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Miscellaneous TN News Notes, 12/30/12

New Legislature Faces Familiar Topics
Chas Sisk has first here-comes-the-legislature roundup story for 2013 (appearing before 2012 has ended). The summary sentences:
Pass a budget. Resolve debates on guns, charter schools and wine. Get out of Nashville quickly.
Tennessee lawmakers do not reconvene until Jan. 8, but already their list of resolutions for the 108th General Assembly is becoming clea
r.
There’s also a sidebar with brief discussion on the following topics: Guns, health care reform, vouchers, charter schools, wine in grocery stores, workers compensation, solar industry tax breaks, pre-kindergarten, campaign finance.
Legislator Surprised to be in Office
Chris Carroll reports that some legislators don’t realize they officially take office on election day in Tennessee. Opening line:
Not even Todd Gardenhire knew when he became Sen. Todd Gardenhire.
There’s a list of some other Southeastern state rules on when legislators assume office. It appears Tennessee is the earliest listed, though Alabama lawmakers are close – the day after election. Florida legislators take office “upon election,” but that may mean when the votes are certified?
Knoxville Had a ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Rally
Nearly two dozen people rallied outside the Howard H. Baker Jr. U.S. Courthouse in downtown Knoxville Saturday to urge Tennessee’s congressmen to pass a bill to extend tax cuts for the middle class and head off the looming “fiscal cliff,” reports the News Sentinel.
Local residents gathered about 10:30 a.m. and stood outside for about an hour, said organizer June Jones.
“They’re just playing politics, and we’re just putting a light on the subject,” Jones said. “They’re just playing with people’s lives and making a lot of people very nervous.”

No Free Ride for Putnam’s New Year’s Eve Celebrants
In Putnam County, a New Year’s Eve tradition of providing free rides home for drunken celebrators won’t be functioning this year, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen, because the Upper Cumberland Human Resource won’t furnish vehicles and drivers.
“We provided the vans and our staff volunteered in coordinating the services, drove the vehicles and a separate staff volunteer went as an escort in each van,” Randall Killman, field operations specialist with UCHRA, explained. “In recent years, the agency has experienced some issues with intoxicated passengers that put our volunteer staff at risk.”

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HRA Offers Free Rides to Get a Photo ID for Voting

The East Tennessee Human Resource Agency is doing its part to help Tennesseans comply with the state’s new voter ID law, according to the News Sentinel.
Photo ID cards are being offered at no cost to registered voters at driver service centers throughout the state. And several county clerk offices, including Knox County’s, have begun offering free photo driver’s licenses to replace outdated, non-photo licenses.
ETHRA now hopes to further aid citizens’ access to the voting process by offering its extensive public transportation system for those unable to make the trip to obtain a new ID.
“It will be incorporated as part of our regular transportation program,” said Sandy Lamb, ETHRA operations and services director. “Hopefully, people won’t be discouraged from voting.”
ETHRA operates a fleet of more than 100 vehicles throughout Knox and 15 surrounding counties. ETHRA drivers complete 1,400 trips each day, helping connect people with dialysis centers, doctors’ offices, jobs, senior centers, grocery stores and more, Lamb said.