The city of Memphis will trade gas cards and Grizzlies tickets for guns in a “judgement-free” program designed to reduce the number of weapons on the streets, reports the Commercial Appeal.
During the event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Bloomfield Baptist Church, the city and its partners plan to hand over a $50 Mapco gas card for each gun a person turns in, limited to three guns, or $150 worth of gas cards, per person. Those who surrender guns will also receive two free tickets to a preseason Memphis Grizzlies game.
Mapco is footing the bill for the gas cards. Sponsors also include Clear Channel and the Memphis Grizzlies.
“We’re doing everything we can to get guns off the streets,” said Memphis Police Department director Toney Armstrong.
The guns will be taken on a “no questions asked” basis and will be destroyed. The weapons will not be tested or inspected to determine if they were used in a crime, according to police department spokeswoman Karen Rudolph.
The Memphis City Council on Tuesday ushered along two tax-related referendums that could have large implications for property taxes and city services, according to the Commercial Appeal.
A proposed referendum asking voters to levy a 1-cent tax on every gallon of gasoline purchased in Memphis was approved by a council committee. The full council also approved on the first of three readings a proposed referendum ordinance asking voters to increase the local sales tax rate by half a cent.
Councilman Edmund Ford Jr. said the gasoline tax, if approved by voters, could bring in $3 million to $6 million a year for the Memphis Area Transit Authority. A final vote on the proposal is scheduled for Aug. 7.
“The taxpayers don’t have to worry about the money going somewhere else; it’s going to public transportation,” said Ford. For years the city has subsidized cash-strapped MATA with funds from its operating and capital improvement program budgets, and MATA officials have repeatedly asked city officials for a “dedicated funding source.”
The Legislature has stepped into a dispute between Memphis City government and Shelby County government over dividing up money received by the city’s utility. Rick Locker reports on the House vote for the bill — suburban Republicans for it, urban Democrats against — and provides a lesson on “caption bills” in the process.
An 1897 Tennessee law keeping horses off public sidewalks has become a vehicle for the state legislature to settle a current $6 million dispute between Memphis and Shelby County governments.
The House of Representatives approved a bill Monday night — on a mostly party-line 64-29 vote — to settle a long-running squabble over $6 million in payments in lieu of taxes from Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division that Shelby County says the city owes it.
The bill is sought by Shelby County government and opposed by the city, which in November filed a lawsuit saying the city had actually overpaid more than $86 million to the county government between the 1981 and 2000 fiscal years and wants back as much of that amount as possible.
During a 34-minute floor debate on Monday’s bill, Democrats charged that the measure is the latest example of the new Republican majority intervening in a local dispute on the side of GOP-dominated suburbs. They likened it to last year’s passage by suburban Republicans of a slowed-down process for merging the city and county school systems.
Perhaps more important, the way the bill is working its way through the General Assembly raises questions about whether it violates at least the spirit of a state constitutional provision designed to give the public notice about a bill’s subject matter before it passes.
As it was originally filed by Rep. Curry Todd and Sen. Mark Norris, the bill would have raised the penalty for violating a 115-year-old statute regarding horses on public sidewalks. The bill now goes to the Senate for final approval.
HB1376 is what is known in legislative parlance as a “caption bill” — a short, skeletal bill with little more than a caption and brief, innocuous wording filed by sponsors who intend to amend the bill later with whatever substantive legislation they want to become law.
An amendment drafted by Shelby County’s lawyers and presented by Todd, R-Collierville, deleted the bill’s original language and replaced it with the new language, amending a 1987 statute governing payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) by municipal gas systems. It provides that unless the city and county reach an agreement prior to April on the MLGW PILOTs, Shelby County gets what it is entitled to under its existing property tax rates.
Municipal gas systems and horses on sidewalks are both subjects covered by the Tennessee Code’s Title 7 — a broad swath of state law encompassing 59 chapters governing all aspects of local governmental functions and entities.
Only a court could decide if the amended bill violates Article II, Section 17, of the Tennessee Constitution, providing that “No bill shall become a law which embraces more than one subject, that subject to be expressed in the title. All acts which repeal, revive or amend former laws, shall recite in their caption, or otherwise, the title or substance of the law repealed, revived or amended.”
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy says that he wants a study of options for raising new revenue for state highway projects – but not until after the 2012 elections next fall.. Andrea Zelinski has the story (and video) at TNReport.
“I don’t see gas tax at all being in the picture as we speak,” Tracy said. “I see us looking at an overall picture of funding for transportation at the local level, at the county level, at the state level, looking at the overall picture of funding for transportation.”
Sen. Tracy said he plans to assemble a task force to meet “in the latter part of 2012,” which means voters won’t likely get a preview of the discussions prior to the primary elections in August or the general in November.
Tennessee Transportation Commissioner John Schroer told Republican Gov. Bill Haslam during last month’s budget hearings the state needs to begin thinking about how to compensate for the dropping gas tax revenues that are due in part to more fuel-efficient vehicles (and electric vehicles that don’t use gas) on the roads.
…. (Haslam says) at some point the state is going to need to look at the transportation taxes, “or we’re going to be down to where we can’t fund just the basics of our road and bridge program in Tennessee.”
“My suggestion, whether it be this piece or that, let’s take a comprehensive look at the whole way we do that. My sense is we’re still a year or two away from that, from having a comprehensive approach.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam says declining gas tax revenues will be a major problem facing the state over the next decade.
But the Republican governor told reporters on Monday that he doesn’t plan to introduce any proposals to overhaul the system in the upcoming legislative session.
Haslam said in recent budget hearings that while it’s encouraging that cars are becoming more fuel efficient, that trend also means the state stands to collect less from its 21.4-cent tax on each gallon of gas.
Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said in the hearing that he has met with the heads of the House and Senate transportation committees about the issue.
Schroer told the governor that officials must “figure out before it’s too late how we’re going to systematically fund transportation in the future.”
A snippet from an AP story on Gov. Bill Haslam’s comments on potential federal budget cuts impacting Tennessee:
The governor declined to speculate when asked by a reporter whether a $273 million reduction in the state’s transportation budget would require an increase in the gas tax to help keep the state’s infrastructure intact.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “We’ll look at the numbers. There’s a whole lot of ifs in there.”
The governor said the state will have to wait and see what cuts are approved by Congress as part of the recent agreement on raising the federal debt ceiling.
Haslam said services for the poor and disabled would be disproportionately affected by potential cuts because so much of the budgets for those agencies come from federal sources.
“The human service agencies are the ones where we are the most vulnerable,” Haslam said. “You see how much of their budget is federal-related, and it does cause you to catch your breath a little bit.”
TennCare, the state’s expanded Medicaid program, would cut more than $2.2 billion under the larger reduction scenario, while the Department of Human Services would lose $861 million.
Tony Garr, policy director for Tennessee Health Care Campaign, called on federal and state officials to try to find other solutions the budget problems.
“Cuts of this magnitude will force family members who are currently in nursing homes to be put out on the sidewalk, for hospitals in rural Tennessee to close their doors,” he said.
“Now is not the time to cut the federal deficit to the magnitude that they’re talking about. We need more good jobs than we need to pay down the deficit.”
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority staff is recommending the purchase of a combined cycle gas plant in northern Mississippi.
The federal utility said in a news release Thursday the staff will recommend to the TVA board the purchase of the 968-megawatt Magnolia Combined Cycle Gas Plant near Ashland, Miss. A purchase price was not announced.
The plant is now owned by Kelson Limited Partnership. The three-unit plant has been a source of purchased power for TVA since the plant began operation in 2003. It is connected to the TVA grid.
Magnolia would be TVA’s third combined cycle gas plant, which uses waste heat from the generation process to turn additional turbines to make more electricity.
Tennessee’s oil and gas industry successfully opposed passage of a law this spring to regulate fracking, the controversial practice of cracking the rock deep underground to more quickly release natural gas, reports Anne Paine.
And as the state is poised to update its mining regulations, the industry has firm seating on the board that will make the final decision on any rules, a fact that environmentalists say is part of a too-cozy relationship between regulators and those regulated.
Fracking is growing nationwide in areas with gas-rich shale, and it’s been blamed in some areas for tainting well water. Questions also have arisen about possible links to earthquake tremors.
But so far, fracking is not on the table as the state Department of Environment and Conservation proposes changes in mining rules.
“One of our concerns is that TDEC reached out to the oil and gas community and basically asked them to help write the regulations and never asked us,” said Renee Hoyos, with the Tennessee Clean Water Network. “They’re silent on fracking.”
From the News Sentinel
Opponents of “fracking” – a technology for extracting natural gas – filled a hearing room in Knoxville on Tuesday night, calling for more stringent regulation of the oil and gas industry.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation held the hearing on proposed regulations – but the proposals do not mention fracking, which injects water and/or chemicals into shale formations to extract the natural gas.
About 100 people attended the meeting at the Knoxville office of TDEC. The hearing was preceded by a sign-waving rally along Middlebrook Pike. A second public hearing on the proposed regulations is planned for 6 p.m. April 28 at the TDEC office, and written comments will be accepted until May 9.
About half of the 35 registered speakers voiced their opposition to the proposed regulations – and specifically to “fracking” – in the first hour and 20 minutes.
For the full story on News Sentinel webiste, click HERE.