published Friday, February 15th, 2013

Mike Bell's bill on way to Senate floor

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Sen. Mike Bell's bill banning use of public school property to promote or reject voter referendums is on its way to the Senate floor.

The Riceville Republican lawmaker's bill prohibits public schools from displaying signs and messages or using school video, audio, telephones or other electronic equipment in support of or opposition to ballot measures.

Bell said he brought the bill after some Bradley County schools last summer allowed telephones and marquee signs to be used to back a county wheel tax. Current law prohibits use of public buildings or facilities for meetings in support of a particular candidate unless equal opportunity is given to both sides.

Bell's bill bans the use of public school property for either side of a referendum issue. It's a "matter of fairness," the lawmaker said in a news release.

"I was contacted by many constituents who complained that taxpayer-funded school property was being used to promote a tax measure on the ballot," he said. "We don't need to let our school yard become a political battleground."

The House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

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