The state Court of Appeals has ruled that Rutherford County provided proper public notice before approving mosque construction plans in 2010, reports the Daily News Journal. The appeals court reversed local Chancellor Robert Corlew III’s decision a year ago that the county failed to provide adequate public notice before the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission approved construction plans for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro mosque on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike.
Corlew had ruled that the county’s May 2, 2010, public notice in The Murfreesboro Post about the meeting time, date and location without an agenda, didn’t reach enough people before planning commissioners approved the mosque plans May 24, 2010.
The planning commissioners in June 2012 voted to appeal Corlew’s decision. The matter might not end with the appeals court, though. The Tennessee Supreme Court will be asked to reverse the ruling, plaintiffs’ Murfreesboro attorney Joe Brandon said Thursday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill to require public notices to be published on newspaper websites.
The measure maintains a requirement for public notices to be published in the print editions of newspapers. It would also create a statewide online clearinghouse for all notices.
Sponsors say the Tennessee Press Association called for the changes in the interest of enhanced transparency.
“The public notice law is a positive step forward for government transparency,” said Kent Flanagan, director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. “It actually ensures that public notices will be posted on third party independent websites.”
The measure was sponsored by Republican Sen. Ken Yager of Harriman and Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville.
The House approved the legislation 94-1, and it passed the Senate 31-1.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment awarding a Memphis teacher back pay and damages after the board failed to comply with the Teacher Tenure Act when it dismissed her.
Saundra Thompson, a tenured teacher in the Memphis City Schools, was terminated by the school board in April 2007 for failing to return to work after taking extended sick time. The board did not provide written charges or an opportunity for a hearing prior to the termination.
Ms. Thompson filed suit alleging violation of the Tenure Act and right to due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United State Constitution. She was granted summary judgment and awarded reinstatement, back pay, damages and legal fees of $325,419. On appeal by the school board, the Court of Appeals remanded the case after it determined a factual dispute existed as to whether Ms. Thompson requested more sick leave prior to her termination, or whether she forfeited her tenure by making no such request.
The Supreme Court, in its holding today, reverses the Court of Appeals decision and affirms the trial court’s summary judgment, determining that, although a tenured teacher’s failure to return from sick leave may constitute cause for termination, there is no statute authorizing a board of education to deem it a constructive resignation or a forfeiture of tenure. The Court notes that by dismissing Ms. Thompson without providing her with written charges or an opportunity for a hearing, the defendant board of education violated her rights under the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act and her constitutional right to due process of law.
To read the Saundra Thompson v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education opinion, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, visit the opinions sections of TNCourts.gov.
A law that requires Amazon.com to begin collecting sales tax in Tennessee doesn’t take effect until 2014, but one provision that became effective immediately appears to be having some effect, reports Andy Sher. Consumer use tax collections in April were $571,197, an increase of $342,964 or 108.1 percent from April 2011. That appears to be directly related to a provision in the law that requires Amazon to begin notifying its Tennessee customers immediately that sales tax payments are already required by state law.
“It’s reasonable to think that April’s increase in consumer use tax … is due to increased attention to the subject via the notices and the increased media attention,” Revenue Department Billy Trout said.
Assistant House Republican Leader Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, handled the Haslam administration’s Amazon bill.
“This was the agreement that was reached by all parties to allow Amazon.com to keep 3,500 jobs in our state,” Brooks said. “This was a jobs bill.”
Knoxville’s Rep. Harry Brooks abandoned Monday the effort to pass a controversial bill that could have cut lottery-funded scholarship in half for an estimated 5,000 students.
“The thought is we don’t need to do it right now,” said Brooks after taking HB2649 “off notice” during the final meeting of the House Finance Subcommittee.
The bill, as filed, would have required college students to have both an ACT score of 21 and a 3.0 high school grade point average to get a $4,000 annual scholarship.
Currently, a student can qualify by having either one. Both are not required.
Under the bill, those who have one, but not both, of the qualifications would get only a $2,000 scholarship.
A Senate-passed bill repealing the present limit on how much total money legislative candidates can take from political action committees – currently $107,200 per election – was taken “off notice” in a House Committee Tuesday.
The move, which typically means a bill is dead for the year, was taken by sponsor Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove. He said afterwards that he made the the decision on his own because “I’m just covered up” with other legislative work. But Casada said he will consider pushing the bill anyway if House leaders ask him to do so.
The bill was initially sponsored in the House by House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville. Maggart said she signed the bill over to Casada because of his expertise in the area – Casada sponsored a bill last year that allowed direct corporate campaign contributions to Tennessee candidates – and trusts his decision on whether or not to push the measure this year.
News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office:
(March 26, 2012, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey tonight praised the passage of Senate Bill 3644 sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem Bo Watson (R-Hixson). Inspired by conversations the lieutenant governor had with business owners during his Red Tape Road Trips, the bill is designed to keep license holders apprised of changes in government regulation and their status as license holders. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the measure.
“This is exactly the kind of thing our Republican majority should be doing to make our state government more transparent, open and customer friendly,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “For too long small businessmen have been kept in the dark and mired in red tape. This common sense bill allows government to stay in touch with job creators trying to make a living and make their interactions with government as painless as possible.”
“This is a necessary step to increase the level of customer service state government provides,” said Sen. Watson. “Government should be open and honest with those who deal with state regulations. This bill fulfills our obligation to license holders and brings yet another aspect of state government into the information age.”
Senate Bill 3644 allows a license holder to “opt in” to receive electronic notification from an overseeing board or commission 45 days in advance of a meeting. License holders who opt-in may also receive notice of renewal of their license, certification or registration as well as any fee increases or changes in state law that may impact the license holder.
The companion House bill is sponsored by Rep. Barrett Rich (R-Somerville) and is currently awaiting action by the House Finance Ways & Means committee.
Employees at Taft Youth Development Center soon will be getting 90-day termination notices in anticipation that the new state budget won’t have any funding for the Bledsoe County facility, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Department of Children’s Services spokeswoman Molly Sudderth said Friday that officials have met with Taft staff pending the release of the notices to about 150 employees remaining at the center in Pikeville, Tenn., that holds some of the state’s toughest young offenders. A new prison for adults — Bledsoe County Corrections Complex — has been built within eyeshot of Taft, and some Taft employees could get jobs there, she said.
“There is an administration amendment to the budget that, if the budget passes, then the Department of Correction would have the money to employ 168 people for the Bledsoe County Corrections Complex beginning July 1,” Sudderth said.
Hiring at the new prison will be accelerated if Taft is closed, she said. The prison is expected to create up to 400 jobs, officials have said. State inmates will be moved into the new state prison in early 2013. Passage of a Taft-less budget would shutter the 90-year-old facility on July 1, Sudderth said. Meanwhile, in Mental Health...
Facing expected closure this summer by the state Department of Mental Health, some 60 employees of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute already have left for other jobs, according to the News Sentinel. The remaining 314 on Monday will receive notice that their jobs will be terminated in 90 days, with the countdown to start April 1. Tennessee Department of Mental Health Director of Communications Grant Lawrence said the notice is to comply with labor law, contingent on the General Assembly’s approval of the department’s plan that includes closing the facility June 30, with “limited staff” still present.
“We don’t want to overstep the boundaries of the General Assembly,” Lawrence said, “but we have to comply with” the 90-day notice policy. He said the state’s human resources department has been working out severance packages for remaining employees, though he didn’t have details.
Job fairs at Lakeshore have connected potential employers with Lakeshore staff as well. Mental Health Commissioner Douglas Varney in November announced his plan to overhaul East Tennessee’s mental health support system.
By Travis Loller,, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has at least 200 boards and commissions that do everything from promoting soybeans to licensing dentists to overseeing the state’s colleges and universities. Almost all of them are required to invite the public to attend their meetings, but the way they do that is inconsistent at best.
On the home page of Tennessee’s official website is a banner that reads “Participate,” and a link below it says “browse all meetings notices.” But many panels do not post meetings there. Even for those that do, finding a meeting sometimes depends on how you search for it.
For example, Conservation Commission meetings don’t show up using a keyword search for “conservation.” But if you know that the panel is part of the Department of Environment and Conservation, you can find its meetings by browsing the listings for that department.
By Kristen Hall, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Occupy Nashville protesters who have been living on Legislative Plaza are preparing for more arrests under a state law passed last month making it illegal for anyone to camp on state-owned land that is not specifically designated for that purpose.
The protesters were given a seven-day notice to remove their campsites last Friday and members of the group said Thursday the state could start enforcing the law starting after midnight.
Jason Steen, a protester, said the law that was designed to evict Occupy Nashville affects anyone who is homeless in Tennessee. The number of tents at the plaza has dwindled, but several remained on Thursday and Steen said he and other protesters planned to stay overnight and risk arrest.
“We do have a number of people who plan on being arrested tonight,” Steen said.
Violators can face up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $2,500 or both. The main provision of the legislation would make it a misdemeanor to lay down “bedding for the purpose of sleeping” on government-owned land at the Capitol.