With state-level elective offices firmly in its control, the state Republican Party is now ready to move on to local-level offices with a new “Red to the Roots” program, says Tennessee Republican Chairman Chris Devaney.
The idea is to encourage county Republican parties to designate nominees for city and county elective offices where they can. Currently, most cities and counties have nonpartisan elections for local office, though state law generally allows county parties to designate party nominees if they wish — exceptions including cases in which a city or county charter specifies bipartisan elections.
“We’ve had a lot of success with our state-level candidates,” Devaney said, referring to the GOP supermajority in the Legislature and Republicans holding the governor’s office, both U.S. Senate seats and seven of nine U.S. House seats. “Now, we’re ready to look at the local offices — county mayors, sheriffs and maybe a few judgeships.”
“These are places where Democrats still have a hold,” he said. “It’s their bench” for candidates who could in the future seek a state-level office. With local-level partisan campaigns he said, “We can build our bench.”
After six years, Red Bank has given its traffic cameras the red light, says the Chattanooga TFP. Minutes after a handful of residents spoke out Tuesday against how the cameras have hurt the city’s image and businesses, Red Bank commissioners voted 4-1 to ax the city’s four traffic cameras, which cite motorists who speed and run red lights at the city’s busiest intersections along the city’s main artery, Dayton Boulevard.
The lone holdout for keeping the cameras was Commissioner Ruth Jeno, who said that the cameras’ effect on safety was more important than their impact on business or city coffers.
“I don’t feel like that we can afford to hire more police officers to patrol Dayton Boulevard,” she said. “The majority of citizens in Red Bank have asked me to vote to keep the cameras and keep the police officers off Dayton Boulevard and in our neighborhoods, because crime is rising.”
The vote allowed Mayor Monty Millard to make good on a campaign promise that he had so far been unable to fulfill because of the contract the city had with American Traffic Services, the Arizona-based company that runs the program.
RED BANK, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Red Bank might shut down its traffic cameras.
Mayor Monty Millard told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/O92CXF ) people who live in Red Bank don’t like the cameras and believe their use hurts the city.
Three intersections in Red Bank are under surveillance from the cameras, which are owned by Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions. Millard also said revenue from tickets issued because of driving infractions caught by the cameras has dropped significantly since the Legislature passed a law that won’t allow right turn on red tickets if the only evidence is a traffic cam.
The cameras have been in place for seven years.
A vote on whether to end the contract is scheduled for the city commission’s Sept. 4 meeting.
A federal highway bill that is expected to receive final approval today in Congress could lead to far fewer red-light traffic cameras across the country, reports Michael Collins. The legislation, a massive bill that overhauls highway and transit programs, bars the use of federal money to purchase red-light cameras or other automated traffic enforcement cameras.
“Since most highway money, even at the state level, comes from the federal government, and most of the work that is being done locally involves federal money, what hopefully it will mean — and should mean — is that there will be many, many fewer red-light cameras all over the country,” said U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., a Knoxville Republican.
Duncan said he was able to insert the red-light provision into the final highway bill during negotiations between the House and the Senate.
Duncan serves as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. He also was a member of the House-Senate conference committee that pieced together the final highway package.
Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to vote on the highway bill later today
Two camera enforcement companies have lost a bid to overturn a state law that prohibits fining drivers for improper right turns on red if the only evidence is photographic, reports the News Sentinel. And despite predictions that the law that went into effect last July would cause an increase in wrecks, statistics in Knoxville refute that contention
Knox County Chancellor Michael W. Moyers’ 27-page decision signed May 30 addresses a multitude of arguments brought by American Traffic Solutions, Inc., and Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., asking him to declare the law unconstitutional.
ATS, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., provides camera enforcement equipment for 14 intersections in Knoxville. Redflex, based in Phoenix, Ariz., has equipped four intersections in Farragut with photo enforcement devices.
. “The challenged law does not in any way amend or modify the rules regarding making right turns at a red light,” Moyers ruled. “Its only effect is to provide that some other evidence besides the camera footage standing alone is necessary to prosecute a violation for making an illegal right turn at intersections where right turns on red are otherwise allowed.”
…Moyers noted in his opinion that lawmakers concluded use of traffic cameras “to regulate illegal right turns is a measure directed more toward revenue generation than enhancing traffic safety.”
The companies argued lawmakers discussed including an exemption to the new law for photo enforcement contracts already in force. The lawsuit asked the court to find those contracts were exempt from the new law. Moyers shot that argument down.
“The Legislature was free to include such language within the bill; it chose not to,” the chancellor wrote. “The failure to include such language does not render the bill vague or ambiguous.”
Both photo enforcement companies argued the 2011 law, deemed Public Act 425, interfered with existing contracts with Farragut and Knoxville regarding collection of fines for improper right turns on red. That, the companies contended, made the new law unconstitutional.
Moyers, however, ruled in his summary judgment that Public Act 425 “is a constitutional expression of the Legislature’s police powers …”
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.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Knoxville is being sued by a red light camera vendor in a case that could change the new state law limiting citations for improper right turns on red.
American Traffic Solutions Inc. filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Knox County Chancery Court. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company provided the equipment for the city’s red-light cameras in Knoxville.
A state law that took effect July 1 bars cities with the cameras from issuing right-turn-on-red citations if the only evidence comes from traffic camera video. Sponsors of the measure, which also sets new restrictions on how local governments set up and use speeding cameras, said a camera couldn’t distinguish between truly illegal turns and drivers who nose into the intersection to see if it is safe to turn.
This lawsuit from ATS seeks to overturn the new law or to exempt about 20 cities that had contracts with traffic camera companies when the law took effect.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told about 60 business leaders at Kingsport Thursday to look for future unemployment compensation system changes favoring employers, reports Hank Hayes. Ramsey, during his “Red Tape Road Trip” luncheon highlighting government’s negative effect on business, said he’s been getting an earful from employers about people opting for an unemployment check rather than seeking a job when the state’s jobless rate remains well above 9 percent.
He cited a trucking company that wants but can’t find drivers and a heating and cooling firm with unfilled technician positions.
“When does it become a benefit and when does it become a lifestyle?” Ramsey, R-Blountville, asked of the current unemployment compensation system.
Weekly unemployment pay averages $285 a week, and beneficiaries aren’t pressed hard enough to look for work, Ramsey said.
About 400,000 workers file initial and partial unemployment claims annually while approximately 114,000 employers pay premiums for unemployment insurance, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Ramsey’s special assistant, Jordan Young, found about two-thirds of state unemployment claims are rejected in favor of the employer upon appeal.
“There are jobs out there. … It may not be the job you want, but there are jobs out there,” Ramsey said.
The governor, mayors and Greater Memphis Chamber rolled out the red carpet Wednesday for about a dozen people who advise businesses where in the world to build or relocate, reports the Commercial Appeal. When all other factors among competing cities are about even, building relationships between local leaders and corporate decision-makers is crucial, said one of the visiting site-selection consultants, Robert M. Ady of the Chicago-based Ady International Company. “Here, it’s been demonstrated in spades, in my opinion,” he said of Memphis.
…Ady and his fellow travelers had just been treated to a lunch at The Peabody, given time with with FedEx chairman Frederick W. Smith, and greeted royally by Gov. Bill Haslam, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
After lunch, the Greater Memphis Chamber’s “2011 Red Carpet Tour” continued as the consultants boarded a bus. They were to see first-hand Memphis Bioworks, Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park and the CN/CSX intermodal facility, Smith & Nephew, and the Bartlett life science corridor.
A state appellate court on Monday reinstated charges against a Knoxville man accused in the shooting of a red-light camera, the News Sentinel reports. In an opinion drafted by Appellate Judge Camille R. McMullen, the state Court of Criminal Appeals concluded Knox County Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz was wrong to toss out an indictment for felony vandalism and reckless endangerment filed against Clifford Clark in the November 2007 incident.
It’s not clear, though, whether prosecutors will be able to try Clark. Earlier this year, Leibowitz deemed Clark mentally incompetent to stand trial in an unrelated assault charge after his attorney, Ron Newcomb, argued Clark had suffered a “debilitating medical event” that caused significant memory loss and an inability to communicate.
Newcomb did not offer details, and Leibowitz sealed related medical records. Clark was accused of shooting out a red-light camera that captured him running a red light at the intersection of Interstate 640 and Broadway. Knoxville Police Department officers who were near the intersection when they heard four shots being fired and then saw Clark speeding away stopped him within seconds.