The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission — for the second time in three years — is considering a sandhill crane hunting season.
Further from The Tennessean report If the commission approves the hunting plan at its August meeting, Tennessee would become the 16th state to allow crane hunting. The commission delayed a decision in January 2011.
The central question in the current debate is not whether the sandhill crane population can sustain a level of hunting — biologists on both sides of the issue agree it can — but whether a hunt is the right thing to do given how they attract bird watchers to the state.
Organized hunting groups, led by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, support a sandhill crane season. But the plan has raised concerns among birders, and the Tennessee Ornithological Society says the cranes are too valuable a resource to hunt.
“What we want to see is the opportunity to hunt the cranes but do it in a wise and sustainable fashion and in a way that recognizes and helps promote the viewing opportunities as well,” Mike Butler, the federation’s CEO, told the commission in late June.
Melinda Welton, chairwoman of the Ornithological Society’s conservation policy committee, said Tennesseans oppose hunting the birds, the largest species found in the state. She said by allowing crane hunting, the commission and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which it oversees, risk a major public outcry.
“I think the agency is going to get quite a bit of grief,” she said. “It is a golden opportunity for the agency to gain a lot of goodwill by proclaiming this the most watchable wildlife species in the state and celebrating that.”
The sandhill crane population in Tennessee is estimated as high as 87,000. There are as many as 650,000 of the birds nationwide.
Visitors to to Tennessee state park restaurants can now enjoy an exclusive Tennessee table wine with their dinner, reports the Crossville Chronicle.. The wine, a Seyval blanc grape blend grown in Tennessee, was developed especially for the state park system by Stonehaus Winery in Crossville in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Tennessee State Park system.
“They’ve [Stonehaus] been very involved in this region for a long time and are always looking for ways to partner with others to make things good for the whole area,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
“It’s in our interest to promote the state park and for the state park to promote us,” said Rob Ramsey as he uncorked the first bottle of the special reserve wine.”
State Rep. Cameron Sexton added, “It’s nice to incorporate regional products into the state parks. It gives an idea of what’s available in the communities. I hope it continues.”
Winemakers Fay Wheeler and Jan Nix developed the blend that’s considered a semi-dry table wine.
“It’s not super dry or super sweet,” Wheeler explained. “It’s a nice in between that a lot of people should like.”
It also pairs well with many foods.
Rob Ramsey said the grapes were grown in Johnson City, TN, making this wine a great “Pick Tennessee” product through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s marketing program. The label was designed by Smithville graphic artist Mary Ann Puckett.
From Chas Sisk:
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey may have a lot of clout around the state Capitol. But by one measure, House Speaker Beth Harwell appears to have greater pull.
For the second consecutive year, the representative from Nashville’s upscale Green Hills neighborhood managed to upset Ramsey, a farm boy from rural Sullivan County, in a milk-off Tuesday between the leaders of the state Senate and House of Representatives.
The event highlighted Agriculture Day, an annual event in which the Department of Agriculture, Tennessee State Fair and other farm-oriented groups set up shop in the corridors of Legislative Plaza.
Harwell went into the contest the underdog, despite having beaten Ramsey in a goat-milking contest a year ago. That event was marred by allegations that Harwell had been helped by a House member who surreptitiously poured a little extra milk in her pail. Smartphone video confirmed those suspicions.
Full story HERE.
Legislation allowing cigarette retailers to raise prices — by 32 cents per pack according to a legislative staff estimate — has cleared its first committee.
The bill by Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, deals with a current state law setting a minimum price for cigarettes. Hill told colleagues that has led to “large out-of-state cigarette manufacturers” requiring by contract that their products be sold at that price, costing retailers “hundreds of thousands if not millions of potential revenue” that could be realized by raising prices.
The Fiscal Review Committee staff calculated that the average price of a pack of cigarettes is currently about $5 in Tennessee and that the bill, if enacted, would let retailers charge an extra 32 cents per pack. It is further calculated that the higher price will drive down consumption so that the state loses about $1.4 million in annual revenue that it would otherwise receive from sales and tobacco taxes.
Because of complicated tax provisions interacting with the law on “state-shared revenue,” however, the Fiscal Review staff figures that local governments will actually receive more money if the law is changed to raise prices, even if cigarette sales drop as predicted.
Current law says retailers can sell cigarettes at no more than 8 percent above the price they pay to get them. The bill (HB644) would raise the ceiling to 15 percent above their cost. It is being pushed by lobbyists for convenience stores.
It was approved by the House Agriculture Committee last week and faces its first Senate committee vote this week.
A time-honored ritual for the lords and ladies of Legislatorland is welcoming various groups of common citizens to the state castle, um, Capitol for a Day On The Hill, wherein they are granted audiences with the elected nobility to present grievances, pay homage and raise awareness.
It can be quite a spectacle as the Day On The Hill (DOTH) folks mix with other, less-organized common citizens wearing frowns or smiles — and bumper sticker slogans affixed to their chests — supporting or opposing some proposed law of the land, generally bored schoolchildren getting a dose of civics education and the everyday inhabitants of Legislatorland, lobbyists trying to influence the elected nobility and staffers trying to serve them.
It can also be quite an annoyance if you’re trying to walk across the hall from one room to another as members of the peaceful multitude clog the plaza in numbers that would have fire marshals clearing the area, writing tickets and issuing citations anywhere else.
One lobbyist says he discourages DOTHs because of the risk that individuals in the DOTH crowd will say something off message to a legislator — “You idiot!” for example — and the increasing annoyance factor.
SPRING HILL, Tenn. (AP) — A Middle Tennessee court has temporarily barred Spring Hill from limiting residents to one political campaign yard sign per office.
According to The Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/YgGNpv ) in Columbia, the restraining order was obtained by George Jones, who is running for mayor of Spring Hill. He says a local ordinance limiting campaign signs to one per resident for each office is unconstitutional. Jones is a former mayor of the city of more than 23,000 residents.
Circuit Court Judge Robert L. Holloway issued the temporary order Wednesday, pending an April 5 hearing. The city election day is April 11.
Spring Hill City Administrator Victor Lay said the city will comply with the judge’s instructions, but he declined further comment.
Some Northeast Tennessee legislators are opposing Gov. Bill Haslam’s voucher bill, according to Robert Houk. He suspects it’s not all a matter of philosophical differences. Now, the Republican governor and the GOP-led state General Assembly is looking to divert already limited state and local tax dollars away from public education to private schools. Haslam’s voucher plan is seeing opposition from teachers, school boards and Democrats.
And the governor’s bill is not getting any love from state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough. Boss Hill has vowed to stand with the school boards of Johnson City and Washington County, which aren’t keen on the idea of losing precious tax dollars to private schools.
Even so, Hill is not necessarily philosophically opposed to school vouchers. Hill says he is opposed to the governor’s bill because it is aimed squarely at failing schools in urban areas (Memphis and Nashville) and not the better academically performing school systems in our area.
Freshman state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, agrees with Hill on this matter.
“I think vouchers are a good idea, but it’s hard to say what the details of the legislation will be,” Van Huss told Press staff writer Gary B. Gray earlier this month.
Actually, it’s not. The governor’s bill is pretty specific when it comes to the particulars of the proposed voucher system.
So what’s really going on here? Why do Hill and Van Huss (and we suspect Hill’s brother, Timothy, too) appear to be solid votes against Haslam’s voucher bill? Some Capitol Hill insiders believe it’s Hill’s way of exacting some revenge for Haslam’s overhaul of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.
Tennessee state Rep. Timothy Hill remains committed to his legislation banning Bluff City’s speed enforcement cameras despite criticism from the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, reports Hank Hayes. “I’m disappointed with the name calling,” Hill, R-Blountville, said when asked for a response to that criticism occurring at a board meeting Thursday night. “That doesn’t advance any discussion. … I’m surprised that if the city is that concerned with my legislation — I figured they would be — I’m surprised they have not reached out to me at this point. I’ve never been invited to a BMA meeting. I have yet to have one of their aldermen reach out to me in any form or fashion to have a discussion on this.”
Bluff City aldermen warned that losing revenue from those speed cameras will hurt funding for various projects, including a Sullivan County-supported library in town.
The speed cameras, located on Highway 11-E are not in Bluff City’s downtown area and also catch motorists moving through business areas of the Piney Flats community.
The Hill talks with Tennessean Ward Baker about his new job as political director of the Republican National committee and his assignment: win enough seats to give the GOP control of the U.S. Senate after the 2014 elections.
An excerpt: In his new role, Baker will allocate the NRSC’s budget, shifting resources as the map develops. He’ll also do much of the hiring for the committee’s independent expenditure arm and help shape the messaging and strategy needed to achieve the GOP’s 2014 goal of regaining the Senate majority.
Baker readily admits that, coming out of 2012, there are things the party needs to do differently, particularly in terms of expanding the GOP’s appeal.
“We’ve got to do a better job of reaching new voters. I agree with a lot of what [Louisiana Gov.] Bobby Jindal said. … We should not run away from our party,” he said.
Jindal charged during his keynote address at the RNC’s winter meeting that while the Republican Party shouldn’t change its values, it “might need to change just about everything else we are doing.”
Baker indicated that one of the biggest changes coming to the NRSC will be in recruitment.
“There are a lot of senators that have offered to help us recruit” besides the NRSC’s two vice chairmen, Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Ted Cruz (Texas), Baker said.
Baker is bringing a winning track record — and wealth of experience in hard-fought races — to the NRSC. But his career began in the military.
After graduating high school in Tennessee, Baker eschewed college in favor of joining the Marines. He was stationed at the 8th and I location on Capitol Hill as a member of the ceremonial drill team.
He credits his military training with giving him the self-discipline and team ethic that has guided him in his career in politics.
From the Kingsport Times-News: A Kingsport woman is accused of stealing nearly $50,000 from a Bristol-based non-profit, which funds a Bluff City Christian radio station and is directed by Kenneth C. Hill — the Tennessee Regulatory Authority director and father of local representatives Timothy and Matthew Hill.
An affidavit filed in Bristol General Sessions Court states Quyen Renee Quillin, 37, of 613 West Valley View Circle, Kingsport, was arrested Jan. 22 by Bristol, Tenn., Police. She was charged with theft of more than $10,000, booked into the Sullivan County jail and released after posting $3,000 bond.
“It’s a difficult thing, and it’s a very difficult and very sad thing for her,” Hill told the Times-News of the arrest, adding an investigation is continuing. BTPD Det. Brian Hess says Quillin had been an employee of Hill’s non-profit approximately four years, with AECC continuing to follow paper trails and suspecting the total theft could be close to $300,000.
Court records state Quillin was an employee of Hill’s Appalachian Education Commission Corporation, which broadcasts WHCB 91.5 Christian radio out of Bluff City, Tenn. Hill reportedly contacted investigators on Jan. 14, two months after attempting to obtain a loan for the ministry and being denied.
He reported that a subsequent check of records discovered Quillin, a bookkeeper and administrative assistance with his non-profit, had opened a joint American Express card on his account without permission. Hill told police Quillin had charged approximately $47,000 on the card and then paid it off with money from the Appalachian Education Commission Corporation, which is funded through donations from the public.