published Saturday, May 21st, 2011

East Ridge fireworks bill passes as session adjourns

NASHVILLE — State lawmakers on Saturday gave final approval to a $30.78 billion annual budget that restores extended unemployment benefits to thousands of jobless Tennesseans, then raced through dozens of other bills before adjourning their 2011 session.

Last-minute fights included a largely partisan donnybrook over a Republican-sponsored bill allowing local school boards to contract with for-profit companies to operate online “virtual” schools.

Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, warned that K-12 Inc., one of the for-profit companies pushing the bill, was founded and remains partially owned by Michael Milken. The former junk bond king, Milken’s 1980s Wall Street shenanigans led him to federal prison.

Republicans passed the bill and pooh-poohed concerns raised by Democrats. They did the same on other controversial bills, including Friday night’s repeal of collective bargaining powers for teachers.

Lawmakers also passed a measure restoring 20 extra weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits to anywhere from 15,000 to 28,000 Tennesseans unable to find jobs after 79 weeks of other state and federal benefits.

Among local bills of interest;

•  A bill by Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, to tighten local governments’ use of traffic-enforcement cameras cleared the House 82-2 and is headed to Haslam’s desk.

“It doesn’t do all the things that a lot of people wanted, but it does do a lot of things everybody can agree on,” Dean told colleagues.

The bill seeks to dismantle speed traps and requires cities to have professional studies done to establish a safety need for cameras.

• After a quarter-century effort, East Ridge merchants are expected finally to be able to sell fireworks. Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, persuaded senators in a 17-7 vote to legalize sales of bottle rockets, firecrackers and other assorted fireworks in the town.

“East Ridge has been requesting this since the middle 1980s,” Watson said. “It had become a very big bill here, even to the point that we had members of Congress calling members of the [state] Senate asking them to vote against the bill.”

See Sunday’s Times Free Press for complete details

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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bpqd said...

PowerPoint Presentations are not an acceptable substitute for schools, no matter what Republican politicians say.

Also, we are angry and opposed to this fireworks bill nonsense. The very idea that it is even remotely related to Wall Street fraud is infuriating.

People in East Ridge do not want this, and will not accept it. Look forward to legislation that taxes this transaction into a nonprofit that raises money for arson education videos shown to all schoolchildren in the state.

May 22, 2011 at 1:10 a.m.
chatttn said...

I agree that PowerPoint presentations are not an acceptable substitute for schools. That would be an extremely poor substitute for a teacher. However, not all of East Ridge is against the sale of fireworks. People are going to buy them anyway so why not get the extra revenue in our town?

May 23, 2011 at 9:40 a.m.
Leaf said...

What is considered the best online academy - Khan Academy - is free. If the local school boards are actually paying for an also-ran, then they must either be getting kickbacks or are woefully ignorant. I encourage TFP to investigate this subject vigorously.

Khan academy is a non-profit collaboration between experts in many fields. They have a mission to provide excellent online tutorials, problem sets, and tracking for teachers or facilitators. It goes waaaay beyond Power Point. It's free because it's underwritten by people like Bill Gates who believe in the mission.

May 23, 2011 at 10:50 a.m.
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