A state lawmaker whose vehicle was shown speeding by a traffic camera in upper East Tennessee co-sponsored a bill to take that camera down this year, reports The City Paper. Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) was cited for driving 60 miles an hour in a 45 mile-per-hour zone while driving in Bluff City in 2010, just weeks before voters elected him to a third election. The photo-enforced traffic cameras did not show images of the driver, and Lundberg said an employee of his public relations firm was driving the company vehicle at the time.
The traffic camera speeding ticket “has absolutely zero effect” on his decision to sponsor the bill, Lundberg told The City Paper. “In fact, until you said that, I completely forgot about that.”
Lundberg was cited after his 1998 Ford F15 was pictured driving 15-miles over the speed limit just after lunchtime on Oct. 21, 2010. The $90 fine was paid. Because the traffic camera images do not include a photo of the driver, the ticket is considered a non-moving infraction.
The stretch of road leading up to the photo-enforced intersection had been a point of controversy a month before Lundberg’s company vehicle sped through the intersection. Local city officials were figuring out when and whether to change speed limits leading up to the site in reaction to a new ban freshly approved by lawmakers that spring to space out speed reductions and photo-enforced cameras.
The cameras are still a sore spot to this day, said Lundberg. He said he receives constant complaints that the traffic cameras are a deterrent for travelers wanting to visit the Bristol Motor Speedway in his district. He said he is also worried about traffic crashes at the site of the cameras.
— Note: The bill, HB314, did not pass.
Tennessee legislators have been fighting over cockfighting for decades and, as with many morality matters in our state and elsewhere, the squawking boils down to whether traditional values or emerging values prevail in the pecking order of our collective consciousness.
That collective consciousness, of course, is reflected in the people we elect as our state representatives and senators, and what they can agree upon without ruffling too many feathers. It does not involve a question of which came first, as with the chicken or the egg.
The traditionalists came first. Andrew Jackson raised fighting roosters. He also had slaves. There’s an obvious and monumental difference, of course: human beings versus animals. The fate of chickens is irrelevant, inconsequential trivia in comparison to slavery.
And remember that Andy Jackson relied upon a well-armed state militia, composed of citizens with a right to bear arms, in defeating the Creek Indians and, later, the British at New Orleans. In that respect, his traditional view prevails somewhat today in our state’s collective consciousness as reflected by our pro-gun Legislature.
But, well, cockfighting is a matter of debate. Maybe as high up there as such major controversies as whether wine can be sold in grocery stores or whether guns can be kept in cars, just to pluck a couple of issues from among many wherein lobbyists are spurred into what passes these days for mortal combat in Legislatorland.
The 2013 version of legislation to increase penalties for cockfighting in Tennessee on Wednesday cleared a House subcommittee where it has died in previous years – though not without opposition.
Under the bill by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, cockfighting would remain a misdemeanor on first offense, but the minimum fine would increase from $50 to $500. On second offense, cockfighting would be a felony punishable by one to six years in prison.
Last year’s version called for a felony classification on first offense and set the minimum fine at $2,500. The measure cleared a Senate committee, but died in the House Agriculture Subcommittee.
The House Agriculture Subcommittee, with a somewhat changed makeup from the previous legislative session, approved the bill on voice vote Wednesday. Two members, Republican Reps. Andy Holt of Dresden and Judd Matheny of Tullahoma, had themselves recorded as voting no. (Note/Update: Also, Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg, voted no — though he had not been listed as doing so when the roll call was initially checked.)
Matheny said “a lot of people in my area – I don’t know that they’re cockfighting – raise roosters” and that he generally believes the Legislature “has better things to worry about than what to do with the lowly chicken.”
Holiday season news notes on wine in grocery stores stuff: The Bill is Back, With Hopes Higher
Richard Locker has a general re-hash of wine-in-grocery-stores legislation, scheduled to be considered by the Legislature for the seventh consecutive year in 2013 – not counting efforts made decades earlier, then abandoned for years. The article is themed on the proposition that chances for passage are better this year. But that doesn’t mean passage is a certainty, or possibly even likely, in the 2013 legislature that opens Jan. 8. Both sides have powerful backers and agree it will be an uphill battle for approval.
…Tennessee is among 14 states that prohibit wine in grocery stores.
(Sponsoring Sen. Bill) Ketron, who has sponsored similar bills for several years, said the reasons why its chances are improved include the referendum clause, the non-election year session and the new backing of the legislature’s top two leaders. Harwell Won’t Stack Committees
While Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has said he will appoint committees in the coming session with passage of the wine-in-groceries bill in mind, House Speaker Beth Harwell says that’s not in her plans.
Here’s a quote from the House speaker, responding via email to a News Sentinel inquiry on whether she would appoi9nt panels to help the cause: “I’ve made it quite clear I believe it’s time for grocery stores to be allowed to sell wine–and I believe Tennesseans want that–but we want to do it in a way that creates an equal playing field for the mom and pop stores as well. However, I don’t develop my committees based on one particular issue. There are many things to consider when appointing members to committees–expertise, personal experiences, and previous service on the committee, among other things.” The Liquor Store Owner’s Perspective
From a Bristol Herald Courier op-ed piece: The potential for wine sales in Tennessee food, convenience and drugstore outlets has once again reared its dangerous head. This time around, the effort is spearheaded by Bristol-area lawmakers, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Rep. Jon Lundberg, among several others in the Tennessee legislature.
Apparently, the fact that this measure was extensively studied over the past five years and voted down each time is meaningless to these gentlemen. In what might be described as a fit of sour grapes at those past decisions, both lawmakers have vowed passage of this bill during the upcoming session. In their words, they intend to stack the deck through selective and supportive appointments to the committees involved, without regard to public safety or what the majority of Tennessee residents might desire. The Lundberg Perspective
From Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, also in a Bristol Herald Courier op-ed: To say the liquor industry lobby has done a good job of bottling up the bill might be a bad pun, but unfortunately it’s an accurate one. Perhaps, though, this session will be different. There is reason to be optimistic.
A nearly three-month-old Internet blog posting taking Tennessee GOP state Reps. Tony Shipley and Jon Lundberg to task for passing legislation outlawing synthetic drugs and shutting down area head shops has been turned over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into, Shipley tells the Kin sport Times-News. “I got a call this morning that someone said something was out there, looking like it was a life threat, and it was forwarded to TBI, and they do whatever it is they do,” Shipley said. “The information was sent to Nashville by county officials who saw it today.”
The blog, called ablogination.tn420.org, said of Shipley: “We’re coming for you. The businesses you sought to destroy have more money than you do and far more resolve.”
The blog, dated May 15, included a computer-altered image of the so-called “Blackbird Mailer” used by the Tennessee Republican Party in the 2008 campaign between Shipley and former state Rep. Nathan Vaughn, Northeast Tennessee’s first African-American state lawmaker. Shipley narrowly won that election.
In the TRP mailer, the heads of Vaughn, former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama were pasted on blackbirds and described as “Part of the Big Government Flock.” In the blog, Shipley’s and Lundberg’s heads are pasted on the blackbirds and described as “Part of the Fascist Big Government Flock.”
See also WJHL-TV’s reporting, which includes this: A T.B.I. spokesperson said State Senator Mae Beavers contacted the agency with concerns about the blog post.
A T.B.I. agent met with Sen. Beavers, the spokesperson said.
…Shipley told 11 Connects News that Speaker of the House Beth Harwell has directed the T.H.P. (Tennessee Highway Patrol) Office of Executive Protection to evaluate the threat and take steps necessary to protect him and his family.
Here’s a portion of the blog post.
“We’re coming for you (Shipley). The businesses you sought to destroy have more money than you do and far more resolve….You attacked our livelihood, which means you attacked our families and their well-being. I am your enemy, Tony.”
State Representative Jon Lundberg told 11 Connects’ Josh Smith he doesn’t consider the blog to represent an “imminent threat.”
Attorney General Bob Cooper says a state law that requires liquor store owners to be Tennessee residents – enacted by state legislators who said they wanted to block “interstate whiskey” – violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.
State Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, who requested the Cooper opinion released Tuesday, says he will next year sponsor legislation to repeal the requirement and hopes it will be a first step toward a comprehensive rewrite of state liquor laws that currently “are not business-friendly and not citizen-friendly.”
The Cooper opinion (full text HERE) deals with statutes applying to both wholesale and retail liquor licenses.
To get a wholesaler license, a corporation’s officers and stockholders must be Tennessee residents for five years and “a majority of its assets” must be located in Tennessee. For a retail package store license, a company must have “all of its capitol stock” owned by persons who have resided in Tennessee for at least two years.
“These residency and corporate asset location requirements for applicants seeking a license as an alcoholic beverage wholesaler or package retailer violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution,” says the opinion.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House passed a bill that would make it a felony to make or sell synthetic drugs often called bath salts that imitate controlled substances.
The bill passed unanimously during the House floor session on Monday. Sponsor Rep. Jon Lundberg, a Republican from Bristol, said the drugs have hit his district in northeast Tennessee hard after Virginia banned the drugs and people have been crossing state lines to purchase the drugs in stores in Tennessee.
Lundberg said the drugs are not marketed for ingestion and can be purchased in convenience and tobacco stores. The bill would also allow authorities to declare the stores where the drugs are sold as public nuisances.
The Senate has not yet passed its version of the bill.
The success of Virginia’s laws against synthetic drugs is partly to blame for the synthetic drug problem in East Tennessee, reports the Bristol Herald-Courier. “We’re somewhat a victim of the success of the Virginia law,” Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said earlier this week at a news conference about the drugs. “It effectively drove them [sellers of synthetic drugs] to Tennessee.”
He also said that the east part of the state seems hit the hardest by synthetic drugs, and is worried that, if left unchecked by legislature, the problem will grow throughout the state.
Tennessee has a synthetic drug law, but it contains only a short list of banned chemicals – and omits a number of other compounds that have the same or similar effects. Tennessee lawmakers are looking to change that, and are looking at Virginia’s law as an example, Staubus said. Virginia’s law classifies synthetic drugs based on their effects – in that they mimic controlled substances – and then treats synthetics like the controlled substance it is intended to mimic.
Three bills currently before the Tennessee General Assembly aim to do that; two are sponsored by local representatives Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, and Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport.
The latest effort to legalize the sale of wine in Tennessee grocery stores appears stalled at the starting gate, but the sponsor insists that it’s only a matter of time until the effort is successful.
Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, on Jan. 26 filed HB2874, which would allow sales of wine in supermarkets or groceries in any jurisdiction where voters approved in a local referendum. But no companion bill was filed in the Senate and the deadline for doing so has passed, meaning the measure cannot become law.
Bills to simply grant a general state authorization for sale of wine in grocery stores in cities that already authorize liquor-by-the-drink sales have failed repeatedly in recent years in the face of strong opposition from owners of stores now licensed to sell liquor and wine.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state Rep. Jon Lundberg say they didn’t realize the new state law on traffic cameras would immediately impact the speed ticket cameras in Bluff City, reports the Bristol Herald Courier. Bluff City officials didn’t either, until a ticketed motorist pointed out an August attorney general’s opinion on the new law. (Previous post HERE.)
A provision of the new law says no speed cameras are permitted within a mile of a speed limit reduction of 10 mph or more. The two legislators and the Bluff City officials thought a state constitutional provision against impairment of existing contracts, however, would mean the provision wouldn’t apply to existing cameras covered by an existing contract. The AG opinion says, basically, that it does – there are legal exceptions to the broad rule of non-impairment of contracts and the meant the new law’s provisions fall within those exceptions. (AG Bob) Cooper’s opinion – and a protest from Jim Bollinger – prompted the city to temporarily shut down one of its two traffic cameras amid concerns the device might have illegally been issuing tickets to hundreds of drivers for the past 2½ months.
“They’ve got one hell of a mess going on there in Bluff City,” Bollinger said as he looked back on what’s happened since he Googled “Chapter 425.”
City officials knew they’d either have to move their speed camera or extend the city’s 45-mph-zone to comply with this last regulation (the one-mile ban). But they also thought they’d have plenty of time to take those steps because of a little known clause in the Tennessee constitution.
“We can’t break contracts by legislation,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican who represents Bluff City in the state Senate, said as he explained what the constitution’s contract clause entails. “We were told in committee that we can’t break or interfere with an existing contract through legislation.”
Because the new rules contained in Public Chapter 425 could somehow impact the contract a city has with its camera system operator, Ramsey said, many state legislators including himself believed the new rules would not apply to individual cities until their contracts expired – including Bluff City.
Under this interpretation, Bluff City would not have to take any action to comply with the law until Jan. 1, 2025, the expiration date for its contract with American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based company that manages the system and supplied the cameras.
“We can’t change an existing contract,” said state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, who shares Ramsey’s interpretation of the constitution’s contract clause. “We don’t have that authority.”
But while Lundberg agreed with Ramsey about the contract clause, he also questioned whether making Bluff City extend its 45-mph-zone or move its speed camera might also interfere with the camera-company contract.
….”I was told that we were grandfathered in,” Interim City Manager Judy Dulaney said Wednesday when asked why she shut the camera down amid questions about its legality. “I’m not going to take a chance on that. The city wants to do what is right.”
Ramsey praised Dulaney’s suspension of the southbound camera and subsequent declaration that any citations issued since July 1 were “under review” during a Friday afternoon interview. He also said Cooper’s opinion has caused some confusion across the state.