News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed a ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals, which set aside the conviction of James David Moats for driving under the influence after a police officer discovered him parked in a grocery store parking lot.
After observing that the arresting officer admitted activating the blue lights on her patrol car without either cause to believe a crime had been committed or reasonable suspicion of any criminal activity, the Supreme Court concluded that the officer was not acting in a “community caretaking role” and, in consequence, practically all of the incriminating evidence should not have been admitted at the trial.
At approximately 2:00 a.m. on December 7, 2008, an Etowah police officer on routine patrol observed Moats sitting in the driver’s seat of his pick-up truck, which was parked in a grocery store parking lot in an area of suspected drug activity. The officer continued on her route, but when she returned five minutes later to find the truck parked in the same position, she stopped her patrol car directly behind the truck, activated her blue lights, and called in the license plate number.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced an executive order in response to drought conditions and extreme heat impacting Tennessee farmers that allows haulers of hay to carry larger loads as long as they observe other safety requirements.
The order allows for an increase in gross vehicle weight to 95,000 pounds, not exceeding 20,000 pounds per axle load, for semi-truck/trailers. The order also increases the height of trailer loads to 13 feet, 6 inches and the width to a maximum of 14 feet during daylight hours. The increase in width allows haulers to transport standard six- to seven-foot round hay bales side by side, increasing the capacity being hauled per truck without a permit.
Officials from two Tennessee state agencies apologized to an estimated 400 motorists on Interstate 40 who were forced to spend 11 hours in their vehicles after a truckload of potatoes wrecked on Interstate 40 near Lebanon, reports The Tennessean. “We should have done better, and we apologize,” Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said. “Some procedures were not followed, and an internal investigation is being done.”
TDOT and the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which is part of the Department of Safety & Homeland Security, took equal responsibility for the delay, saying several factors contributed in the aftermath of the wreck.
The tractor-trailer carrying a load of about 40,000 pounds of potatoes crashed about 8 p.m. Thursday just before mile marker 245 in the Tuckers Crossroads area east of Lebanon in Wilson County. All the eastbound lanes were blocked for about 11 hours until the interstate partially opened just after 7 a.m.
Roy Golden, 55, of Knoxville, driver of the truck, faces charges that include DUI, reckless driving, reckless endangerment, consumption of alcohol in a commercial vehicle and possession of schedule IV drugs.
From The Tennessean:
In July, Tennessee’s transportation commissioner applauded the opening of the state’s first truck- stop electrification terminal at TR Auto Truck Plaza in Dandridge, a project taxpayers paid for with a $424,000 federal stimulus fund grant.
Thursday, the shiny new equipment languished uselessly as U.S. Bank took possession of the bankrupt business after an auction at the Jefferson County Courthouse failed to solicit a single bid.
While not as spectacular a flop as Solyndra — the California solar panel manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy last month after receiving a $535 million guarantee from the federal government — the truck stop’s collapse further illustrates flaws in the way stimulus projects were evaluated that extended to the state level.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Transportation approved the stimulus grant to Mountain Plaza Inc., the truck stop’s owner, despite many red flags. The company, whose creditors included the state and federal governments, filed for bankruptcy protection in the middle of the process. A review of public records shows evidence of the company and its owner’s past and present financial troubles was readily available.
TDOT officials stress that the department was simply passing along the federal grant funds it had applied for and that no state money was involved.
…Mountain Plaza’s grant was part of $2 million that TDOT received from the EPA as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The money was doled out to truck-stop electrification projects along Tennessee interstate corridors. The systems reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality by allowing truckers to hook up to air conditioning and electricity so they can shut down their engines.
James A. “Jimmy” Haslam III, CEO of Pilot Flying J and a board member of the National Truck Stop Operators Association, is urging state and federal lawmakers to block further “commercialization” of highway rest stops.
In his home state of Tennessee, where Haslam’s brother is governor, his viewpoint appears likely to prevail — at least for now. Several state legislators, while saying they are willing to explore the idea if it helps the state budget, also say they have no plans to push it.
And John Schroer, the commissioner of the state Department of Transportation appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam, is opposed to such rest stop privatization efforts in Tennessee.
Current federal law generally prohibits states from setting up commercial operations at rest stops along Interstate highways except those states — mostly in the Northeast — where Interstates were in place before 1960. But some states and organizations are pushing for change in the law by Congress at a time when state governments are seeking new revenue.
“While at first glance this may seem like an easy way for state DOTs to generate revenue, the fact is it will devastate private businesses like mine that for the last 50 years have operated under the current law and established locations at the highway exits,” said Haslam in his letter. “The advantageous location of state-owned commercial rest areas establishes virtual monopolies on the sale of commercial services to highway travelers.”