Also winning final approval late in the session was “Lynn’s Law,” named after Lynn Cameron, a 19-year-old developmentally disabled Illinois woman who was abandoned by her mother in a Caryville, Tenn., bar last year.
When authorities located the woman’s mother ten days later, they found she had not violated any existing state law and could not be charged. The bill (HB531) creates a law to cover such situations in the future.
Sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, and Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, the bill legally defines the “caretaker” of a developmentally disabled person unable to care for himself or herself without assistance.
The bill says a caretaker who willfully abandons his or her responsibility can be punished under a current law against abuse and neglect of the developmentally disabled – a Class E felony, punishable by one to six years in prioson and/or a fine of up to $3,000.
A proposed ban on using cellphones and cameras at polling places, approved quickly and unanimously in the Senate, has stalled in the House amid suggestions it could block efforts to record wrongdoing.
Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, said she proposed HB921 at the urging of a county election administrator who believes cellphones and picture-taking devices are an inappropriate “distraction.” And state Election Coordinator Mark Goins said he has asked for a criminal investigation into reports of a person who sold his vote, then took a photo of the voting screen to prove how he voted and collect payment.
But members of the House Local Government Committee questioned Goins and Weaver at length on what they see as problems with the legislation.
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said he has taken each of his five children with him into a voting booth and snapped a picture. That was “a neat thing for us,” he said, adding that “we’re getting into some muddy water here” with the bill.
Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, noted Shelby County voters last year were assigned to vote in the wrong legislative district. With a cellphone picture, he said, they could show the screen as assigned and establish that the ballot was incorrect.
Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth has fired back after a long-distance tongue-lashing from state lawmakers in Nashville, reports Andy Sher Members of a House subcommittee smacked Ruth around Wednesday over a column he wrote earlier this month. Ruth is supporting a bill that would require a doctor’s prescription for drugs such as Claritin D or Sudafed, which contain pseudoephedrine. The drug is a key ingredient in methamphetamine.
In the column, Ruth wrote, “The politicians, lobbyists, pharmaceutical companies and meth dealers that are blocking a new, effective law have made for some strange bedfellows.”
Some lawmakers took that as an accusation of corruption. Lancaster Republican Terri Lynn Weaver, for instance, said Ruth should “have the cojones” to come to her office “and look at me eyeball to eyeball and tell me I’m on the take.”
In a statement Friday, Ruth stuck to his guns. He said a December survey showed most law enforcement members in the state see meth as the No. 1 problem.
“I predicted I would come up against strong resistance, and I have,” Ruth wrote. “I see the wording and intent of my articles have been misquoted by some in an effort to come back at me as I indicated in those very same articles would happen.
Saying more openness is needed on the part of Tennessee policy makers, Rep. Susan Lynn has introduced legislation that would require the disclosure of all real property they own other than their primary home, according to TNReport. The Mt. Juliet Republican’s HB 1063 would require all elected and certain appointed public officials, such as those on local and regional planning commissions or state boards, to disclose any real property owned by them, their spouses or any minor children living at home.
“Back in 2006, when we did the ethics reform, we wanted this to be part of the disclosure and simply couldn’t get it done at that time,” said Lynn, who served in the House for eight years before running for state Sen. Mae Beavers’ seat and losing in 2010.
“Leaving the legislature for two years, like I did, you start thinking about the things you wish you’d done or could have done, and this was one of those things.”
…Lynn’s bill would require the disclosure of the address of the property and the month and year of its acquisition, but not everyone in the General Assembly is in favor of it.
Many have told her that the information is a matter of public record, and that should be sufficient. Her argument is that since it is public record, “What’s wrong with putting it all in one neat, consolidated place to make that disclosure?
“I’m not feeling a warm breeze right now from the [Local Government] committee,” said Lynn, who postponed a vote on the bill until March 12. “I really feel like I’m standing out there alone. I know it’s the right thing to do, and I hope they will be amenable.”
She said she would entertain an amendment excepting state legislators from the new disclosure requirement, if it’s the only way to make it a requirement for local government officials.
While the state’s prison population is ballooning beyond budget projections, legislators are expressing growing frustration that the cost of incarceration — estimated in “fiscal notes” accompanying each bill — may block many new efforts to crack down on crime.
“In my eyes, fiscal notes are what prevents us from giving due punishment to these perpetrators,” declared Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, after listening to testimony about sex trafficking involving minors. “In my eyes the cost of a bullet is 37 cents. The cost of a rope is less. And that’s the problem with our system.”
The bill that prompted Weaver’s wish for a simpler penalty alternative to prison (HB131) would revise a law enacted last year that increased the sentence for sex trafficking involving a minor 15 years old or younger. This year’s measure would expand that to cover as well those 16 or 17 years old.
The fiscal note estimates this would cost taxpayers $137,500 per year. It is part of a four-bill package of sex trafficking legislation that sponsor Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, says has a combined cost of about $500,000.
The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee approved all four bills unanimously. The real test for such bills — there are dozens of measures enhancing criminal penalties filed this year — will come in the House Budget Committee and its subcommittee. With few exceptions, those that are not part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget plan for the coming year will be rejected.”
The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Obama’s nomination of four people to the TVA Board of Directors,according to TVA.
They are V. Lynn Evans, a Memphis accountant; Peter Mahurin, chairman of a financial services firm in Bowling Green, Ky.; Mike McWherter of Dresden, a beer distributor and the 2010 Democratic nominee for governor; and Joe H. Ritch, a Huntsville, Ala., attorney.
Mahurin had been nominated by Obama in February, the other three in September.
Without the confirmations, the TVA board would have begun the year without a quorum for normal conduct of business, With that in mind, the board voted to delegate some authority to the agency’s new CEO, Bill Johnson, whose term officially began with the new year.
— UPDATE from Michael Collins: Senators did not act on the nomination of Marilyn Brown, an energy policy professor at Georgia Tech, who currently serves on the board and whom Obama nominated for a second term. Brown’s nomination will expire when the new Congress assumes office today, and Obama will have to either renominate her or choose someone else for the position.
Regardless, the confirmation of four new members means the board will almost certainly have a quorum at its next meeting Feb. 14 in Chattanooga. Here’s a news release issued jointly by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker:
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., made the following statements regarding Senate confirmation of Joe H. Ritch, of Alabama; Michael McWherter, of Tennessee; Vera Lynn Evans, of Tennessee; and C. Peter Mahurin, of Kentucky, to be members of the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors. The nominees passed the Senate by unanimous consent Tuesday evening. “Good leadership at TVA is a priority for all Tennesseans, who count on having access to cheap, clean, reliable electricity–and I believe, after meeting these individuals and studying their backgrounds and qualifications, that they will provide strong board leadership,” said Alexander.
“I was encouraged by the backgrounds of these nominees and am pleased they were confirmed by the Senate. TVA’s ability to provide low-cost, reliable power is critical to the economic health of our state and region, so I appreciate the willingness of experienced individuals to serve TVA as it goes through an important leadership transition over the next few months,” said Corker.
The 40th state House District race could be a toss-up this year, according to The Tennessean. Tennessee Republicans see a strong, proven incumbent in Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, of Lancaster, for the new 40th District. Democrats, though, say the GOP legislator needs to fight as hard to keep her seat as Democrat Sarah Marie Smith, of Carthage, does to earn it.
“Sarah Marie Smith and Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver are on an even playing field in 2012 because Terri Lynn is also having to introduce herself to new voters in Trousdale and Sumner counties,” said Brandon Puttbrese, communications director for the Tennessee Democratic Party. “This will be a highly competitive race that will be decided by the 10 to 20 percent of voters who are in the middle.”
The district was historically Democratic before Weaver won the seat in 2008, marking the first time a Republican had represented the 40th in at least 36 years, after longtime legislator Frank Forrest Buck decided not to run for re-election.
All of Macon and parts of DeKalb counties were drawn out of the district, while all of Trousdale and southeastern Sumner were drawn in. Smith County was left intact, leaving the new district of about 800 square miles shaped somewhat like a boomerang.
…Weaver, a gospel singer and songwriter, says she plans to nurture a low-tax, business-friendly environment and cut government regulations so that companies can increase revenue.
“Profit means jobs: it’s a simple formula,” said Weaver, 55. “I will do all I can from a state perspective to help, not hinder, small business, the true job creators.”
Smith, who has a master’s degree in conflict management and works as a court mediator, said if elected she would offer incentives to businesses that hire state workers.
“Companies relocating to Tennessee would be required to hire qualified Tennessee citizens if that company receives a tax break from the state,” Smith, 64, said. “Small businesses and family farmers would receive tax breaks for hiring unemployed Tennessee citizens.”
President Obama has nominated Mike McWherter, the 2010 Democratic nominee for Tennessee governor, to fill one of five current vacancies on the TVA Board of Directors.
Obama also nominated V. Lynn Evans, a Memphis accountant, and Joe H. Ritch, a Huntsville, Ala., attorney, as new members of the board while proposing to give Marilyn A. Brown, a current board member whose term has expired, a new term on the nine-member panel.
The president in February had nominated Peter Mahurin of Bowling Green, Ky., to a TVA board seat, but Mahurin’s nomination has not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The four nominations announced Friday in a White House news release are also subject to Senate confirmation.
The nominations come with the Senate planning to recess until after the November election and with Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Bob Corker declaring the “entire TVA governance structure” should be re-examined with an eye toward reform.
They also come with the TVA board facing the task of selecting a new CEO to replace Tom Kilgore, whose announced retirement takes effect at the end of the year..
Chas Sisk has a review of the House District 57 clash between Rep. Linda Elam and former Rep. Susan Lynn, which is something of a personality contest between two Tea Party conservatives.. Lynn said she believes she has the voters on her side. She points out that she carried Wilson County by nearly 1,700 votes in her unsuccessful effort against Beavers — a lead that evaporated in other counties.
Elam questions Lynn’s devotion to the 57th District. After reapportionment in January, Lynn’s home, off Coles Ferry Road, now lies in the neighboring 46th House District, Elam notes.
“She doesn’t even live in the district where she is purporting to want to represent people,” Elam said. “I see that as — I don’t want to say the word that came to mind. I see that as disrespectful to the voters.”
Lynn defends herself by saying that state lawmakers, including Elam, redrew the 57th District to exclude her. Although state law doesn’t require residency in a district — only that the representative live somewhere in a county that overlaps its boundaries, as is the case with Lynn — she pledged to move after the election.
“I think it’s extremely disingenuous,” Lynn said. “This is the area that I represented for eight years.”
The spat over district lines reflects the tenor of the race.
Elam is quick to highlight the contrast in style between her and Lynn, who frequently made headlines during her four terms in office. Elam conducts herself in public like the banking and commercial lawyer she once was, saying she prefers to work behind the scenes.
“I am levelheaded. I am solid. I am conscientious. I am easy to work with, and I don’t do drama,” she said. “I go down to the Capitol to do the people’s business.”
As proof, Elam points to a campaign fundraiser earlier this month in which 58 of her 63 House colleagues, including House Speaker Beth Harwell and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, were listed as co-hosts.
Lynn says she did not seek out news coverage, either, but admits that it finds her on occasion.
Attention-getting measures Lynn backed over the years include attempts to reverse the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee, reassert the sovereignty of the states over the federal government and protect people from having microchips forcibly implanted under their skin.
Such legislation was filed out of principle, Lynn said, not to grab attention.
“I don’t write the newspaper articles.”
Lynn also flips the drama accusation around. She notes that Elam was censured by the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners in 2007 over her handling of a sexual harassment complaint against the city’s public works director.
She also says Elam fought to hold onto the office of mayor even after 87 percent of the city’s voters cast ballots in favor of an ordinance barring city officials from holding other elected positions.
Elam defends her actions in both cases.
In the sexual harassment situation, Elam says that all she did was call the accuser to gather information about the complaint. She said the conversation had been blessed by the city attorney beforehand.
“Yes, I was censured,” she said, “but it was a very political vote on something where the city attorney (and) ethics officer said I hadn’t done anything improper.”
Eighteen people have applied for the job of running day-to-day operations at the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, including the first chairman of the agency and three current or former TRA employees.
The utility-regulating TRA was substantially changed earlier this year with passage of legislation pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam. The transformation replaces the present four full-time directors with a five-member, part-time board and creates a new position for a full-time executive director
During legislative debate, critics of the Haslam bill questioned whether the executive director would effectively run the agency with the part-time board serving as a rubber stamp for his or her decisions. Proponents disputed such contentions.
The deadline for submitting applications was June 6, but the Haslam administration – in response to a request made a day later — did not provide a full list of applicants until Friday. Apparently, the delay was partly caused by most of the applicants filing with the Department of Human Resources, as requested in ads soliciting applications, while four sent their applications directly to the governor.