A Cleveland, Tenn., businessman says city officials crossed a line when they tore down protest signs he posted outside his business Thursday during a visit by Gov. Bill Haslam, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “There needs to be a public apology,” said Dan Rawls, owner of Cleveland Performance Center, for what he says is trespass and violation of his right to free speech. “I think they need to take a course in the Constitution to learn not only that you can’t violate private property rights, you can’t violate First Amendment rights.”
But City Councilman George Poe said Rawls is the one who crossed the line by planting the handmade signs on city right of way near the South Cleveland Community Center, where Haslam announced $570,000 in grants for the center and the Mouse Creek greenway.
“The governor came to give us a half-million dollars, and I thought that was pretty nice,” Poe said Friday. “We come out the door, and there’s signs all over the place painted on cardboard boxes in orange spray paint. … It was a pretty big embarrassment to us in the city,” Poe said Friday.
Rawls planted signs in the grass near the street in front of his business to protest Haslam’s support for the Common Core standards…K-12 education guidelines that Rawls calls a “federally run school system.”
“Shame on you Haslam,” one read. A smaller sign next to it said, “Stop CC.”
Poe said he went with City Manager Janice Casteel when she said the signs were on the public right of way. He said she called the police codes enforcement officer and began pulling up the signs.
Then, Poe said, “This big muscled-up guy, screaming, yelling, slinging his arms around,” came out of Rawls’ business and ordered him and Casteel off his property. Poe said he “thought he was going to give Janice a shove,” so he used the police radio he carries to call for help.
Rawls said he ordered Casteel and Poe to get off his property but didn’t in any way threaten them. Police showed up in force, but calm was restored quickly.
From photos, it’s hard to tell whether the signs are in the 6-foot city right of way.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Anglers who caught the attention of federal lawmakers have preserved access to fishing below dams on the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee.
President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law a bill blocking the Army Corps of Engineers from erecting barriers to prevent fishing in the tailwaters. Those tailwaters are prime fishing spots in a region known as a recreational haven.
Local officials said the restrictions would have hurt tourism, a key contributor to the region’s economy.
Congress waded into the controversy by passing the Freedom to Fish Act. It puts a two-year moratorium on any barriers that would block access to tailwaters.
Sen. Mitch McConnell praised Obama for reversing a decision to place barriers along the river.
A proposal to permanently ban barriers is pending in the House.
— Note: News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander below (interestingly, it doesn’t mention Obama)
Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday signed the main bill paving the way for creation of new municipal school districts in the six Shelby County suburban cities, reports the Commercial Appeal. House Bill 1288 repeals a 15-year-old prohibition in state law on the establishment of new municipal school systems beyond the 28 that existed in 1998 when it was enacted. Tennessee has 137 school districts — most of which are county systems and 15 special school districts that have broader taxing authority than city and county systems.
The mayors of Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington agreed Monday to ask the Shelby County Election Commission to schedule new referendums for July 16 in each of their cities on whether to establish the new school districts. If voters approve as expected — and as they did last year before the results were thrown out by a federal court ruling — elections for school board members would follow in early November, with a goal of opening schools for the 2014-15 school year.
The separate Senate Bill 1354, which the governor will also sign soon, repeals a statute that limits to six the number of school districts per county. It’s needed because the six new systems added to the unified Memphis-Shelby system would exceed the cap.
The governor said earlier that he expected to sign the two measures, both of which won legislative approval by large margins last week. HB 1288 by Rep. Curry Todd and Sen. Mark Norris, both R-Collierville, passed the House 70-24 and the Senate 24-5. SB 1354, by Norris and Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett, won 75-3 in the House and 22-5 in the Senate.
Norris said, “Governor Haslam’s timely signature on this important legislation demonstrates that he shares our commitment to neighborhood schools and parental choice. We appreciate his decisive action, and I appreciate the support of so many who have worked hard to help us remove these artificial barriers to education improvement.”
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.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill that would allow people with handgun carry permits to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked.
The signing comes despite questions about whether the legislation affects employment law in Tennessee because the measure would allow workers to store guns in their cars while parked in their employers’ parking lots.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville and four fellow Republican co-sponsors on Thursday submitted a letter for inclusion into the Senate Journal elaborating on their legislative intent for the measure.
While the letter states the bill does not seek to alter the state’s “employment-at-will doctrine,” it notes that businesses could run into trouble if they seek to enforce a gun ban on their property.
“Employers who terminate employees just for exercising this right may violate the state’s clear public policy that handgun carry permit holders are allowed to transport and store firearms or ammunition,” the sponsors wrote.
That analysis appears to conflict with statements by the main House sponsor who stressed in committee and during floor debate that the bill wouldn’t affect employers’ abilities to fire anyone.
The legislation (HB142) was approved 28-5 in the Senate and 72-22 in the House last month. It’s scheduled to take effect July 1.
SPRING HILL, Tenn. (AP) — A Middle Tennessee court has temporarily barred Spring Hill from limiting residents to one political campaign yard sign per office.
According to The Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/YgGNpv ) in Columbia, the restraining order was obtained by George Jones, who is running for mayor of Spring Hill. He says a local ordinance limiting campaign signs to one per resident for each office is unconstitutional. Jones is a former mayor of the city of more than 23,000 residents.
Circuit Court Judge Robert L. Holloway issued the temporary order Wednesday, pending an April 5 hearing. The city election day is April 11.
Spring Hill City Administrator Victor Lay said the city will comply with the judge’s instructions, but he declined further comment.
State transportation officials have yet to decide whether they’ll keep using 151 electronic highway signs across Tennessee to show a daily count of traffic fatalities in 2013, according to the Tennessean. Kendell Poole, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, said the signs are a “victory for saving lives,” despite fatalities this year topping 1,000 and surpassing last year’s total. He favors using them again in 2013.
…As of Friday, there were 1,002 traffic deaths this year, 69 more than at the same point last year. In 2011, there were 938 total traffic fatalities, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety. (Note: The website listing fatalities, which on Monday morning still had Friday’s figures for 2012, is HERE.)
The increase raises questions about the effectiveness of the signs. Some motorists say they don’t work, but Poole and other state officials say, at a minimum, they get people talking about staying safe.
“It was always our goal to raise awareness, and we certainly think we have done that,” Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Beth Emmons said. “People are always talking about it.”
…In 2011, traffic deaths reached a nearly 50-year low, and this year’s total probably still falls below that of 2010, which saw 1,032 fatalities, Donnals said.
TDOT Commissioner John Schroer decided to erect the signs in April after seeing a spike in deaths through the first three months of the year.
From January through March, there were 64 more traffic deaths than during the same three months in 2011. But from April through November, there were just three more deaths than during the corresponding period in 2011.
State Rep. Julia Hurley was seen pulling up and tossing down a campaign sign at a major Loudon County intersection, reports the News Sentinel. Apparently someone complained, but the lawmaker says the signs were on private property and she was following the landowner’s request.
Hurley, who lost her re-election bid for the 32nd Legislative District seat in the GOP primary, said Jennifer Wampler owns the property at the intersection of Highway 321 and Highway 11 in Lenoir City. “They didn’t ask permission to place their signs there,” Hurley said.
Hurley said she “gently” placed the sign of Dr. Shaun Crowell on the ground. Crowell is an independent candidate seeking to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Corker, a Republican.
Also on the ground: A sign touting independent presidential candidate Gary Johnson.
(Note: Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Party nominee for president; Crowell has been endorsed by the Libertarian Party. Both are listed on Tennessee’s ballot as independent candidates.)
“His (Crowell’s) sign was literally right next to the sidewalk,” said businessman Brad Boring, who said he watched Hurley pull it up Sunday morning.
“That close to the road is private property?” he asked. “I don’t believe so.” Boring questioned whether the sign was within state right-of-way.
Guidelines for campaign sign locations vary by jurisdiction.
In Lenoir City, signs on land beyond sidewalks are deemed as being on private property, and the landowners have the final say-so on allowing them, city Codes Enforcement Officer Leslie Johnson said.
Political signs between sidewalks and road curbs are on either state or city rights of way, she said.
Democratic candidate Frank Eaton, who is running against Republican Rep. Richard Floyd of Chattanooga, charged that House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick took down two of Eaton’s campaign signs on Highway 153, reports the Times-Free Press. McCormick…acknowledged removing the signs Saturday in a telephone call he made moments after a confrontation with Eaton. The lawmaker said the signs were illegally posted on the public right of way in front of a shopping center that he partially owns and manages.
McCormick said Eaton’s two signs and one belonging to a treecutting service were taken down as mowers cut grass. He said he called the treecutter, whose sign included a phone number, and left him a message to come pick up his sign. Not knowing how to call Eaton, McCormick said, he called and left a message for Floyd asking how to contact him.
Then, he said, Eaton and his wife drove up and the candidate demanded to know what he was doing.
“They jumped out and started taking pictures and put me under cross-examination,” McCormick said. “I was out in broad daylight on one of the busiest streets in the county doing my job and my private business, and he got upset about it.”
“I would have pulled down anyone’s sign,” McCormick said.
Eaton sent out a news release in which he described seeing McCormick carrying off one of his signs. (Note: There’s also a video of McCormick in his car, talking with Eaton, HERE.)
“He said the signs had been on his private property and he was removing them,” Eaton said. “I questioned whether the property was his, and then he said the signs were not allowed in the ‘right of way’ of that road.”
…According to Eaton, McCormick said he didn’t know exactly where the property line was.
“I asked if it was his statement that he had removed my signs from a public road without knowing whether they were on his private property or not. He became visibly angry and said, “Are you a lawyer? Is this a cross-examination?'”
He also said McCormick said, “I don’t give a [expletive deleted] what you do. If you want to turn this into a fight, that’s your choice. I guess I’ve given you a reason.”
McCormick said he would have removed anyone’s signs, including Floyd’s, had they been there.
He acknowledged he “may have used some stronger language than necessary but after 10 minutes of being seriously berated … I was fed up.”
State Rep. Butt is attempting to “show good faith” in modifying some of her campaign’s yard signs after a complaint revealed the signs did not comply with state law, reports the Columbia Daily Herald. At a function of the Maury County Republican Party last week, the candidate, who is running for state House District 64 against Democratic candidate Brian Brewer, said she is providing stickers to her supporters and asking them to affix the stickers to her yard signs to put her campaign in compliance with state statute.
According to the law, political communications, advertisements and solicitations must explicitly name the person or organization who authorized them. The incumbent candidate said the missing text from many of her signs was an unintentional oversight. The stickers denote the signs as the responsibility of the Committee to Re-Elect Sheila Butt.
“When I was in Florida at the Republican National Convention, the assistant attorney general called and said, ‘Someone called this morning ranting and raving to say your signs are not in compliance,'” Butt said. “I don’t see it as a big deal. It’s just one of those things in elections that come up and people want to complain about it.”
Assistant District Attorney General Kimberly Cooper confirmed Thursday that her office had received two phone calls about the missing text. In a letter to the candidate dated Aug. 30, Cooper recommended that Butt attach the stickers to her signs to avoid non-compliance.
…Greg Hanners, chair of the Maury County Democratic Party, said his organization brought the missing text to the attention of the state Registrar of Elections, but failed to take the issue farther as it was soon addressed by Butt’s campaign. In an email last week, Hanners said he is pleased with Butt’s attempts to correct the problem. He agreed there was probably no ill intent in the signs’ missing information.