Main Street Journal - Weekly Update for Monday, April 22, 2013

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In Like a Supermajority–

Out Like a General Assembly

The Tennessee State Legislature wrapped up their 108th General Session in a flurry of activity and failures. First thing last week, both houses of the Legislature overwhelmingly passed (HB1288 & SB1353) law that allows the formation of new municipal school districts in TN counties. The bill now sits on Governor Bill Haslam’s desk. More from the Flyer, the Associated Press. The companion bill increasing the number of school districts in large counties from six to seven also passed. Democratic State Senator Jim Kyle issued vague warnings about the future.

Legislation to “strictly limit” the use of EBT cards (ie. food stamps) was also passed. It now sits on the governor’s desk. Applause from the Beacon Center. (SB0244) After some discussion in the House, the bill to allow whiskey distilleries in certain cities that have approved other requirements, was OK’d. It already passed in the Senate. Both houses finally approved a clarifying rewrite of the State’s anti-gang laws. There was a small rally in Knoxville in support of expanding Medicaid. Concealed carry in schools by some personnel went to the governor. Also approved were a tightening of prescription drug laws, restrictions on LEO use of unmanned drones, and the bill that Democratic opponents joyfully tagged “Ag gag”.

The General Assembly voted to approve Governor Bill Haslam’s $32.8 State budget. Wrap-up reports on the session from the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Tom Humphrey and again, TN Report, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Associated Press, the TN Charter Schools Association, Lt Governor Ron Ramsey, House Democratic Caucus chairman Mike Turner, the Tennessean.

Lt Gov Ron Ramsey’s plan to reduce the number and redraw the State’s judcial districts as approved in the Senate but then was rejected by the House. His effort to create a state-wide charter school authorising agency was also denied; more from Tom Humphrey and the Tennessean, the Flyer and again.

Pilot Flying J: FBI and IRS agents suddenly swarmed last Monday morning on the Knoxville corporate offices of the Haslam family’s flagship oil and trucking center business and briefly locked it down. CEO Jimmy Haslam addresses the charges. Unrefunded customer rebates for deisel, worth millions, are being investigated. The story briefly made national headlines. The Haslam family reputation is now “on the line”. The Federal affidavit. Atlantic Coast Carriers Inc. is now seeking a class-action lawsuit as the trucking industry is outraged.

Memphis City Council: Mayor AC Wharton did a “run’n'gun” budget presentation last week, the upshot of which is, as City Council members figured out, a 28 cent property tax increase! It would make up for revenues lost during the last property tax reappraisal. It’s a $622 million budget for the City. Wharton defended the tax increase. City Councilman Jim Strickland is warning against it. They Council also approved a severance package for City workers at auto inspection stations.

Shelby County Commission: For Commission chairman Mike Ritz, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”.

How Clueless Are They? The Chattanooga Times Free Press asked people on the street, “Who is the governor of Tennessee?”

Tell your friends you read it here:

University of Memphis: The Board of Regents has named Brad Martin as the interim president of the school, after current president Dr Shirley Raines retires. Rating outgoing president Raines.

City of Memphis: An interesting proposal on renaming City parks, from the Flyer’s Jackson Baker.

Unified Shelby County Schools: The County Commission argued this week they should be allowed to expand to 13 members the size of the new school board. A Student Responsibility March was held over the weekend, voicing young people concerns about education.

Mitsubishi Plant: With great fanfare and a lot of dignitaries, the $200 million Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. facility was opened on Friday. The plant is bringing more than 275 jobs to the area. More from the Daily News.

Mississippi: A letter poisoned with ricin was sent to US Senator Roger Wicker’s office, along with President Barack Obama. Those letters were postmarked from the Memphis regional sorting facility whose anthrax detection system didn’t catch it. More from ABC24. Corinth man Paul Kevin Curtis has been arrested. Curtis is an “extremist” say neighbors, who were “shocked”. The FBI raided his home. How did he get ricin? What is it? Is this incident giving Memphis a bad name? Curtis says he’s innocent; his family supports him and sought help; more on the family. He’s also an Elvis impersonator. More from ABC24.

Memphis International Airport: Passenger numbers continue their precipitous decline as the effects of the end of the Delta Airlines hub echo through. Chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Jack Sammons, continues to sound an aggressive and positive tone. A mass die-off of trees along Plough Road will cost $150,000 to repair.

Terror Funding: Federal funding for terrorism preparedness has been cut for the six-county region around Memphis. More from ABC24.

Arkansas: Legislators approved the “private option” alternative to Medicare expansion. The Joint Committee on Constitutional Amendments voted to send a package of electoral and ethics reforms to the voters next year. The judge hearing the challenge to the State’s new law banning most abortions has recused himself.

Education Scandal: Former teacher Valerie Humphrey was sentenced to 30 days in prison for letting someone else take her teaching certificate exam.

Animal Shelter: Charges against former shelter employees Ernie Alexander and Tina Quattlebaum were dropped.

Politics: Will TV’s Judge Joe Brown run against US Senator Lamar Alexander?

For political talk junkies, WKNO has the Daily News’ Behind the Headlines and WREG has Informed Sources from last week.

Beale Street: The Daily News has a profile of the history and tangled future of the business and entertainment district.

Business: What is Bitcoin? A primer for those unfamiliar with this new currency.

Nashville: Who has launched mayoral election polling one and a half years before the next election? More from WSMV. The State is now investigating the 2012 Metro elections.

Gasoline: Prices have dropped 11 cents/gallon over the past two weeks. The Memphis average is $3.25/gallon. (via

Picture of the Week

“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of” … fishing? From Instagram by Steven Russell. ©2013. Used with permission and apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson.


Jack McElroy: He thinks today’s TN Republican Party doesn’t look kindly on muckrakers. (Via the Knoxville News Sentinel)

Frank Daniels III: How could General Assembly “try to usurp TN voters’ rights” if it killed the bills that would have done as he alleges? (Via the Nashville Tennessean)

Greg Johnson: For-profit utilities are better for citizens than State-owned ones? (Via the Knoxville News Sentinel)

TN House Speaker Beth Harwell: The State Legislature “rose to the challenge”. (Via the Nashville Tennessean)

Tennessean: Welcome, hopeful changes at the Department of Children’s Services.

Memphis News: Suggestions for improvement for Beale Street.

I Swear: In defense of the humble apostrophe. (Via the Daily News)

John Branston: Two views on fixing Memphis. (Via the Flyer)

Steve Ross: He basically slams Governor Bill Haslam for not sharing his political views on government spending! (Via the Flyer)

The Rant: Thoughts on the ‘Memphis Soul Revue’ at the White House last week. (Via the Flyer)