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.
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.”
Two elected officials in Anderson County with Republican ties were sent letters by the GOP’s executive committee asking why they should not be banned from partisan activities and voting in Republican primaries as a result of supporting Democrat Warren Gooch for county mayor in the August election, reports Georgiana Vines.. The two are Robin Biloski, vice chair of the Anderson County Commission, and Angi Agle, treasurer of the Oak Ridge school board, both nonpartisan positions. Agle is a former GOP Anderson County chair. Biloski is known as a Republican who frequently supports Democrats.
Alex Moseley, Anderson County Republican Party chairman, said Friday the executive committee voted in the summer to send letters banning the two from party activities or party-reorganizational meetings, seeking any local office as a Republican and voting in Republican primaries.
“It is not the position of the party that we should force our members to vote for any candidate, but activities that are designed to split party vote are clearly unacceptable,” Moseley said in the letter.
The letter was not sent until after the November elections because Agle was in a re-election campaign, Moseley said.
The August county mayor’s race was won by Terry Frank, whose mother, Ann Phillips, and chief of staff, Richard Burroughs, are on the GOP Executive Committee. Moseley said the two were not on the committee at the time of the vote on the letter.
Originally, Biloski and Agle were asked to meet with the committee next Tuesday, but Moseley sent a second letter canceling the meeting and asking that they send letters with their explanations.
“I am so flabbergasted that I would be reprimanded by any group for supporting my candidate, which is my personal choice and to me the best person to lead Anderson County,” Biloski said Friday.
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.”
In literally the last hour of the 107th General Assembly, Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver stood on the House floor to explain some of her recent votes.
“This bill has nothing to do with policy,” she said of SB326, which calls for a state takeover of federal health care programs through a Health Care Compact. Introduced on Feb. 3, 2011, it had been the subject of intense debate from the start to the finish of the two-year session.
“So all the amendments we added, that we tabled, I just want to make it clear the reason I tabled all those amendments is those amendments do not apply to this bill because this bill is not policy,” the Smith County Republican said.
“I want it on the record: I support the unborn. I support seniors. I support our military.”
The record, however, will reflect that Weaver was among 35 Republicans who voted to table, or kill, an amendment that said Tennessee will not participate in a Health Care Compact “if participation includes expanding abortion rights, especially late term abortion.”