Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tennessee and Mississipi To Fight Over Water...TN Tries to Cut Overtime Pay for Guards...More from Crockett

Survey: Tennessee Prison Officers Dislike Overtime Plan

Expensive lawyers line up in TN vs. MS lawsuit

Both the state of Tennessee and the city of Memphis have retained expensive private law firms to fight a $615 million lawsuit filed by the state of Mississippi over underground water rights, reports the Commercial Appeal. Mississippi has a famous law firm that won’t be paid anything – unless it wins.
The 22 percent rate increase that will add an average of $3.31 a month to the water bills of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division customers beginning in January was needed in part to pay for rising legal costs associated with the lawsuit filed against MLGW, the city of Memphis and state of Tennessee, officials say.
…The mounting legal expenses reflect the high-stakes nature of the water lawsuit, in which Mississippi claims MLGW, the city and Tennessee have “forcibly” taken its water through excessive pumping from an aquifer underlying both states. The Supreme Court in June granted Mississippi’s request to file the suit, and since then it has appointed a Special Master, Eugene Siler Jr., a former judge on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, to oversee the case.
The utility and city have hired Memphis’ largest law firm, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, to defend against the suit. “It’s a serious case. It’s dangerous, and we’re certainly going to treat it that way,” said David Bearman, one of the attorneys handling the case for the firm. Humphrey on the Hill

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Tennessee Reduces Backlog Of Untested Rape Kits, Sets New Rules For Police

Tennessee police departments have dramatically reduced their numbers of untested rape kits since a new state requirement took effect this year. Now a set of new written standards, finalized this week, will also govern how police take care of sexual assault survivors.
A backlog of more than 9,000 untested rape kits counted in 2014 — mostly in Memphis — prompted the new state law. It requires forensic sex assault evidence to be sent for testing within 60 days.
Along with grant money, the law has helped get more than 75 percent of the old kits tested, down to about 2,100 as of September, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Some departments had reduced or eliminated backlogs since then, according to The Tennessean. WPLN

Tennessee Football Star Dies Shielding Teen Girls from Bullets During Knoxville Gang Shooting

Two teenage girls owe their lives to the chivalrous actions of a 15-year-old Tennessee football star, who shielded them when bullets began flying last Thursday evening in Knoxville.

This weekend, President Barack Obama took to Twitter to recognize the heroism of Zaevion Dobson, who was killed in last week's random gang-related shooting. "Zaevion Dobson died saving...friends from getting shot. He was a hero at 15. What's our excuse for not acting?" he wrote.

"I think that was appropriate," Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch tells PEOPLE of Obama's tribute. "Zaevion was a young man that was doing exactly what he should be doing, and he saved those two young ladies. It is amazing that he did that. But, that's what good guys and men of character do." (Initial reports stated that Dobson shielded three girls.)  People Magazine

Survey: Tennessee Prison Officers Dislike Overtime Plan

Amid ongoing scrutiny of how correctional officers are paid and scheduled in Tennessee, a new survey shows that the officers overwhelmingly dislike the state's recently changed overtime policies.
More than 80 percent of officers surveyed said they were negatively affected by the state's decision not to pay overtime until they worked more than 171 hours in a month, The Tennessean reported.
Previously, the officers received overtime working the 160 hours compiled through a traditional 40-hour work week.
The survey was conducted by the Tennessee State Employees Association, with the help of the Tennessee Department of Correction.
Officers were generally split on whether they'd like to work slightly shorter shifts six days in a row, or a longer shift with rotating days off: 55 percent preferred 8.5- or 9-hour shifts where they'd work six days and then have three off, while 45 percent preferred the 12-hour shifts with rotating days off.
In a statement, association president Bryan Merritt said he believes there would have been large support for a return to the department's traditional 40-hour work week if it had been included as a survey option.
"The results of this survey show that the Department of Correction has much work to do with regard to employee overtime pay and work schedules," Merritt said. Memphis Daily News

Bill would bring back Lady Vols nickname

A state lawmaker filed a bill Monday that would bring back the Lady Vols nickname for all University of Tennessee women's sports teams.
On July 1, the university got rid of the Lady Vols nickname for all sports besides women's basketball. The university said last year it would switch to the power T logo and Volunteers nickname for branding reasons in conjunction with its new licensing agreement with Nike.
Opponents rallied against the decision, saying the Lady Vols name brought a sense of pride for women's athletics. A petition to bring back the Lady Vols name garnered over 28,000 signatures, and opponents also held a rally at the state Capitol last year. The opposition came after the university was hit with two lawsuits alleging sexual discrimination from former women's athletics department administrators.
State Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville, said he decided to introduce the legislation after opponents didn't get an appropriate response from the university or the board of trustees. Kane said he has a letter of support for saving the nickname that has been signed by 45 lawmakers. Tennessean (Subscription)

Knox County Commission did not take up the anti-marriage equality resolution tonight


The Knox County Commission did not take up an anti-marriage equality resolution tonight.  Commissioners had been urged to do so by a man identified as Mark Rivera.  But when he was called on speak on Monday night, he failed to show up.
In contrast, many in red were in the chamber to show their opposition to any anti-marriage equality resolution.  6 people spoke against such a measure including Gwen Schablik, David Payne, and former State Rep. Gloria Johnson.  TEP

T. Boone Pickens Calls For Bipartisan Panel To Screen Candidates For Presidential

According to the Library of Congress, the only stipulations for running for president include being a natural born citizen, a resident of 14 years and at least 35 years old. Such limited standards allow political outsiders like Republican front-runner Donald Trump to run for president — and Pickens thinks they're not stringent enough.

“My big idea for 2016 is to put together a bipartisan screening committee that vets presidential candidates like we do anyone else applying for a job and recommends the best candidates possible,” Pickens wrote in a recent LinkedIn post. “We have people running for president now who don’t even have experience running a lemonade stand.”
Pickens, who donated to Jeb Bush early on before flirting with Ben Carson, said the committee should factor in leadership experience, team-building skills and plans for prospective candidates’ administration.
“Right now we have a process that emphasizes accusation and innuendo,” Pickens said, alluding to the incessant brawls among Republican primary contenders. “Fact-checking is done … after the fact. And just like reality TV, there is too much of an emphasis on the inconsequential and the irrelevant. Such a vetting process could alleviate much of that.” Politico

Rep. Faison proposes to legalize medical marijuana, but only for military veterans

While most Tennessee Republican leaders have indicated opposition to any steps toward legalization of marijuana, state Rep. Jeremy Faison says he is hopeful they will make an exception for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Faison, R-Cosby, said he is drafting legislation that would “decriminalize” possession of marijuana by veterans diagnosed with PTSD, motivated by conversations with several veterans who believe that the medicinal properties of marijuana would help them far more than prescription medications.
“Pills have side effects. … The No. 1 side effect is suicide,” said Faison in an interview last week. “Twenty-eight veterans a day in America are committing suicide.”
“For most ailments man has, God has a remedy,” Faison said, quoting his wife, who has a master’s degree in nutrition. In many cases, the legislator said he believes that is marijuana. Humphrey on the Hill

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