The full opinion is HERE.
A citizens’ organization seeking to overturn the new backcountry camping fee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park wants to take its case to court, reports The News Sentinel.
Southern Forest Watch has sent a letter notifying officials with the National Park Service that it intends to file a lawsuit challenging the $4-per-person-per-night backcountry camping fee approved in March. The letter, sent by Knoxville attorney J. Myers Morton, was mailed to Smokies’ superintendent Dale Ditmanson; Ken Salazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior; and Jonathan B. Jarvis, director of the National Park Service.
In the letter, the group argues that the backcountry camping fee is illegal under various federal statutes, including the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. The group also alleges that the park service’s did not adequately weigh public opposition to the fee as expressed in written comments and at public meetings.
Morton, who represents Southern Forest Watch, said the lawsuit won’t be filed until early 2013 after the fee goes into effect.
Embattled Davidson County Clerk John Arriola plans to resign at the end of this week in what appears to be a deal with local prosecutors, according to The Tennessean. Arriola has been under investigation for nearly a year over charging couples a $40 fee and pocketing the money when his office performed weddings.
He gathered about 60 staff members for a brief meeting at 7:30 a.m. today.
“He didn’t go into an explanation other than it was just time to step down,” said Jonathan Saad, director of external operations for the clerk’s office.
District Attorney General Torry Johnson said in a news release that his investigation of Arriola, conducted jointly with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation since July, has concluded with the clerk’s submission of a resignation letter, which Johnson’s office delivered to Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors today. Arriola wrote without elaboration that as “a duly elected official,” he would resign at the close of business Friday.
“With his resignation from office, there will be no prosecution of alleged or purported state criminal law violations as a result of what the audits found,” the release said.
Johnson also said, however, that Arriola’s actions “weren’t necessarily criminal in nature.”
A new law setting up procedures for expunging criminal records (previous post HERE) is praised for its intent by columnist Wendi C. Thomas, but panned for the $350 fee imposed on those who want to take advantage of the measure. This is a revenue-generating law to the tune of an estimated $7 million. No wonder it got bipartisan support.
That the cost isn’t linked directly to the fee is troubling to Cantrell.
“That seems to impact poor people in a disproportionate way for no real reason,” he said. “Is $350 going to close a lot of my clients out? The answer is yes.”
Spickler is more optimistic.
“If you’ve qualified for this, $350 is easy. You find the $350 to get this off your record,” he said.
And for those who qualify but don’t have the cash?
“We’re going to find that $350,” Spickler said.
The law doesn’t contain a pauper’s provision, which is customary, nor is it clear whether the fee is returned if the judge denies the expungement request.