safety

Sheriff Jeff Long to be named Lee’s safety commissioner

Gov.-elect Bill Lee plans to name Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long as commissioner of the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, a source close to the transition tells The Tennessee Journal.

Long, the Tennessee Sheriff Association’s sheriff of the year of 2013, will succeed David Purkey, who was named safety commissioner in 2016. Purkey, , a former state trooper and mayor of Hamblen County, had previously served as assistant commissioner since 2011.

Long succeeded former Williamson County Sheriff Ricky Headley, who had resigned earlier in 2008 as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors in Davidson and Williamson counties over fraudulently obtaining prescription pain pills.

Long wrote in a 2017 letter to the editor of The Tennessean that he met Lt. Gov. Rand McNally (R-Oak Ridge) in the opening phases of Operation Rocky Top, in which the lawmaker wore a wire for investigators. “He placed his whole political career in jeopardy by having the strength to stand up for what was right,” Long wrote. “Operation Rocky Top would not have been possible if not for a man of high character and morality as Lt. Governor McNally.”

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Haslam pushes security assessment of all schools, anonymous threat reporting system

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced his approval of recommendations submitted by the school safety working group he appointed earlier this month to make immediate enhancements to school safety. The working group identified three immediate priorities:

1.      A review and risk assessment of all school facilities to identify vulnerabilities;

2.      An increase in available resources to help secure school resource officers (SROs); and

3.      A statewide technology application for anonymous reporting of security threats.

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Haslam adds $74M to budget bill; $30M for school safety, $10M for aviation grants

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today proposed $30 million to improve school safety across the state in the amendment to the fiscal year 2018-19 budget proposal to be considered by the General Assembly in the coming weeks.

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Haslam spokeswoman: ‘Political affiliation did not play a role’ in appointing school safety panel

Through a spokeswoman, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s office is pushing back against criticism of his appointments to a  task force assigned to study school safety and recommend revisions in state laws or policy, reports the Times Free Press. Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris has been the lead critic, saying the 16-member panel is solid Republican with no Democratic members “where a bipartisan consensus is sorely needed.”

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Legislator seeks state review after one school bus driver falls asleep, another charged with DUI

One Washington County school bus driver fell asleep at the wheel on Tuesday, leading to a mishap that sent several children to a hospital with minor injuries. On Wednesday, another Washington County school bus driver was arrested for DUI. On Friday, the county school superintendent, Kimber Halliburton, announced she had fired the system’s transportation director.

Now, state Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) has asked the state Department of Education to review the school system’s safety procedures, reports WJHL TV.

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Diane Black unveils opioid, public safety plan; calls for addicts to be treated in prison

Republican gubernatorial candidate Diane Black is releasing her first major policy proposal concerning the opioid crisis and her plans for keeping Tennesseans safe.

The plan calls for rehabbing drug addicts in prison as a cost-saving measure, and hiring 25 new TBI agents to help fight drug trafficking (Gov. Bill Haslam is calling for 10 new agents in this year’s budget).

The initiative also calls for jailing demonstrators who “block streets, riot and engage in violent acts in the name of ‘protest,'” and for boosting penalties for people who “desecrate monuments or incite or abet others in desecrating a monument.”

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Dept. of Safety returning $112K in misspent fed forfeiture funds

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security had $112,614 in inappropriate spending on food and catering that it received from federal forfeiture funds, according to a U.S. Department of Justice audit. Department officials say they will  reimburse the federal government for the questioned expenditures.

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Alexander, Corker, Duncan seek fed focus on alleged defective guardrails

Three Tennessee congressmen – Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, along with Rep. John Duncan Jr. – are asking federal officials to consider revoking their approval for the use of highway guardrails linked to four fatalities in Tennessee, reports WJHL-TV.

In the letter, they asked FHWA Acting Deputy Administrator Butch Waidelich, Jr. to consider revoking its letter of eligibility for the X-Lite Terminal Guard rail issued in 2011.

The eligibility letter indicates the product has been tested and is eligible for federal reimbursements for states that use it.

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Dad tells legislators TDOT at fault in daughter’s death

In tearful testimony Tuesday, the father of a 17-year-old Lenoir City girl whose death was the result of an apparently defective guardrail demanded Tennessee lawmakers take action to prevent future deaths, reports The Tennessean.

Steven Eimers, the father of Hannah Eimers, gave an emotional presentation before the House Transportation Committee, blaming the culture within the Tennessee Department of Transportation and shoddy technology for his daughter’s death. He demanded new independent inspections of guardrails, felony charges for improperly installing them and incentives for state workers to report faulty installation and damage.

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Haslam’s school bus safety bill doesn’t require seat belts

Gov. Bill Haslam and Rep. JoAnne Favors have dueling approaches to address safety concerns following the Nov. 21 crash of a school bus in Chattanooga in which six Woodmore Elementary School students died, reports the Times-Free Press.

Haslam introduced legislation Wednesday that seeks to address age requirements for school bus drivers as well as mandate new procedures for school systems, bus drivers and companies to follow. (Note: It’s HB322, sponsored by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, at the administration’s request.)

But the governor’s approach omits a requirement that Favors wants that new school buses have safety belt restraint systems.

Favors, D-Chattanooga, said her bill, which she intends to introduce shortly, would require that after July 1, 2018, that new buses owned, operated or leased by public or private school systems have restraint systems that are federally approved. 

Her intent is to phase in the requirement so that school systems and contract drivers or companies wouldn’t be faced with huge expenses on the front end.

Meanwhile, Favors said she agreed to introduce a bill, filed earlier today, that only addresses new age requirements for drivers and driver backgrounds. That was done at the request of Senate Minority Lee Harris, D-Memphis, Favors said.

The Chattanooga lawmaker said that’s not her seat belt bill and that she won’t be deterred by the governor’s preferred approach that rejects calls for school bus seat belts.

“No, absolutely not,” Favors said. “It’s needed because you do need restraints. I’m hoping it will pass [this year], but if doesn’t it will involve us all in dialogue about this. 

“And,” the representative added, “we’ll just keep doing it until we get it passed.”