Keep asset forfeiture law intact, Tennessee lawmakers urged
Ammunition Manufacturer Investing $553M in East Tennessee
Prison sentences discussed at legislative hearing
Governor Haslam Speaks Plainly Again, this Time about Outsourcing
Jimmy Musice, an attorney for TBI, testified during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Monday. Lawmakers foreshadowed two efforts coming down the pike in next year's session of the Tennessee General Assembly: to increase payments to families of police killed on-duty and to give TBI authority to investigate all police uses of deadly force.
Most rural areas of Tennessee rely on the statewide agency for those investigations. But Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga conduct their own investigations when police use deadly force. They can choose to bring in TBI for help, but do not have to.
According to Tennessee law, TBI's investigative records are sealed and not releasable to the public. But should lawmakers change that via legislation, TBI would not resist, Musice told the committee.
"The director has made it pretty clear to me, and I’ve mentioned to you before, that if it is the desire for us to go down this path with legislation, if you need to open up the files in these cases and make that a part of the bill, then we would not oppose that and understand why that would be needed," Musice said. He said it would be up to the General Assembly to set parameters for how and when those records would be released.
TBI officials raised concern that taking over investigations in three of Tennessee's four largest cities would require them to bring on additional staff or divert staff time from other duties.
Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, is sponsoring the bill that would require TBI to investigate all police shootings in the state. Tennessean (Subscription)
Prison sentences discussed at legislative hearingLegislators were told Monday that longer sentences for convicted criminals don’t necessarily reduce crime,reports The Tennessean.
“Long sentences are not the panacea that many people think they are. They do not reduce crime, they do not increase public safety, and they cost the state a whole lot of money,” said professor Christopher Slobogin, director of the Criminal Justice Program at Vanderbilt University Law School.
“I think the common intuition, and it’s a natural one, is ‘Hey, if we want to protect the public let’s put them in as long as possible. But in fact the data show, and I think theory suggests, it doesn’t make sense to do that.”
The debate comes as the administration of Gov. Bill Haslam and lawmakers look at reforming how offenders are sentenced, when they may be eligible to leave prison and what they need to do once they are released. Although Haslam and lawmakers haven’t put forward any specific plans, advocates and experts are worried any proposal to change when prisoners are released could lead to people unnecessarily spending more time in prison.
Slobogin was one of six people to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting after the state discussed the findings of a sentencing task force. Although Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons read through the 16 recommendations, the majority of discussion focused on an idea to set a minimum amount of time served on a sentence. Tom Humphrey
Ammunition Manufacturer Investing $553M in East TennesseeA leading ammunition manufacturer is investing $553 million to build a headquarters and munitions manufacturing facility in Blount County.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd announced Tuesday that Advanced Munitions International's new facility in Alcoa is expected to create more than 600 new jobs.
AMI is known in the firearms industry for its HPR Ammunition brand, a specially formulated ammunition that employs proprietary technology.
The company supplies ammunition to the military, law enforcement and civilian markets. Memphis Daily News via AP
Keep asset forfeiture law intact, Tennessee lawmakers urgedLaw enforcement officials on Monday urged Tennessee lawmakers not to join other states in dialing back police powers to seize cash and vehicles without first gaining criminal convictions.
While police defend civil asset forfeiture as a way to weaken lucrative criminal operations while funding crime-fighting efforts, opponents argue that the practice has become an overused tactic that violates citizens' private property rights — especially when there's insufficient evidence of a crime.
Conservative billionaire Charles Koch and the American Civil Liberties Union have forged an alliance to promote reining in the ability of police to seize property. They are touting as a national model a New Mexico law enacted this year requiring criminal convictions before authorities can dispose of seized assets.
Shelby County prosecutor Steve Jones, who also represents the West Tennessee Violent Crime and Drug Task Force, called it "government at its very best" to use criminal proceeds to fund law enforcement activities. He also warned members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee that changing the law could result in more crime.
"If you want to make a difference for our communities, take away criminal proceeds forfeiture funding," he said. "You'll make a huge difference; it just won't be a positive difference. The criminals will thank you."
Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville bristled at the suggestion that lawmakers might be working on behalf of criminals by seeking to "protect the innocent who are occasionally caught up in this system."
"It's almost like you were trying to set up that you're either for us or you're for the criminals," Bell said.
Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, the president of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, also urged lawmakers not to base policy on the rare instance of law enforcement abuse of forfeiture programs.
"It seems that many in our country are jumping on knee-jerk reactionary bandwagons that are the result of isolated incidents that may get misrepresented," Rausch said.
"To take away this ability to impact crime in our state because of a few bad apples would be a travesty," he said. "It would make Tennessee the haven for criminal gangs and a hub for criminal enterprise."
Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott said that since the beginning of 2014, all but 2.5 percent of asset seizures came in cases in which arrests were made. But the THP's largest-ever seizure of $4.1 million came in a 2011 stop where troopers found money in vacuum-sealed cases in a tractor-trailer. Tennessean (Subscription)
Haslam family acquires CVS´ stake of Pilot Flying JCVC had acquired a 47.5% of the shares of Pilot Travel Centers in 2008, as Marathon Oil Corp sold their stake. In 2010, Pilot Travel Centers bought rival Flying J Inc, reported The Wall Street Journal.
“Over the years, Pilot, now Pilot Flying J, has had multiple partnerships which began with the expectation of the partner exiting at some point," told CSP Daily News a company spokesperson. "That time has come in Pilot Flying J's partnership with CVC, which has been a very satisfying relationship since 2008."
The largest truck stop operator in the U.S. was founded back in 1958 by Haslam´s father. The Haslam family is one of Tennessee´s wealthiest, with James being the owner of the Cleveland Browns football team, and his brother, Bill Haslam, the governor of Tennessee. LINK
After Memphis Embraces TBI Reviews Of Police Shootings, Lawmakers Weigh Statewide RequirementTennessee lawmakers are considering making a TBI investigation mandatory for any fatal police shooting, like that of Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, Missouri.
And many law enforcement officials say they're open to the proposal.
At a hearing Monday, the TBI and the leader of the state district attorney's association said they could accept a bill that would require a state investigation anytime someone in Tennessee is shot and killed by police.
The hearing took place just days after Shelby County Sheriff William Oldham announced that would become his department's official policy.
Lawmakers were also told most smaller counties also bring in the TBI. Their police departments are too small to mount independent investigations into shootings. WPLN
Governor Haslam Speaks Plainly Again, this Time about Outsourcing
Here's the governor explaining why he's making plans for outsourcing government employeesto the Times-Free Press:
"I think two or three things," Haslam told reporters after addressing a national conference of state treasurers here in Nashville. "First of all, remember, we're already doing some of that. So what we're trying to show them is here's the ways we're saving money.
"No. 2," Haslam continued, "the question that always comes from [credit rating agencies], is OK we see we see governments that have made cuts and adjustments because everybody knows the issue Tennessee has — we're not going to raise taxes. And Medicaid and education costs keep going up — so they realize to make that work we have to keep making cuts and their their questions always is what other things can you do?"
Okay, let's repeat the important point in here: We, as a state, need the best credit rating we can get. In order to show that we we deserve a good credit rating, we have to show that we can cover our obligations and repay any debts we might have. And here's the jam Haslam rightly identifies us as being in—our Medicaid and education costs keep going up but our politicians will not raise taxes to cover those costs (or for any reason). So, in order to show that we can cover our obligations, Haslam has to be able to show them ways we have of coming up with the money. When you can't raise taxes, you have to cut shit.
We can argue—and I think fairly—that we've not seen any proof that outsourcing things to Haslam's friends actually cuts costs, but this is the thing that Haslam isn't quite ready to be honest about. Even financial disasters are okay if they benefit the right people. If the Tea Party Republicans run the State into the ground with their refusal to raise taxes, all an Oligarch Republican can do for us is to make sure that it's apparent that his Oligarch friends will benefit from our ruin.
Haslam has a lot of rich and powerful friends. Betsy Phillips.
Crockett Policy Institute