published Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Candidates stake out platform positions

by Matt Wilson
Audio clip

Bill Gibbons

Audio clip

Roy Herron

Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tenn., each played host to a candidate for Tennessee governor Friday, with one pleading for education improvements while the other promised to get tough on drugs.

State Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, told members of the Southeast Tennessee Political Action Committee in Chattanooga that technical and technological education are "essential to our economic future."

"Way too many children are lagging behind," he told the group while speaking at the Doubletree Hotel.

Sen. Herron said he wants to make sure that every child in Tennessee "has a computer and knows how to use it" before reaching high school.

He also discussed pay rates for teachers "based on the competitive free market."

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He said math and science teachers need to be paid enough to ensure that trained instructors will come to Tennessee's schools.

In Cleveland, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Gibbons outlined a plan of tougher laws for meth makers and users and enhanced education on the dangers of the drug. Mr. Gibbons is the district attorney in Shelby County.

Speaking to the Bradley County Pachyderm Club, Mr. Gibbons said the number of meth lab busts is steadily rising again after falling immediately after laws were strengthened in 2005.

He said the state needs to set lower limits for the amount of pseudoephedrine, the major ingredient in meth, that is considered evidence on its face of intent to manufacture methamphetamine. That limit now is 20 grams, which he said is equal to about 30 packages of sinus medicine.

"The meth cookers have figured out how to get around that," he said. "For example, they don't go out and try to purchase all that at one time."

However, 9 grams is sufficient if law enforcement also can prove the possessor intends to make meth or give the drug to someone who does.

He proposed changing the law so that possession of more than 9 grams of a primary ingredient, such as pseudoephedrine, is prima facie evidence of intent.

His plan also would create a separate criminal offense for cooking meth in the presence of children.

"That sentence needs to be in addition to the sentence for actually manufacturing the meth," he said.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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