local government

Billboards used to push Memphis funding for schools

A week after Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland largely dismissed a new coalition’s call for $10 million in city spending on schools, the group is taking its message to billboards, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

Fund Students First — comprised of elected officials, education advocates and public school leaders — posted two billboards Friday in high-trafficked streets in downtown and midtown Memphis. The campaign is being underwritten by Stand for Children, a national education advocacy group with offices in Memphis and Nashville.

One billboard says:

standforchildren

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Shelby Commissioner Justin Ford charged with domestic violence

Shelby County Commissioner Justin Ford was released from jail Monday afternoon following his arrest earlier in the day after his girlfriend accused him of punching and choking her during an argument, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The 32-year-old faces charges of aggravated assault/domestic violence and false imprisonment.

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Sheriff pleads guilty to sex with women inmates, beating man

Fentress County Sheriff Chucky Cravens has pleaded guilty to bribing female inmates for sex and beating a male prisoner, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.

Cravens, 47, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday after an investigation that began barely more than a week before. The official charges were three counts of honest services fraud and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. The charges stem back from July to as recently as March 1.

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Comptroller catches government thieves in Claiborne, Fayette, Jefferson, Sumner counties

The ever-vigilant state comptroller’s office reports finding thievery afoot at Powell Valley Elementary School in Claiborne County, the city recorder’s office in the Sumner County city of Gallatin, a parks office and a school system Fayette County and at the New Market Volunteer Fire Department in Jefferson County in recent auditing of local government entities.

There are also “several questions” about activities at the town of Oakland in Fayette County generally along with the indictment of an official who worked both for the town and as athletic director of Fayette County schools.

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TBI: Police officer pawned department pistols

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

NASHVILLE – Special Agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have obtained an indictment for a former police officer who is now facing charges of Theft and Official Misconduct.

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‘Petland bill’ passes Senate, fails in House

A bill setting state standards for pet store operations while restricting their regulation by local governments was approved by the Senate but then failed on the House floor Monday evening after extensive debate.

The final House vote was 45 yes, 47 no with two present and not voting. Fifty votes are required for passage. The measure known as “the Petland bill” (SB519) had passed the Senate 19-11.

Much of the debate in both chambers came over amendments to exempt various counties and cities from being covered the bill sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville.

All such efforts failed in the Senate, but the House approved three of 13 such efforts – applying to Blount County, Sumner County and the City of Hendersonville. All the amendment votes were close – ties in two cases.

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West TN alderman indicted for voter fraud

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

MEMPHIS – An investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has resulted in the indictment of a Moscow City Alderman on charges of violating election laws. 

At the request of 25th District Attorney General Mike Dunavant, on November 1, 2016, TBI Special Agents began investigating Virgil Jones on complaints of election law fraud. Jones is an Alderman for the city of Moscow, in Fayette County. During the course of the investigation, Agents developed information that while Jones does own property in Moscow, his actual residence is in Whiteville, in Hardeman County, and he listed the fraudulent address on elections records for the purpose of running for the Alderman position. Additionally, a review of election records indicates that while Jones has lived in Whiteville, he has been a registered voter in Moscow and has voted there for numerous elections.

On Monday, the Fayette County Grand Jury returned indictments charging  Virgil Jones (DOB 8/11/1964) with one count of False Entry on Official Registration or Election Document, one count of Perjury and False Statement on Official Election Documents, and five counts of Voter Fraud. Jones turned himself in to TBI Special Agents on Tuesday and was booked into the Fayette County Jail. His bond was set at $10,000.

Legislature overrides local marijuana decriminalization

The Senate gave final approval Monday evening to a bill to override Nashville and Memphis city ordinances that authorized a civil penalty of $50 for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Senate vote was 26-5. The House gave approval 65-28 last week. Sponsors were Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Brentwood, and Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown. The bill (HB173) now goes to the governor for his expected signature.

“The last thing we need to do is create a patchwork of laws in this state regarding criminal conduct,” said Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, in supporting the bill in a Senate floor speech.

Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, noted the Nashville and Memphis ordinances both gave police officers discretion on when to issue a citation instead of making an arrest under state law while the bill’s language prohibits “any policy guideline or practice” by local governments on marijuana laws that is contrary to state law.

In doing so, Yarbro said, the bill with that language is effectively prohibiting officers from use of their discretion, something that is common practice statewide every day.

Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, said the bill puts the legislature on “a slippery slope” of taking control away from local elected officials when they should be given more flexibility, not less.

Johnson countered that “the slippery slope is when we start allowing local governments to decide which laws they want to enforce and which ones they do not want to enforce.”

Bill would fix foulup blocking sewer authority loans

Two legislators are looking for an emergency patch after a law they passed last year to dissolve Hamilton County’s sewer authority in 2011 cost the agency access to loans, reports the Times-Free Press.

State officials balked at approving some $13 million in new revolving loans for the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority because it wasn’t clear what successor entity or local government would repay them if the WWTA went away.

“Someone in the attorney general’s office put a stop on those” loans, said Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. “We got notice the state revolving funds were not coming.”

Carter and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, say they thought the loan issue had been resolved last year … Watson’s bill (SB951) to address the concerns and permit new loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Program is scheduled for Senate floor action this afternoon. But Watson said he may delay a final vote… “just to make sure everybody understands you can’t walk away from these state funds.”

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Bill set for passage bans local regulation of pet stores

A bill drafted at the request of Petlland, a pet store chain looking to expand franchise operations in Tennessee, includes consumer protection for purchasers of cats and dogs as well as protection of pet sellers from local government regulation.

The bill (SB519) is sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, while opposed by animal advocacy groups. It has cleared committees in both the House and Senate and is scheduled for floor votes in both chambers this week.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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