Tom Humphrey has this legislative roundup.

The lede is about a stupid and illegal bill that would require drug testing of anyone receiving public assistance. Even though he knows it is prohibited by federal law, the sponsor (Knoxville Sen. Tim Burchett) wants to send a message that people should be getting a job instead of laying around smoking pot on the taxpayer's dime. It's hard to argue with that, and I'm sure it will have wide appeal among the folks back home even if it is illegal (and how much would it cost and who would pay for it and how prevalent is the problem?), so I don't have much to say about that.

But the second item is about a measure that would require driver's license testing in English only. According to the article, the bill's sponsor (Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro) says it's "the first step in protecting the sovereignty of our country." Say what? But I guess that will play well back home, too.

Have these folks considered that there are lots of legal immigrants right here in Tennessee? Yes, it's true! They're among us! Some of them are Japanese who work for Denso right here in Blount County. There are Iraqi expats in Nashville. Oh, yeah, there are some Mexicans, too. Some of them here illegally, but plenty here legally. And some of these people don't speak English!

The article notes that the tests are currently given in Spanish, Korean and Japanese. What exactly is this bill supposed to accomplish besides "protecting the sovereignty of our country"? I guess it will help ensure more unlicensed and uninsured motorists on Tennessee roads.

217
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Sat
Feb 24 2007
10:01 am

The shocking and distressing Appeals Court decision allowing the US to detain 'suspected terrorists' without charges, without access to lawyers, and without an end date seems to have passed virtually unnoticed. But here's some reason for hope: Civil rights, human rights, and the rule of law are being protected in Canada. Since this reminder is so close at hand, maybe someday the United States will restore the rights that we claim to be protecting.

From the New York Times...

109
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Sat
Feb 24 2007
09:44 am

Jim Gray has been fired from his job at the County Clerk's office. Besides supporting an opponent of term-limited County Commission candidate Billy Tindell who is now his boss as County Clerk, Gray apparently screwed up by not being related to anyone on County Commission.

259
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Sat
Feb 24 2007
09:36 am

Lee Tramel threatens the KNS. The Editor and Publisher respond.

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Stacey X has introduced a series of interesting bills regarding housing and real estate.

HB983 (PDF format) completely redefines "blight" and severely narrows the current definition. The change eliminates "dilapidation, obsolescence, overcrowding, lack of ventilation, light and sanitary facilities, deleterious land use, or any combination of these or other factors, [that] are detrimental to the safety, health, morals, or welfare of the community" as elements of blight. It also specifically excludes loss of property value to surrounding properties as an element of blight, and restricts "blighted areas" to a single parcel.

HB1649 (PDF format) would limit damages for improper variances from zoning or building codes to the local government that approved them. Developers would be held harmless and could not be named as a defendants.

HB778 (PDF format) prohibits a local government from condemning blighted property and transferring it to another private entity. Instead, it allows only repair or demolition, with the property owner being charged for the costs by way of a tax lien. And if I read it correctly, the owner of the blighted property would have two years to get their condemned property back. (The bill appears to have a defect, though. It defines "economic development" as a legal term for the purposes of the statute, but the term is never used or referenced in the text of the statute.)

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Stacey X has introduced a bill that would charge a 25% tax (PDF format) on money orders, cashier's checks, traveler's checks, and the like purchased by non-citizens.

It's pretty obvious what this is all about, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons for a non-citizen to be buying money orders and cashier's checks. Why should they be penalized and discriminated against?

It should also be noted that immigrants, legal and otherwise, have typically higher numbers of "unbanked" and are therefore dependent on these services to pay their bills.

162
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Fri
Feb 23 2007
08:55 pm

Gene Patterson will have KNS Editor Jack McElroy on Tennessee This Week to discuss the county commission lawsuit. That should be interesting.

He will also have local blogger Terry Frank on to discuss her incontrovertible proof of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program based on documents that she has access to but that apparently George Bush, Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Joe Wilson, Bob Novakula, Tony Blair, the CIA, the UN, et. al. did not. That should be interesting, too. Breaking NYT/WP/LAT front page news? Well, at least it made Stacey X's front page. Here's a roundup of reaction from earlier in the week. (And not to toot my own horn, but SKB was all over this in Aug. of 2002.)

Larry Smith is scheduled to be on, too, to talk about the Tyler Harber affair, which he says is "moot" but that he expects to come up at a county commission meeting on Monday. Word has it that the Sheriff's Office has prepared a Massive PowerPoint Presentation for commissioners. Apparently Scooter and Lumpy need pictures and lines and arrows to connect the dots and help them carry out their Ragsdale vendetta. (Warning, that last link is a huge PDF file from the Halls Shopper.)

48
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Fri
Feb 23 2007
06:44 pm

WBIR has news on Brownlow. County admits blowing it.

50
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Fri
Feb 23 2007
02:38 pm

Stacey X has introduced "loser pays" bill (PDF format) for civil cases. This is backdoor "tort reform" designed to protect Corporate Goliath from Victim David and his contingency lawyer.

54
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Fri
Feb 23 2007
01:45 pm

It has begun. I just read at another place where Bill Haslam is apparently having an event to begin his campaign. His supporters now include Carlene Malone and Randy Tyree as well as Rachel Craig, Kim Trent, and Dr. Bill Snyder and Indya Kincannon. Ashley Capps is supposed to be supporting him too. This is very interesting based on the election last time. Anyone think there will be an opponent?

51
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Fri
Feb 23 2007
01:34 pm

Stacey X has introduced a pair of interesting bills.

HB995 (PDF format) would require the petitioner (i.e. the person seeking an order of protection) to pay all legal costs if the order of protection is denied.

HB990 (PDF format) would give the respondent (i.e. the person the petitioner is seeking protection from) the right to conduct discovery and to depose the petitioner (the person seeking protection).

Does the second one open up fishing expeditions into matters unrelated to the order of protection and create an opportunity to intimidate the person seeking protection? Does the first one also introduce an element of financial risk that, say, a battered spouse might not be willing or able to take?

Just asking, because I don't know and I haven't studied the law these bills would amend or what problem with the law they are trying to fix.

UPDATE: It occurred to me that the first one might actually be an improvement if the petitioner currently always pays, and this would make it so the respondent has to pay if an order is granted. But I don't know how it works now. Can any lawyers out there explain what this is all about?

UPDATE: Checked the existing law. It says:

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the petitioner shall not be required to pay any filing fees, litigation taxes or any other costs associated with the filing, issuance, service or enforcement of an order of protection authorized by this part upon the filing of the petition. The judge shall assess court costs and litigation taxes at the hearing of the petition or upon dismissal of the petition. If the court, after the hearing, issues or extends an order of protection, petitioner's court costs and attorney fees shall be assessed against the respondent.

Here's what Stacey X's bill would make it say:

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the petitioner shall not be required to pay any filing fees, litigation taxes or any other costs associated with the filing, issuance, service or enforcement of an order of protection authorized by this part upon the filing of the petition. The judge shall assess court costs and litigation taxes at the hearing of the petition or upon dismissal of the petition. If the court, after the hearing, issues or extends an order of protection, then the petitioner's court costs and attorney fees shall be assessed against the respondent. If the court, after the hearing, dismisses the petition, then the respondent's court costs and attorney fees shall be assessed against the petitioner.

So it looks like under the old law the petitioner only had to pay their own costs if the petition was denied. Now the petitioner would have to pay their own AND the respondent's costs, which could now be even more if they hired expensive lawyers to do $50,000 worth of discovery and depositions.

UPDATE: The third semi-related bill (PDF format) in this trifecta would assess all legal fees of the accused to an accuser if the court finds that the accuser "knowingly" makes false accusations of sexual abuse and the accusations are thrown out, and would also hold the accuser in contempt of court. I suppose "knowingly" is the key here, but again this is a bill that could give an accuser and/or their lawyer pause. And what "the court finds" is a roll of the dice sometimes.

UPDATE: CE Petro already covered this last week. I'm a little behind sometimes.

121
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Fri
Feb 23 2007
01:09 pm

Stacey X has introduced legislation that would prohibit anyone receiving public assistance of any kind from collecting lottery prizes (PDF format). Do lottery prizes include scholarships?

121
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Fri
Feb 23 2007
11:41 am

From the Upfront Page by Jack McElroy comes the news this morning that Don Williams will no longer write for the Knoxville News Sentinel.

A farewell letter to the readers from Don Williams is part of the post.

60
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Fri
Feb 23 2007
11:12 am

Only one day after the Governor's Land and Water Forum, his proposal to protect the last great lands in Tennessee is being attacked by Lt. Governor Ramsey and Ex. Lt. Gov. Wilder.

Taking land out of "production" means keeping their buddies from getting their hands on it.

More

Steve

44
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Fri
Feb 23 2007
10:58 am

Stacey X has introduced a bill to implement a school voucher program (PDF format) disguised as "opportunity scholarships". I wonder if he wrote it. It has a lot of big words.

50
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Thu
Feb 22 2007
11:19 pm

The News Sentinel is coming with a story about Scoobie Moore and Lee Tramel's Excellent Trip to Nashville yesterday, during which they evidently looked up Knox County lobbyist Joe May and threatened yank his contract. Not sure how they plan to do this, since hiring a lobbyist is clearly the mayor's prerogative.

Also not sure how they planned to get around the Sunshine Law, since they are both county commissioners, but they evidently are not concerned.

Earlier in the day, Moore sent a message to one of Bud Gilbert's clients, Hallsdale-Powell Utility District, demanding to see records of payments to Gilbert on the grounds that since Gilbert is working for Ragsdale pro bono, he must be padding his bill to HPUD.

This would be the same Bud Gilbert who worked his way through UT as a paramedic, graduated with a 4.0 average and won a scholarship to Harvard Law School. The same Bud Gilbert who served two terms in the state Senate, where he won two Bird Dog awards from Common Cause as the most ethical legislator in the Tennessee legislature and then stepped down after two terms because he believes in term limits.

That Bud Gilbert.

And that Scoobie Moore. And Lee Tramel.

#9, these guys make Ragsdale look damn good.

121
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Thu
Feb 22 2007
07:59 pm

Late Wednesday on the Upfront Page, the blog of News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy, is a response by Mr. McElroy to a post I put on KnoxViews and Say Uncle on Tuesday questioning whether the E.W. Scripps ethics code had been violated by Mr. McElroy’s lawsuit against Knox County Commission for a perceived Sunshine Law violation. I questioned the News Sentinel “preference to defend the County Mayor and attack his opposition”. The other issue that was disturbing was the fact that the News Sentinel sued each Knox County Commissioner personally as well as suing them as Commissioners. I felt and still feel that crosses the line. It seems to be a form of intimidation. Because of that I felt the question of an ethics violation should be considered.

The News Sentinel has written Editorials suggesting that the Knox County Fee offices be audited and that Knox County Commission undertake Ethics reform. At this time maybe the best thing for the News Sentinel to do is to lead by example and review the Ethics of its Editorial Board and it’s closeness to Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale.

YouTube Channel 9 coverage of the Knox County Commission meeting on the McElroy lawsuit:

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII

More after the jump...

Continued...

56
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Thu
Feb 22 2007
07:16 pm

The video of the Knoxville City Council Meeting from February 13, 2007 can be viewed on Google Video here. The main discussion includes the South Water Front Development plans. Be forwarned the video is not for the faint of heart as it is 3 hours long.

54
like
Thu
Feb 22 2007
01:16 pm

Here's a curious bit of legislation being proposed over in Nashville. SB1761:

County Officers - Clarifies that the duties of constitutional county officers shall not be altered or abolished under a county charter form of government and failure to specifically create or specify duties of such officers shall not be deemed to abolish the offices. - Amends TCA Section 5-1-210.

Wonder what that's all about? I suppose it prevents future confusion such as the argument that Knox County's charter is deficient because it doesn't enumerate the constitutional officers.

But that part about "shall not be altered", uh, altered like as in imposing term limits? This could be interesting.

243
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Thu
Feb 22 2007
01:02 pm

I've got a new post up at Facing South re. the death penalty, with, bonus, Bible quotes! Lots of other good stuff this week, including articles about life in the Green Zone, CIA "torture pilots", hog excrement, and more.

43
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Lost Medicaid Funding

To date, the failure to expand Medicaid/TennCare has cost the State of Tennessee ? in lost federal funding.

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