Tag Archives: frank niceley

Push for elected school superintendents fails again

Despite a plea for passage from Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, the state Senate Education Committee has rejected the latest attempt to authorize popular election of school superintendents in some Tennessee counties.

“This bill does not mandate anything. Instead it eliminates a mandate,” Burchett testified before the panel last week in support of SB1606. “How can we tell Washington to leave us alone when our own state issues mandates to local government?”

The bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, would allow school systems to hold elections for school superintendents if the local county commission or city council approves the idea by a two-thirds majority vote. It would apply only in counties — including Knox — that had popular election of superintendents before a 1992 change in state law that requires the school director to be appointed by the local school board.

Burchett said refusing to let residents vote on a school superintendent is “insulting to the citizens who elected each of us,” then added: “In my opinion, it’s arrogant.”

He referred with approval to Niceley’s description of those opposing popular elections as “urban elitists.”
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Niceley tweaks elected supers bill to try again

Sen. Frank Niceley plans to tweak his annual attempt to allow elected school superintendents in some Tennessee counties and hopes the controversy over Knox County’s recently-resigned superintendent will improve prospects over last year’s failed effort, according to the News Sentinel.

The 8th District senator serves Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Union counties, but he said the recent tumult in Knox County’s superintendent’s office could have been avoided with an elected administrator.

…The proposal to elect a superintendent would come with caveats, according to Niceley. The bill would require a two-thirds majority by a county commission to put a referendum on local ballots for a superintendent vote. And the bill would only apply to counties that previously had elected superintendents before state education reforms made them appointees of the local school board.

Niceley said the bill will mandate a master’s degree and other higher standards for superintendent candidates. Additionally, he said, electing a superintendent would avoid severance payouts. The voters simply don’t re-elect that individual.

A similar piece of legislation Niceley backed last year died in the Senate Education Committee. If his upcoming proposal makes it further, and to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk, Niceley doesn’t expect it to carry through.

“The governor doesn’t like it,” Niceley said. “He subscribes to the chamber of commerce model … he likes the business model where the board of directors picks the CEO.”

Note: The only apparent difference in the new version described and SB381, which failed on a 4-4-1 tie vote (Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, abstained) in Senate Education and never came up for any vote in the House, is the addition of a requirement for a “master’s degree and other higher standards.” Niceley has been proposing elected super bills since elected to the Senate in 2004. A post on defeat of his 2014 bill, including some comments from critics, is HERE.

GOP senators eye cutbacks in pre-k program

Some senators say they would like to begin scaling back the state’s pre-kindergarten program in light of a Vanderbilt University study, reports Richard Locker, apparently putting them at odds with Gov. Bill Haslam.

The governor told the state Senate Republican Caucus on Tuesday that he’d prefer to examine whether the program lacks the quality needed to have lasting academic impacts on disadvantaged children or if the questions raised by the study released last month are more systemic.

…Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, told the governor that the Vanderbilt findings indicate “pre-K is a waste of time” and asked if he is giving “any thought to redirecting that money” to other education programs.

After the meeting concluded, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told reporters he’s always favored freezing the pre-K program where it is and not expanding it to more 4-year-old across the state but that he now favors scaling it back over time.

“I’ll leave it up to the governor: he’ll have to propose it. There’ll probably be bills in the Legislature to pull back,” Ramsey said. “Do I think we should pull back? We probably should start systematically pulling back on that. Education is a limited pot of money, a finite pot and any dollar you put into pre-K is a dollar you took away from K-12 education. I would like see it begin, absolutely. I don’t know what the amount would be.”

In response to Niceley, the governor said he expects lawmakers to discuss prekindergarten in light of the study.

“The results are not just a Tennessee discussion; it’s being held all across the country. The people who are very strong for pre-K say it’s a quality issue, (that) the reason you’re not seeing any long-standing change is because it’s not the right quality of program,” Haslam said.

Legislator says state going overboard in warnings against raw milk

A state legislator who pushed legalization of “cow share” raw milk marketing in Tennessee contends the state Department of Health has gone overboard in continued warnings to consumers that nonpasteurized milk can be dangerous.

“Consuming raw milk in the belief it’s healthier than pasteurized milk is a perilous risk that shakes off the possibility of a range of serious and occasionally fatal illnesses for the individuals and anyone they share it with,” said state Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner in a July 21 news release. “Our best choice for healthy, nutritious milk is the pasteurized kind. Even if one believes there are health benefits, an upside, is it worth gambling on the downside risk of a serious illness, especially in a child?”

The release (Note: posted HERE) says the department has confirmed two cases of cryptosporidiosis in the Chattanooga area that are “associated with consumption of raw milk from a dairy cow share program” and is checking to determine if others were sickened as well.

Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, said there is no more risk to raw milk than pasteurized milk and probably less. Cryptosporidiosis is a parasite-caused ailment linked to animal waste and, according to Niceley, more often to beef cattle than milk cattle. In any case, he said, it involves exposure to the waste and not to the drinking of raw milk in and of itself.

“Blue Bell ice cream killed three people, and it’s made with pasteurized milk,” the senator said in an interview last week. “Why aren’t they up in arms warning about that?”

Blue Bell Creameries in April announced a nationwide recall of ice cream after reports of the product being contaminated with listeria bacteria. National media has reported that three deaths in Kansas appear linked to the contamination.
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Late effort to save TN Virtual Academy flops

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A last-minute legislative maneuver to allow a troubled virtual school to remain open has failed.

The Tennessee Virtual Academy has been ordered closed because of failing scores. Republican Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains asked the full Senate floor to consider an amendment to an unrelated bill that would allow the school to stay open if it showed enough improvement.

The amendment failed and Niceley was criticized by some lawmakers for trying to circumvent the Legislature’s committee system.

Kids stay home and do work on their computers at the school.

Niceley had argued that the school serves medically fragile and bullied kids who don’t do well at traditional public school.

“These are the ones that have dropped out of the public schools,” Niceley said. He had argued that all his amendment would do would give the school a chance if it improved.

The school has been ranked among the lowest performing schools in the state since it opened in 2011, scoring a level 1 on a 5-point grade system where 1 is the worst and 5 is the best.
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Senator says TN has too many deer, opposes bill raising penalties for killing them illegally

Outdoors writer Bob Hodge watched a Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources hearing on SB904, which would increase financial penalties for illegally killing big game animals. In a News Sentinel column, he’s somewhat critical of Sen. Frank Niceley’s opposition to the bill on grounds that deer “on on the verge of being a nuisance” statewide.

By putting more teeth in the law, the TLC representative believes some of the folks who are willing to gamble on illegally shooting a deer, bear, turkey or anything else, might think twice if they were facing a four- to five-figure fine.

Niceley wasn’t convinced by the argument because, in his view, poachers are actually doing us a favor because Tennessee is being over run by deer.

He mentioned a town north of Nashville that has a deer population problem and would “welcome” poachers. He mentioned a recent fatality that was the result of a car hitting a deer because there are too many deer.

Poachers? Maybe we should call them community activists.

“I just talked to legal and they said I could take my six counties out of this,” Niceley says during the meeting. “We don’t have a problem. I don’t see any reason for my counties to be in it.”

Poaching not a problem in any of his six counties? A landowner in one of the counties Niceley represents said “It’s like deer hunting is a 24/7 thing here. Road hunters, jack lighting … and it’s year round, not just during deer season.”

The landowner did point out that if you’re going to be hunting off the road and at night, then season dates probably don’t represent a big deterrent anyway.

But Niceley seems to believe poaching is OK because “Deer (are) on the verge of being a nuisance all across the state.”

…(Under the bill) Any deer you get convicted of (illegally) killing in Tennessee would cost you $1,000 and add another $1,000 for an antlered buck. It would be another $500 per point for an 8, 9 or 10 point and $750 a point for anything over 11.

That would mean a 12-point buck could cost you $11,000 and your hunting privileges until the money is paid.

That’s not about deer management. That’s a deterrent to being an outlaw.

Obviously not everybody can tell the difference.

Note: The committee put off a vote on the bill until next week. As Hodge notes in his column, Nicely suggested he may prepare an amendment to exempt the counties he represents from being covered by the proposed new law.

Senate floor prayer asks deliverance from ‘wicked courts,’ ‘tyrannical’ Washington

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A normally routine prayer in the Senate on Tuesday turned out to be anything but when a minister and activist bemoaned what she called “tyrannical” overreach from Washington.

The prayer wasn’t unprecedented in dabbling into politics but stood out in how vigorously it veered in that direction. It came a day after Republican Gov. Bill Haslam convened a special session to discuss his plan to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans. Many fellow Republicans in the Legislature are dubious about the plan because it relies on funds available under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

June Griffin, pastor of the American Bible Protestant Church, an independent body in Dayton, Tennessee, was invited to speak by Republican Sen. Frank Niceley, an opponent of the governor’s plan.

Before praying, Griffin asked for prayer requests, and a legislator asked that she pray for lawmakers as they decide whether to approve the governor’s proposal, which could be voted on as early as this week.

Griffin began her prayer with a petition for the welfare of the state, before launching into a tirade about overreach by the federal government. (Note: Nashville Scene has the full prayer posted HERE. Daily Kos has the video HERE.)

“I pray for the people of Tennessee who have been so downtrodden by the wicked courts from on high; that they have been subject to tyrannical judiciary,” said Griffin, her voice cracking. “I pray that you will be our coverage, that we will not be forced into these edicts from Washington.”
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‘Gun and Garden’ on a Niceley farm-based business

The current issue of Gun and Garden magazine has an article on the daughters of state Sen. Frank Niceley, their family-farm-based business and related activities such as killing chickens. (The senator gets a mention.) Excerpt:

The Niceley sisters, along with their friend Misty Travis Oaks, who is thirty-nine and whom they consider “close as family,” run their restaurant and event business from their home base of the Niceley farm in Tennessee, a place all three women were intimately connected with growing up.

“Jennifer and Anna were born and raised at Riverplains,” Misty explains of the centuries-old homestead. “And my father and uncles worked on the family land as day laborers back in the early sixties.” The young men were paid with watermelons and tickets to the drive-in theater, which the Niceley family also owned at the time. “They hardly cared,” Misty says with a laugh. “They just loved being on the farm.”

Originally a commercial dairy, Riverplains is one of those astonishing places so rich with beauty, simply laying eyes on it makes you feel a little drunk (and willing to work for watermelon). Located a thirty-minute drive east of Knoxville, the Niceley property is part of Straw-berry Plains—population around 4,500, and so named because in the 1800s wild strawberries grew plentifully enough in the fields that they stained the fetlocks of passing horses red with juice.

Riverplains has been owned and inhabited by the Niceley family for generations, four of which still reside there. The farm covers more than four hundred rolling acres, which hug both banks of the Holston River, and has remained so unaltered over the ages that the narrows still hold a primitive fish trap one visiting archaeologist dated back to before the 1500s.

…Originally intending to become a lobbyist, Anna spent her twenties working on various campaigns after graduating from American University in Washington, D.C. Her fascination with politics came from observing her father, Frank Niceley, a lifelong farmer and elected official who currently serves as a Republican state senator in Tennessee.

“I moved to New York City, which was amazing,” Anna recalls. Then, after bouncing around the country, trying to find a job she enjoyed and a place she could call home, she met her future husband, Dino. “We knew we wanted to marry and have children. And then, Dino got sick.”

He lost twenty-five pounds in six days. The eventual diagnosis was colitis. The scare instantly reprioritized their lives and reignited Anna’s curiosity about diet as medicine, something her family had ingrained in her and her sisters as children.

…After Dino’s illness, Anna thought, too, about how robust her parents seemed to be compared with other adults their age, something she attributed to their lifestyle and diet.

“My father always says he eats ‘the way his daddy did,’ and Granddad lived to be ninety-four and never used a cane,” she says. “At sixty-seven, our father is so hale and hearty. He doesn’t take any medicine. He doesn’t need a doctor all the time. Dino’s dad has this whole bag devoted exclusively to his pills: blood pressure, heart stuff, cholesterol. My folks don’t have any of those issues.”

The path seemed clear. “It just dawned on me one day, instead of casting about for a healthy place to raise our family, why don’t we just go back to the farm?” Anna recalls, widening her eyes, the epiphany still a bit surprising even now, years later. As a girl, she had been so eager to leave, certain the city would bring her the type of stimulation and challenge she craved. “But after years of roaming around, wondering why nothing fit, I figured out I’m not supposed to be anywhere else.”

Can you run that yellow light or not? Legislature has an answer

Start of a TNReport post:

A new law that’s taken effect this summer seeks to shed light on an age-old and recurring conundrum motorists face when they’re on the move: Should I gun it through that yellow or play it safe and wait till the next green?

Tennessee drivers got some illumination in the law from the state Legislature this year: Go for it.

“It says if you enter a red light area when it’s green or (yellow), and something happens that you have to stop in there — some car ahead of you — and the light turns red while you’re in there, they can’t give you a ticket for clearing the intersection,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Strawberry Plains Republican Frank Niceley, during a Senate Transportation Committee hearing back in March. “That’s the way it was always meant to be, but evidently there was some confusion.”

Roger Hutto, with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, testified before the House Transportation Subcommittee in March, and said that under the previous law, a yellow light was a warning that a red light is imminent, but the law doesn’t say a motorist has to stop on anything but a red light.

Hutto added that this change was “more of a clarification than a need.”

The bill, SB2056/HB2003, passed the Senate 32-0, and passed the House 92-0. Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill into law on May 22. The House sponsor was Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis.

Niceley told TNReport that a friend of his told him there was an ongoing problem in Memphis with police officers giving out tickets for running a red light after it changed while the driver was in the middle of the intersection.

Niceley said he asked the Department of Safety about it, and they told him that’s not how the law was supposed to be interpreted.

“We read the law, and the Department of Safety said the law was vague, so we needed to rewrite the law to where everyone can understand it,” Niceley said.

It originally passed the Senate with different wording, but the House passed a version of the bill that read “even better” than what the Senate had passed, and Niceley asked the Senate to concur on the House’s language.

The version that passed the House was proposed as an amendment by House Transportation Committee Chairman Vince Dean, a Republican from East Ridge, after several minutes of committee debate on the language of two amendments. “We can make it very simple if we amended this and said it is not a violation of the red light law unless the vehicle crosses the stop bar after the light turns red,” Dean said in committee.

Governor signs hemp legalization bill for TN; Kentucky battling feds in court over its hemp law

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law a bill that legalizes the growing of hemp in Tennessee while Kentucky officials are battling the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in federal court over a dispute brought on by similar law enacted in that state.

Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, lead sponsor of the Tennessee hemp bill in the state Senate, said he is hopeful that Tennessee will avoid any conflict with federal authorities, perhaps because of Kentucky succeeding in court.

But Niceley also said he fears the move against Kentucky shows “the Obama administration has a double standard,” retreating from enforcement of federal laws prohibiting marijuana in states that have legalized sales while enforcing the law against hemp. The two plants are related – Niceley calls them “cousins” – but hemp has only a tiny fraction of the chemical in marijuana causing a narcotic effect.

DEA agents in Louisville recently seized 250 pounds of hemp seed that Kentucky Department of Agriculture officials had imported from Italy, contending the seed was imported in violation of federal controlled-substance laws. Kentucky officials contend that a provision in this year’s “farm bill” enacted by Congress, which authorizes research into hemp production, removed hemp from the federal controlled substances law.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer filed a lawsuit against the DEA and other federal agencies Wednesday, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, and at a hearing Friday U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn told the opposing sides to draft an agreement for submission to the court that would make the state and federal government “partners rather than adversaries.”
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